Bordered by verdant mountains and home to two of Ethiopia’s largest Rift Valley lakes, this city is more than a convenient overnight stop on the southern circuit. With Nechisar National Park and the highland Dorze villages on its doorstep, it deserves to be a destination on its own. Arba Minch (አርባ ምንጭ) is actually two cities in one.
The Lower Omo Valley
If there's anything in southern Ethiopia that can rival the majesty of the north's historical circuit, it's the people of the Lower Omo Valley. The villages are home to some of Africa’s most fascinating ethnic groups and a trip here represents a unique chance for travellers to encounter a culture markedly different from their own.
From a traveller’s perspective the most important thing about Dilla (ዲላ), the capital of Gedeo Zone, is that within its sphere of influence lie three of southern Ethiopia’s most important archaeological sites. And those who’ve been in the south for some time may relish the chance to enjoy plush beds, trendy cafes and some urban vibes.
Nechisar National Park
The 514-sq-km Nechisar National Park spans the narrow yet mountainous ‘Bridge of God’ that separates Lakes Chamo and Abaya, and ranks among the most scenic national parks in East Africa. It contains diverse habitats ranging from wide-open savannah and acacia woodland to thick bush and sections of riparian forest.
Surrounded by volcanic hills and covering a massive 425 sq km, Lake Ziway (ዝዋይ ሐይቅ) is the largest of the northern group of Rift Valley lakes. Typically the lake earned just a quick hit on a southern sojourn, for its prolific birdlife, but there are also now some great boat trips available, as well as excellent amenities, that warrant an extended stay.
The region’s hottest and dustiest town hugs the eastern bank of the Omo River, 72km southwest of Turmi. Omorate (ኦሞራቴ) is visited almost exclusively as a morning trip out of Turmi. The town itself is rather unsightly; the real attractions are the Daasanach villages located just across the river.