Southern Ethiopia is a truly unspoiled part of Ethiopia with lakes, hot-springs, rolling green hills, rugged mountains, huge forests, wild coffee and the real African savannah and semi-desert. There are several National Parks where a great variety of wildlife and birds can be seen. A mosaic of tribes lives in this varied landscape. More than 45 languages are spoken here.
In Wondo Genet you can take hot showers and swim in the natural hot spring water, surrounded by a beautiful, paradise-like landscape. The surroundings are also ideal for hiking.
The Sidama Coffee which grows in the south - especially the Yrgachefe Coffee, well known for its special aroma - is one of the major export products of Ethiopia. The Sidama area is very fertile and green. You see the people’s huts, surrounded by Ensete, a banana like tree which produces injera and is eaten by more than a third of the Ethiopian population. After a long process of preparation, a kind of sour tasting unleavened bread or porridge is prepared from it. The Wolayta people are also good farmers and the Dorze famous for their elephant shaped huts, for weaving production and preparation of the false banana plant.
The southern highlands of Ethiopia comprise lush scenic mountains bisected by the Great Rift Valley as it runs southward towards the border with Kenya. At the base of the Rift is a succession of five beautiful and very accessible lakes renowned for their scenic beauty and rich birdlife, notably in the spectacular Nechisar National Park. Lush mountain forest covers much of the southwestern highlands, whose principal town Jimma was the first place in the world where coffee was cultivated. Farther southwest, the Southern Omo Valley is a veritable living museum inhabited by a hodgepodge of staunchly traditionalist pastoralist tribes including the Mursi, who are famed for the spectacular lip-plates worn by the women. Elsewhere, there are the singing wells used by the Borena to sustain their livestock in the arid Kenya border region, hundreds of mysterious medieval stelae in the midlands around Dila and the Rift Valley lakes which often support many thousands of flamingos.
When going further to the south you come to a relatively small area where many different tribes live. These people still use what nature provides them, proud, free and independent from all modern technical achievements. Cults, traditions, songs and dances are still as vivid as they have been for centuries.
The Omo and Mago National Parks are tucked along the banks of the Omo River, the life-giving waterway that runs through the Omo Valley. While traditional African “Big Five” wildlife sightings are rarely possible, many species still roam these lands.
Rift Valley Lakes
The Great Rift Valley cuts through Ethiopia, beginning the in Middle East, and extending south through Africa to Mozambique. The lakes are as varied as they are plenty. From Debre Zeit to Arba Minch, these lakes dot the landscape providing a home to a variety of birds, a refreshing watering hole to diverse wildlife and a relaxing location for those in need. Lake Langano is a popular weekend getaway from Addis Ababa, with a variety of water-based activities available. Lakes Abiatta and Shala form the Abiatta-Shala National Park. Lake Abiatta is a shallow soda lake, home to thousands of flamingos, while, in stark contrast, Lake Shala is the deepest crater lake in the country, at 250m. Lake Awassa provides a peaceful setting in the town of Awassa, and is famous on the tourist circuit for its interesting morning fish market. Lakes Abaya and Chamo in Arba Minch form part of the Nechisar National Park. The "crocodile market" at Lake Chamo is one of the best displays of crocodiles in all of Africa.
Bale National Park
The Montana highlight of the southeast is the hiker-friendly Bale National Park is the best place in Ethiopia for those who love trekking and hiking. It is a rough, impressive landscape with forests, heather, Afro-alpine landscape, lakes, streams, rivers and is the best place to see endemic wildlife and birds. And also home to a host of endemic wildlife, including the kudu-like mountain nyala, the rare Bale monkey, the world’s rarest canid in the form of the Ethiopian wolf, as well as 16 bird species.
The Sof Omar caves, said to be the largest network of caves in Africa, they stretch 15.1km (9.5 miles), with the Web River snaking through the cave system the entire distance. The most stunning feature of the caves are the towering limestone pillars, the most famous of which are located in the Chamber of Columns. Not only a natural wonder, the Sof Omar caves are an important religious center for both Islam as well as local animist religions.