Capture the Colors of Ethiopia: Ethiopia Photography Tours

Ethiopia Suri Tribe mum with lip plate and face painting
Ethiopia Suri Tribe mum with lip plate and face painting

Are you looking for unique Ethiopia photography tours? Look no further than Omo Valley! With its diverse ethnic groups, fascinating cultural practices, and stunning national parks, Omo Valley is a destination like no other.

Experience Ethiopia photography tours, cultural tours, wildlife tours, village walks, hiking and trekking in this exciting destination. Omo Valley offers luxury tented camps, budget camping sites, and local guesthouses as your accommodation options.

Next on the list of Ethiopia photography tours is Danakil Depression, one of the hottest places on Earth. It’s also the most remote and inhospitable but visually stunning places on planet Earth. The vast desert basin is known for its bubbling lava lakes, salt flats, and geothermal fields. Also, it’s home to some of the most otherworldly landscapes on the planet.

Finally, if you’re looking for something off-the-beaten-path, head over to Tigray rock-hewn churches which offer a unique lifetime experience.

So, what are you waiting for? Book our special 12 days photography tour package that will take you to all destinations that are worth visiting for photographers.

  • Tour Details
  • What Not to Miss?
Day 01: Addis Ababa -Jimma – Mizan (5 hours’ drive)

Early morning take flight from Addis Ababa to Jimma and drive to Mizan on the same day. Overnight in Mizan Tepi (hotel)

Day 02:  Mizan — Kibish — Tulgit

After breakfast we drive straight from Mizan to Tulgit, Surma area (110 km away from Mizan). On our way to Surma we’ll have a stop to visit the coffee forest of Bebaka which a UNESCO registered site.

Afterwards we will drive straight to upper Omo Valley, where we meet Surma clan, one of the isolated groups of the valley. This kinship group is assumed to be originally from Uganda who came due to slave trade and they were settled in South Sudan and finally moved to Ethiopia in the early 18 century. Then after we will continue to Tulgit camp for lunch. Finally, we start exploring the Surma culture and village after lunch. Overnight at campsite in Tulgit.

Ethiopia Suri Tribe mum with lip plate and face painting
Ethiopia Suri clan mum with lip plate and face painting
Day 03: Surma

After sharing this unique culture we’ll be back to have breakfast and we then drive to another Surma village called Kibish. If there will be Donga festival, we will certainly experience stick fighting.

After the rainy season and when there is a surplus of food Surma men from different clans gather to fight in battles on Donga sticks and define the strongest. Donga is a kind of rite of passage, the ceremony for the boys to become (or re-prove) to be real men warriors. Hence, in the event of clan wars with neighboring clans, they will be ready to defend the honor of the clan and preserve their cattle.

In the afternoon we will also visit body painting on the river bank, where young men apply the chalk onto the bodies of each other. Overnight in camping at Tulgit Surma.

Day 04: Kibish – Yangaten (Nyangatom people) — Karo people

Early morning of the day, we will drive through Omo Park to the village of Yangaten and visit the Nyangatom (or Bume) people (6-7 hours’ drive).

The Nyangatom live on the west bank of the lower Omo River. Their territory extends all the way to the Kenyan and South Sudanese borders and also to South Sudan itself. Like most kinship groups in the area, they are – as they claim – surrounded only by enemies: To the south are the aggressive Turkana, to the north the Surma, and to the east across the river — the Dassanech.

Finally, we will continue driving to Kolcho village. Karo are famous for their intricate face and body painting practices, which they apply on their heads and torso before major events and on the weekly markets. Karo is the smallest clan in the Valley (about 1,500 people in total) and the only group in Omo that remains in the Stone Age. Lacking metal melting skills, they skillfully handle a Kalashnikov rifle. In its origin, language and traditions, the Karo are somewhat close to Hamer and Benna. Overnight Camping in Karo Kolcho village.

If in case you are looking for an unforgettable trekking adventure in North Ethiopia?

Day 05: Karo – Dassench – Hamer

In the morning after breakfast, we will drive for about 115 kms through the Omo River to the village of Dassanech located at the southern bank of the Omo River.

Dassanech group are said to have a short history. People in the group are connected not by kinship, but by a common place of residence. Exiles from indigenous groups living on the northern shore of Lake Rudolph were united to survive in these harsh conditions. Hence, some other rival clans call them Geleba, which means “homeless”.

Dassanech and their traditional culture

Dassanech are traditional pastoralists, but in recent years began to move to a semi-nomadic way of life. When formal boundaries were established between African countries, it turned out that the lands of Dassanech were divided between Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya.

The highest expression of male beauty is the vulgar transverse scars across the entire chest and back, resembling crocodile skin. Such scars are inflicted on a body of the warrior who showed himself heroically in battle, who killed the enemy in course of tribal cattle raids. During the ceremonies men apply to the body clay and the contents of a cow’s stomach – not completely digested cattle food. Dung is taken from the stomach of a slaughtered cow.

In the afternoon, we will continue our drive to Turmi area and visit Hamar village. Hamer’s are distinguished by the fact that their women wear leather skirts decorated with shells, wear several copper bracelets on their hands and heavy iron necklaces around their necks, symbolizing their social status, and their hair is colored with ocher and animal fat. Men, in case of victory over the enemy or a dangerous beast, fix the hairstyle with clay and decorate with ostrich feathers. This hairstyle is carefully guarded — the Hamar sleep with a special Borkotos chair under their neck.

Also visit a seasonal Bull jumping ceremony – the main ritual of the Hamar men if there will be.  Overnight at Turmi Emerald Lodge.

Turmi girls
Turmi girls, Omo Valley Ethiopia.
Day 06: Turmi – Arbore

After spending night in the Turmi we will drive to Arbore early morning. Arbores inhabit the shores of Lake Chew Bahir in the southern part of the Omo Valley. The most notable in Arbore’s appearance are black veils, which is mandatory to wear for unmarried girls. A clean-shaven head is a sign of the beauty and innocence of its owners.

Massive aluminum jewelry, as well as sandals made from used car tires, are widespread Arbore decoration. Arbore looks very special and for sure are the desired models for photographers. Afterwards, we’ll proceed to Jinka to spend the night. Overnight in Eco-Omo lodge Jinka.

Day 07: Jinka — Addis Ababa — Mekelle

Have breakfast and transfer to the airport to catch flight from Jinka back to Addis Ababa then connected flight to Mekelle. Overnight in Mekelle (hotel).

Day 08: Mekelle — Erta Ale 

After breakfast, we set off on 4WD jeeps to the Danakil depression. Driving through the Danakil desert to Erta Ale volcano takes about 5 hours. On the way we will have lunch picnic prepared by our chef at one of the locals’ villages. Continuing our drive, we will arrive at the volcano base camp in the afternoon 3 or 4 pm. Then we will take a short break to take coffee/tea and snacks.

Finally, we pack what we need to start walking to the caldera rim located on the top of volcano which takes 20-30 minutes. After arriving on the top of the volcano, we will visit the lava lake starting at sunset till night, standing on the edge of a 100-meter crater. Later we will descend back to the shack camp installed near the caldera rim for dinner and night. Overnight camping in a shack or open air.

Day 09:  Erta Ale volcano

After breakfast hiking to the crater of the volcano for another full day exploration of the active volcano, lava fields, sulfur ashes from old eruptions, and other old dormant craters on the top of the mountains. After visiting some of the dead or still smoky craters, we will visit the lava lake with sunset for the last time after dinner. Overnight camping in a shack or open air.

N.B: For the last years, the activity of Erta Ale volcano is unstable, despite the fact that it is one of the active volcanos our planet Earth owns. During our travel dates, the lava lake could be barely active or too smoky. That’s why we recommend at least 2 days at volcano in order to have bigger chances to see bubbling lava clearly.

Erta Ale, Shield volcano in Ethiopia
Erta Ale, Shield volcano in Ethiopia
Day 10: Erta Ale — Hamed Ela — Lake Assale

Waking up early morning visit the volcano with sunrise. After breakfast we will descend to the base camp (30 minutes walking) and then drive to Hamed Ela. Lunch in our basic camp in Hamd Ela, where we will also spend the night.

After arriving in Hamed Ela, we will visit Afar traditional hat (called Akal) which creates a chance to communicate with Afar people, take photography, and experience the life style of the Afar people.

Around 4 pm drive to Lake Assale and swim in the natural pool, where the water is much saltier than in the Dead Sea. In a walking distance from the lake, we will take a deep breath and have some wine or beer on sunset. 

Photographer would find best camera angles and amazing reflections for taking pictures. At sunset we will visit the caravans of camels carrying salt (however it is not easy as they’re seasonal). Overnight open-air camping.

The salty and sulfur rich Danakil depression
Danakil depression of Ethiopia
Day 11: Hamed Ela – Dallol

After you get served an early breakfast at 6:00 am, we will start driving for 30 minutes to Dallol (‘the colorful place’) via Asebo (‘the salt desert’). In Dallol you will watch the local people hack block of slat out of the ground, cut it into rectangular pieces and loading it onto camels. Here is where the caravans start from. This is also the lowest point of the Danakil – 116 meters below sea level.

We then continue our driving and stroll through the different landscapes formed due to volcanic activities. Incredible, moon-like, colorful creations of the sulfur and huge salt mountains, a bumbling oil lake, are to be found here.

Nevertheless, due to incredible colors at Dallol you feel like you are on planet Venus. After having half a day visit, we will continue our drive to Mekelle (180 km drive) and arrive in Mekelle around 4:00 pm. Dinner and overnight in (hotel).

The colorful Dallol in Afar depression, Ethiopia
Hydrothermal chimneys, salt pillars, and terraces in Dallol, Ethiopia.
Day 12: Mekelle — Gheralta — Addis Ababa

Early morning, we will drive to Gheralta to Visit Abuna Yemata Guh and Mariam Korkor. Abuna Yemata Guh is perched on a cliff 2,580 meters above sea level and requires a challenging climb to reach. Visitors must climb up narrow ledges while holding onto ropes attached along its path leading towards its entrance carved into solid rock. However, the views from the top are breathtaking, and the church’s interior is adorned with stunning frescoes.

After lunch visit Mariam Korkor church. Mariam Korkor is located in a cave and is known for its intricate carvings and beautiful paintings. It’s also one of the most accessible rock-hewn churches in Tigray, making it a popular destination for visitors.

In the afternoon drive back to Mekelle and continue directly to the airport for a flight back to Addis Ababa. After arriving in Addis, transfer to your hotel for overnight or airport drop-off after dinner for a flight back home. End of the tour!

Priest on Abune Yemata Guh entry.
Abune Yemata Guh of Tigray rock-hewn churches.

What Not to Miss on Your Ethiopia Photography Tours

In addition to the places listed above, there are a number of other things that photographers should not miss when visiting Ethiopia.

These includes

  • The people of Ethiopia: The people of Ethiopia are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world. They are always happy to have their photos taken, and they will often pose for you in traditional dress.
  • The food of Ethiopia: Ethiopian food is some of the most delicious in the world. It is full of flavor, and it is sure to tantalize your taste buds.
  • The culture of Ethiopia: Ethiopia has a rich and diverse culture, which is reflected in its art, music, and dance. Visitors can experience this culture firsthand by visiting traditional villages and attending cultural events.