Arba Minch is a district and city in southern Ethiopia. It consists of 2 areas: Schecha, the uptown administrative center, and Sikela, a commercial and residential zone 8 miles away.
The greatest attraction for tourists in the area is Nechisar National Park, an opportunity to see Ethiopia’s varied wildlife and plant species up close. The park also features the hot springs which gives the city its name: Arba Minch means ‘forty springs’.
Arba Minch is a highly resourceful area of the country, visitors will spot many mango, guava and pineapple trees as well as fish farms.
This guide explains the best time to go to Arba Minch, what to see and do plus practical advice for travelers.
Getting to Arba Minch from Addis Ababa
Separated by a distance of over 250 miles, the quickest, and most convenient, way to travel from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch is by taking the short Ethiopian domestic flight.
The flight time is just over one hour and the plane fare is in the region of $100, depending on the time of year and demand.
It is possible to drive from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch in about 9 hours.
Nechisar National Park Attractions
The highlight of Arba Minch, and the main tourist attraction, is Nechisar National Park, the headquarters of which are under a mile from the center of the city.
Nechisar Park boasts 2 of the largest lakes in Ethiopia: Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya plus the well-known 40 springs.
Nechisar hosts 84 species of mammals and 342 types of birds. Some of the most noteworthy resident animals include Burchell’s zebra, Anubis baboon, side-striped jackal, and African hunting dog.
The park is a combination of grassland, groundwater forest, wetland, and bushland.Tours of the park and lakes are available.
Key information about Lake Chamo
This spot is particularly well known for being home to a large number of crocodiles.
- Approximate surface area: 197 square miles
- Maximum depth: just under 46 feet
- Best for: wildlife including catfish, hippopotamus and Nile crocodiles
Some tour operators run cruises on Lake Chamo, the best way to see the crocodile market (so-called because the crocodiles gather together).
Facts about Lake Abaya
Lake Abaya is very large and dotted with islands, it provides local fishermen with hundreds of tonnes of fish each year.
- Approximate surface area: 722 square miles
- Maximum depth: around 42 feet
- Best for: wildlife, birdlife islands (Gidicho, Welege, Galmaka, and Alkali)
Nechisar National Park hot springs
Arba Minch means forty springs, named after the hot springs situated around 3km from the entrance to the park.
The springs are certainly worth a visit for tourists in Nechisar National Park and is included in most of the tours of the area.
Dorze Villages: Home of the Dorze People
Sightseers in Arba Minch can take the opportunity to visit the Dorze villages situated in the hills to the east of the city. These hamlets are home to the Dorze people, a small ethnic group in Ethiopia.
It is a great opportunity for visitors to experience a culture and lifestyle very different from their own. The main attraction is Dorze Lodge, built by the Dorze people as a community tourism project.
The lodge offers impressive views across the surrounding area and provides accommodation.
The Dorze Villages can be accessed by bus from Arba Minch. There is a service every hour and the journey lasts approximately 2 hours.
Weather in Arba Minch
The best time to visit Ethiopia is from January to March. Tourists in Arba Minch during these summer months can enjoy comfortable temperatures ranging from 50 to 75F (10-24ºC) and low rainfall, perfect for walking by the lakes and spotting wildlife.
For those who prefer to travel outside of peak season, the best alternative is October to December. Conditions are still good, slightly cooler than the high season, optimal weather for trekking.
Tourists should avoid the area in the monsoon season. Most rain falls from April to June and there is a second wet period from September to October. Heavy rainfall can make it difficult to see Nechisar National Park and its lakes.
Travel Advice for Visiting Arba Minch
When planning a trip to Arba Minch, it is essential to check the visa requirements for Ethiopia. Most foreigners require a travel permit to enter Ethiopia, only 2 nations enjoy visa-free entry.
Conveniently, passport holders from every country can apply for the Ethiopia eVisa, with no need to visit the diplomatic mission or join long lines at the airport.
Although most applications are processed within 1 day, it is advised to lodge a visa request at least 72 hours before departure in case of any complications.
In addition to organizing a visa, before going to Arba Minch it is important to check the vaccine requirements for Ethiopia with a medical professional a couple of months in advance.
Finally, to ensure a secure problem-free trip to Arba Minch, foreigners should consult safely advice for Ethiopia and take all necessary precautions.