Omo Valley: Home to Ancient Tribes of Ethiopia

omo valley tribes

Set in the south of Ethiopia, you will find a unique and magnetic region: the Lower Omo Valley. What stands out most from the Omo Valley is the people that inhabit the region. Here, you will encounter villages of several fascinating and diverse ethnic groups.

To visit the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, foreign nationals are required to obtain an Ethiopia online visa to enter the country. The only visa-exempt countries are Kenya and Djibouti. If you are considering visiting the Lower Omo Valley on your next vacation, be sure to check the Ethiopia eVisa requirements and complete the online application with your personal details. To successfully and quickly get this eVisa, you will need to provide your passport info on the Ethiopia eVisa application.

The Lower Omo Valley is a dry savanna expanse set by the Omo River, an essential resource to all the tribes, many of which are situated along the river. These ancient tribes have been living in the valley for centuries. Human remains dating back 2.5 million years were discovered and the Omo Valley has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site due to its cultural and historical value.

Can I visit the Lower Omo Valley?

Yes, foreign travelers are able to visit several tribes situated in the region. However, it is important that you know that due to where these tribes are located, the trip might be costly and will require time. It is possible to explore the Omo Valley on a budget as it is also possible to visit different tribes with public transport, though this means that the trip will take longer.

Which tribes should I visit in the Omo Valley?

The Lower Omo Valley is home to dozens of ancient tribes. However, some of them are more recognizable and will be worth your time. The following tribes are considered as some of the most accessible and popular ones among tourists:

  • Banna, also spelled as Bana or Bena
  • Dassanetch or Daasanach
  • Dorze
  • Hamar, known for their ochre hair
  • Karo or Kara, known for their body paintings
  • Mursi, known for their lip plates


Other tribes you might want to include on your itinerary are Arbore, Ari, Bashada, Meen, Tsamako, Tsemai and Turkana. Be sure to do some research about the tribes before planning the trip. Each tribe is very different from the other, from their clothing, to their traditions. Some of them are small, with a population of between 1,000 and 7,500 people. However, other tribes, like the Konso Tribe are quite large, with over 250,000 people.

The amount of time you should spend exploring the tribes is entirely up to you. Be mindful that the Ethiopia eVisa can be valid for a 30-day or a 90-day stay, depending on what you choose on your application.

You should also keep in mind the weather in Ethiopia as this can have an impact on your visit to the Omo Valley. Several roads in the area are not paved and to get to some tribes you will need to go through river beds and streams. Ideally, you should avoid rainy season which starts in March and lasts until late June. The best time to visit Ethiopia and the Omo Valley is between September and February, during dry season.

Do I Need a Tour Guide to Visit the Omo Valley?

There are several companies and tour agencies that can arrange visits to the tribes with a local guide. Even if you are traveling with a budget, at some point it will be a good idea to hire a jeep and a driver to visit some of the tribes. You can hire tour guides for the entire visit or only to go to a few of them.

Tour guides do take care of several things that you will not need to worry about such as transportation and accommodation. If you have more of an adventurer spirit, it is possible to use public transport an arrange visits on your own. However, depending on the tribes you wish to visit, a tour guide could actually help you save time and money.

Most accommodation in the Omo Valley is not available online. Therefore, if you do choose to not hire a tour company, you will need to find accommodation locally. It is essential that travelers are aware that they’re not going to find five-star hotels in the Omo Valley, but there are a places where they can sleep comfortably.

Whether you decide to travel with a tour guide or not depends on how much time you want to spend exploring the Omo Valley. Before your trip, be sure to check the documents needed to travel to Ethiopia and the country’s entry requirements.