The Central Tourist Route
About the Route
The Central Oromia tourist route covers an average distance of 200kms radius form Addis Ababa. This area is currently frequented by domestic weekend tourists and excursionists residing in Addis Ababa. The location of the area at the center of the country makes it a place to visit enroot to major destinations in the country. This tourist route is an ideal place for foreigners who stay for one or two days in Ethiopia, either on business duties or on transit.
The central Oromia tourist route is divided in to four tourist lines following the roads radiating from the capital, Addis. These are:
Tourists can pick one of these lines and make a brief tour of one to two days, or more days as they need.
Culture and Lifestyle
The central tourist circuit of Oromia is inhabited by the Maca, Tulama, Karayu and Arsi Oromo clans who belong to the bigger Borana clan. In spite of their descent from one major family, these clans have diverse cultures and life styles.
The Tulama occupy the area of North Shawa and East Shawa. The Maca settle in West and South-west Shawa, while the Karayu settle in East Shawa. The Arsi occupy West Arsi Zone and part of East Shawa.
The rural population in this tourist zone has, more or less, a similar life style. Most of the people in this area are sedentary agriculturalists who make their life from crop production, except the Karayu who are largely pastoral communities.
The Jile Oromo, who belong to the Tulama clan, are known for their unique hair-style like their neighbors, the Karayu. The Tulama of North Shawa are known for their art of making colorful house ware from grass. The Arsi people are also known by their colorful dressing and their decorated vessels called ‘qabe’. All people in this area dress clothes made of cotton fabrics. The difference is only the way it is sewn and decorated.
The highlanders in this area considered by others as the best horsemen in the country.This is expressed by a tradition of calling people by the name of their horses saying ‘Aba’ followed by the name of the horse- meaning the “Owner of so called horse”.
Addis Ababa-Adama-Sodare Tourist Line
Oda Nabe: The Tulama Oromo Gada Site
Immediately after crossing to the boundary of Oromia from Addis on the road leading to south- eastern part of the country, you enter the town of Gelan. Just beyond this town to the east, this, you find the newly emerging industrial town of Oromia where the railway line crosses the asphalt road. Turning right and following a dusty road distance of 5kms, you find the historic site of Oda Nabe.
Oda Nabe has an important place in the history of the Oromo people as the Gada System does. It is a place where major ceremonies of the Tulama Oromo Gada System take place including power transfer ceremonies and gada assemblies. There are sites in all directions around the Oda Nabe which hold important place in the Tulama Gada System which include:
Cafe Tuma: The place where Gada laws are drafted and modified, and
Andode Tuma: The place where Gada laws are publicized or announced.
Presently, activities are underway at Oda Nabe by the joint effort of all stakeholders to construct gada convention centre, museum and offices. This site will have great significance for teaching and research activities on the Oromo culture.
Bishoftu: A town at the distance of 47 kilometers to south of Addis Ababa on the main asphalt road is an easily accessible popular recreation and resort town for overnight visitors and weekend excursionists throughout the year. Bishoftu town is characterized by a cluster of volcanic crater lakes and popular spiritual sites that surround the town. Because of its altitude, which ranges up to 1850 masl, Bishoftu area has warm climate.
The following are the major resort lakes that tourists who come to the town for leisure and recreation enjoy visiting.
Lake Hora Harsade: This Lake is the oldest known lake resort in the town. It is only 2 kilometers from the center of the town. Situated in a beautiful deep basin, Hora Harsade Lake has the maximum depth of 37 meters, and is reputed for water sports and scenic beauty. Its wealth of fish species and aquatic bird life give opportunities for fishing and bird watching. At a glance, visitors can watch birds like cormorants, hammer crops, ducks, geese and heron’s kingfisher darters and storks.
Irecha: Every year towards the end of September, the Oromo people gather on the shore of the Lake Hora Harsade to conduct ritual Irecha Ceremony, traditional thanksgiving ceremony. This ceremony, which millions of people attend every year, is believed to be the oldest form of monotheism practiced in Africa. At this ceremony, the people pray to God for the good- will and well- being of their cattle and family and for the prosperity of the coming year.
The young Oromos mainly attend this ceremony with their colorful traditional clothes, dancing’s and singings, which also make the place a worth visiting area.
Lake Bishoftu: Having a maximum depth of 85 meters, Lake Bishoftu is probably the deepest of the surrounding lakes. The attractive feature of the lake is its scenic beauty. The beautiful surrounding rocky steep invites for sightseeing and nature admiring. Bushoftu Afaf Hotel and Dream Land Resort are the ideal sites to enjoy the scenery.
Lake Babogaya:Lake Babogayais nearly the same size of that of the Hora Lake, but much deeper. It is situated at north- east of Hora Lake along a rough, dusty road. The presence of fishes like tilapia makes the possibility of fishing and watching water birds like ducks and geese common. Surrounded by greenish vegetation on its ridge, Babogaya Lake is, especially, endowed with breathtaking beauty.
Lake Kuriftu: Very close to the Babogaya Lake, Lake Kuriftu has now become one of the country’s best known resort centres. The privately owned resort centre, Kuriftu Resort, is an ideal place for tourists to visit and stay in.
Lake Kilole: Kilole Lake is at the distance of 12 kilometers hard drive to the north- east of the town. It is the farthest of the lakes in the area. Birds like water fowls, African fish eagles, cormorants, Egyptian geese, ducks, plovers, etc. are easily seen around the Lake.
Lake Magarisa: meaning, “Green Lake”, is about 9 kilometers away to the south- west of the town just behind the Air Force base. The lake looks green because of its algae. It is more dramatic, colorful and beautiful when viewed against the backdrop of the surrounding hills. Though scenic and beautiful, it is a quite lake with no activity around it.
Mountain Chuqala (Ziquala): The Chuqala Mountain, located at a distance of 27 kilometers to the south-west of Bishoftu town is the highest peak in the Central Rift Valley area with the peaks of 2989 meters above sea level. This elevation has made it a watch tower of the Central Rift Valley region with cold climate on the top. It is covered with a thick, high land forest wherein the beautiful Colobus Monkeys and various bird species inhabit.
The mountain is accessible to the top for mountain climbers on foot or by a 4 wheel drive through a nine kilometers distance road. The mountain provides the following considerable attractions:
Mountain Yarar: Mt. Yarar, is found at 12 kilometers to the north of Bishoftu. It is known best for the location of the Church of Trinity on its south-west slope. Its annual celebration is the best time to discover the folk culture. The forest, covering the mountain and the natural beauty of the mountain, offers a pleasurable hiking opportunity to the energetic. The peculiar attraction offer of the mountain involves the pleasant atmosphere of the high altitude forest habitat suitable for camping and trekking on foot or on horseback.
Other Attractions of the Bishoftu Town
Besides the lakes and mountains in and around the town has the following to offer its guests.
Africa Art Gallery: established by the famous Artist Captain Lemma Guya and Deshet Herbal Medicine and Cultural Centre. African Art Gallery is one of the main tourist attractions in the town drawing attention of many visitors from Addis Ababa and from abroad. Deshet Herbal Medicine and Museum of Cultural collection established by Hakim Abebech is another site of special interest. The mini-museum contains a variety of ethnological and cultural collections that are especially dedicated to Oromo and Walaita artifacts.
Adama: A town 90 kilometers away from Addis Ababa to the south-east is situated on the juncture of the highway leading to the Port of Djibouti and on the road to extensive crop growing zones of Arsi and Bale. Adama is one of the fastest growing towns serving as industrial, commercial and conference centre in the country. The town is encircled by a variety of attractions which include:
Oromo Martyr’s Monument: The statue depicts Oromo patriots who gave up their life in order to remove the dictator Dergue Regime to bring equality and liberty for the nations and nationalities of the peoples of Ethiopia. This statue is erected on the compound of the Abba Gada campus with high attraction values. The town boasts of many star level (standard) hotels and other hotels recommended for tourists, vacationers and casual visitors. Hotels with conference facilities, the Aba Gada Conference and Convention Centre,and the location of the town and the warmth of its climate make the town of Adama an important tourist destination and weekend retreat centre in the country.
Garagadi Hot Spring: This spring is about 12 kilometers away to south-west from the town of Adama near the Wanji town and the sugar cane estate. It is situated at a distance of five kilometers from Wanji on a plain between a hill to the south and Awash River to the north- east.
Garagadi is a place where thermal springs gush out at many different points covering the area with floods. It is not uncommon to see the local people and others bathing in these natural hot springs because they are believed to bring about healing of physical ailments. Garagadi hot spring is one of the important tourism development potential sites in Oromia for spa resort development.
Sightseeing of the site includes view of the nearby Awash River, crocodiles inhabiting in the river and other aquatic life.
Boku Steam: Situated on the slope of a gorgeous land, Boku Geothermal Steam Bath Centre is situated at the distance of seven kilometers from Adama. Its tourist offer includes:
The Boku steam is accessible from Adama by car on a gravel road. Its service, however, need to be transformed to a high standard multifaceted tourist service.
Sodare Spa Resort: Located at the distance of 27 kilometers from Adama, the Sodare Spa Resort is the most developed and popular spa resort center in Ethiopia/ Oromia. Situated at the foot of the greenish hills near the Bank of the Awash River, the Spa Resort owes much of its attraction to hot spring, the Awash River and reverine vegetation in the area. Its main offers include:
Dhera Dilfaqar Proposed Park: This proposed parkis situated to the south of Adama on the way to Asala. Having an area of 25 square kilometers, the park hosts about 23 mammals and more than 100 bird species. The major mammals harboring the park include greater kudu, lesser kudu, klipspringer, caracal, striped hyena, silver backed jackal, grey duiker and others. The animals can be observed in the mornings and evenings.
The Addis - Shashamane Line
This line shares attractions of the surroundings of the Bishoftu town explained in the preceding section. Hence, we begin our journey on a new line where this line departs from the previous line.
The road to the Rift Valley Lakes Region turns to south right at the Mojo town which is at the distance of 73 kilometers from Addis Ababa. Crossing the Awash River at the upper edge of the artificial Qoqa Lake and passing through many towns and villages, the road leads to the Ziway town where the Lake Ziway (Dambal) first comes to view.
Lake Dambal (Ziway): is 160 kilometers far away from Addis Ababa. Having an area of 434 square kilometers, it is the largest of the middle Rift Valley cluster lakes. It is the shallowest lake with about 4m depths at its many parts.
The shores of the lake are marshy, shaded by sycamores and reeds that provide a feeding ground for aquatic birds. Some of the water birds, which frequent the lake, are cormorants, darts, herons, great white pelicans and marabou storks and others. At the northern part of the lake, there is a wide bay with marshy coasts and swamp vegetation. The lake is doted by several islands of Tullu Gudo, with its historical monastery of Debre-Tsiyon Mariam and Zaye ethnic group,Tullu Gudo is the main and popular island of the which is accessible by boat both from eastern and western shores of Ziway town. Apart from aquatic birds, the lake harbors a large quantity of fish and amphibians such as hippo and others. This hot weathered tourist popular destination is an ideal place for fishing, boating, bird watching, water transportation and touring monasteries. Dambal (Ziway) town is the closest lake side town that offers tourist with accommodations and national dishes.
Lake Langano Resort Area:is situated at the distance of 218 kilometers from Addis Ababa to reach Bekele Molla Hotel. The Lake Langano lies in an irregular shaped basin with a perimeter of 62 kilometers, an area of 305 square kilometers and a depth of 30 meters in some parts. Langano Lake water is soft brown in color, but pure enough for swimming which makes it an ideal spot for water sports. Relatively, it is the most developed and popular resort of all the lakes in Ethiopia with accommodation services. Visitors can camp, water ski, sail and swim or bask in the blazing sun on the sandy beaches of the lake. The western side of the lake is covered with a thin acacia tree, while the eastern shore is partially covered by pristine dense forest patches.
Langano is such a big potential tourism development area that many investors are nowadays being attracted towards it.
Abijata-Shala Lakes National Park:At the distance of about 215 kilometers from Addis Ababa, visitors arrive at Abijata-Shala Lakes National Park main gate or “Lakes Park” which was once served as one of the bird watchers ground in Africa. It covers 887 square kilometersin area of which 482 square kilometersare covered by water of Lake Abijata and Shala. This park is believed to harbor about 31 species of mammals such as spotted hyena, golden and black jackals, olive baboon, grant’s gazelle, and 367 bird species.
Myriad of local and exotic birds that came from Europe and different parts of the world inhibited around lake Abijata. July to September marks the peak season of congregation and the best time to watch birds. During this time, hundreds of thousands of flamingoes and great white pelicans, fish eagles, king fisher’s, (the tall marabou Stork), cormorants and darters, etc. used to roam here and there around Lake Abijata and by the sides of Lake Shala. There were also vast colonies of sacred ibis, queela, stilt, snope black heron, avocet, egyptian geese, egrets, plovers, etc. It is quite unlikely, however, to see most of the birds mentioned above, while some species are seen in small number seasonally because of the great devastation of biodiversity and human interferences.
Located at 215 kilometers from Addis Ababa, the small enclosure of Ostrich farm hosts a group of ostriches with some Grant’s Gazelles. At the parks headquarter, one can easily see a flock of male and female ostriches and some gazelles. Lake Shala, which is separated to the south from Lake Abijata by a strip of land, has a delightful view for its deep-blue color with excellent reflections of magnificent western hills.
At the north-eastern shore of the Lake Shala, one can be impressed by a tumbling cascade of hot springs and smoke of vapor that rush out down to the bay. This is a typical potential investment forwards spa resort development that has attracted investors because of its intact nature.
Another fascinating part of the lake is the Gike Site which is situated on the lofty land towards the south-western shore of Lake Shala making the best site for bird watching and camping. It is accessible by a sturdy car through Aware and Sanbate towns to the south of Shashamane town. Lake Shala is also an ideal lake for water transportation, touring around tiny islands of the lake that connect western and eastern shores.
To the south-west of Lake Shala, there is a small alkaline crater lake known as Lake Chitu. This small lake, more than any other lake, is the best site for bird watching, especially the flamingoes. Chitu is accessible by four wheel drive via the Sanbate town.
The Addis-Ambo-Woliso Line
Tour to this small tourist line can be made on a circular line of Addis-Ambo-Woliso and back to Addis or vice versa exploring as much destinations. Visitors can choose from Addis –Ambo, or Addis-Woliso single line.
Gafarsa Dam: is set in the valley laid between sloppy hills at the distance of 22 kilometers to the west of Addis Ababa. It is one of the main water supply sources for the capital. The major attraction of the dam is the numerous colorful aquatic birds which appeal to bir-loving visitors.
Managasha Suba National Forest: After the Gafarsa reservoir, one finds a small town of Managasha where the dusty road forks to the left leading to the Managasha-Suba Forest that is located at the distance of about 45 kilometers from Addis Ababa in the Wachacha Mountain range. The forest is also accessible by vehicle from Sabata town. The total area of this natural forest is estimated to about 2500 hectares. The composition of this natural forest represents the natural high forests that once existed in the highlands of Ethiopia.
The forest vegetation varies from high forests to afro alpine vegetation within altitude range of 2300m to above 3000m. The oldest trees of Juniperus Procera, which is estimated to be over 200 years old, and six other tree species are among the tree of the forests; while Erica Arborea and Helichrysum Spp represent vegetation of above 3000m (high altitude). Suba, as a tourist site, boasts not only indigenous tree species, but also a number of birds and mammal species including Menelik Bushbuck the endemic sub-species which take refuge in the forest.
The majestic beauty of the Mogli peak and the surrounding scenery would all together make the Suba Forest area an ideal place for nature lovers, hikers, trekkers and sight seers, forest explorers, scenery admirers, etc.
Addis Alem /Ejere/ Church and Museum: Fifty-five kilo meters from Addis Ababa on the same way to Ambo is situated a small town of Addis Alem, which is known for its prominent church Debre Tsiyon Mariam. This specially decorated church was originally built as palace of Emperor Minelik II, before Addis Alem was abanded as "impossible capital". Influenced by Indian, Pakistan and Iranian architectures, the design and decoration of the church building is unique. The other main attraction on the church compound is the museum with historical antiquities of royal families and religious manuscripts.
Chilimogaji Forest: At Ginchi town, a gravel road of only 7 kilometers branches out to the right hand side leading to Chilimogaji forest, one of the natural patch forests in West Shawa. Occupying an area of 11000 hectars of land, the forest is predominantly covered with natural tree species such as podocarpus gracilio and juniper trees some of which are estimated to be over 400 years. The nursery site run by Farm African Project and the cottage currently in use for office of the project are situated on the open valley between slices of the forest. The cottage was first built by the Queen Itege Menen as "guest house in the forest resort" for the entertainment of the royal families.
Another amazing site of the forest is the huge mysterious trees which served as the guardian outpost during the Italian occupation to observe potential enemies from distance. The metal ladder, which was used by that time to lean against the tree, still stands, and the trees are unaffected. Chilimo Forest is an ideal site for forest exploring, scenery admiring, camping, etc,
Lake Dandi: Back to Ginchi, another road of 50 kilometers’ forks to the left at Ginchi leading to Boda, a rural village. After about 5 kilometers, one would find Dandi Lake. Being one of the Oromia's highland lakes, Lake Dandi is lying in the basin encircled by semi flat and barren uplands. Lacking green vegetation, its beauty relied on white colored water with the shape of number 8. The scenery can be enhanced if the area is covered with green vegetation by reforestation.
Ambo: Carrying on along the main road past Ginchi, Ambo is reached after about half an hour drive. Ambo, the capital of West Shawa Zone, is situated at the distance of 125 kilometers to the west of Addis Ababa. Ambo is especially known for its sparkling mineral water known as "Ambo Wuha". The Ambo mineral water, which has gained popularity throughout Ethiopia, is processed and bottled here.
Hot spring baths, the Olympic size swimming pool and various hotel facilities and recreation centers, make the Ambo area a site of hydrotherapy and recreation that appeal to extended leisure time and weekend visitors.
Ambo vicinity is also endowed with sites of natural magnificence. Huluqa, Guder and Teltele waterfalls are among the remarkable sites worth visiting, especially during the rainy seasons. Integrated with scenic land formation of the valley, Teltele farm is an ideal spot for sightseeing and relaxing.
Wanchi Crater Lake: Wanchi is a picturesque lake situated at the distance of about 32 kilometers to the south-west of Ambo on the road to Woliso nearly at the half way between the two towns. Coming from Ambo or from Woliso to Wanchi Crater Lake, the gravel road ascends mountain slopes almost to the rim of the crater where the height peak reaches 3386 meters above sea level where green oasis, when compared to the surrounding area, comes to view.
Touristic appeal of the crater mainly stems from its fantastic beauty. Standing on the rim of the crater, you will be watching unique shaped and crystal clear water lying in deep basin and circular slops covered with greenery alpine vegetation that largely contributed for its dramatic scenery. In addition, when you see the village on peninsula, the small island with monastery, the houses and gardens on the lake side make crater that it has not been affected by the modern world.
The Crater Lake is endowed with forest of more than 15 major tree species and much other alpine type vegetation, many aquatic and terrestrial bird species and some mammals of which colobus monkey is frequently seen. In the hot spring valley, one can observe natural offers like hot and cold mineral springs, which are used by the local people for curing of illness, the waterfall gushing out just from the foot of the hill and many other eye-catching scenes.
Wanchi Crater Lake is an ideal site, and has a good appeal to tourist activities and recreations like hiking, boating/canoeing, horseback riding, sailing, paragliding, relaxing, forest exploring, spa bathing and many other eco-tourism oriented activities. Some of these activities are already made operational by Wanchi Eco tourism Society that is composed of local community associations and private investors.
Woliso: Driving forward on the gravel road, which brought us to lake Wanchi, we arrive at Woliso town on the main asphalt road linking Addis to Jima. Situated at the distance of about 116 kilometers to the south-west of Addis Ababa, Woliso boasts natural hot spring that serves for recreational and curative purposes. The compound of the Negash Lodge, the former Ethiopia Hotel in Woliso, is especially the ideal place where recreational facilities are integrated with natural resources. The lodge offers neatly and beautifully built swimming pool, spa bath houses, lodging services, and its cultural cottages and natural forests harbor gureza, monkey and birds of various types.
Awash Malka Qunture: From Woliso, driving back to Addis, you arrive at the town of Alamgena which is situated at the distance of only 18 kms from Addis. At Alamgena, to your right, you find a small town of Awash Malka Qunture at the distance of 50 km from Addis Ababa which is known for its paleontological sites. As you cross the bridge at the south end of the town, you come to the eye-catching view of Awash River waterfall striking the basalt at the base of deep gorge spraying its smoke.
After crossing the river, there situated a fenced enclosure kept of excavation and collection of prehistory physical remains. The main excavation in the site include fossilized animal bone and Stone Age pebble tools of ancient men which are estimated to be 2 million years old exhibited in mini museums in the enclosure.
Adadi Mariam Church: Further driving for 23kilometers from Awash Malka Qunture, including the 13 kilometers detour to the right or 73 kilometers from Addis Ababa on the same route brings you to the rock hewn church of Adadi Mariam. This historic church lies on the ground with descending steps to the main entrances. The church has ten gates and fourteen small windows letting the sun light in.
Being the site of religious pilgrimage, it is a good attraction site for domestic and foreign visitors interested in historical wonders and religion. There are also five newly discovered caves nearby Adadi Mariam at the distance of ten to twelve kilometers.
Not far away from the Adadi Mariam Church is a small town of Tiya is found in the Gurage Zone of the Southern Nations and Nationalities Regional State. Here, one can see 36 ancient stelae or obelisks, thirty-one of which are decorated with carvings. The tallest of these carvings is 3.7m in height
The Addis -Blue Nile Gorge Line
Mugar Valley and Darba Waterfalls:At the distance of 40 kilometers on the Addis-Gojam highway,a small town of Chancho is situated. At Chancho, an all weather road detours to the left and extends for 15 kilometers up to the tip of the Mugar Valley escarpment where Mugar Cement Factory is located. The valley is at a merging point of two big gorges creating a fantastic site of natural scenery. Darba waterfall is one of the longest waterfalls in Africa, situated at the rim of the valley just at a walking distance from the Cement Factory.
Being seasonal waterfall, Darba could be observed best during the peak months of river volume, July to October. Mugar Valley and the waterfall offer visitors a quite fascinating view.
Monastery of Debre Libanos: The Monastery of Debre Libanos is found at the distance of 107 kilometers to the north of Addis Ababa on the way to Gojam. Debre Libanos is one of the Ethiopia’s most reputed Orthodox monastic enclaves. It was founded by Abune Teklehaimanot at the early of the 1260s. The enclave of the monastery consists of villages of nuns and monks, the original monastery (cave) and a modern church of a beautiful architecture.
Interior paintings of the church, its modern historical antiquities and organization add to the attractions of the monastery.
The forest surrounding this monastery is also one of the best places for bird watching.
The Portuguese Bridge: Built in 16th century by the Portuguese, the bridge is another historical monument of tourist significance. The bridge was constructed, as legend says, from stones and egg yolk which was used as a binding agent. The thick forest and wonderful view of the Zega-Wodam and Jama rivers gorges, the waterfall beneath the bridge and the deep cliffs of the area contribute a lot to the scenic beauty of the site.
Nowadays, the topography of this site and the gorge are attracting tourists who are interested in paragliding sport activity.
Goha Tsiyon Mariyam and Washa Michael Churches:The historic Goha Tsiyon Mariyam Church, which was founded in 1864 and rebuilt in the 20 century, is situated on the southern edge of the Abay (Blue Nile) Gorge in Goha Tsiyon town. This church is known for its historic manuscript written carefully on the goat hides with locally prepared black and red inks. It also bears an attractive architectural design of 14 pairs of unailed wooden doors made of 4 meters in height and 7centimeters of thickness with 28 unailed windows made of self-contained wood.
Equally historical in the area is the cavernous Washa Michael Church which is located on the slope of the Abay gorge at a walking distance from Goha Tsiyon town. This church is believed to be constructed prior to the Goha Tsiyon Mariyam.
Blue Nile Gorge: The descent wonderful view of the Abay (Blue Nile) gorge begins from Goha Tsiyon town. The long winding descent to the famous Blue Nile River is accomplished after 30 minutes of good speed drive. The river marks natural boundary between North Shawa Zone of Oromia and East Gojam Zone of the Amhara Regional States. The ascent from the bridge to the Dejen town takes about the same time that takes descending from Goha Tsiyon. Blue Nile gorge marks wonderful natural scenery which is usually admired by travelers along this historic route.