Oromia Culture and Tourism Bureau

Biiroo Aadaafi Tuurizimii Oromiyaa

                                                                        Afaan Oromoo                                                    አማርኛ

The Southern Tourist Route

   About the Route

The south Oromia tourist route starts from the town of Shashamane at the Sanqale Swaynes Hartebeest Sanctuary and through Lake Hawasa in two lines to the South Oromia. The first line takes us to Negele town, while the second to the Ethio-Kenyan border of the Moyale town.

At the beginning of this route, as you cross Tikur Whua River you have a brief travel in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, including its capital Hawasa.

The line to South Oromia tourist route starts at Shashamane town and splits at a place called Abosto, near the Yirgalem town. One can travel to Oromia via one or both of the two lines. To travel on both lines, there are two connecting roads: the 270 kilometers of Negele to Mega road, and the 100 kilometers of Adola to Bulehora road.

This route is predominantly known for its rich wildlife resources and intact culture. This is an area where the Oromo indigenous democracy of the Gada System is still widely being exercised. It is also a place where intact indigenous culture is seen resisting pressures from outside for years.

This route is also an international tourist gate way that connects Ethiopia to Kenya. It also leads to tourist destinations of the Southern Peoples Nations Nationalities and Region National State.

Culture and Life Style

The Southern Oromia tourist route is the area where the Borana and Guji Oromos, the two biggest clans of the Oromo people settle. This broad range of land covers 30% of the land of Oromia. This area marks one of the international tourist gateways of Oromia where Oromia shares international boundary with Kenya.

The largest population in this area lives in highland area growing cereals and cash crop, mainly coffee and thus making sedimentary agriculturalists. The remaining, largely the Borana people, live in the arid lowland areas practicing pastoral livelihood. There are also others who live in mining areas from which they make their earnings.

The Gujis and Boranas share boundary with a number of nationalities in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region and with those of the Somali Regional State.

There is also an area where the Oromo traditional democracy, the Gada System is still very strong, though it was disintegrated in other parts of the region years back. This is also an area where one of the social and spiritual structures of the Gada System known as Mogasa (child naming ceremony) has continued for years without interruption with its Qalu function.

The life style of the people in this area is the aggregation of the above social, economic and geographic factors where:

  • The Gada System still plays a significant role in the socio-economic life of the people;
  • Cultural ceremonies like Moggasa and Gada power transfer ceremonies are colorfully being celebrated;
  • The people’s dressing style of cotton clothes and home-crafted leather clothes, house- wares made of wood and leather, pastoral house construction styles, personal decorations and feeding styles are still typical traditional types marking wealth of culture tourism;
  • The Gada law which prohibits cutting of trees and killing of wildlife has helped the conservation of natural environment in the area that is being practiced. Thus, nowadays, this region is known for its wildlife resources in the country, and
  • The region is known for its livestock in the country for local consumption as well as exportation.

Sanqalle Wildlife Reserve (Sanctuary): Along the asphalt road to Arba Minch from Shashamanne, there is an important wildlife reserve center known as Sanqale Sanctuary. Located at the distance of 304 kilometers from Addis Ababa, Sanqale Sanctuary is hosting around 20 mammals and 110 bird species. One of the endemic mammals to Ethiopia, Swayne's Hartebeest, is the main inhabiting species of the sanctuary. Oribi, warthog, bohor reed buck, cheetah, civet cat, spotted hyena and golden jackal are seen in abundance at the reserve center. The reserve is covered by sparse acacia trees, bushes and grasses. One has to drive for about 9 kilometers to the south-east from the highway to arrive at the centre of the sanctuary

Besides its wildlife resources, this sanctuary has majestic scenic beauty of mountains and hills giving the best view of Lake Hawasa.

Lake Hawasa After paying a brief visit to the Sanqale Wildlife Reserve, one takes a drive back to the longest tour towards the Southern Oromia. Following the asphalt road to Hawasa, the Capital of Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State, from Shashamane the distance of 14 kms just before you enter Hawasa, you find the town of Bishan Guracha, whose name has been derived from the main feeder river of Lake Hawasa.

At the entrance of Bishan Guracha town, a dusty road turns to right taking you the picturesque of the Hawsa. It takes no longer than 3 kms to see the beautiful lake side blessings of the Lake. As you drive for about 12 kms on the lake’s shore, you enjoy watching the coverage of giant sycamore trees and small rural settlements which are also suitable for camping. There is a hill which gives you the best opportunity to view the lake and aquatic birds. Mountain ranges, at the back of the lake, also offer the best opportunity for hiking and trekking.

Though there are tourist development tourist services in the eastern shore of the Lake by the side of the town, tourist development service is not seen on the western shore offering the best opportunity for those who are interested in investing in the sector.

Forest and Scenery around Guji: Immediately crossing the bridge of the Bishan Guracha town, you get in to the town of Hawsa. Hawasa is one of the fastest growing tourist resort towns to be visited in the country. As you travel from Hawasa to the south,the road splits in to two at the small town of Abosto. You can take any of these roads, but it is advisable to take the road that turns left to the high altitude and temperate climate in the north, and to the low semi-arid bush and savannah grassland in the south to the remarkable physical features of the Guji Zone. Among the remarkable attractions of the area is the impressive physical landscape seen along the route to Negelle. The major scenic route starts from the neighboring Sidama Zone highlands and then continues to Bore and Adola-Wadara districts which offer flavorsome sensation of green vegetations, and, at some places, dense forests with undergrowth.

Major forest areas include Anfarara-Wadara, Bore-Uraga, Magada and other forest priority areas. Red termite anthills are unique physical sights in the lowlands. The wilderness of the Guji area and canopies of the dense forest has made the area the real home of many mammals, birds and reptiles harboring more than 44 mammals and 274 bird species. It is also the area where most of the contry’s gold is produced.

Me’e Boko Gada Site: On the way to Negele along the scenic route of Guji, you find an important historic site known as the Me’e Boko Gada Site. The Gada ceremonies of the Guji Oromos are being celebrated nowadays at this place, though no more in many places in Oromia. The latest Gada power transfer ceremony took place colorfully at this place in 2008 when foundation was laid to build a modern Gada and museum centers at the place.

Apart from this Gada Site, there are other cultural sites to be visited in Guji. These are:

  • Gololcha Fooqa and Darartu in Adola where the recently elected Aba Gada settles, and
  • Chirate in Adola where the three “Ya’as”, the multitude or the Great Assembly of the Gada’s, Dori’s, Raba’s ceremonial events take place.

Destinations around Borana: After visiting the Guji area, you have to visit the Borana area to complete your visits of the South Oromia tourist route. To get in to the Borena area, you have to travel for about 260 kms in the lowland plains of the Borena until you come to the town of Mega on the way Ethio-Kenyan asphalt way.

On your way to Mega, you enjoy watching wildlife’s such as gazle, dikdik, klipspringer and warthog on the both sides of the road. If you are lucky, you also see animals such as giraffes, elephants and lions on your way.

The Town of Mega and Yabelo: You have to spend some days in the town of Mega and Yabello to explore the natural wonders, wildlife and the culture of the Borena people. The town of Mega has also historical significance in serving as the centre of the British consulate for the Southern Ethiopia in the 19th century.

The Boqes (Craters): The other remarkable tourist attractions in the lowlands of Borana are the wondrous and craters of salt and salty minerals known as Boqè. Situated on Ethio-Kenya international road at the distance of 663 kilometers from Addis Ababa, Mega town is surrounded by five wonderful volcanic craters, each located at various distances and directions from the town. Most of the craters are characterized by their deep circular feature of flat topography and by salt or other salty minerals found at their bottoms. These Boqes as called by the local people include Boqe Sogida, Boqe Magado, Boqe Dillo and Gordhay. Located at the distances of 26 kilometers to the north of Mega town, the Boqe Sogida (salt crater) has currently become the most active boqe in tourist visitation.

booqee soggidaborana

                                                                           Boqe Sogida (salt crater)

Ela and Tula, which means water well system, is an extra-ordinary heritage reflecting the life style of the Boranas. The Boranas dug water wells of 10-15metres many centuries ago to get ground water for themselves and their cattle.

The water drawing system, in which men and women stand one above the other on the narrow rocky holes wall and toss up the drawn water up to the surface for their cattle, is very surprising. This indigenous knowledge or practice of water harvesting system is appreciated not only for a tourist appeal, but also for its exemplary model for arid area settlers.

There are about nine localities in Borana where Tulas are found of which Melbana and Web are the most famous and easily accessible sites.

Cultural Attractions:The Borana area has a wealth of cultural resources to be visited which include cultural festivals, including the Gada ceremony, and other ceremonial rites manifested in the forms of songs, cultural dancing, special dressings and other ritual activities. Naming newly born babies and marriage ceremonies are among the, eventful activities of the Borana Oromos.

Among the many specific sites and cultural events attached to the Borana, the followings are worth mentioning:

  • Gayo in Dirre district where the “Gumi” (Gada Assembly) takes place once every eight years to discuss and pass resolutions on general issues concerning cultural administration and regulations,
  • Ardoti Liban where the “Gadamoji” hold ceremonial process of retiring, and
  • Qalicha Game Liban where the Ijole Game (youngsters age group with game) on the line undertake imitational ceremonies.


Yabelo Sanctuary and other Wildlife Areas: Yabelo Sanctuary, though originally established for the protection of Swayne’s Hartebeest, has become dominantly a habitat of Burchell’s Zebra. The sanctuary is 17 kilometers far away from the nearby town of Yabelo to the east, or 205 kilometers far away from the border town of Moyale. This savannah/acacia habitat is also a home of greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, and other mammals. The reserve harbors more than 194 species of birds.

The other localities with wildlife concentrations area, of the Sarite Plain and Forole Depression, offer incredible spectacle of oryx, zebra, hartebeest, ostrich, gerenuk, gazelle, lion and other mammals.

(in Yabello Sanctuary), and the Prince RusPoli’s Turaco (Arero forest) are the endemic birds to Ethiopia. Most of the mammal’s frequent acacia bush lands and savannah grass lands.

Turacco        turaco2

                                                                 Prince RusPoli’s Turaco

Districts of Galana and Abaya

Shaphe Rock Carving:Is an ancient rock carving found in Galana Abbaya District at a place called Shaphe at the distance of 9 kilometers from the Dilla town. This wonderful remnant of history is believed to reflect the lifestyle and the artistic work of the ancient people who lived some four thousand years ago in the area. Here, one can see numerous artistic cow pictures that are carved on the wall of the rocks in Shaphe valley.

After visiting Shaphe, we are about to complete our tour of the Southern Oromia. Taking a brief rest at Dila town on the way to Addis, a pleasant drive of 30 km from the Dila town in an evergreen land, takes us to Abosto, a place at which we turned left to visit the Guji zone which marked our   wonderful tours to the Guji and the Borena areas.

Wallame Hot Spring:This marvelous hot spring with high discharging and 90oc heat is situated in the same district at the distance of 377kilometers from Addis Ababa and 12 kilometers from the Dilla town. Springing from the foot of Gabela hills the hot water creates rivulet that keeps down powering to Lagadar Stream throughout the year. Wallame thermal spring, if well developed, can be site of thermal bathing and multipurpose tourist recreations.