The Omo Valley tribes: how to visit the “Mursi”, “Hamar” and “Karo”

There were two things that were on my checklist for my trip to Ethiopia that I wasn’t gonna miss on: Lalibela and the Omo Valley tribes. In a previous post, I’ve told you about the wonderful rock-cut churches of the city of Lalibela in the Ethiopian north; this time, we’re going south, precisely to the Omo Valley region to find out how the people from this famous tribes really live.

You can get there either by plane or by car. I took the plane since it was the cheaper option and I was already going to drive around in Omo Valley.

Many had told me that the tribes “waiting for the tourists” were a “zoo”, but it wasn’t like that. There is one thing, though: you are charged Br 5 (birrs), approximately USD 0,25, for every person that appears on each photograph, which means that if there are two people on the picture, you are charged Br 10; and if one of them is a woman carrying a baby, you are charged Br 5  for her and 3 for the baby. It can also get a bit uncomfortable because if you don’t “choose” them, they can get somewhat aggressive.

That was the worst part of it, but the best was seeing how people from these tribes genuinely live nowadays, carrying on with their traditions, going to the market, eating and working; none of that is set up for tourists, it’s real.

Which tribes to visit in Omo Valley

The most famous ones are the “Mursi”, “Karo” and “Hamer”.

The Mursi are mostly recognized by a distinguished feature of their women: the lip plate, which they start carrying around when they’re 16 years old. However, they don’t wear it at all times, since it’s heavy and painful. That’s why it’s common to watch the women walk around without it… which is quite shocking. Nowadays, given the awareness that’s been raised about these issues and other African practices, the tradition is shifting to placing a plate or ring on the ear, instead of the lips, which is less painful.

The Hamer are mostly known for the fact that their women dye their hair red and dress quite peculiarly. For me, it was the “most beautiful” tribe.

Lastly, the Karo’s most famous feature is their white body painting, which can be on both their bodies or faces.

There are others, such as the “Ari” or “Dorze”, each one with their unique traditions.

You can camp and live with the tribes for a few days or stay in a hotel or pension. I must admit that the hotels are set for every category, which is nice.

All and all, I must say visiting these tribes is a must if you are in Ethiopia.

You can read more about Ethiopia, How to travel to Danakil

Lalibela: the most amazing churches I have ever seen

You can contact me at if you want to do any tour in Ethiopia

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