The Ethiopian rift valley keeps dozens of saline lakes which keeps an important portion of biodiversity. From the rift system, the central rift valley of Ethiopia is the most commonly visited part of the Rift Valley. This part of the rift valley keeps a string of five freshwater and soda lakes running south of Addis Ababa to Hawassa. These include Lake Langano, whose upmarket resorts and swimming beaches make it is a popular weekend retreat from Addis Ababa and a great place to break up a longer southern safari. For those seeking a more urban break, Hawassa, fringed by the lake of the same name, is a bustling regional capital offering superb recreational and conference facilities. For history buffs, a local community tourism project offers boat trips to Lake Ziway’s Tullu Guddo Island, where the monastery of Maryam Debre Tsion – established in 842 AD to provide temporary sanctuary to the Ark of the Covenant – houses a library of priceless ancient manuscripts, notably an illuminated 14th-century tome vividly portraying 19 saints. It is the lakes’ birdlife that impresses most. Larder-mouthed pelicans and marabou storks gorge themselves at Ziway’s main boat jetty and Hawassa’s lively fish market; while long-legged jacanas and pygmy geese haunt the lily-covered bays, and parrots and fish eagles that nest in lakeside forests. There is also one of Africa’s great ornithological spectacles in the form of the hundreds of thousands of beautiful pink-hued flamingos that congregate in the shallows of Lake Abijatta.
What to See?
This part of Ethiopia is one of the intriguing places to travel in Ethiopia.
- Lake Ziway’s Tullu Guddo Island is where Ethiopian tradition says the Ark of the Covenant was stowed during the 9th century, while nearby French-owned Castel Winery produces East Africa’s finest wines.
- Lined with resorts and ecolodges, Lake Langano, with its bilharzia-free waters, is both a popular weekend beach and water sports retreat and a great site for bird watching.
- Named after the two large lakes within its borders, Abijatta-Shalla National Park is an important waterbird sanctuary, hosting up to 300,000 pink-hued flamingoes at the end of the rains.
Practical information before your trip to
Central Rift Valley Lakes
The central rift valley lakes can be accessed from Addis Ababa with a surface drive. The longest drive is to Hawassa which is found 270 km away from Addis Ababa. Hawassa also served with daily Ethiopian airline flights. This part of Ethiopia has a better road infrastructure as the newly opened expressway passes through this part of the rift valley. As most of the lakes like Lake Ziway, Shalla, Abijjta, Langano, and Chitu are located near the capital Addis Ababa day trip is a possibility to be done.
Local tour guides are available in major destinations to take you around. But it’s recommended to bring your own tour operators from Addis Ababa.
There are plenty of luxury and standard hotel options in the town of Ziway, Shashemene, and Hawassa . A network of boutique resorts and lodges are also available on the shores of Lake Langano.