Bale Mountains National Park is easily accessible by both private car and public transport on a newly paved road.
By Private Vehicle Direct from Addis Ababa (6-7 hours):
1. Mojo/Shashemene Road:
• Take the Adama road 75km east of Addis to Mojo. Turn right at the junction and head south on the Moyale Road for 170km, passing through Ziway. This route takes you through the Rift Valley, passing several scenic lakes. Take a left at the clearly signposted turn as you enter Shashemene (at the bus station) for the Bale Moutains. Follow this road for 158km through Dodola and Adaba to Dinsho where the park headquarters is located.
• Sights: Central Rift Valley Lakes: The lakes of Ziway, Langano, Abiata, Shala and Awassa. Langano is Ethiopia’s only lake suitable for swimming. Along the eastern shore of the lake is a rustic forest home to various birds. Lakes Abiata and Shala form the nucleus for the Abiata-Shala National Park where thousands of flamingos can be found. At 260m, Lake Shala is the deepest of the Ethiopian Rift Valley Lakes and is the home to a breeding colony of great white pelicans. Shashemene: Best known for its Rastafarian population, this fast-growing city is a key transport hub. In December, the town hosts the popular Reggae in the Rift Valley Festival with performers from Africa and the Caribbean. Wendo Genet: Enjoy pools filled with thermal water from nearby sources surrounded by lush vegation. Hikes through the surrounding mountains can also be arranged with guides who are located at the entrance of the hot spring pools. Adaba-Dodola Ecotourism: provides the opportunity for mountain trekking while generating alternative income for forest dwellers in order to conserve the remnants of Afroalpine forests. Spend the days trekking and the nights in mountain huts. See here for more information.
2. Butajira/Ziway Road:
More scenic and with less traffic, this route passes through several cultural and archeological sites before connecting with the Ziway Road.
- Follow the Jimma road out of Addis Ababa for 20km to Alem Gena, where the signposted road south to Butajira branches off to the left. From Alem Gena to Butajira is rougly 105km. At Butajira take the road 50km to Ziway. Continue on the Moyale Road for 84km. Take a left at the clearly signposted turn as you enter Shashemene (at the bus station) for the Bale Moutains. Follow this road for 158km through Dodola and Adaba to Dinsho.
- Sights: Melka Kunture Prehistoric Site: Located on the south face of the Awash River Gorge (opposite Melka Awash), and regarded as one of the most important Stone Age sites in Ethiopia, this area boasts fossils over one million years old. Downstream in Dubatu is a complex of caves and houses on the cliff- face, dug by the Gurage people. Both this and a disused rock-hewn monastery are abandoned and can be entered by visitors. To get here, turn right 100m after the bridge in Melka Awash. It is signposted. Adadi Maryam Church: Dating from between the 12th and 14th centuries, this is the southernmost extant rock- hewn church in Ethiopia. Turn off 5km past Melka Awash at the signpost, then continue 13km to the church. Tiya Stelae: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tiya is home to 45 stelae over 2m tall marking a mass grave of people who died almost 700 years ago. Other than this, very little is known about the markings or origin. Take the unsignposted turn on your left 40km south of Melka Awash, and about 100m after the Tiya Stelae Hotel. Continue 200m and make a right after a red water tank.
3. Asela Route:
Heavy in truck traffic for the first 70km, this route takes your through one of Ethiopia’s most famous cities for beef as well as a natural hot spring.
- Drive 113km east of Addis to Adama (also known as Nazret), the capital city of the Oromia region in the middle of the magnificent Rift Valley. Take a right turn at the main junction which, after 75km leads to the agricultural town of Asela. From there, drive onwards to Dodola, which is situated at the junction of the Asela and Shashemene roads. From Dodola continue a further 80km to Dinsho where the Bale Mountains National Park headquarters is located.
- Sights: Sodere Hot Springs: Situated at an altitude of 1,700m, and stretching about 1km on the banks of the Awash river, the hot springs are only 5km off the main road that leads to Asela. The hot springs fill a 3m deep swimming pool, surrounded by forests that offer great bird watching. A nominal entrance and picnic fee (should you chose to bring your own food) are both charged upon arrival. Dera Delfeker Reserve: A small but important sanctury that supports greater and lesser kudu, klipspringer and common duiker as well as more than 100 bird species. The sanctury is situated on the Adama-Asela road on the eastern bounds of the small town of Dera. Wabe Waterfall: A tributary of the Wabe Shebele River, this wide, tall waterfall is located on the Asassa-Dodola road. About 7km before reaching Dodola is a bridge; from there, the waterfall is only 500m.
For multi-day driving itineraries with overnight stops along the way to BMNP, see this page. These routes include sites of cultural, historical and natural interest both en-route and nearby the Bale Mountains National Park.
Public Transportation (8 hours):
Buses leave from the Mercato bus station where you are advised to purchase your tickets the day before you plan to travel. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket windows located behind the bus parking lot. To locate the specific ticket window, listen for people calling for either Goba or Robe. Buses are divided into three levels, with Level 1 being the most comfortable, and Level 3 the least. Ticket prices reflect the level, but average around 150 Birr each way.
Buses are scheduled to leave at 6am although they don’t always leave on time. You are advised to arrive around an hour before departure. Buses stop for a brief lunch break. If your destination is Dinsho, you must call werage (rhymes with garage) once you have reached town, and the bus driver will stop to let you off. Dinsho is the first substantial town after passing through the mountains. The entrance to the park is at the top of the hill on the outer reaches of town.
Minibuses leave Dinsho from the center of the main road in town (unless it is a market day when larger buses pass through). There may be a wait, and a “broker” may put you on a list for when the minibus arrives to guarantee you a seat. They may ask for payment in return; 5 Birr is sufficient. Buses go to the Robe bus station, and from there other buses leave for Goba, Shashemene, Adaba, Agarfa, Dodola and further afield. Bus destinations are identified by attendants who call out names of towns and cities. Travel time between Robe and Dinsho is about 40 minutes, and between Robe and Goba only about 15 minutes.
If you are travelling with a lot of bags or large bags, they may be tied to the top of the vehicle and you may be charged a fee of 2-5 Birr per bag. When taking public transportation, it is strongly advised to start early in the day as schedules are highly unpredictable. Travel on large market days is usually much smoother as more buses are traveling between towns. Hitchhiking is not recommended.