Ethiopia Weather, climate and geography
Weather and climate
Best time to visit
Ethiopia is an ecologically diverse country; you can therefore expect several climate zones ranging from tropical savanna in the west to warm desert climate in the east. Most of the country is highland with many of its tourist destinations like Lalibela and Gondar are at an elevation above 2,000m (6,561ft). These places enjoy a considerably cooler climate year-round.
Generally, the best time to visit Ethiopia is between November and February when clear, sunny days bring regular average temperatures of 25°C (77°F). This period is considered the dry season as rainfall is at its lowest. This is also a prime time for bird watching. If you're heading to the countryside, the period between September to October is an excellent time to visit as the landscapes are lushly pretty after all the rain.
The best time to visit Addis Ababa, Aksum, Lalibela and Gondar
The best time to visit Addis Ababa, Aksum, Lalibela and Gondar is from November to April.
The rainy season (July and August) brings soaring temperatures and humid conditions to most places in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, Aksum, Lalibela and Gondar. July is the wettest month for Gondar and Aksum, while August is the wettest month for Addis Ababa and Lalibela.
March, April, May, June, September and October are considered the shoulder months. It's typically cheaper to travel during these months, but you may get a short burst of rain every now and then.
Visitors may also want to coincide your travel with colourful festivals. September 11 is Ethiopian New Year while September 27 is Meskel, which marks the discovery of the True Cross by the Roman Empress Helena. The biggest celebration takes place in Addis Ababa's Meskel Square.
Other big days include Gena or Ledet celebrated on January 7, this is considered the Ethiopian Christmas when families gather to enjoy doro wat (chicken stew) with injera. Timkat, the Ethiopian Orthodox equivalent to Epiphany, is celebrated on January 19. The best place to see this festival is Gondar where the Fasil's Pool is filled with water for a re-enactment of the first baptism.
The best time to visit the Lower Omo Valley
The best time to visit the Lower Omo Valley is from January to April. The weather is dry but hot (particularly in areas around Turmi) and there are many traditional ceremonies taking place.
The best time to visit the Danakil Depression
Situated in northern Ethiopia near the border with Eritrea, the Danakil Depression sits at the juncture of three tectonic plates and is one of the hottest places on earth with temperatures regularly top 41°C (106°F). There really is no best time to visit this otherworldly place, although some tours may claim that temperatures are more tolerable from October to February.
Due to vast altitude differences between highland and lowland areas, if you plan to explore Ethiopia fully you should prepare for a wide range of temperature differences. Bringing clothes that can be easily layered is the obvious choice. You will also need lightweight clothing for the lowlands and medium-weight for the hill country. At least one warm sweater or pullover should be brought along to cope with dramatic temperature drops once the sun goes down.
Please note that many churches and monasteries (particular in Lalibela) require women to wear a headscarf and cover their arms and legs.
Ethiopia is situated in northeast Africa, in the area known as 'The Horn of Africa'. It is bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, the self-proclaimed separatist territory of Somaliland, and Djibouti. Encompassing an area of 1,104,300 sq km (426,372 sq miles), it is roughly twice the size of France and is completely landlocked.
The central area is a vast highland region of volcanic rock forming a watered, temperate zone surrounded by hot, arid, inhospitable desert. The Great Rift Valley (which starts in Palestine, runs down the Red Sea and diagonally southwest through Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi) slices through the central mountain ranges. The escarpments on either side of the country are steepest in the north where the terrain is very rugged.
Within the country there is a huge diversity in altitude. The highest point is at Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains, which at 4,550m (14,930 ft) is Africa's 10th tallest mountain. The lowest point is inside the Danakil Depression which reaches 125m (410ft) below sea level. To the south, the landscape is generally flatter and much of the east and southeast is taken over by semi-arid scrubland. Although mass- deforestation has been a problem since the Middle Ages, the lowlands are still noted for their verdant evergreen forests. Ethiopia is home to four major river systems, the most important being the Blue Nile which begins at Lake Tana.