What’s the best time of year to travel to Ethiopia?
Often referred to as the cradle of humanity, the kingdom of Kush, the kingdom of the Queen of Sheba, the kingdom of Prester John, or the Kingdom of Abyssinia, Ethiopia, has many names.
Second oldest Christian country in the world, Ethiopia is home to many religions. These religions have bequeathed an unrivaled cultural and architectural heritage spanning from the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and the ancient city of Axum, to the mysterious monastic communities of Lake Tana.
Its diverse landscapes, from high mountains, and lava lakes, to deserts, unusual volcanoes, and spectacular waterfalls, combined with a rich past and thriving culture, make it a traveler’s dream.
So, to help you plan your trip to this riveting country, we’ve shared below everything you need to know about Ethiopia.
General Climate in Ethiopia
The climate in Ethiopia varies from region to region. From equatorial rainforests witnessing high rainfall in the south to arid areas in the east and northeast of the country, the climate is diverse.
Ethiopia is characterized by three distinct seasons:
- Bega: the dry season spans from October to January and features hot and dry days and cool nights. Frost is common early morning in the highlands.
- Belg: from February to May, the country experiences high temperatures and mild rainfall except for the southern and southeastern lowlands.
- Kiremt: the rainy season spans from June to September and is characterized by frequent rainfall, which typically peaks in August. Note that rainfall usually occurs towards the end of the day for a couple of hours only.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Ethiopia
As mentioned, the country boasts diverse landscapes, and the weather in Ethiopia allows travelers to explore the region all year round. Therefore, the best time to visit Ethiopia is whenever you're ready to pack and go.
April to September
This period is characterized by occasional heavy rainfall and is the low season in Ethiopia.
While the rainy season can see occasional heavy rainfall, it’s one of the best times to visit Ethiopia as Islamic holidays, such as Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, usually occur during this period. And it’s also the season when Enkutatash (New Year’s Day) takes place!
Besides, flights and accommodation are extremely affordable during this time of the year. Lastly, not only will you encounter fewer travelers, but you’ll also be able to immerse yourself in the country’s rich history and incredible cultural scene. Some of the best things to do in Ethiopia during this time of the year include visiting the Mago National Parks, Addis Ababa, Jinka, and Konso.
October to March
October usually kicks off the country’s dry season and is a great time to visit as you’ll most likely experience clear skies, lush vegetation, and green slopes enhanced with blankets of yellow Meskel flowers blooming after the rainy months.
Many travelers explore the north of the country during this season, including the Danakil Desert and the Bale Mountains National Park, as temperatures are more enjoyable. And if you can organize your trip around October or November, you might be able to enjoy the famous Hamer Bull Jumping Ceremony in Lower Omo Valley.
Best Festivals and Events
Timkat is Ethiopia’s most important religious holiday. For several days, thousands of worshipers dressed in white robes parade through the streets to celebrate the baptism of Christ.
The festivities also feature marching bands, traditional performances, and banquets. For the ultimate cultural experience, we’d recommend attending the celebrations in major cities like Addis Ababa, Gonder, or Aksum.
When: January (every year)
Hamer Bull Jumping Ceremony
The traditional "bull jumping ceremony" is a rite of passage allowing young boys from the Hamar tribe in southern Ethiopia to become men. There, in the Lower Omo Valley, young Hamar men must jump on the backs of 10 castrated bulls huddled together. This rite determines the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Under the stark gaze of the elders, each boy must pass this test. If not, they’ll be humiliated as the women in their family will flog them, leading them to become pariahs in their village.
When: October or November (every year)
Eid al-Fitr refers to the breaking of the fast at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. After 30 days of fasting from dawn to sunset, on the 1st day of the month of chawwâl, Eid al-Fitr marks a major celebration throughout the country.
Ethiopian Muslims meet for prayer early in the morning at the mosque. Many of them also attend a common prayer, listen to a khutba (sermon) and do zakat al-Fitr, a form of charity that consists of giving food to people in need. Individuals also share a meal with family, neighbors and friends.
Eid-el-Fitr lasts several days and prepares Muslims for Eid el-Adha, which lasts a whole month.
When: The dates change yearly depending on the moon's sighting.
Enkutatash is the Ethiopian New Year, celebrated in September every year. It marks the end of the rainy season, the arrival of the Queen of Sheba in Jerusalem and the commemoration of Saint John.
The Ethiopian tradition is to buy new clothes, especially for children, to visit family and friends and to exchange gifts. This holiday is a fun celebration with bonfires, fireworks, dance shows, and concerts enlivening the whole country. Beyond its Christian connotation, Enkutatash is a major event for everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs.
When: September (every year)
What To Pack and Tips
- Temperatures in Ethiopia can be absolutely scorching depending on the time of the year and region. Therefore, make sure to pack light clothing.
- Women are expected to wear outfits covering their arms and legs at all times. Men are also expected to wear clothing covering their arms and legs when visiting religious sites.
- It can be difficult to find medicines in local pharmacies. So, bring medicines to treat everyday ailments with you as well as malaria tablets.
- Avoid traveling near the Somali border.
- You will need a visa to enter the country. Discover the requirements and documents needed for traveling to Ethiopia.
- For more information on traveling to Ethiopia, don’t hesitate to check out our latest articles about how to get a visa for Ethiopia and the best three things to do in Ethiopia.