Ethiopia

Ancient obilisks and unique culture, Afro-Alpine highlands to one of the lowest and driest places on the planet...

Overview

Ethiopia is unique in many ways, not least in its remarkable number and variety of ancient monuments, both Christian and secular. Thanks to its location on the Roman Empire trade route to the south, the civilisation that became Ethiopia was one of the first to adopt Christianity, back in the time of Constantine. Here 12th century rock-hewn churches are in daily use. And 17th century castles are only recent history.

But this isn't a country resting on its past. Ethiopia has a fast-growing economy and is a major hub for flight connections to the rest of Africa. In the north of the country, interesting small hotels are opening and others are being updated. Good domestic flight connections are replacing the potholed road journeys. So if you have held back for lack of infrastructure, this could be the time to act.

Ethiopia is blessed with extensive natural variety and beauty. The Great Rift Valley cuts through Ethiopia and creates a string of lakes towards the south. As you head down into the valley, you get to the depths of the Danakil depression in the Afar. This is actually 125 metres below sea level. This contrasts with the peaks of the Simien Mountains at 4,533m. In the Danakil the temperature can reach 50°C. Whilst elsewhere snow is not uncommon in the Simien or Bale highlands! In between, the weather is mild and sometimes wet. This results in a green and lush landscape through much of the country.

Ethiopia is a very peaceful destination with so much to offer the traveller. An Ethiopia holiday could include the mysterious rock-cut churches of Lalibela, the enigmatic Stele park of Axum or the timeless Lake Monasteries of Lake Tana. You may like to hike in the Simien Mountains. Here you experience the dizzy heights of the Rift Valley Mountains with views of the valley 1500 m below.

Religion is very much part of everyday life in Ethiopia. The Orthodox Church (dating from the 4th century) was established in the north. But in the south some tribes still follow their traditional beliefs. In the west, the Islamic faith is predominant.

Coffee is an important export for Ethiopia. Everywhere you can participate in traditional coffee ceremonies, involving much smoke and incense, performed in restaurants and at the roadside stalls.

If you want to see the natural beauty of Ethiopia and its history, then our Northern Ethiopia History & Scenery offers both. This has the perfect combination of Ethiopia’s varied scenery as well as its famous churches and monasteries.

staff image

Gloria Darvall

Africa Travel Specialist
Our experienced band of Safari Planners can create a bespoke plan for you. More enriching, more restorative and making more of a difference. Discover how working with a specialist adds value to your African adventure.

Features

Why you may love it

  • Immensely beautiful country, especially in the north.
  • 12th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
  • 17th century stone-built castles and palaces
  • Fascinating early Christian history from the 4th century
  • Superb Afro-montane scenery in the Simen and Bale Mountains
  • Rock-hewn mountain-top monasteries
  • Fascinating Southern Ethiopian culture
  • Unique wildlife including the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex and Abyssinian wolf.

Explore the Ethiopia map

When to visit Ethiopia

November to Mid-March

Dry and sunny

The climate is mostly dependent on altitude in Ethiopia with a hot and arid climate in the lowlands to the west, a cooler climate on the high plateau. January and February are probably the most popular times to visit. So consult the temperature charts in each region as an average temperature for the country is not meaningful. This is the time of many important religious festivals in Ethiopia, so many pilgrims visit at this time as well. And the weather is dry and sunny.
AVG RAINFALL PER MONTH 22mm

Mid-March to May

Some chance of rain

This is also a great time to visit Ethiopia as though there is some chance of rain, it is not frequent and it usually takes the form of afternoon showers. (The only area with lots of rain is the Southern lowlands of the Omo Valley.) However the rains do gradually increase into May.
AVG RAINFALL 82mm

June to September

Rainy season

Interestingly unlike countries to the south, this is actually the main rainy season in Ethiopia (when it is usually dry in Kenya). The heaviest rain is in July and August - by far - and this brings down daytime temperatures to 21C. These two months should be avoided.
AVG RAINFALL 214mm

October to Mid-November

Dry and sunny

The rain suddenly departs in October in nearly all regions. This is the start of the dry season which lasts to somewhere in February. This is a lovely time to visit as it is dry and sunny but there are fewer visitors than later on in the peak season. There is still some lingering rain in the south of the country (including Bale Mountains).
AVG RAINFALL 58mm

Start planning your dream trip

Find me the best in for

Need a little help? View our Safari Guide to help you get started

Accommodation

View More Accommodations

Stunning Location

"Bale Mountain Lodge has a lovely location. Our room, whilst in a good location, needed a little bit of maintenance. The bathroom and the room was very cold in the evening until the fire was lit and again in the morning. So come with warm clothes!" Mr Tim Flesher, UK

We loved Ethiopia!

"We loved Ethiopia – great people, scenery, culture, food & wildlife. Immanuel, our guide, was excellent in every way – very friendly, informative, knowledgeable, helpful and went out of his way to try to get us “under the surface” in experiencing Ethiopia, visiting his family for a meal, buying us gifts and introducing us to many Ethiopians. Henok our driver was the best driver we have ever had – safe but quick, very friendly and helpful. The two of them created a great atmosphere over the 23 day trip. We can’t recommend Ethiopia enough, however, as we expected, travel was not always easy and the accommodation was not always of the same standard of other parts of Africa." Mr Tim Flesher, UK

Got to the heart of the celebrations

"Being in Gondar for Timkat was incredible and Amanuel and Henok ensured we got right to the heart of the celebrations" Mr Tim Flesher, UK
 
Did you know
  • DatesEthiopia has its own unique Calendar
  • TimeIn Ethiopia, sunrise is 1 o’clock and sunset is 12 o'clock.