Addis Ababa

The capital is a vibrant multicultural city and a great place to start any trip to Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Museum is the current home of Lucy, our earliest ancestor...

BEST TIME TO VISIT

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Overview

Addis Ababa is a perfectly pleasant city to start your visit to Ethiopia. If you have a night here, this allows you to acclimatize to the high altitude (at 2,3550m) of most of northern Ethiopia. And this is not to be under-estimated!

Addis Ababa (meaning New Flower) became the permanent capital in the 1880s. It is also considered to be the diplomatic capital of Africa. As it is the headquarters for the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union. So there’s no shortage of decent hotels and restaurants. You can even visit an Ethiopian jazz club.

Certainly, there is plenty to see for a day or two. We recommend a guided tour to see some of the museums and churches. This will get your acquisition of Ethiopian history off to a good start. Plus - as the museums have few signs - a guide is very useful to explain the cultural background of some exhibits. The National Museum of Ethiopia is home to 'Lucy' (also known as Dinknesh), the fossilised bones of the most complete skeleton of an early human and, at the time of her discovery, the oldest ever found.

Here in Addis Ababa, daytime temperatures remain a pleasant 23-27C throughout the year.

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Milandi Joubert

Africa Travel Specialist
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Features

Why you may love it

  • National Museum of Ethiopia – where the bones of Lucy, our oldest pre-historic ancestor – are kept
  • Visit St Georges Cathedral with its stained glass windows.
  • Addis Ababa Museum and Red Terrors Martyr’s Memorial Museum
  • Check out Mercato, the largest market in Africa, and a heaving mass of traders and hawkers.
  • Kiddist Selassie Church

Explore the Addis Ababa map

When to visit Addis Ababa

January to February

Summer in Addis Ababa

Being so close to the equator, there is no major change in temperature in Addis throughout the year with daytime max of 24-25C. Being high in altitude (2300m) it has a temperate climate with cool nights. These months are near-perfect in terms of climate with sunny blue skies and a very pleasant temperature. The Timkat Festival in Addis Ababa celebrates the Ethiopian Epiphany over three days of festivities, starting in mid-January. From February onwards there is a slight chance of rain which usually takes the form of afternoon showers. So, largely, you have sunny blue skies for months on end.
AVG RAINFALL 21 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 9 Hours
MAX TEMP 24 ℃ / 75 ℉
MIN TEMP 9 ℃ / 48 ℉

March to May

Sunny with afternoon showers

Rainfall gradually increases in Addis, but usually in the afternoon so there’s plenty of time for sight-seeing. Temperatures continue to be very pleasant.
AVG RAINFALL 96 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 8 Hours
MAX TEMP 24 ℃ / 75 ℉
MIN TEMP 11 ℃ / 52 ℉

June to September

Rainy season

This is actually the main rainy season in Ethiopia with the heaviest rain in July and August and this brings down daytime temperatures to 21C. Though it is not an ideal time to visit, the attractions of Addis are its museums and churches so you can shelter inside.
AVG RAINFALL 225 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 3 Hours
MAX TEMP 21 ℃ / 70 ℉
MIN TEMP 10 ℃ / 50 ℉

October to December

Start of the dry season

The rain suddenly departs in October and this is the start of the dry season which lasts to somewhere in February. This is again a lovely time to visit as it is dry and sunny but there are fewer visitors than later on in the peak season.
AVG RAINFALL 25 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 8 Hours
MAX TEMP 23 ℃ / 73 ℉
MIN TEMP 9 ℃ / 48 ℉

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Recce to Ethiopia

Back in August, Ian and I managed a long-anticipated recce trip to Ethiopia. It did not disappoint. It's the mysterious, exotic destination of my imagination and really does feel as though you are stepping back to the 12th century at times.

My Trip Report is in two parts: Plus Points and Moot Points. Read on for the Plus Points!

 

  • Ethiopia is full of characteristic sensory stimuli such as the scent of incense, the taste of rich coffee, the other-worldly atonal chanting and the colours of the natural landscape and the ubiquitous swathes of shawls.
  • The breadth and depth of its history and culture plus the extent to which the casual visitor can connect easily with this legacy is mind-boggling. Ethiopia is not just the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, home of our 3.2 million-year-old earliest ancestor, ‘Lucy’. It’s also the home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the oldest forms of Christianity, with ancient churches decorated with enchanting, vividly coloured frescos or hewn from solid rock as if with heavenly assistance. The last emperor, the world-famous Haile Selassie (or Ras Tefari Mekonnen) claimed a lineage reaching back to the union of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. But this is not the most audacious of Ethiopia’s assertions, for the devout believe that the Ark of the Covenant is secreted in the ancient city of Axum in a Holy of Holies that only one man alive may see.
  • The rock churches of Lalibela had been a major ‘bucket list’ item for all four seasoned travellers (and hugely spoiled and lucky travel professionals) who went on the northern ‘historical’ tour and it exceeded all our expectations.
  • Though it was a gruelling travelling schedule (because we are diligent - as well as hugely spoiled and lucky travel professionals) , I feel that is was so different and so thought-provoking that I didn’t feel shattered on my return and I would willingly return to Ethiopia to visit certain places that we missed.
  • Beautiful, interesting scenery. Lots of farms, villages and people going about their business to keep your attention on drives. And everyone (except in the tribal villages in the far south) is so industrious and busy; it is like a Breughel painting come to life.
  • Ethiopians are a really open and friendly people, many of whom speak English as it is taught in school from the age of 7. We didn’t get to test how it would feel to walk about alone and you would probably get huge hassle from kids wanting pens etc. but I don’t think it would be a security risk.
  • The coffee is, of course, very good and local beer and even local red wine (made in the Northern reaches of the Rift Valley) is pretty palatable and inexpensive.
  • The ancient churches, palaces and monasteries are fascinating and utterly unspoiled by gift shops or visitor centres. To visit them now seems as though it is little different from when they were first ‘discovered’ by earlier western explorers and 18th century tourists.
  • The country feels very peaceful and the two main religious groups (70% Christian and 30% Muslim) live alongside each other harmoniously, as we understand it.
  • Ethiopian Airways is surprisingly pleasant with a modern fleet. Domestic flights are cheaper for those flying internationally with the state carrier, which is worth taking advantage of.
  • We absolutely loved our guide, Melkamu, and we thought that our two drivers provided by our local handling agent, Dinknesh, whom we had for the 10 days in 4x4s in the south, were excellent.
Cedarberg : Ginny Russell
 
Did you know
  • UN homeConsidered the Diplomatic capital of Africa
  • HistoryAddis Ababa is the 2rd capital after Lalibela & Gondar.