When is the best time to go to Ethiopia?
The best time of year to go to Ethiopia is between October and March. During these months, there is less rainfall and the heat is less intense in the extreme north and south. However, Ethiopia's size means there are plenty of fantastic experiences available from June to September.
Annual Temperature and Rainfall in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a mild climate compared to many East African countries, and this can come as a surprise to many. Despite its equatorial position, Ethiopia is a high altitude region, with much of the country above 2,000 metres. This means temperatures are milder throughout the year, with average day time temperatures of 20°C-25°C throughout the year.
Unlike many of its East Africa neighbours that experience tropical climates, with multiple rainy seasons throughout the year, Ethiopia experiences just one long rainy season from June to early September. During these months, trekking in the highland regions becomes more difficult as some access roads and hiking trails become impassable. However, there is plenty to see and do outside the mountains, and although hiking can be more challenging, it is still perfectly possible to visit the highlands.
The rains actually come a little earlier in the Omo Valley, running from April to May. This means that a trip south can be a great option from June to September while the north experiences the rains.
When to visit Ethiopia, breakdown by region
The Northern Circuit
Generally speaking, the historic north circuit in Ethiopia comprises the following destinations:
All of these regions are highland areas, and they follow the usual annual weather patterns with a rainy season from June to September, and mild and pleasant temperatures throughout the year. The best time to visit these destinations is between October and March, but you can often get away with much of April and even the beginning of May before the rains really come in.
If you want to do the northern circuit during the rainy season, it is perfectly possible but you should be prepared for rains and cloudier skies, and hiking in the Simien Mountains is more limited. Note also that Limalimo Lodge is closed from 15th July to 31st August.
TLDR: the best time to do the northern circuit in Ethiopia is between October and March, but you can usually get away with April and the beginning of May before the rains come.
You can learn more about the major travel regions in Ethiopia on our ultimate Ethiopia travel guide page.
The Rift Valley and Bale Mountains
The main rift valley lakes are:
The rift valley follows similar seasonality to the northern circuit, with a long rainy season from June to early September. The Bale Mountains to the east of the rift valley are the largest highland region south of Addis Ababa, and the rains here are more extreme than in the rift valley, and more similar to what you'll find in the Simien Mountains in the north of the country. You can learn more on our when to visit the Bale Mountains page.
TLDR: it's very much the same story in the rift valley and Bale Mountains. Both have a long rainy season from June to early September, but the rains are more pronounced in the Bale Mountains due to the high altitude.
The extreme north and south: Omo Valley and the Danakil Depression
The Omo Valley in the far south of Ethiopia experiences a slightly different climate to the rest of the country. Here, the rains come slightly earlier, kicking off in April and running through to May. From June to September, when the north of the country is experiencing the rains, temperatures are high in the Omo Valley and it is one of the best times to visit the region. Check out our page on when to visit the Omo Valley for more information.
The Danakil Depression is unlike any other region in Ethiopia, and has a completely different climate. It's one of the most arid, hot, and extreme destinations on the planet. Temperatures here are soaring year-round, averaging around 35°C. In the months of June to September, while the rest of the north is experiencing lower temperatures and more rains, the Danakil is at its hottest - spiking to 40°C+.
You can learn more on our when to visit the Danakil Depression guide.
TLDR: The rains come earlier in the Omo Valley, running from March to early June. There is a short rainy season in October, but generally any months outside of March to May is fine. In the Danakil, you'll want to avoid June to September, otherwise you're good to go.
Ethiopia has a vibrant and exciting festival calendar, with wonderful celebrations occurring throughout the year.
Two of the biggest celebrations, Ethiopian Christmas and Timkat, take place in January. If you are travelling in January and want to experience one (or both) of these festivals, you should expect prices to increase. Hotels have been known to triple their rates during the festival period.
Price & Availability
Lodges, guides, and drivers all have seasonal prices.
These rates are reviewed each season, and they follow the peak travel times in the country. Rates are at their highest from November to March, particularly in January. Rates are lower in the off season from June to September.
If you are planning on visiting from November to March, you will need to book well in advance. Many of the best lodges are high-demand, low-capacity lodges that can get booked up a year or more in advance. This is particularly true for the months of December, January, and February.
The peak travel season in Ethiopia is from December to February, with the highest traveller numbers in January. Conditions in January are perfect for travelling, and you can experience some of the festivals in Ethiopia - it's a magical time to visit.
However, the increased traveller numbers does bring some challenges. At sites like Lalibela, the churches can become very crowded, as the tourism bodies in Ethiopia have not yet implemented staggered visiting rules, meaning everyone wants to visit in the early morning, leading to bottlenecks.
Generally, this isn't much of a problem in Ethiopia, the country is large and it's rare your experience would be diminished due to the increased visitor numbers, but it's something to keep in mind. Our blog post goes into more detail about some of the challenges increased traveller numbers can bring.
Scenery and Landmarks
The months immediately after the rainy season are when the country is at its most beautiful. October and November are particularly stunning, as all the flowers are in full bloom following the rains. The countryside is verdant and rich.
If you're keen on visiting the Blue Nile Falls, and other landmarks like the Jinbar Falls in the Simien Mountains, keep in mind that these are at their most impressive during the rainy season when the through flow is at its greatest. In the months of November to March, the falls are greatly reduced and are therefore less impressive.
Ethiopia month by month breakdown
The country is warm and dry, with average temperatures of 22°C in most parts. January is right in the middle of peak season, so we recommend booking well in advance avoid missing out on top spots. There are a number of fantastic festivals this time of year which are well worth experiencing.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in January.
This month is considered one of the warmest with an average temperature of 24°C in most of the highland areas. Due to the dry weather, it is easy to explore the length and breadth of the country. February is prime trekking and wildlife watching season. February is typically the most popular year for tourism in Ethiopia so if you're planning on visiting in February, it's advisable to book a fair distance in advance.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in February.
March signals the end of peak season in Ethiopia and the days remain warm and dry. Trekking and wildlife watching are still great options. If you're heading south, March is a great time to see a bull jumping ceremony in Lower Omo Valley.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in March.
April marks the beginning of the off-season as rains begin to appear along common routes, although nothing too extreme and it's still well worth visiting. April is the perfect time to visit Lalibela, which attracts hundreds of pilgrims from all over the country on account of Fasika (Orthodox Easter), which represents the end of the longest fasting period in Ethiopia (55 days).
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in April.
May is the beginning of the rainy season, which makes renders visit to the Lower Omo Valley challenging due to inaccessibility. Classic northern routes are still possible and the country becomes covered by beautiful blooming flowers.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in May.
- Temperatures are generally low in the highlands but reach extreme highs in the Danakil (45 degrees Celsius is not uncommon). The heavy rain makes accessibility in many parts of the country very difficult. If possible, plan visits outside of these months.
You can read our guides on visiting Ethiopia during the summer months:
Although rain often continues into September, they are less intense (especially towards the end of the month). The flowers are in full bloom and the country is lush. What's more, the colourful Meskel (the finding of the true cross) is celebrated across the country on September 27 or 28th in leap years). The Ethiopian New Year is also celebrated on 11th September.
September is a great time to visit to avoid the bigger crowds that come in October and the landscape during this time is stunning.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in September.
October marks the beginning of the high season in Ethiopia, and is often one of the most popular months. Pleasant weather and green landscapes characterise the month. Trekking in the Simien Mountains is particularly spectacular as this is the time when wildflowers are in full bloom.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in October.
This is a perfect time for visitors to national parks as you will get the chance to see plenty of wildlife. Migratory birds will also begin arriving in huge numbers. November is another great month for the Danakil Depression, as temperatures become more comfortable.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in November.
The weather is mostly dry with a clear sky in in many parts of Ethiopia. Like November, this is a great time to explore the Danakil Depression and Omo Valley as there will be little or no rain. This is an ideal month for trekking in the Bale or Simien Mountains.
Check out our full guide on visiting Ethiopia in December.
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