Plan your trip

When to travel Ethiopia

The best time to go to Ethiopia depends on what you are planning to do when you get there. Ethiopia is "the land of 13 months of sunshine", with a rainy season from June to September. The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000 - 2,500 metres (6,600 - 8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum, and Addis Ababa - the highest capital city in Africa at 2,400 meters (8,000 feet).

Ethiopia has three different climate zones according to elevation:

Kolla (Tropical zone)

Kolla (Tropical zone) is below 1830 meters in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 27 degree Celsius with annual rainfall about 510 millimeters. The Danakil Depression (Danakil Desert) is about 125 meters below sea level and the hottest region in Ethiopia where the temperature climbs up to 50 degree Celsius.

Woina dega (Subtropical zone)

Woina dega (Subtropical zone)includes the highlands areas of 1830 - 2440 meters in elevation has an average annual temperature of about 22 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 510 and 1530 millimeters.

Dega (Cool zone)

Dega (Cool zone) is above 2440 meters in elevation with an average annual temperature of about 16 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 1270 and 1280 millimeters.

The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20 - 25°C (68 - 77°F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5 - 10°C (41 - 50°F). A light jacket is recommended for the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day.

Safety

For the most part traveling in Ethiopia is safe, but you should take the same precautions as you would travel in any African country. It is also wise to avoid all border areas (with Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan) since there's still pockets of political unrest, and kidnapping of tourists in these areas have occurred in the past.

Basic safety rules for travelers to Ethiopia .

  • Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage or somewhere safe.
  • Don't walk on your own at night in Addis Ababa and other major tourist towns.
  • Avoid travel at night.
  • Watch out for pickpockets at crowded places, especially when shopping at Mercato area in Addis Ababa
  • Don't wear jewelry (if you wear, make sure it is not easy to see by bystanders). 
  • Don't carry too much cash with you. Take basic precaution to avoid bystander noticing you are carrying significant money with you.
  • Wear a money belt that fits under your cloths.
  • Don't carry a lot of camera equipment or expensive items, especially in the major cities.
Prime attractions in Ethiopia

Axum

Ethiopia’s most ancient city, Axum, is also the site of many remarkable stone stelae (or obelisks) each carved from a single huge piece of solid granite stone. The largest of these massive obelisks is believed to have fallen to the ground over a thousand years ago and measures around 33.5 metres in length. The Church of Saint Mary of Zion, the oldest church in the country is in Axum. According to Ethiopian lore, Axum was the royal residence of the Queen of Sheba who gave birth to her son, Menelik here. According to the legend, Menelik went to Jerusalem to visit his father, Solomon and spirited away the Arc of the Covenant. He carried it back to Axum where it is said to be still hidden in a special treasury in the courtyard of Saint Mary’s Church. It should be noted that women are not allowed to enter the church. Axum also features the ruins of an impressive ancient mansion known in popular culture as the palace of the Queen of Sheba. The ruins, covering an area of 3,250 square feet may have actually been the dwelling of a nobleman or important official from between the 4-6th centuries AD

Lalibela, the Mysterious Wonder

The magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are not to be missed. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures was carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs, and fabulous examples of icon paintings. Churches such as Emanuel, St. George, St. Mary, and Medhane Alem were built by carving a massive rectangular trench around a solid stone block. This solid block was then hollowed out, leaving interior columns, windows, reliefs, etc. Other churches were carved into the stone but leaving either one side or the roof attached to the surrounding stone. Not only the craftsmanship but also the sheer sizes of the churches are stunning. Medhane Alem, the largest, sits on 800 square meters and St. George is 15 meters deep.

The churches of Lalibela still function as important centers of worship for members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This is living history that the priests, monks, nuns, and Christians of Lalibela have kept alive with their devotions, hymns, and celebrations for hundreds of years. The rock floors and pathways are incredibly smooth, having been worn down by millions of feet over the centuries. Visitors are required to remove their shoes upon entering the churches. Rock-hewn churches are prevalent in northern Ethiopia, but Lalibela's are the most impressive and are included on UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. No visitor to Ethiopia should miss them.

Gondar

Founded in 1636 as the capital, Gondar is the site of numerous castle-like palaces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries and is sometimes nicknamed “the Camelot of Africa”. The emperors used to reign from an area of the town called Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure). Within this sector lie the most famous and impressive ruins of the city including Fasilides Castle built by the founding emperor. Also, not far from the city stands Fasilides Bath where a fascinating annual celebration known as Timket blesses the site and opens the baths for bathing.

Bahir Dar

Situated on the southern shores of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake, Bahir Dar is an attractive town and a prominent centre for woven goods including baskets. It makes a great base for visiting the Blue Nile, Tisisat Falls and the monastaries that dot the lake shore.

Simien Mountains National Park

Simien Mountains National Park - Massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 meters. The park is home to some extremely rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Ethiopian Wolves and the Walia ibex, found nowhere else in the world.

In some places rain has eroded the more recent rocks, exposing the original rocks. Nowhere is this more prominent - and stunning - than in Ethiopia's northern Simien region. This was the epicentre of much volcanic activity about forty million years ago, and the resulting outpouring of a boiling mass of white-hot lava reached a thickness of some 3,000 metres (9,840 feet) in this area before it stopped. Subsequent erosion of this volcanic core has produced the dramatic highs and lows of the Simicns: deep precipices and gorges, tall pinnacles of jagged rock, and weird, withered landscapes.

The region includes many summits above 4,000 metres, and culminates in the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dajen, which at 4,543 metres (14,901 feet), is also Africa’s fourth highest mountain. It is not a difficult mountain to climb and can be reached by travelling through the Simien Mountains National Park..
The birds here often provide spectacular acrobatic displays off the sheer cliffs, using the air currents peculiar to the terrain. Lammergeyers and choughs are present, as well as endemics such as the thick-billed raven, black-headed siskin, white-collared pigeon, wattled ibis, white-billed starling, spot-breasted plover, and white-backed black tit.

From Sankaber, the track leads through meadows, forests, and some cultivated areas to Geech, at 3,600 metres ,is worth a stay of at least one day: there are several good lookout spots where one may see Walia Ibex, gelada Monkeys, and klipspringer, and breathtaking views from nearby peaks.
From Geech to the next stopping-off point, Chenek, the journey takes another 7-8hours, and trekkers may have to dismount and walk part of the way where the climb is steep. The Chenek campsite offers superb views, and there are many places to see Walia ibex.

After Chenek, the traveller usually go to Buahit, at 4,430 metres which is the second highest peak in Ethiopia and if you stay extra two days you can reach the first highest peak in the country Ras Dejeen, Ethiopia's highest peak at 4,543 metres (14,901 feet). If you have more time then we strongly recommend an extended 8 day Simien trek that adds on 3 days of trekking from Chenek to the lowlands part of the park. The lowland part of the park is a real expedition and recommended to see more birds.

Highlights of the Simien Mountains National Park


  • We specialize in tailor-made holidays and trekking in Ethiopia - with a fantastic trekking outfit in the Simien Mountains.

  • The Simien Mountains offer some of the most stunning trekking in the whole of Africa. The National Park boasts truly incredible mountain scenery and is teeming with endemic wildlife. We are the leading provider of high quality treks in the Simien Mountains and pride ourselves on the quality of our guiding team and cooks, whether you are camping or staying in comfort at the Simien Lodge or Limalimo lodge.

  • Taking in the 360 degree views at Imet Gogo and marvelling at the precipitous paths that locals have to navigate to make it up onto the ridge

  • Spotting the graceful Wallia Ibex framed by the most incredible mountain panorama and trying to inch closer to capture that perfect image before it moves on

  • Watching the coffee beans roast over the fire in a primitive mud and straw village hut

  • Watching the birds of prey soar on the thermals over terrifying drops of up to 1000m

Route options

Virtually all trekkers follow the same route along the ridge of the Simien Mountains National Park that traces a route from Sankaber to Geech to Chenek Camp but if you are interested to make trekking in a bit hot weather we can arrange you 4/5 days in the lowland part of the park. This trail can be completed in 3 to 5 days with 4x4s having access to Sankaber and Chenek at either end of the trek. We recommend spending 4 to 5 days on the route as this gives you time to get to Imet Gogo (a standout view) and climb Mount Buahit.

From Chenek, those keen on trekking for longer have a number of options. Many are tempted by the allure of Ras Dejen, Ethiopia’s highest peak, but apart from the altitude this route has little to commend it. Several brave trekkers attempt a multi-week traverse all the way to Lalibela, an incredible walk through rarely visited parts. Alternatively trekkers can head to the lowlands via Sona, Mekarebya and Mulit campsites, a lovely route with several swimming spots in the rivers and rarely visited camps.

Trekking with us in the Simien Mountains

We arrange private treks to the Simien Mountains from a day trip to 17 days trekking either from Gondar or from Addis Ababa and including other parts of Ethiopia.

Best areas to explore

Ethiopia offers limitless possibilities to outdoor enthusiasts and curious travellers

  • A wide range of outdoor and adventure activities includes scenic overland expeditions, hiking in lush forest and Afro-alpine lands

  • climbing active volcanoes, and ballooning around Addis Ababa Hiking and wildlife viewing to hot-air balloon trips and exploring museums

  • The coffee forests of the western highlands to the jewel-like lakes that dot the Rift Valley

  • Ethiopia's offers unlimited nature experiences includes the opportunity to track wildlife on foot, and some of the finest bird watch.