There are two season: dry season from October to May and rainy season from mid of June to mid of September. In Addis Ababa, the climate is almost the same along the year and the temperatures are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit/around 22 Celsius. In the Southern Omo Valley, the main rains are from March to June and shorter rains in November. The Somali region and the Danakil lowlands in the Afar region have a hot, dry climate producing semi-desert conditions
Climate – Ethiopia
Average weather, temperature, rainfall, when to go, what to pack
In Ethiopia, the climate varies mostly with altitude, and it goes from the hot and arid climate of the lowlands to the cool climate of the plateau. Lying just north of the Equator, the country experiences little variation in temperature throughout the year. Rainfall is caused by the southwest monsoon, which affects the country from June to September (the rainy season is called Kiremt), but it only affects some areas, namely the plateau and the mountain slopes exposed to the south-west, while in the south-east of the country, there are two rainy periods, though less intense, usually from March to May and in October-November; in the latter area, during some years, the rains don’t occur at all, causing drought.
Climate zones in Ethiopia
On the Ethiopian Plateau (the zone 1 on the map), the weather can be cool, mild, or pleasantly warm, depending on altitude; there are a season characterized by scarce rains from November to February and a rainy season from June to September, preceded by a period, from March to May, when some showers and thunderstorms may occur in the afternoon. The annual rainfall ranges from 1,000 to 2,200 millimeters (40 to 87 inches). Rainfall occurs as downpour or thunderstorm, usually in the afternoon or in the evening, even during the monsoon season, when, however, cloudiness is more widespread.
The capital, Addis Ababa, is located at 2,300 meters (7,500 ft) above sea level, though the altitude in the different districts of the city ranges from 2,100 to 2,700 meters (7,000 to 9,000 ft), and has a mild climate. Nights are cool, even cold from November to February, when lows drop below 10 °C (50 °F), while days are pleasantly warm, around 23/25 °C (73/77 °F), except in July and August, at the height of the rainy season, when highs drop to about 20 °C (68 °F). The period from March to May, as often happens in Ethiopia, is the warmest of the year, albeit by a few degrees.
Addis Ababa – Average temperatures
Throughout the year, 1,200 mm (49 in) of rain fall, with a maximum from June to September, which is the only remarkably rainy period. From November to February, there is little rain, and rare showers occur; from March to May, afternoon showers become a bit more frequent, occurring for 6/7 days per month, while in July and August, they occur on average every other day. Here is the average precipitation.
The amount of sunshine in Addis Ababa is good from October to May, while in the rainy season, from June to September, the sunshine hours decrease, and especially in July and August, the sky is often cloudy. Here are the average sunshine hours per day.
Addis Abeba – Sunshine
In the other cities located on the plateau, the climate is similar to that of Addis Ababa, with variations due to altitude and position. The rainiest part of the plateau is the western one: in Gore, 2,100 mm (83 in) of rain fall per year, and it rains a lot from April to October included. In Gondar, located in the north-west at an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), the temperature is slightly higher than in Addis Ababa, and rainfall amounts to 1,100 mm (43 in) per year, distributed in the same way as in the capital. In Bahir Dar, at 1,800 meters (5,900 ft) above sea level, 1,400 mm (55 in) of rain fall, of which up to 430 mm (17 in) fall in July; here, rainfall is enhanced by the waters of Lake Tana, from which the Blue Nile originates; the river gives rise to spectacular waterfalls near Tissisat.
Jimma (or Jima) is located at 1,700 meters (5,600 feet) above sea level in the south-west, where the rainfall amounts to 1,500 mm (60 in) per year, including more than 100 mm (4 in) per month from April to September. Here is the average precipitation. Jimma – Average precipitation
Owing to the lower altitude, the temperatures in Jimma are higher than in the capital, but they are still pleasant. Here are the average temperatures.
(Harer) is located in the east, at the edge of the plateau, at no great distance from Dire Dawa (see below), but it is cooler because it is located at 1,850 meters (6,070 feet) above sea level, in addition, it’s located on the other side. Here, 860 mm (34 in) of rain fall per year, with a rainy period from April to September, when monthly precipitation is between 100 and 140 mm (4 and 5.5 in).
Blue Nile Falls
2- Arid regions
In the arid or semiarid areas surrounding the Ethiopian plateau (zone 2 on the map), the amount of rainfall drops below 800 mm (31.5 in) per year. These areas are generally located at a lower altitude than the plateau, with a few exceptions such as Mek’ele (or Makale), located at 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) of altitude in the north (Tigray region): here, 700 mm (27.5 in) of rain fall per year, with only two very rainy months, July and August. Despite the altitude, here, it can be a bit hot from April to June, with highs about 27/28 °C (81/82 °F). However, the heat is intense especially below 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), and in a particular way in the dry period.
The narrow strip west of the plateau receives the south-west monsoon, but with less pronounced effects compared to the plateau. In this region, the heat is intense in the dry season, from October to mid-May, with a peak between April and early May, when the temperatures normally reach 40 °C (104 °F), then the rains come and the temperature drops a bit, so it’s difficult to find a good period to visit this area. In addition, the basins of the rivers Baro and Sobat, on the border with South Sudan, are marshy and unhealthy. In the far south, in the area of Lake Turkana, and in the south-east (see Moyale), scorching heat dominates throughout the year, with irregular rains, concentrated in two periods: from March to May and from October to November. Here, unlike in the rest of the country, the best time (or the least bad…) is from June to August, since it is the least hot, though slightly.
Gode The Somali Region (Ogaden), in the south-east, is hot and semi-desert as well. Here are the average temperatures of Gode, located in the region of Ogaden.
Here, rainfall does not reach 250 mm (10 in) per year, and is concentrated in two rainy periods,
In the east, we find Dire Dawa, located at 1,200 meters (3,900 feet), on the north slope which overlooks the scorching zone: here, it’s hot for most of the year, with a maximum in June, when highs around 35 °C (95 °F) are normal, while in winter, it’s warm during the day, but nights are quite cool.
Here, 670 mm (26.5 in) of rain fall per year, with two relatively rainy periods, from March to May and from July to September, and two dry periods, from October to February and in June. Here is the average precipitation. 100 km (62 mi) south-east of Dire Daura we find Jijiga, where the climate is mild, since it is located at 1,600 meters (5,300 feet) of altitude. From November to February, it can get cold at night. In one year, 710 m (28 in) of rain fall, and the rainfall pattern is similar to that of Dire Daua.
In northern Ethiopia, in the Afar Region (the zone 3 on the map), the climate is desert and hot throughout the year. In particular, in the Danakil Depression, where some salt lakes such as Lake Afrera are found, the climate is particularly hot, also because of the low altitude, which drops to 125 meters (410 feet) below sea level; here, the weather is permanently and overwhelmingly hot throughout the year. The abandoned settlement of Dallol, in the far north, is considered the hottest place in the world on average, having a daily temperature of 35 °C (95 °F) all year round: lows are around 30 °C (86 °F) and highs around 40 °C (104 °F), or at least these were the data reported at that time. On the slopes of Erta Ale volcano, dark basalt rock absorbs the sun’s rays and heats up in a particular way, thus creating a hellish environment.
Dallol, Ethiopia Mountains
From the Ethiopian Plateau, several mountain peaks rise, among which we find Ras Dashen, the highest of the country, 4,550 meters (14,928 feet) high, Abuna Yosef, 4,260 mt (13,976 ft), Tullu Deemtu, 4,389 mt (14,400 ft), and Batu, 4,307 mt (14,131 ft). The last two are located in the Bale Mountains, where several interesting ecosystems are found: up to 2,800 meters (9,200 ft) we find the forest, replaced at higher altitudes by a barren mountain vegetation, able to withstand the cold of the night, while above 4,000 mt (13,000 ft), the constant cold prevents the growth of almost all kind of vegetation, which is why a cold desert is found. On the contrary, Ras Dashen (in the north) and Abuna Yosef (in the east) are located in the semi-arid area.
Occasionally, the south-eastern part of Ethiopia (Somali Region) can be affected by tropical cyclones coming from the Arabian Sea, which, after having affected Somalia, can penetrate inland, gradually weakening, but still bringing abundant rains, as happened for example with Deep Depression ARB 01 in November 2013 and with Cyclone Sagar in May 2018. Cyclones form from May to December, though they are more frequent at the beginning of the period (May-June) and at the end (October-December).Best Time
The best time to visit Ethiopia is from November to February, since it is the driest and coolest period of the year almost everywhere. In the arid areas, this is still a hot period at low altitude, with scorching days, but nights are usually with pretty cool. The worst months on the plateau are July and August because of the rainfall, and April and May in the semi-arid areas because of the heat, while the Danakil Depression is steadily scorching and inhospitable throughout the year (although it is probably a little less hot from December to February).
What to pack
In winter: in the regions of Danakil and Afar, as well as in the south-east, bring loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, light and long shirts and pants of natural fibers (cotton, linen), a desert turban, and hiking shoes, and a sweatshirt for the evening at an altitude higher than the plain. In Addis Ababa and the plateau, bring spring/autumn clothes (light for the day), a sun hat, a jacket, and a sweater and a hat for the evening; for the high mountains, above 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), warm clothes, a warm jacket, gloves, and a scarf.
In summer: in the regions of Danakil and Afar, as well as in the south-east, bring loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, light and long shirts and pants of natural fibers (cotton, linen), a desert turban, and hiking shoes. In Addis Ababa and the plateau, spring/autumn clothes, a jacket, a raincoat and umbrella; for the high mountains, above 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), warm clothes, a warm jacket, gloves, and a scarf.
Best time to visit Ethiopia
Most of Ethiopia is considerably more temperate than might be expected of a tropical country so widely associated with drought, worth considering when deciding the best time to visit. The majority of its top tourist sites, including Addis Ababa, the main points along the northern circuit and Harar, have highland locations where daytime temperatures usually peak between 22˚C and 28˚C, and evenings are often so cool as to justify pulling on a jumper or sweatshirt. At higher altitudes such as the Bale or Simien mountains, you may need thicker clothes. The lower-lying southern Rift Valley and South Omo are warmer, but only by a few degrees, and it is only in the northern Rift Valley – in cities such as Dire Dawa – that year-round temperatures can get seriously hot.
In addition, far from being unusually dry, Ethiopia typically has a relatively moist climate, with Addis Ababa, for instance, receiving about double the annual rainfall of London. Most of this precipitation is highly seasonal, however, with most places receiving at least seventy percent of their annual allotment in the space of three to four months. In Addis Ababa and the northern and central highlands, this rainy season falls between June and late September, with the wettest months by far being July and August. Further south, the rainy season tends to start and end a few weeks earlier, and South Omo is wettest between March and June – a period when the region’s rough and muddy roads can be seriously affected and travel is best avoided.
Ethiopia’s peak tourist season, runs from the last week of September to January, with festivals such as Meskel and Timkat being particularly popular with both visitors and the hotels that spike their prices for the occasion. This is also a great time to visit weather-wise, with pleasant temperatures, blue skies and low rainfall in most parts of the country. In practice, however, unless you plan on doing a lot of hiking – the upper slopes of the Bale or Simien mountains can be rather unpleasant in the rains – there is little obstacle to visiting Addis Ababa, the northern highlands and the Rift Valley at any time of year. Even in July and August, rain tends to fall in short, dramatic storms that interfere with day-to-day travel less than might be expected. Also, at this time of year the countryside is magnificently green, popular sites such as Lalibela are far less busy with other tourists, and most hotels are willing to negotiate generous rates for walk-in clients. Perhaps the optimum time to explore the northern circuit is September, when the rain has abated slightly, the tourist season has yet to kick off properly, and the green slopes are enhanced with blankets of yellow Meskel flowers.
Wildlife viewing is consistent throughout the year, but resident birds tend to be most colourful during the breeding season, which usually coincides with the rains, while the European winter months attract flocks of migrants from the north.