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Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA TRAVEL GUIDE

Ethiopia is an exciting destination, rich in local tradition and history, possessing its own written language and script, and filled with classical African landscapes, flora and fauna. Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world. In the long and disturbing history of the African continent, Ethiopia remains the only country which has never been colonised (except for a brief occupation by Italy during World War II).

 

It may also be justifiably considered the cradle of humanity - its famous Rift Valley is the site of a prehistoric civilisation and the place where the fossils of ‘Lucy’ and ‘Homo Ramidus Afarensis’, the world’s oldest known hominids, were found. Best of all, it has been a virtually unknown tourist destination, which means that you won’t have to contend with scores of camera-wielding tourists.

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ETHIOPIA QUICK FACTS

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia.

  • Capital: Addis Ababa
  • Currency: Birr (ETB)
  • Area: 1,127,127 km²
  • Population: 109,2 million (2018)
  • Language: Amharic (official), Oromo, Tigrinya Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic, other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)
  • Religion: Ethiopian Orthodox, Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Animism, Baha'i
  • Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (European & Italian plugs)

 

Ethiopian New Year takes place on the 11th of September or on the 12th during a leap year. It is known as Enkutatash, which means "Gift of Jewels". Ethiopian calendar has twelve months of 30 days plus five or six epagomenal days, which comprise thirteenth months. The sixth epagomenal day is added every four years.

 

The New Year signifies the end of the long rainy season and the beginning of a bright sky and a dazzling sunlight. The countryside turns into gold with the yellow daisies (adey abeba) covering the entire fields in rural areas of Ethiopia, which are in bloom at this time of the year.

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ETHIOPIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

  • 7 January, Christmas Day (Genna)*
  • 19 January, Epiphany (Timket)*
  • 2 March, Victory of Adwa Day
  • 11 September, Ethiopian New Year (Enqutatash)**
  • 27 September, Feast of the True Cross (Meskel)**

* Falls one day later in Gregorian leap years.

** Falls one day later in the year before a Gregorian leap year.

Business openings and work schedules may be significantly affected by Coptic Orthodox Christian and Islamic holidays.

FESTIVALS IN ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia

BEST TIME TO VISIT ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia has two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.

 

The dry season, also known as the "Barka" season, typically runs from October to May. During this time, the weather is mostly dry and hot, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius (68 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) depending on the region. This is considered the best time to visit Ethiopia for sightseeing and outdoor activities as the weather is comfortable and the scenery is mostly dry and arid.

 

The rainy season, also known as the "Belg" season, typically runs from June to September. During this time, the weather is mostly wet and humid, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius (68 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) depending on the region. This is considered the best time to visit Ethiopia for those who want to experience the lush greenery and see different wildflowers and plants in bloom, also travelers can also enjoy different cultural and religious ceremonies that are held during rainy season.

 

It's worth noting that the seasons may vary depending on the region, as Ethiopia is a large country with diverse climates and topography.

 

The best time to visit Ethiopia depends on the specific regions and activities you plan to visit and do. Generally, the months of October to February are considered the best time to visit as the weather is cooler and dryer. This is also the peak tourist season. However, if you plan to visit the southern or low-lying regions, the months of June to September may be better as it is the rainy season there, and the landscape is greener and more lush. It is always best to check the specific weather patterns and conditions for the area you plan to visit.

ETHIOPIA WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Ethiopia’s large land area and diverse topography results in different climates across the country. Thus, Ethiopia’s climate is tropical in the south-east and north-east lowlands and cooler in the highland regions in the central and north of the country. Seasonal rainfall is driven mainly by the migration of the Inter‐Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Mean annual rainfall distribution is approximately 2,000 mm over the south-western highlands and less than 300 mm over the south-eastern and north-eastern lowlands. Temperatures across Ethiopia can range from below 15ºC, over the highlands to above 25ºC in the lowlands.

Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA TOURIST SEASONS

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

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AUGUST

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SEPTEMBER

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OCTOBER

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SPORT & ACTIVITIES

SNOW SPORT IN ETHIOPIA

HIKING & CYCLING IN ETHIOPIA

Although outdoor activities are possible all year round, the best time for hiking in Ethiopia is during the dry season, from October to June. Trekking in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia is a wonderful experience and for the best experience, try to go from September to November, just after the summer rains.

BEACH OPTIONS IN ETHIOPIA

SURFING IN ETHIOPIA

KITESURF IN ETHIOPIA

Kitesurfing spot details and weather

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TRAVEL SAFETY IN ETHIOPIA

Always consider the current safety risk of each destination and do not travel without travel / medical insurance

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HEALTH RISKS IN ETHIOPIA

Be aware of possible health risks in 

Ethiopia

Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.

Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.

For the latest travel health notices and recommended precautions click

ETHIOPIA TRAVEL COSTS

The cost of traveling to Ethiopia can vary greatly depending on factors such as the time of year, your travel itinerary, and your personal preferences. In general, Ethiopia is considered a budget-friendly destination, with relatively low costs for accommodations, transportation, and food.

  • Accommodations in Ethiopia vary widely in price, with options ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels to more upscale hotels. Expect to pay around $10 - $30 per night for a basic room in a budget hotel or guesthouse, and around $50 - $100 per night for a mid-range hotel.
  • Food in Ethiopia is generally quite inexpensive. Meals at local restaurants and street vendors can cost as little as a few dollars, while more upscale restaurants may charge around $10 - $20 per meal.
  • Transportation costs in Ethiopia are also relatively low. A bus ride between cities typically costs around $10 - $20, while a train ride can cost around $5 - $10.
  • Other costs to consider include entry fees for attractions, such as museums and historical sites, as well as the cost of any tours or guides you may want to hire.

Overall, you can expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $100 per day, depending on your travel style, but it can be much lower if you're on a tight budget.

It's worth noting that prices may fluctuate due to different factors such as inflation and currency exchange rates. It's always best to check the current prices before you travel.

ETHIOPIA TRAVEL TIPS

Here are some travel tips when visiting Ethiopia

  • Get vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever before you go.
  • Make sure you have a valid passport and visa before arriving.
  • Currency: Ethiopian Birr (ETB) is the official currency, but US dollars are also widely accepted.
  • Be prepared for a culture shock and be respectful of local customs and traditions.
  • Be aware of altitude sickness if you plan to visit the highlands.
  • Be cautious when it comes to food and water. Only drink bottled water and be selective about where you eat.
  • Pack light, as many places in Ethiopia are not accessible by car and you may have to walk or take public transportation.
  • Be flexible with your itinerary as many things in Ethiopia may not go as planned.
  • Learn some basic phrases in Amharic, the official language.
  • Avoid traveling during the rainy season (June-September) as many roads become impassable.

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia is a diverse country with many different regions, each with its own unique culture and attractions. Some of the main regions and their highlights include:

  • Addis Ababa: The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is a bustling metropolis with a mix of modern and traditional culture. Highlights include the National Museum, which houses the famous Lucy fossil, and the Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa.
  • Northern Ethiopia: This region includes the historic towns of Lalibela and Gondar, both of which are known for their impressive medieval architecture. Lalibela is famous for its rock-hewn churches, while Gondar is known for its 17th-century castles and palaces.
  • The Omo Valley: This remote region in the south is home to many different ethnic groups, each with their own unique culture and customs. Highlights include the colorful tribal markets, traditional villages, and the chance to see some of the last remaining nomadic tribes in Africa.
  • The Danakil Depression: This remote and inhospitable region in the northeastern part of the country is known for its otherworldly landscapes, including the Dallol hot springs, the salt mines of Lake Asale, and the Erta Ale volcano.
  • The Bale Mountains: This national park is a hikers paradise, known for its rugged landscapes, high altitude plateaus, and a variety of wildlife including the Ethiopian wolf.
  • The Blue Nile and Tis Issat Falls: The Blue Nile is one of the main tributaries of the Nile River, and the Tis Issat falls is the largest waterfall in Ethiopia. The area around the falls is known for its scenic beauty and is a popular spot for rafting and other adventure activities.

There are many things to see and do when visiting Ethiopia, as it is a country with a rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Some of the best things to see and do include:

  • Visit the historic rock-hewn churches of Lalibela: These 11th-century churches are carved out of solid rock and are considered some of the most important religious sites in Ethiopia.
  • Explore the medieval castles and palaces of Gondar: This historic city is known for its 17th-century castles and palaces, including the Royal Enclosure, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Experience the traditional culture of the Omo Valley: This remote region in the south is home to many different ethnic groups, each with their own unique culture and customs. You can visit traditional villages, attend tribal markets, and see some of the last remaining nomadic tribes in Africa.
  • See the otherworldly landscapes of the Danakil Depression: This remote and inhospitable region is known for its unique landscapes, including the Dallol hot springs, the salt mines of Lake Asale, and the Erta Ale volcano.
  • Explore the Bale Mountains: This national park offers a hikers paradise, known for its rugged landscapes, high altitude plateaus, and a variety of wildlife, including the Ethiopian wolf.
  • Visit the Blue Nile and Tis Issat Falls: The Blue Nile is one of the main tributaries of the Nile River, and the Tis Issat falls is the largest waterfall in Ethiopia. The area around the falls is known for its scenic beauty and is a popular spot for rafting and other adventure activities.
  • Visit the capital city of Addis Ababa: The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is a bustling metropolis with a mix of modern and traditional culture. Highlights include the National Museum, which houses the famous Lucy fossil, and the Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa.
  • Discover the local cuisine: Ethiopian food is delicious, made with a variety of spices, and usually served with injera, a type of sourdough flatbread.
Ethiopia

WHAT TO EAT IN ETHIOPIA

When visiting Ethiopia, you should definitely try some of the local cuisine, which is known for its rich flavors and spices. Some traditional dishes and snacks to try include:

  • Injera: This is a type of sourdough flatbread that is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. It is usually made from teff flour and is used to scoop up stews and vegetables.
  • Tibs: Tibs is a popular dish in Ethiopia, it's usually made with meat (beef, lamb, chicken or fish) and vegetables, and seasoned with spices like berbere, a spicy blend of chili peppers, ginger, and other spices.
  • Doro Wat: Doro Wat is a spicy chicken stew, it's considered the national dish of Ethiopia, and it's usually served with injera.
  • Kitfo: Kitfo is a dish made from raw minced meat, it's often seasoned with spices, and served with bread or injera.
  • Shiro: Shiro is a thick stew made from ground chickpeas, lentils, or split peas, seasoned with spices and served with injera.
  • Tibs Firfir: Tibs Firfir is a traditional dish made from sautéed injera mixed with spiced meat or vegetables.
  • Kategna: Kategna is a traditional snack, it's made from injera that is smeared with spicy butter or berbere, rolled up and toasted.
  • Traditional Coffee ceremony: Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and you can't leave without experiencing traditional coffee ceremony, it's a ritual that includes the roasting, brewing and serving of coffee in a traditional way.

Keep in mind that, for religious reasons, many Ethiopians don't eat pork or alcohol, so you may have trouble finding these items on menus. Also, be cautious when it comes to food and water, only drink bottled water and be selective about where you eat.

LGBTQ IN ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia

WHERE TO STAY IN ETHIOPIA

When visiting Ethiopia for the first time, it's best to stay in a mix of different types of accommodations, depending on the location you're visiting and your budget. Here are some options to consider:

  • Addis Ababa: The capital city has a wide range of accommodations, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury hotels. Many of the hotels are located in the central business district or in the Bole neighborhood, which is known for its nightlife and restaurants.
  • Northern Ethiopia: For the historic towns of Lalibela and Gondar, there are several options for accommodations, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts. Many of the accommodations are located close to the historic sites, so you can easily visit them.
  • The Omo Valley: Accommodations in the Omo Valley are more limited and basic, most of the options are camping, basic lodges or tented camps, but it allows you to be close to the traditional villages and local communities.
  • The Danakil Depression: There are no permanent accommodations in the Danakil Depression, but there are several tour operators that offer camping trips to the area.
  • The Bale Mountains: There are a few options for accommodations in the Bale Mountains, including simple lodges, camping and tented camps.
  • The Blue Nile and Tis Issat Falls: The area around the Blue Nile and Tis Issat Falls is not well-developed for tourism, but there are a few options for accommodations, including guesthouses and simple lodges.

When choosing accommodations, consider your budget, the location, and the amenities you need. It's also a good idea to read reviews from other travelers to get an idea of what to expect.

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