When is the best season to come to Ethiopia?
Traveling to most of Ethiopia's favorite sites is possible by land or air all year around. However, the rainy season in most southern parts of Ethiopia usually starts around April and ends in May/ June, which can make some areas in the southwest difficult to visit because of road conditions. This includes the Omo river valley and other nearby tribal areas. Activities such as the "Jumping of the Bulls", "Stick fighting" and "Evangadi Moon Light Dances" take place during the harvest season (August to October).
Traveling to the historical sites in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country is possible all year round, even during the rainy season. However we recommend people to bring rain coats, umbrellas and walking shoes if they come during the rainy season (June-September).
Best season to travel to the Danakil depression where one can see the active volcanoes, colorful minerals on the Dallol Mountain, salt lakes and hot springs is starting from end of November to March.
Main holidays in Ethiopia
Timkat (Epiphany), is the most colorful event in the year when churches parade their Tabots to a nearby body of water. This is the commemoration of Christ's baptism, which falls on the 19th of January (20th of January when it is a leap year. Year 2007/2008 is leap year). (A Tabot is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant).
The Tabot is taken out in the afternoon on the eve of epiphany and stays overnight with the priests and faithful congregation. The following morning the water is blessed and splashed on everyone in a ceremony where the faithful renew their vows to the Church. If the body of water is large enough, some people will immerse themselves. Woman who have been unable to have children participate in the ritual for fertility. After the ceremony, the Tabot is paraded back to its Church accompanied by much singing and dancing.
Fasika (Easter) is a festival that follows a fasting period of 55 days. During this time, no animal product is eaten. The faithful do not eat anything at all until the daily service is finished at around 3 in the afternoon. From Thursday evening before Good Friday, nothing is eaten until the Easter-service ends on 3 in the morning on Easter Sunday.
Kidus Yohannes or Enkutatash – Ethiopia's New Year's day is celebrated on the 11th of September. It is primarily secular and a time for people to put on new clothes and visit friends and relatives.
Maskal Celebration (September 27), said to be in memory of the finding of the true Cross by the Empress Eleni. This is as colorful as Timkat, however instead of water the focus of the celebration is a bonfire topped with an image of a cross, to which flowers are tied. Priests in full regalia bless the bonfire before it is lit. This festival coincides with the mass blooming of the golden Yellow Maskal Daisies, called Adey Ababa in Amharic.
Lidet or Gena, the Ethiopian Christmas is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western countries. Falling on the 7th of January, it is celebrated seriously by a Church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one Church to another. Traditionally, young man play a game similar to hockey called Gena on this day, and now Christmas has also come to be known by this name.
One indication of the influence of the Church in everyday life is the fact that the thirteen major Saints-Days in each month are named by their Saint, while others are referred to by date. Each Church is dedicated to one Saint, and on that Saints-Day once or twice a year the Tabot is paraded in front of the congregation by taking it around the Church three times.
So, you see, no matter when you travel to Ethiopia, there's always one or another holiday going on!
How to get to Ethiopia/ how to get around:
Some major airlines fly from Europe to Addis Ababa, among them: Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, Emirates, Yemenia, Egypt Air, Turkish, Kenya Airlines, and British Airways.
How to get around: as Esther wrote you, overland buses are no real alternative to domestic flights (with Ethiopian Airlines) and/ or 4 Wheel Drives (Land Cruisers). They are cheap but not very reliable, safe and comfortable. Unless you're really looking for adventure, it is not an option to take an overland bus.
For example, the flight from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar takes 1 hour. By private tour car it takes 10-11 hours drive. If you take a bus it takes 2 full days.