Geography & Climate

 Location & Geography of Eritrea

Eritrea is located in North East Africa (between 12° and 18° north, and 36° and 44° east) and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and other islands along the Red Sea coast. It is bordered by Sudan to the north and west, Ethiopia to the south, Djibouti to the southeast and the Red Sea to the north and north-east. It was not until the arrival of the Italians in the 19th century however that the country was officially called Eritrea.Eritrea covers (including the Dahlak archipelago) an area of 124,324 square kilometers. The country comprises a high plateau and a coastal plain. The altitude ranges from the highest mountain, Emba Soira (3,010 metres), to the Dankalia depression (380 feet or 116 meters below sea level). The coastal plain consists of semi-arid desert. Asmara, the capital of Eritrea has a population of 500,000 people. Assab has 28,000 and Massawa 25,000 inhabitants.

Eritrea looks like a funnel; wide in the northwest and tapering to a narrow strip in the southeast. The major rivers in Eritrea are the Anseba and Barka river flowing north; the Gash and Tekeze rivers on the border with Ethiopia flowing west into Sudan. The upper course of the Gash river is known as the Mereb river.

Topographically, the country consists of three regions:

a narrow lowland strip along the Red Sea coast that accounts for around 33% of the land area,
the northern extension of the Ethiopian Plateau in the north-central region which is dissected by the valleys of westward flowing rivers and
the western plains near the Sudanese border.
Eritrea is three hours ahead of GMT. There is a two hour time difference between continental Europe and Eritrea, except when Europe is on Summer time. Then the difference is only one hour (ahead).

Land boundaries 1,630 km
Djibouti 113 km
Ethiopia 912 km
Sudan 605 km
Coastline 1,151 km
Land + island coastline 2,234 km

Eritrea – regions and provinces

On April 15th, 1996, Eritrea’s ten colonial-era provinces were consolidated into six new regions (zobas) and regional administrative levels were cut from four to three.

Current administrative regions (since 15-04-1996)

Regions (Zobatat) Capital Surface km2 Elevation Position
Gash-Barka Berentu 33,200 2093 15 32 N
37 53 E
Debubawi Kayih Bahri Assab 27,600 0 13 00
42 44 E
Maakel Asmara 1,300 7755 15 20 N
38 56 E
Semenani Kayih Bahri Massawa 27,800 0 15 47 N
38 28 E
Anseba Keren 23,200 4599 14 53 N
38 49 E
Debub Mendefera 8,000 6519 15 37 N
39 29 E
Total Eritrea 121,100

2002 Population data: Ministry of local Government Eritrea

The zones Semenawi Keyih Bahri and Debubawi Keyih Bahri are also known as the Northern Red Sea Zone and Southern Red Sea Zone, where the Maakel region is also known as Central Zone.


Eritrea has a variety of climatic conditions.

Eritrea is located at the highest landmass of the African continent. As a result, the highlands of Eritrea have ameliorating climate conditions. Resulting from these climatic conditions at higher altitudes we find vegetative cover and fertile soils which are suitable for agricultural purposes.

Eritrea has a variety of climatic conditions. Asmara at 2,350 meters (7,700 feet) has a pleasant climate all year (average temperature of 16° Celsius (60° Fahrenheit)) and receives 508 mm (20 inches) of rainfall annually. (The short rains in March and April and the main rains from late June to the beginning of September).

In the highlands, further inland, with an elevation of 1,800 and 2,100 meters (5,900 and 6,900 feet) the hottest month is usually May (around 30°) and in winter (December to February) temperatures are near freezing point at night.

At sea level along the coast (Massawa, Assab), the period from June to September is very hot (40-50°). In the period December to February (rainy season) the temperature varies from 20 to 35°. Massawa at sea level has an average annual temperature of 30° Celsius (86° Fahrenheit) and an annual precipitation of 205 mm (80 inches).

In the western lowlands (Agordat, Barentu), the temperatures and the rainy seasons are comparable to those on the coast.

Best time to visit

Eritrea is a year-round destination for the highlands while at other places it depends on the place one spends most of one’s holidays in or the activities one wishes to undertake. Eritrea is the land where one can experience three seasons in just two hours – from the rugged mountain peaks of Amba Soira to the arid desert heat of the Danakil Depression (100 meters below sea level and which is one of the hottest places on earth) to the cool breezes of the Red Sea.

September to February

For the highlands (i.e. Asmara, Keren)

 November to March

For the lowlands / coastal areas

December to February

For camel safaris in the lowlands

What to wear

While clothing will depend on the time of the year, and whether one is in the highlands or on the coast, it is the best to remember that Eritreans like to dress their best at all times, with suits being usual in offices.

For tourists, light cotton clothing, sunglasses, and a hat will be required in the lowlands, while in the highlands, light or medium-weight clothing is appropriate. Women are recommended not to wear shorts and strappy T-shirts outside hotel beaches and swimming pools. During the rainy season, a light raincoat and umbrella may prove useful, and a sweater is best for chilly evenings. The sun can be very strong in high altitudes and a high-factor tanning oil and/or protective clothing (long sleeves) is important.

NOTE: The local markets and shops sell a wide range of textile products, which are practical in both hot and cold weather. It may prove useful to take some extra dollars instead of some extra clothing to Eritrea. Buying it in Eritrea will not only stimulate the local economy. The clothes you buy in Eritrea may also be a nice souvenir.