Trekking in the Simien Mountains
Trekking in the Simien Mountains is not for the fainthearted. Much of this massif lies above 3,000m. However, brave hearts are richly rewarded by its vistas and unusual wildlife. Sometimes referred to as ‘Africa’s Grand Canyon’, millions of years’ erosion have carved the landscape into a sharp-edged intricacy of steep gorges, rocky monoliths and sheer cliffs that now form one of the very first UNESCO World Heritage Sites ever declared. For any serious hiker visiting Ethiopia, the Simiens are not to be missed.
Your unforgettable experience starts at the boutique Limalimo Lodge in the Simien Mountains National Park. Here, where the ground drops 1,500m vertically over the cliffs of the escarpment, you see the true drama of a landscape that’s older than even the Great Rift Valley.
We’ve designed a trekking route from Limalimo that includes three days walking with two unforgettable nights’ camping. Each day you cover up to 12 miles following the ridge of the escarpment; the terrain is rugged and challenging. Some of it is through remote wilderness, while on other stretches you pass locals grazing their sheep, small villages and terraced fields.
Donkeys carry your equipment, and each night you arrive at an exclusive camp, thoughtfully equipped to give you reasonable comfort on one of Africa’s high plateaus. The nights and early mornings are cold, even though temperatures in the middle of the day can exceed 25°C. You’re warmed by readily available hot tea or coffee and delicious breakfasts and dinners are in a different league to the usual camping fare.
It’s on the plateau that you’re likely to glimpse a rare Simien fox (also known as the Ethiopian wolf) as you cross the unique Afro-alpine landscape with its high altitude and wetlands. Along the edge of the escarpment you see troops of gelada baboons, using the inaccessible cliffs as refuge from predators at night. These intelligent primates were once found across Africa, but are now only found in pockets on the Ethiopian Highlands. You also spot the Walia ibex, one of only a few hundred of these light-footed mountain goats that remain in the world. The bearded vulture and the tawny eagle are two of the most impressive of the region’s 130 bird species.
Local guides and scouts are a given for all hikers, and they all are friendly and only enhance your experience with their knowledge.
Trekking the Simien Mountains
This is a sample tour that includes this experience. It gives you an idea of cost and what you could expect to see and do in 9 days. It’s aimed at those who would like to combine trekking in the Simien Mountains with a bit of luxury and a visit to Lalibela. We can also arrange a no-frills 10-day trek for serious hikers.
- 1 day travelling to Limalimo Lodge in the Simien Mountains
- 2 full days trekking in the Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 1 day touring Gonder’s fortress city Fasl Ginb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 3 days wandering through Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches and visiting Yemrehanne Kristos
- and the Asheton Maryam Monastery in the surrounding hills
- 2 days exploring Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s historic capital
Starting from $2,245 per person* on double occupancy basis (excluding all flights)
Single supplement: $450
*Minimum group size 4
- All accommodation on B&B basis
- 2 days fullboard trekking (1 night) camping
- All airport transfers
- Entry fees and a local tour guide at all the historic sites and national parks
- An expert guide to accompany you throughout your tour
A few suggestions for tailoring your tour
Some additions or alternatives definitely worth considering are:
- 3 days (3 nights) visiting the remote monasteries around Gheralta
- 2 days (2 nights) in Bahir Dar exploring the island monasteries
- 2 days (2 nights) in the ancient city of Axum
The Simien Mountains are in our opinion a must-see, and even if you’re not a hardened trekking type, you have relatively easy access to spectacular views. If you’re trekking then we suggest you spend 2 nights and 3 days walking, and at least 2 nights at Limalimo to acclimatise. We do advise you only visit if you’re in good health though as the accommodation is at altitude.
When to visit the Simien Mountains
Although you can trek in the Simiens at any time between September and July, to avoid the rainy season we advise you visit between early October and the end of May. October, November and December are much greener, while in the early months of the year the landscape becomes far more arid. For birdwatching, the best time to visit is between October and December.
Our top tip for the Simiens
“Even if you’re not a hiker or a birdwatcher, go to the Simiens for the views! The vistas are as good – if not better than – the Grand Canyon, with grander mountain peaks, steeper gorges, higher skies and fewer people. Just make sure you stay hydrated at all times while you’re up there – you’re at altitude, and even though we’ll build time to acclimatise into your itinerary, drinking enough water is important if you want to feel your best.”
In Ethiopia with a Mule written by Dervla Murphy in the 1960s will give you a different perspective on trekking in the Ethiopian Highlands.
Flights to Ethiopia
What happens in an emergency?
Communicating in Ethiopia
Ethiopian time and dates
The weather and what to pack
Mobile phone coverage and Internet access in Ethiopia
Advice from locals
The vastness of the Simien Mountain National Park is staggering. At every turn dramatic vistas take your breath away. Add a mountain goat and one child full of excitement to your trip, and it becomes an even more memorable experience. “It’s a day of adventure today,” said my 11-year-old son Adonias, ...