Northern Ethiopia and Simiens Trekking - 11 Day Tour

Northern Ethiopia boasts a wealth of both natural and historical treasures. This tour starts with a trip to Bahir Dar, where you'll visit the Blue Nile Falls and take a cruise on Lake Tana.  From Bahir Dar, the tour continues Gondar, where you can explore the Royal Enclosure, and the ruined fairy-tale castles which have earned it the name 'African Camelot'.  Heading north-east, you'll then visit the Simien Mountains National Park, famous for far-reaching views and rare wildlife species.  The Simien Mountains National Park, designated as a UNESCO world heritage site, contains many summits over 4000m and is known for its stunning scenery.  Erosion of basalt lavas has created the dramatic escarpments and freestanding pinnacles that are characteristic of the Simien Mountains range and which are comparable in terms of spectacle to the Grand Canyon.  Five and a half days of trekking will take you through a scenic land of natural wonders and rare wildlife, including the Ethiopian wolf, the strikingly-maned Gelada baboon and the majestic lammergeier or bearded vulture. Trekking through several villages, notable for their carefully tended farmland and friendly people, the walk reaches its climax at the summit of Ras Deshen (4543m), where the views extend northwards to Eritrea.

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Day 1 starts with a half-day city tour of Addis Ababa, including its museums, churches and the Mercato, reputedly the largest market in Africa.

Day 2: Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar

The journey to Bahir Dar will take most of the day, but it's a good chance to view the changing landscapes of the highlands and to see day-to-day life in rural Ethiopia.

Day 3: Bahir Dar

In the morning, you'll take a boat cruise on Lake Tana, stopping to explore some of the island churches and monasteries containing relics and frescos dating from the 16th century.  In the afternoon, you'll take a trip to the Blue Nile Falls at Tisisat, meaning "smoking water" in Amharic. The spectacular falls are 100m wide and plunge 45m, sending spray high in the air.  A short walk and a trip across a 17th century bridge gives a great close-up view of the falls.  

Day 4: Bahir Dar to Gondar

From Bahir Dar, it's about a 3 hour drive to Gondar, after which you'll take a sightseeing tour of the city.   Gondar is a historic settlement with an atmosphere of mystery and there are views from the city which extend across the surrounding farmland back to Lake Tana.  Founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, Gondar has become one of Ethiopia's largest and most impressive cities.  It is most famed for its walled Royal Enclosure which contains several well-preserved and very medieval-looking castles, dating from as early as 1650. The castles are unusual for the Horn Of Africa, deriving their architectural style from the Moors and the Portuguese. Additionally, Gondar has dozens of churches, the most important being Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity Church of the Mountain of Light), which has an impressive hilltop location. The priest there will explain the story of the many paintings and carvings inside the church.

Day 5: Gondar to Sankaber, via Debark

In the morning, you will take the scenic 2 to 3-hour drive from Gondar to Debark, where you’ll stop for lunch. Debark is a small market town at an altitude of 2700m, close to the boundary of the Simien Mountains National Park. Before entering the park, you’ll have to be registered at the park headquarters just outside town. Here you’ll be joined by a park guide and armed scout – one of the park regulations. You’ll then complete the drive into the National Park, passing through the foothills of the Simien Mountains. The trek starts gently with a 2-3 hour walk in the afternoon. There are superb views across the foothills of the range and you may also be lucky enough to spot your first lammergeiers and gelada baboons of the trip. Your walk will end at Sankaber, where you’ll camp for the night.

Day 6: Trek to Geech

Your first full day of trekking. You’ll meet the muleteers and the trek equipment will be loaded onto their mules. Starting out, you’ll descend in to the Michwahtis Valley and begin the climb up the other side, making a short diversion to see the impressive sight of the Jinbar River plummeting into the Geech Abyss. There is a good trail and after a couple of kilometres, you’ll cross the Jinbar River and then ascend to reach Geech Village (3600m), a cluster of traditional thatched-roofed huts. There may be time to stop off at one of the village houses to enjoy the traditional Ethiopian serving of coffee, known as the 'Coffee Ceremony'. The camping place is just above the village. In the evening, the viewpoint at Kadadit (hole in the rock), 20 minutes away to the north, is an excellent place from which to watch the sunset.

Walk distance approx 11km, 900m ascent, 550m descent, 7-8 hours walking

Day 7: Day-hike to the viewpoint at Imetgogo

Leaving the camp at Geech, you’ll make a day hike to one of the finest viewpoints in the area, the promontory and small peak known as Imetgogo (3925m). This is actually a spur protruding from the escarpment and is reached after a couple of hours’ pleasant walking. Views from the summit are spectacular, stretching across to the lowlands and including the jagged summits of the escarpment edge. This is a great place for watching lammergeiers and you may even be lucky enough to see them dropping bones amongst the rocks to break them open and reveal the marrow. This walk also offers chances to see gelada baboons, also known as “mountain monkeys”, which are known for their gentle nature and tolerance of people – you can usually get within a few meters of them as they graze, offering excellent photo opportunities. You’ll then follow the edge of the escarpment to return to the camp at Geech, where you’ll spend a second night.

Walk distance approx; 11km, 500m ascent, 500m descent, 8 hours walking

Day 8: Along the escarpment to Chenek

Your route will take you along the edge of the escarpment.  At all times, the cliff edge is close on the left-hand side and there are ever-changing views and glimpses of the valley below, often through narrow clefts between spurs. The high point of the walk is at Inatye (4070m) and you’ll continue across tussocky moorland to the camping place at Chenek, which is bounded by a semicircular ring of cliffs. The Chenek campsite offers superb views across to the opposite escarpment.

Walk distance approx 13km, 750m ascent, 700m descent, 6-7 hours walking

Day 9: Amba Bwahit

Today’s route starts with a steady climb up above the camp. After 1½ hours, you’ll reach a rocky ridge and a viewpoint which looks across the vast valley of the Meshawa River. You may be lucky enough to spot the Walia Ibex here. You’ll also get a view of Ras Dashen (4543m), the highest peak in Ethiopia. It’s the highest point in a wall of cliffs and peaks on the skyline at the far side of the valley. From the ridge, you’ll then continue the ascent up the increasingly rocky slopes of Ambe Bwahit, reaching the summit at 4477m. After taking time to admire the views across the national park and surrounding farmland, you’ll make your way back down to camp for a second night at Chenek.

Walk distance approx 12km, 900m ascent, 900m descent, 6 hours walking

Day 10. Drive to Bahir Dar

From Chenek it is a scenic drive out of the Simien Mountains back to Bahir Dar, via Gondar.

Day 11. Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa

The final day completes the journey back to Addis Ababa.  The tour ends with dinner at a cultural restaurant in Addis Ababa, where you can sample local dishes and watch energetic traditional dances from across the country.

Important: The above day-to-day schedule should be taken only as a general guide. It is not possible to guarantee that the trip will run exactly according to the proposed itinerary. A variety of factors, including adverse weather conditions, political instability, or difficulties with transportation, can lead to enforced changes. If, during your holiday, the itinerary is affected by immediate or local circumstances, the leader will make any changes that are necessary.

Services Included

  • An experienced professional English-speaking local guide

  • All meals from lunch on day 1 to dinner on day 11

  • All land transport involved in the itinerary

  • Full trek crew including cooks, scouts, muleteers and mules (for baggage transport)

Services Not Included

  • Travel Insurance

  • Ethiopian Visa

  • Tips for staff

  • Miscellaneous expenses – alcoholic drinks, souvenirs etc.

 

How difficult is the trek?

This trip involves straightforward trekking on good trails which are the paths used by local people as they travel between their villages. You will need to reasonably fit, in that you should be comfortable with walking on good trails but with some steep ascents and descents for typically 5 or 6 hours each day (or more) for several days continuously. Trekking at altitudes above 3000 m does make greater demands on the body than similar terrain at lower elevations, and even fit and active hikers may find this quite challenging.

 

Food

Food on trek is prepared by trained cooks.  This includes a requirement by the National Park authority for all cooks to be trained in food hygiene standards. Breakfasts typically consist of bread and jam, porridge, omelette or pancakes, with tea and excellent Ethiopian coffee. Lunch is usually a packed lunch of sandwiches (cheese, egg or ham) and fresh fruit. Dinner consists of soup followed by pasta, rice or potatoes with vegetables or meat, and a tasty sauce.  We think you'll be impressed by the range of foods our chefs can prepare on a camp stove and open fire!

 

A Typical Trekking Day

A typical day starts with an early morning cup of tea or coffee served in your tent at around 6.30 am. After breakfast, during which camp will be struck and the mules given their loads, you’ll start walking in the pleasant cool of the morning. During the day, you are free to walk at your own pace and to take as many photographs as you wish.  After 3 to 4 hours walking, you’ll stop for a picnic lunch.  We aim to reach the next overnight camp by mid-afternoon. Shortly after arrival in camp, tea and biscuits are provided while the cooks busy themselves to prepare the evening meal. Dinner is a substantial meal served in the mess tent.  After dark, the temperature quickly falls and everyone gathers around the campfire.  Ethiopians have a strong oral tradition and they love to share stories, riddles and jokes.  Eventually, everybody retires to their tents for a well-earned rest.

 

Climate

The Simien Mountains have a wet season from June to September and a dry season for the rest of the year. Following the wet season, the countryside is lush and green, with lots of flowers and growing crops. Thereafter, the landscape dries out progressively until the next rains. The climate of the Simien Mountains has been likened to the perfect English summer day. At altitudes of around 3000m and above, you can expect temperatures of around 15°C to 20°C, falling close to freezing point at night and with frosty mornings a possibility. There may even be a dusting of snow on Ras Dashen.  As you descend to the lowlands, you will find daytime temperatures of 25°C to 35°C.

 

Altitude

This trip involves going to high altitude. During the course of your trip, you will reach altitudes in excess of 4000 metres. Most people do not experience any adverse effects, other than finding walking a little harder work than usual, but it is important that you follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully, and that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness.  See http://www.altitude.org/altitude_sickness.php for more information.

 

Upcoming group tour dates:

  • Saturday 15th - Tuesday 25th February 2020 (open for bookings)

Interested in this tour but can't make those dates?  We can arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.

 

Prices

The cost of this tour is 57,306 ETB (2,084 USD / 1,770 EUR / 1,547 GBP) per person for groups of 3 or more people.

It is possible to arrange this tour for 1 or 2 people, but a surcharge may apply.  Please contact us to find out more.

Please see the further details tab for information about services included.

A deposit is required upon booking.  For more details, please see our FAQ page, or read our full terms and conditions.