Ethiopia: A Week Trekking in the Simien Mountains - Fauna Travel

Ethiopia: A Week Trekking in the Simien Mountains

Sunset near Chennek in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia / Shutterstock

7 Days

Ethiopia was the only kingdom in Africa not conquered by European colonial powers, and it remains an independent and culturally unique place. The country is known for its ancient Christianity and is rumored to be the home of the Arc of the Covenant, while modern-day Addis Ababa has a lively food scene and legendary jazz clubs. However, we love Ethiopia most for its landscapes. The high-elevation Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia have been called the “Roof of Africa” and are one of the best trekking destinations on the continent.

The volcanic mountain range comprises fantastic craggy peaks and scenic valleys home to large troops of gelada monkeys and walia ibex. This trek will take you camping in isolated mountain areas, bookended by stays at stylish local lodges. During your three-day hike, you will summit multiple peaks from 12-14,000 feet, but mules will carry your gear to moderate the exertion. This itinerary is focused on the outdoors and walking, but a visit to the sunken churches of Lalibela makes an easy extension of your trip.

Note: Northern Ethiopia has been in the news because of the conflict in Tigray, east of Simien Mountains National Park. However, the conflict never spread into the park, and the ceasefire of 2022 seemed to be holding. Unfortunately, another conflict has recently erupted in the Amhara region that has resulted in some civilian deaths and a temporary loss of control of the churches at Lalibela. We are monitoring the situation closely and not booking trips to Ethiopia at this time.

✧ Your custom travel playlist includes Hailu Mergia’s “Embuwa Bey Lamitu”
Because of the use of his music in movies, Mulatu Astatke is likely the most well-known Ethio-jazz artist to Americans. However, Hailu Mergia was also a significant figure in the 1970s music scene in Addis. His keyboards blend funk with traditional melodies that we could listen to on repeat all day.

Day 1: Arrival in Addis

Sheraton Addis Hotel

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, you will be met by our representative, who will drive you to the Sheraton Addis Hotel. The Sheraton is the best base to overnight and explore the city.

After relaxing at the hotel, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant before a night out at the city’s premier jazz club, African Jazz Village. The club is an intimate venue in the Ghion Hotel, owned by the father of Ethiopian jazz, Dr. Mulatu Astatke. If you get lucky, you may even get to see him perform.

Mulatu Astatke playing at the African Jazz Village / Courtesy of African Jazz Village
Mulatu Astatke playing at the African Jazz Village / Courtesy of African Jazz Village

Day 2: Gondar to Simien Mountains

Limalimo Lodge

In the morning, you will be met in the hotel lobby for a transfer to Bole Domestic Airport for your flight to Gondar. Upon arrival in Gondar, your driver will meet you for your journey to Simien Mountains National Park. It’s a three-hour drive to the park and Limalimo Lodge, your hotel for the night.

Limalimo Lodge / Courtesy of Limalimo Lodge
View from Limalimo Lodge / Courtesy of Limalimo Lodge

Limalimo Lodge is the most stylish hotel in Ethiopia and the perfect place to unwind and acclimate to the elevation before your trek into the mountains. Enjoy a cup of coffee and an incredible view of the park from the terrace, or take a short hike to the nearby village to stretch your legs. Gelada monkeys often congregate near the hotel, so you may get to enjoy their company as well.

Day 3: Trek Sankaber to Gich

Tented Camp at Gich

Gelada monkey in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia / Shutterstock
Gelada monkey in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia / Shutterstock

You will drive to the park headquarters the following day to register and pick up your scout. After a short drive, you will start the morning with a short walk along the escarpment’s edge. Along the way, you may see gelada monkeys, klipspringer, and various birds. After a couple of hours, stop for a picnic lunch and views of the mountains.

From here, it is another hour and a half to one of the park’s most impressive waterfalls, Jinbar Falls, which flows over a 1600-foot cliff. Then you will ascend for about two hours past Geech Village to Geech Camp. The camp is surrounded by giant lobelias and has spectacular views of the mountain range. The crew will have set up your tents so you can enjoy dinner and sunset at the camp.

Day 4: Trek Gich to Chenek

Tented Camp at Chenek

Limalimo Lodge / Courtesy of Limalimo Lodge
Overlook near Chenek / Courtesy of Limalimo Lodge

Today you will take a winding route from Geech deeper into the park, with the option of climbing to the summit of Imet Gogo (12,880ft). This walk has incredibly dramatic views of the Simien Mountains and the surrounding lowlands. After a break, trek further along the escarpment across a small valley, and climb the peak Enatye (13,353ft), where you will have lunch. This is one of the best places in Ethiopia to see the endemic Walia ibex, a mountain goat with large, ridged horns and distinctively patterned forelegs. Gelada monkeys are common in the area, and you may hear the call of the Ethiopian wolf in the evening. Your camp for the night is Chenek, one of the most picturesque campsites in Ethiopia.

Day 5: Chennek to Mount Bwahit

Gondar Hills Resort

Bwahit Pass in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia / Shutterstock
Bwahit Pass in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia / Shutterstock

Early in the morning, depart from Chenek, climb to Bwahit Pass, and onwards to the peak of Mount Bwahit (14,534ft), the second tallest mountain in the park. From here, you will descend to Chenek and meet a driver that will bring you back to Debark on a dirt road and from there to Gondar. You will arrive in the later afternoon at your hotel for the night at Gondar Hills Resort.

Day 6: Gondar

Gondar Hills Resort

Gondar Hills Resort is a comfortable place to unwind after your walk and is a fascinating place to explore the history of Ethiopia. After breakfast, meet your guide for a tour of the city.

Gondar was once the royal capital of the Ethiopian Empire, and the medieval city is home to castles and churches constructed by Emperor Fassiledes and his descendants. Visits will include Fassiledes Castle and Fassiledes Bath, which led to Gondar being nicknamed “the Camelot of Africa.” You will also have the chance to visit the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the late 18th century by Iyasu I, the grandson of Emperor Fassiledes. The church has beautifully preserved walls and ceilings adorned with mesmerizing rows of winged cherubs that represent the omnipresence of God.

Fasilides Palace, Gondar, Ethiopia / Hunde Gemechu / Unsplash
Fasilides Palace, Gondar, Ethiopia / Hunde Gemechu / Unsplash

Day 7: Return to Addis

After lunch and relaxation, you will be transferred to Gondar Airport for your flight back to Addis Ababa. From there, you will catch your flight home.

Extension: Lalibela

If you have time to continue your exploration of Ethiopia, we suggest staying a few days longer to see the sunken churches of Lalibela, which have been hewn directly into the bedrock.

Lalibela, Ethiopia / Mulugeta Wolde / Unsplash
Lalibela, Ethiopia / Mulugeta Wolde / Unsplash

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