Tours start at Debark where the Simien Mountains National Park Headquarters is located (3,000m). Here you will need to register, pay your entrance fees and meet your trekking guide from the Walia Local Guides Association.
You are free to walk or ride a mule through the scenic Afroalpine habitat. However, it is recommended to take along riding mules as a precaution as climbing to an altitude of 4,000m can be tiring.
The highland campsites are situated at an altitude between 3,250 and 3,600m, while the lowland campsites are between 1,990 and 1,655m. Each camp is located between 15 and 25km from each other and can be reached between 5-8 hours. This allows you to spend every night in a different campsite. If you do not have time for all campsites, the following itinerary will help you to select the ones you prefer. It is also possible to reach some of the campsites by car.
The most common way to start the trek is to drive into the national park (1.5 hours on the main road from Debark) to the escarpment near Michibiny (3,203m) where you will start the trek. From there it is a 2-3 hour trek to the first camp Sankaber. Such short trekking is designed to help you prepare for the upcoming days and will also assist you with acclimatization. It is also possible to drive straight to the Sankaber campsite.
Highlights of Simien Mountain trekking
- Dramatic mountain landscapes
- Ascent of Ras Dejen –summit Ethiopia’s highest mountain
- Stunning views, unique animals and birds of prey
- Views from the escarpment
- Highland and lowland experiences
- Welcoming villages
The full 12-13 day ultimate trek in the Simien Mountains takes you to both the highland and lowland parts the national park including Sankaber – home of the gelada, Gich – the gateway for the astonishing vistas of Imet Gogo, Chennek – a spot for rare and endemic wildlife such as the walia ibex and Ethiopia’s highest mountain Ras Dejen (4,553m).
The first 4 – 5 days of trekking on the highland routes gives you a chance to see 3 of the of the “Unique 7” mammal species of Ethiopia (walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and gelada) as well as an abundance of interesting flora and some of the world’s most majestic and colorful birds, including the lammergeyer (bearded vulture) also known as the “Lords of the Plateau.” Following the rewarding experience of the highland routes, the trip then takes you on a more off-the-beaten-track route to the lowland parts of the park through the villages of Mekerebiya, Mulit and Adirkay. This route also gives you a chance to see the other side of the highland scenery with the opportunity to mingle with local people and discover their ways of life.
Day 01: Trek from Sankaber (3,250m) to Gich (3,600m): 5 – 6 hours
The trek starts with a gentle stroll through the Erica heather that hangs on white lichen and mosses, resembling an old man’s white beard. Along the route keep an eye open to spot the elusive and elegant klipspringer. After 2-3 hours you will reach the viewpoint where you encounter the seasonal and impressive Jinibar waterfall. From there, you climb fairly steeply for an hour to reach the Jinbar valley and head down to the JinbarRiver at 3,190m. Have a picnic lunch in these majestic surroundings. On the way, keep an eye open for the rare and graceful lammergeyer, soaring in search of food. After a brief rest at the river ascend gradually on an undulating trail for 2-3 hours to the village of Gich – dotted by the traditional round thatched huts and home to the Muslim community. After the village, the trail then winds its way into the moorland where visitors will experience the highland flora of giant lobelia as you arrive at Gich camp.
Day 02: Imeg Gogo and the two peaks circuit: 4 – 5 hours
One of the most scenic and spectacular trails in the park, this route takes you to a viewpoint that rewards you with views of the remarkable shape of the landscape and canyon which are the result of geological upheaval between 60 – 70 million years ago. The first part of the hike is a gentle uphill walk of around 2 hours from Gich to the imetgogo viewpoint (3,926m). With some good luck, you may spot the iconic Ethiopian wolf. While sitting amongst the rocks at Imeg Gogo, you can see Ras Dejen in the distance.Another hour’s walk through the Afroalpine meadow takes you to the Lobelia Valley, which is home to thousands of these giant plants. The trail then brings you to the second viewpoint: Saha (3,785m) with stunning views of the dramatic gorge and rock towers. This is ideal spot for lunch. After lunch and before the final ascent towards the camp, another 1 hour trek brings you to the final viewpoint of the day called kedadit (3,760m). After that, a 45-minute downhill stroll brings to the Gich campsite.
Day 03: Trek from Gich to Chennek (3,600m): 7- 8 hours
The trek begins by ascending gradually for about 2 hours through the Afroalpine meadows. Next, you descend to where you’ll have impressive views of the gorge below imetgogo. The trail then winds its way to the lowest point and begins ascending to the peak Inateye (which means beloved mother in Amharic). You ascend fairly steeply at first for an hour and then more gradually for another hour to the highest point of the day at Inateye (4,070m). This area is an outstanding place to view birds, particularly raptors. Many interesting species can be seen here, among which are the tawny eagle, lammergeyer and augur buzzard. Here you have a rewarding view of the Imeg Gogo summit, Bwhait pass and the surrounding escarpment and mountains. After a brief rest and lunch in this majestic spot, begin your 2-3 hour descent to the camp. About 10-20 minutes before reaching camp stop at Kurbetemetaya to get the final and excellent view of the day’s trek and look for the first sighting of the cliff specialist walia ibex. Also keep your eyes peeled for geladas. Animals at this campsite have become accustomed to humans – please keep a distance and do not feed any of the animals.
Day 04: Trek from Chennek to Ambiko (3,600m): 8- 9 hours
Your day begins at sunrise to give you enough time to explore the surrounding cliffs for good sightings of the Ethiopian endemic walia ibex. Then begin the tough 3-hour ascent to the top of the Bwhait pass (4,200m). This is the second highest point in the park and offers magnificent views of Bwhait peak, Berochwuha, Silki and the Lori village below.
This route is one of the most popular routes leading to the summit of Ras Dejen. This route has a total ascent of 945m, and a total descent of 1,400m. The highest point of the day is 4,200m and the lowest is 2,800m.
After 3 hours of hiking downhill from the pass you will be at Chiro Leba, a small rural village where you can mingle with local people and discover their ways of life. Another hour’s descent from the village takes you through mountain slopes and rocky hillsides covered by the endemic aloea plant to the Mesha river where Euphorbium candelabrum, a giant succulent tree, grows. From the river it takes about 1.5 hours of ascentto reach the Ambiko campsite.
Day 05: Trek to the Ras Dejen Peak (4,553m) and continue to Mentaber (3,550m): 10 – 12 hours
At 4,553m, Mount Ras Dejen is Africa’s forth highest and Ethiopia’s highest mountain. The trek to the summit is 10- 12 hours of challenging trekking (6-7 hour ascent, 4-5 hour descent) but enormously rewarding. The ascent and descent is 1,300m.
The day begins before sunrise to give you ample time for trekking. The first 2-3 hours follow a rocky trail. The trail then starts to ascend more steeply and continues for another hour. From here to the summit it will take about 2 hours trekking through Afroalpine meadows. The trail winds its way into the moorland where everlasting flowers and helichrysum become dominant. The trail to the summit is obvious and easy until you make that final scramble and find yourself on the roof of Africa. Eventually, you’ll descend 4-5 hours to the Mentaber campsite.
Day 06: Trek from Mentaber to Arekwazeye (3,600m): 7 hours
This trail is endowed with several famous mountain peaks, namely Kidus yared, waliakend, Silki and Berochwuha, This trail also exposes you to the beautiful mountain scenery. The trail begins walking across the hillside for about 3-4 hours as you ascend to the next pass at 3,580m. From there you descend about 2 hours on a trail that brings you to the village of Arekwazeye. The campsite is situated in a pleasant spot on the foothill of Mt. Beorch whuha.
Day 07: Trek from Arekwazeye to Sona (3,020m): 4-5 hours
Begin your day with an hour’s walk uphill towards the Mt. Beorch whuha peak (4,272m). This beautiful peak rewards you with a glimpse of the stunning views of the rocky peaks of Imeg Gogo. Leaving the summit behind, you’ll join the main trail for a flat or downhill stroll. You’ll pass through small villages and the Sona primary school until you reach the Sona campsite located on the riverside.
Day 08: Trek from Sona to Mekarebya (1,900m): 5 – 6 hours
The day begins with a downhill walk to the Ansiya River (one of the tributaries of the Tekeze River that drains towards Sudan, and joins the Atbarah River.) Located at 1,975m, the river is surrounded by big fig trees. The descent is approximately 1,000m and takes 3 – 4 hours.
After you reach the river, you continue on flat ground for 2 – 3 hours. The trail offers splendid views of the riverine forest. The trail then winds its way into the lowland where visitors will experience the enormous, lowland flora that is now rare in Ethiopia. The dominant tree on this route is Cordia africana, known for providing excellent shade for growing coffee, but also for its beauty. In the western part of the country logs from this tree are used to make beehives and barrels for keeping tej (local honey wine). This route is also known for an abundance of birdlife such as the African paradise flycatcher, pin-tailed whydah, red and hemirpch hornbill. Leaving behind the scattered tree zone you’ll arrive in the small village of Mekarebya and then to the campsite.
Day 09: Trek from Mekarebya to Mulit (2,050m): 5 – 6 hours
Begin the day’s walk by descending 1 hour to the river and continue on an undulating trail along the riverbed for 2 hours. From the lowest point of the day at 1,620m, begin a steep ascent for 2 hours on a rocky trail to Hawaza (table mountain in Amharic). Along this route is an impressive array of rock towers. From Hawaza continue on a flat path for 1- 2 hours to reach the very vibrant village of Mulit.
Day 10: Trek from Mulit to Adi Arkay (1,665m): 2 hours
The shortest trek on the entire trip, takes you for 2 hours of a gentle stroll downhill to Adiarkay. The scenery and the valley of the lowland villages are attractive. Here, you can either take public transportation or arrange for a car to meet you.
Click here to learn about driving in Simien Mountains National Park.