World → Africa → Ethiopia → Simien
One of the best hikes in the world is the
Sometimes called the Simien Traverse.
Get up close to rare baboons and ibex on one of the best cliff walks anywhere.
AT A GLANCE
- some of the best views in Africa
- Simien Mountains National Park
- 4 days, 3 nights
- tenting or cramped bunkbeds
- no advance booking needed
- guide and armed guard required
- 20+ peaks above 4000m, the ‘Roof Of Africa’
- finish atop Mt Buwahit 4437m in 4 days. Add another two days to add Ras Dashen 4543m, the 4th highest peak on the African continent.
- we had snow atop Buwahit. Nights in the Simien are colder than many expect. Bring warm clothing.
- the word Semien means “north” in Amharic. By coincidence it’s a mnemonic for simian. In the Simien you’ll find simians, higher primates. 🙂
Why We Like This Hike
- wildlife: baboons, ibex, lammergeier, etc.
- chance to see the very rare Ethiopian wolf (we did) 🙂
- very easy hiking up some of the highest mountains in Africa
- stunning rural villages
- colourful local peoples
- malaria free — there are very few mosquitoes at this altitude
- unbelievable vistas
- almost everyone feels some altitude sickness
- many have stomach problems due to unsanitary food preparation
- overused pit toilets are available at each of the main campsite. We prefer to avoid them, when possible, as they are not very clean.
- bottled water is provided. If you opt not to drink from plastic, it’s recommended to treat all water. People cultivate and graze everywhere in Ethiopia, no matter how remote.
- mobile phone reception is intermittent
- the trail parallels a dusty road and power lines. Disappointing at places. Geech Camp is our favourite as it’s far removed from the road.
- tents and sleeping bags are provided. But we opted to use our own rather than the rental gear.
- most groups use pack horses to transport food and gear. You won’t have access to any items you send away with the animals as they take a different route than hikers.
The thick-billed ravens are camp thieves. Any food left unattended will quickly disappear.
In 2014 we paid:
US$1000 ($333ea) – 4 days, 3 nights for 3 hikers all inclusive aside from tips, Gondar to Gondar
We were quoted:
$1750 ($250ea) – 4 days, 3 nights for 7 hikers all inclusive aside from tips, Gondar to Gondar.
The more people in your group, the less expensive. But the risk of delays due to altitude sickness increases with the number of people.
Least expensive option is to arrive in Dabarq on your own and organize the trip at the Park headquarters. Those we met who had done this had many hassles, however. Not a good idea unless you know what you are doing.
Here’s an example of the kind of hassle you might face – WARNING!! scam Debark transport (Dec. 2014)
We went with Nur Tours Ethiopia (SimienMountainsTour.com) and were very happy with the owner, Nurlign Hassen, and his organization.
If anyone withdraws from the adventure due to altitude sickness or any other reason, they are still obliged to pay full price.
Day 1 = Gondar to Sankabar, 2 hrs walking
Day 2 = Sankaber-Gich (3600 m), 5-6 hrs walking
Day 3 = Gich-Chennek (3600 m), 7-8 hrs walking
Day 4 = Chenek-Buwahit, 5-6 hrs walking
Most groups drive 3hrs back to Gondar in the afternoon of Day 4.
example – Simien Mountains Tour 4 day itinerary
We feel the 4 day trek is best for most people. But they will organize anywhere from 1 day to 17 days (to Lalibela) on request.
The 6 day and 10 day options are interesting too, if you have enough time and money. It would be smart to add a rest day to help acclimatize to altitude.
If you only want to see Gelada baboons, a 1-day trip will work as most of the big groups are close to the Park gates.
These are some of the most respected international companies. Compare prices.
Once on the trek, it looked to us that everyone was treated equally regardless of whom they signed up with. Guides, cooks and horsemen seemed to be assigned by the Park Office.
All the guides we met were good. There were 69 guides on the list as of December 2014. Three spoke German. Two spoke French. Three were women.
In the cookhouse at each Camp it looked to us that duties are shared. Everyone gets the same sandwiches for lunch, for example. If one cook’s assistant didn’t clean his hands (very possible) then every sandwich could be tainted.
Happily, getting this adventure organized is easy.
You can get quotes online. Organize in advance. Things go wrong in Africa. It’s worth the peace of mind to have everything fixed well in advance.
The jumping off point for this adventure is the interesting tourist town Gondar.
From Gondar it’s about 100km (2hrs) north to the National Park Office in Debarq. Most groups meet their private vehicle at the hotel in Gondar, but it’s possible to take local transportation up to Debarq.
Best Trekking Guidebooks
There are no dedicated Simien hiking guidebooks as of 2014.
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalialand 2013
Be sure to get the most recent edition (hard copy or kindle) as it’s frequently updated. Actually, we bought the electronic version directly from Lonely Planet. Cheaper than kindle in most cases.
LP has a succinct summary of what to do in the Simien Mountains. Trekking advice is accurate.
There seems to be some invisible line off the hiking trail behind which the kids must stay. At every turn you’ll find a rescue horse. And local trinkets for sale. 🙂
- Bradt Ethiopia 2013
- Ethiopia – Culture Smart!: The essential guide to customs & culture
- Lonely Planet East Africa (Travel Guide)
- SimienPark.org – Trekking Routes
Best Web Pages
- Summit Post
- Simien Mountains National Park (unofficial)
- Simien Mountains Trekking Preparations
- Simien Mountains Flora and Fauna
- wikipedia – Simien Mountains National Park
Best Trip Reports
- BestHike editor Rick McCharles (2014)
- Jemima Sissons – Take a Hike Across Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains (2014)
- Mark Horrell (2012)
- Kali737 (2012)
- Eskinder Hailu (2008)
- Josh and Nadine’s Gelada photos
Click PLAY or watch highlights from a 2011 trek on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch an Amazing Places on our Planet edit on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a Geladas edit on YouTube. (23min)
Check our blog for posts tagged “Simien”.