Simien Trek

World → Africa → Ethiopia → Simien

One of the best hikes in the world is the

Simien Trek

Sometimes called the Simien Traverse.

Get up close to rare baboons and ibex on one of the best cliff walks anywhere.

Simien Mountains National Park

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. 🙂

Geladas are happy to hang out with you

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

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  • colourful local peoples
  • malaria free — there are very few mosquitoes at this altitude
  • unbelievable vistas

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Considerations

  • 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.

Simien - Josh and Nadine horse

The thick-billed ravens are camp thieves. Any food left unattended will quickly disappear.

raven

Cost

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.

Nur and Hailie

If anyone withdraws from the adventure due to altitude sickness or any other reason, they are still obliged to pay full price.

Routes

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.

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early morning frost

Trekking Guides

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.

Logistics

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.

lammergeier - Josh and Nadine

lammergeier (bearded vulture) – nearly 10ft (2.83 m) wingspan

Local Information

Best Trekking Guidebooks

There are no dedicated Simien hiking guidebooks as of 2014.

Best Travel Guidebooks

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.

Simien - Josh and Nadine-5

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. 🙂

Simien - Josh and Nadine-8

Other Books

Online Maps

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports

Movies

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”.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

11 thoughts on “Simien Trek

  1. Pingback: Best Hike Treks The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia | Gear Exchange

  2. Pingback: Best Hike Treks The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia | My Blog

  3. Pingback: Best Hike Treks The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia | GroupgoTravelinfo website

    • Thanks Alex. The big problem camping was camp food. About 1/3 of hikers got sick (including me) from poor hygiene in the shared cook tent. I assume the lodge food was safer.

      • Rick Mc,
        Good to hear your comment about the food hygeiene on the Simien Mountains, we have been one night at Lodges the food was not much fresh than Camping, we were feed for four days trek camping by the cook of Simien Park Tours, shef Asfa he is an amazing person every thing he cook were very clean and delicios we would like to say thank you also for the great profestional Guide Jemal thouse are well organised from Simien Park Tours team ( http://simienparktours.com)
        It was a nice experiance trek on the Simiens, am sure will come back for a long trek.
        Sue.

  4. We did a six day/ five night trip from Debarq, organized at the headquarter. We went with the compulsory ranger, a mule and a mule guy, but without guide and cook. As we had shopped for the food ourselves and also cooked ourselves, no stomach problems. We had a great time and paid aroung 150 $, if I remember correctly. Oh, and we are two women in our 40s.

      • We’ve had two trips to the mountains in the last Two years, and they are without a doubt the most beautiful place we’ve ever been. The combination of the beautiful, unspoiled views, the incredible endemic wildlife, and the gorgeous cultivated valleys is a combination unlike anything else.

        We’ve done a few combinations of treks, and I think the best options is:

        -Flying into Gonder and spending one night (a few things to see there although it’s not a highlight).

        -Drive up to Simien Lodge (admittedly we haven’t stayed there but it looks nice) and spend a night.

        -Day 1: Hike to the first camp—can’t remember the name from our first trip, maybe it’s Sankaber?

        -Day 2: Hike to Gich. Incredibly sunset on the cliffs, tons of Gelada Baboons. If you have the time, spend two nights here and spend the next day hiking out to the high point on the cliffs nearby, seeing the wildlife, taking photos, etc. Saves you time on the hike the next day and lets you enjoy some of the most amazing scenery without being rushed.

        -Day 3 (or 4): Hike to Chennek Camp. One of the most beautiful views is five minutes from Chennek, and the hike from Gich to Chennek is also stunning. Best chance of seeing the Ethiopian Wolf of Walia Ibex is near Chennek. There are also some beautiful peaks nearby that could make good day hikes, not to mention all of the wildlife, so two night at Chennek would probably also be great.

        Chennek is on a main road, so it’s possible to drive out from there directly at the end of your trip. We hiked on to Sona camp and then down into the lowlands to get out of the mountains on our second trip. The hikes were long and grueling, with tons of treacherous downhills. If I went back I wouldn’t do it again. There are some nice views down in the valleys but I don’t think it’s worth it, and can’t really recommend it fully. The hike to Sona was stunning and a different environment from the peaks we hiked through in previous days. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but my ideal scenario would be hiking down to Sona and then finding a way to drive out from the nearest road. We passed some roads so it seems to me like it should be possible to hike a few hours from Sona and meet up with some kind of main artery where you could be picked up.

        We organized all of our logistics this last time with Simien Park Tours (http://www.simienpark.com)/ Jemal Hussien and cannot recommend them more highly! They’re fantastic and are able to handle complex logistical needs (and dietary constraints, etc) with ease. Super friendly, professional, and competent. We went with the same guide, Getenet Akalu, both times (five years apart). We love him! He’s an amazing guide and human being, and has an outrageous amount of experience in the mountains. He’s been guiding for over thirty years and helped the national park authority draw the map of the mountains, and has been the fixer and guide for just about every BBC / Discovery program ever filmed in the mountains. Ask your tour company to see if Get is available for your trek and I promise you will not regret it!

  5. Me and my son went for a 5 nights/6 days trek in Siemien in Feb 2017.The goal was to reach the highest peak of Ethiopia, Ras Dashen. Our route led through 3 campsites – Geech, Chennek and Ambiko, all of them offering stunning views but very basic from the facilities perspective (Ambiko being the worst). Since we had very little time, we decided to book the whole package upfront to avoid any hassle on the ground.

    The trip started in Gondar from where via Debark we were transported to the National Park. First night was in Geech, ~3400 m AMSL. It is not wise to start that high on a first day and altitude sickness made our night difficult. Fortunately, it eased a bit on subsequent days.

    The team consisted of guide, cook, two helpers, ranger and two mulemen. Taz Wagnew, our guide (http://simienethiopiatrekking.com/), helped to to make our trip so great and trouble free. He is calm but eloquent person, finding solution to every challenge ahead of us. I wholeheartedly recommend his services. The same can be said about Fitalew Lezaw, the cook. Yes, hygiene is a challenge on the way, however all food tasted surprisingly well (usually better than in local restaurants) and the cooking team took good care to keep it all clean.

    February was supposed to be a dry season, however we had rain almost every afternoon/evening. On a positive side, the mountains were fairly empty, especially in more remote areas in like Chennek & Ambiko.

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