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Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights

Discover the best of Ethiopia, trekking in the Simien Mountains the castles of Gondar and the incredible rock hewn churches of Lalibella.

Tailor-made Adventure 10 days

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $678 per person economy class from London

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Itinerary

Overview

  • 5 day trek in the Simien Mountains
  • Explore medieval Gondar
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage ancient rock hewn churches of Lalibela
Northern Ethiopia is justly famous for its concentration of historic cultural sites and incredible scenery. A unique blend of Christian and African culture and a rich history has left Ethiopia with ancient churches and medieval castles with a distinctly African flavour. The Simien Mountains sit amidst this backdrop offering one of the finest ridge treks in the world.

Exploring all of Ethiopia’s sights would take some time, but this tour picks out the highlights for those who are just as interested in the trekking as they are the cultural heritage. You’ll trek for 5 days through the Simien Mountains National Park along a dramatic ridge with common sightings of unique gelada baboons and walia ibex. You’ll explore the medieval churches of Gondar and the incredible rock hewn churches of Lalibella.

All treks and tailor-made itineraries are organised on demand for groups of two or more people.

Day-by-day

The following itinerary is designed to include a trek in the Simien Mountains with the highlights of the Northern Circuit. Please see here for a longer itinerary with a more extended tour of the North.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL AND HALF DAY ADDIS ABABA GUIDED TOUR
You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your central hotel. After a rest and refresh at the hotel, your guide will take you around the highlights of Addis. Depending on time and how you feel after your flight, you can choose to sample some of the best coffee in the world in the Piazza (old town), explore the National Museum and Archaeological Museum (home to the 3.5 million year old remains of Lucy) or explore the largest open air market in Africa.
Meals Included: None included
Accommodation: Addis Regency
Transport (where relevant): Airport transfer

DAY 2: GONDAR CASTLES AND CHURCHES
You’ll be picked up early from your hotel and transferred to the airport for the internal flight to Gondar. After pick up in Gondar and transfer to your hotel, your guide will take you and show you the highlights of Gondar, a small but relaxed town. You will visit the ancient castles of Gondar and King Fasilides' bath. You will also visit Debre Birhan Selassie Church, renowned for its vivid and striking interior art and arguably one of the finest church interiors in the country.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Fasil Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Fly Addis - Gondar

DAY 3: GONDAR – SIMIEN MOUNTAINS (SANKABER CAMP 3,200M)
You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Gondar around 7.30am for the drive to Debark. At Debark you will sign in at the park headquarters, pick up your guide and scout and head up into the mountains. The road continues all the way to the first camp at Sankaber, but you’ll be dropped off on the way for a leisurely three hour acclimatisation hike. The stunning views hit you as soon as you get out of the vehicle as you walk along the ridge. There will be time to stop for a picnic lunch and after a short but demanding climb (at this altitude) to Sankaber you’ll be met as every day on this trek with a tray of fresh coffee, tea and snacks. 7km 2/3 hours walking
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant): Drive Gondar - Simien Mountains (2-3 hrs)

DAY 4: SANKABER (3,200M) – GEECH CAMP (3,600M)
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll set off trekking along the ridge with stunning views over the foothills 800m below. For the first two hours the trail passes through low bush of Giant Heather, soda apple, Abyssinian rose, St John’s Wort and Globe thistle. The highlight of the trek from Sankaber to Geech is Genbar Falls, an incredible 500m sheer drop. From the viewpoint opposite, you can watch the falcons, augur buzzard and lammergeyer bearded vulture soar on the thermals below. From the Genbar falls, the trail passes arable fields, broken by lunch at a somewhat less intimidating and more peaceful waterfall. Klipspringer and bush buck may be seen in the steep rocky and wooded slopes, whilst troops of Gelada Baboons roam the fields for roots. Just before you reach Geech camp site, there is a wonderful opportunity to visit one of the traditional village houses for home roasted coffee and injurra (ask your guide). Geech Camp itself is set on a grassy plateau with stunning sunset views. Walking 7-8hrs / 15km
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant):

DAY 5: GEECH (3,600M) – IMET GOGO (3,926M) – SIHA GORGE – KEDAR DIT – GEECH (3,600M)
After breakfast you’ll trek for 2 hours along the grass plateau past countless bizarre outsized Giant Lobelia plants. The destination is Imet Gogo, an incredible rocky promontory that grants 360 degree views over the Simien Range. At an altitude of 3,926m you can see West back along the ridge towards Sankaber and Geech and South East across a deep gully towards the tomorrow’s ridge walk to Inatye and Chennek Camp. The views here are arguably the best in the Simien Mountains and the drop is terrifying. From Imet Gogo, you’ll return to camp via the Siha Gorge for lunch. Afternoon at leisure before heading out for a short optional sunset trek to KedaDit (3760m). Overnight at Geech Camp again. Walking 5-6 hrs / 13km
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant):

DAY 6: GEECH (3600M) – INNATYE (4070M) - CHENNEK (3,600M)
Today is the longest and arguably most spectacular passing close to the ridge most of its length. After breakfast you will head back on the path towards Imet Gogo before detouring SE towards Inatye. The path drops into a forest of Giant Hazel before following the ridge on open grassland. The climb to Inatye (4,070m) rewards with stunning views. Inatye roughly translates as “mamma mia” and the terrifying vertical drop here justly warrants the name! After a picnic lunch the path follows mostly downhill through open grassland and giant lobelia towards Chenek with a number of stunning viewpoints along the way. Chenek camp is superb for wildlife with both Gelada Baboons and Wallia Ibex common here. Walking 7 hours / 15km
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant):

DAY 7: CHENNEK (3600M) – MOUNT BUAHIT (4430M) – CHENNEK (3600M)
After breakfast, you will begin the journey back to Gondar getting back in the early afternoon. Those feeling brave can opt to tackle Buahit before leaving camp. You'll need to be up early for the 3-4 hour round trip to this spectacular summit at 4430m.
Meals Included: Breakfast, and lunch included
Accommodation: Fasil Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Drive Simien Mountains - Gondar (4 hrs)

DAY 8: ROCK HEWN CHURCHES OF LALIBELA
Early morning transfer to Gondar airport. You’ll be picked up at the other end and transferred to your central hotel. Lalibela is world famous for its monolithic rock hewn churches. Carved by hand out of solid rock in the 12th and 13th Centuries, the evocative sound of monks chanting combined with the sense of history make this a deeply spiritual place and quite rightly a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll get to visit most of the Central churches that Lalibela is so famous for including the Northern Group (containing the Lalibela Cross), The Western Group (Bete Giyorgis) and the Eastern Group.
Meals Included: Breakfast only included
Accommodation: Mountain View
Transport (where relevant): Fly Gondar - Lalibela

DAY 9: REMOTE CHURCHES OF LALIBELA
Tour remote church clusters in Lalibela, you can choose to walk or ride a rented mule up to Asheton Maryam Church, situated at about 3100 metres. Here you are rewarded with spectacular views of Lalibela town and surrounding valleys.
Meals Included: Breakfast only included
Accommodation: Mountain View
Transport (where relevant): N/A

DAY 10: RETURN
You’ll be transferred back to Lalibela airport for your return flight to Addis. Most have a long afternoon in Addis before a late evening flight home, so we will provide a driver and vehicle for the afternoon. Suggested activities for the afternoon include stocking up on souvenirs, visiting one of the museums or just heading to the Sheraton or Hilton for day access to their pools (extra cost applicable).
Meals Included: Breakfast only included
Accommodation: N/A
Transport (where relevant): Fly Lalibela to Addis. Vehicle provided for day in Addis.

Accommodation


Guide price is based on recommended accommodations. Alternative accommodations and upgrades are available. Please get in touch or click on 'alternatives' below for alternatives and upgrade options.

Addis Regency

Addis Ababa

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Lovely rooms
- Solid mid-range option
- Good value

Our rating

6/10

Price guide

Price rating 2

- Friendly service
- Nice bar and terrace
- Clean rooms
- Great value

Our rating

5/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Fantastic position
- Comfortable rooms
- A little tired

Our rating

5/10

Price guide

Price rating 2

- Large rooms
- Mountain views
- Friendly staff

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Central location
- Comfortable rooms
- Pleasant gardens
- Good service

Details

Getting there

Ethiopia’s national airline, Ethiopian Airlines is arguably one of the best in Africa. International services are reliable with good seat pitch, whilst domestic flights are serviced by a brand new fleet of twin props. Ethiopian flies direct from London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome in Europe. The flight takes around 8 hours. Return flights from London are usually around £500 per person.
Direct outbound flights from London to Addis Ababa: Every Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
Direct return flights from Addis Ababa to London: Every Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun
Return flights from Addis Ababa to London via Rome: Every Mon and Thu

Price includes

All guides and transfers and accommodation as detailed in the itinerary
Entrance fees to museums and national parks and attractions
Meals where stated (e.g. on trek)

International flights and domestic flights are not included. We do not include the domestic flights as you will get a better deal booking them with your international flights through Ethiopian Airlines direct. In order to get the best rates call Ethiopian.
Most meals outside the trek are not included. Generally speaking eating out in Ethiopia is very cheap.
Tips are not included.

When is best?

The Ethiopian Tourist Board proudly promotes their slogan “13 months of sunshine” to anyone who will listen, but they are not far off the mark. The rainy season in the North is in July and August, but whilst that might stop you attempting a multi day trek in the Simien Mountains, it won’t really affect you if you are planning on touring the Northern Historical route. The best time to visit the North is in Autumn, after the rains when the mountains are full of lush green and the views are inimpeded by haze.

Is it for me?

If you are considering Ethiopia in the first place, you are probably aware that the standard of hotels, road and general comfort is not going to match what you might expect at home. Travelling in Ethiopia is always an adventure and it is incredibly important you come with the right mind-set. The challenges are the lack of luxuries (a reliable hot shower in Ethiopia is a rare thing, even in upmarket hotels), the unique cuisine and occasionally hassle from hawkers (no worst than most tourist destinations). Having said that it also happens to host one of the most unique cultures in the world with a rich cultural heritage and some of the best trekking in the world. You can’t have everything.

Trekking in the Simien Mountains is classified as moderate. You will need to have a good level of fitness and able to cope with basic amenities. Although walking lengths each day are reasonably long (7-8 hrs a day), it is mostly flat going with several options available to shorten the trekking day if necessary. Altitude can be an issue with nights spent at 3,200m – 3,600m, but being a plateau walk, there is little altitude gain to contend with.

This itinerary is designed for someone whose primary focus is to trek in the Simien Mountains and adds to the trek a taster of the highlights of the Northern Circuit (Lalibela and Gondar). Keeping the itinerary shorter keeps it more affordable and shorter, but if you have the time and budget then it is well worth considering a more extended tour of the North, see here.

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 600 reviews

(4.93/5)

  • My husband and I took their standard "highlights of northern Ethiopia" tour. From the moment of our first contact with tourdust, they were extremely helpful and professional. Lisa was very responsive to any queries we had. We felt confident going to this new country with them arranging it. We were met at each point by great guides, Alex in particular was fantastic, overseeing the whole tour from Addis. Accomodation was very good - some lovely hotels in beautiful places. If I were to do anything different, it would be to add on an extra night in Gondar. The drive from the Simien mountains was long and we were too tired to go out again to see Gondar. We are both in our 50s so younger people may not have the same issue but just something to consider if you don't want to cram everything in to a tight timeframe .
    Thoroughly recommend this company.

    Ben feefo reviewer verified review for Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 01 July 2016

  • Service rating : Excellent itinerary, good service, everything followed up.
    Product : God mix of adventure and culture. Excellent guides. Looked after well and kept safe.

    Ben feefo reviewer verified review for Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 04 April 2016

  • Service rating : Tourdust provided a very personal and well organised service.
    Product : The holiday was agreat experience and Ethiopia is a fascinating country that can be challenging at times.

    Ben feefo reviewer verified review for Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 25 February 2016

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Alternative Itineraries

Our itineraries are carefully designed by our experienced travel designers based on years of experience and customer feedback. For a custom itinerary tailored to you, please enquire giving as much detail as possible on your brief.

Classic fully supported 3-5 day trek in the Simien Mountain National Park including transfer to and from Gondar. Guide, cook, porters and scout all included.

Private Trek Adventure 5 days

Adults from $685 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Extended 8 day trek in the Simien Mountains following the classic Sankaber - Chenek route then down to the Lowlands.

Private Trek Adventure 8 days

Adults from $1,188 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Combines the popular Sankaber - Geech - Chenek section with a challenging ascent of Ras Dashen & descent to the rarely visited lowlands.

Private Trek Adventure 10 days

Adults from $1,329 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

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