The ultimate Simien Mountains trek including the popular Sankaber - Geech - Chenek section, ascent of Ethiopia's highest mountain, Ras Dashen and a wonderful walk down into the rarely visited lowlands.
Private Trek Adventure 10 days
…We were really happy with the service we got from Tourdust which can be best described as friendly, efficient and expert.....
Matthew McSweeney. See all Reviews
The Simien Mountains in Ethiopia offer superb highland trekking, with far reaching views, rare wildlife and an incredible local culture. This 10 day trek initially follows the main route from Sankaber to Chenek that most shorter treks take. This section follows a dramatic highland ridge and offers some of the best views in the region. After reaching Chenek it is a tough 2 day trek to the summit of Ras Dashen (Ethiopia's highest mountain at 4550m). Very few visitors to the park then continue onto the lowlands, but this final section of the trail is a real treat, very much off the beaten path with some wonderful swimming spots and fantastic birfdlife.
All treks and tailor-made itineraries are organised on demand for groups of two or more people. For single travelers or those who prefer travelling in a group, we offer several scheduled small group tours, see here.
DAY 1: GONDAR – DEBARK – SANKABER CAMP (3,200M)
4-5hrs driving, 7km 2/3 hours walking
You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Gonder around 7.30am for the 2 ½ hr drive to Debark in a 4x4. The road is rough and very dusty, but if you haven’t left the built up areas in Ethiopia yet, it is a real eye opener into the life of the rural majority. At Debark you will sign in at the park headquarters, pick up your guide and scout and head up into the mountains (by 4x4). 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. (L,D)
DAY 2: SANKABER (3,200M) – GEECH CAMP (3,600M)
Walking 7-8hrs / 15km
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 lammergeier bearded vulture soar on the thermals below. From the Genbar falls, the trail passes drier dustier land, broken by lunch at a somewhat less intimidating and more peaceful waterffall. Klipspringer and bush buck may be seen in the steep rocky and wooded slopes, whilst troops of Gelada Baboons roam the dusty 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. Geech Camp itself is set on a grassy plateau with stunning sunset views. (B,L,D)
DAY 3: GEECH (3,600M) – IMET GOGO (3,926M) – SIHA GORGE – KEDAR DIT – GEECH (3,600M)
Walking 5-6 hrs / 13km
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 Cheneck 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. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: GEECH (3600M) – INNATYE (4070M) - CHENNEK (3,600M)
Walking 7 hours / 15km
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 gian 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. (B,L,D)
DAY 5: CHENNEK (3600M) – AMBIKO (3200M)
Walking 10 hours
This is the longest day of the trek, with up to 10 hours of trekking. After breakfast you will set out from camp for a steady 2 hour climb up to Buahit Pass (4,200m). From the pass there are stunning views over towards Ras Dashen. From the pass, the path leads down across the Meseha Valley crossing the river at 2,750m before climbing back up to the Ambiko Campsite at 3,200m.
DAY 6: AMBIKO (3200M) – RAS DASHEN SUMMIT (4620M) – AMBIKO (3200M)
Walking 8 hours
Today is summit day, with a long climb of over 1200m and a brutal series of false peaks. After five hours of climbing you finally reach the steeper rocky ground leading up to the summit cairn. There is plenty of time to enjoy the expansive views from the highest mountain in Ethiopia before returning the same way to Ambiko
DAY 7: AMBIKO (3200M) – SONAR (3500M)
Walking 9 hours
Another long day that takes you back from Ambiko down to the Meseha River at 2,750m, before ascending again to the small village of Arkwazye. From Arkwazye it is down again to the wonderfully situated campsite at Sonar, which has fantastic views over the first section of the trek.
DAY 8 SONAR (3500M) TO MEKAREBYA (2150M)
Walking 5-6 hours
Setting out from Sonar you soon reach the Incya Valley which you descend for 2-3 hours down to the lowlands. You’ll enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the Incya river where there is a lovely spot for a refreshing swim. After lunch there is a further 2 hour walk along the banks of the river to Mekarbra where you camp in the village.
DAY 9: MERKARBRA (2150M) TO MULET (2150M)
The walk today passes along the dry river bed of the Incya River. The bird life is incredible, pin-tailed waders, village indigo, paradise monarchs and tropical bobu are all frequently spotted. Luch at Derkwenth pool, where you can rest and swim. From the pools there is a 2 hour climb to Awazza Villgae at the foot of the striking Awazza Table Mountain. There will be time for a refreshment stop in the village before a final hours trek up to the last camp at Mulet.
DAY 10: MULET – GONDER
After breakfast, it is a 3 hour walk to Adi Arkaye, where you’ll be picked up and transferred back to Gonder (5 hour drive).
Getting to Ethiopia
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 fleat of twin props. Ethiopian flies direct from London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome in Europe. The flight takes around 8 hours. Great deals can be had if you book your international flight direct with Ethiopian with your domestic Ethiopian flights – you will need to call them to get these fairs.
Getting around Ethiopia
Because of the state of the roads, the distances involved and the quality of the alternative (flying) most short term visitors use internal flights in Ethiopia. There are reliable daily flights between most of the stops on the Northern Circuit (Addis, Gondar, Lalibella, Axum, Bahir Dar).
If you have more time, or delight in the joys of overland travel, there are loads of options on the road. Local bus services are super cheap, regular and exceedingly uncomfortable. They’ll certainly give you a story to tell. Alternatively Skybus offer a reliable upmarket coach service from Addis Abbaba to Gonder, Jimma, Bahir Dar, Awassa, Harrer and Dire Dawa. Schedules and prices are available at http://www.skybusethiopia.com/site/schdule.html
Transport to and from Gonder in 4wd
Camping equipment including tents, and mattresses (excluding sleeping bags)
Guide and all meals on trek
Park entrance fees
Sleeping bags are not included - you need to bring your own 3 or 4 season sleeping bag
International flights, personal expenses and tips are not included.
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.
The rains in the South are in April, May and October which make the roads in the Lower Omo Valley impassable, so you’ll need to avoid these if you’re planning on an adventure down here.
We would only recommend this 10 day trek if you are really keen on summiting Ras Dashen and are fit and determined. We usually prefer to recommend the 8 day trek without Ras Dashen, simply because climbing Ras Dashen is tough, repetitive, not hugely rewarding at the summit and only marginally higher than the more convenient and impressive Mount Buahit (4430m)
Having said that, we offer this trek because we also recognize the allure of peaking high summits. If you would like advice, then get in touch and we would be happy to help you make your mind up
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office check www.gov.uk/travelaware
All in all our trip to Ethiopia was truly amazing. A dizzyingly precipitous bombardment of beauty in the form of flora, fauna, people & scenery!
I have collated the feedback from the 7 in our group:
- Despite the information we were given about the sleeping mats provided before we left I would recommend that everyone brings their own sleeping mat. The mats provided are tired - thin, cotton covered, very squashed foam - in conjunction with rocky camps does not make for a comfortable night along the way. I know it depends on the season but most of the camps hit well below zero at night, a survival blanket on the ground sheet of the tent was invaluable (very cheap, light easy addition to a kit list bringing increased comfort).
- Toilets were a bit of an issue - no one had an issue with smelly long drops but a lot of the time they were soiled so we couldn't use them without stepping in someone else's mess. At the camps (which are only used for tourists on the hiking trail) it may be helpful for a member of the group to check the toilets & splash a bucket of water around to make them useable. Unfortunately it seems common place for people to avoid the long-drop & conduct their business in the vicinity of, leaving mess & toilet paper everywhere which is detrimental to the ecology & beauty of the sites (maybe people should be asked to keep their loo roll in disposable sacks to be added to daily waste - in our camp rubbish was taken away in the mornings or just burnt/buried as has been the case on other walks I have been on)
- Food overall was excellent. We had an excellent cook with a very good reputation, he was used to catering for Western palette's & offered daily variety. The local wine was a really nice touch after a tough day.
- Transport links worked fine (though the road from Adi Aderkay to Debark was absolutely terrifying as described in the Bradt guide book!!)
- Our guide, Hope, was very knowledgeable & we felt safe on the routes he took us, on occasion some of the group felt that he rushed ahead (there was quite a gap of fitness levels so we were quite spread out when we were walking) It would have been nice for him to offer a bit more support to the ones who were struggling & aimed to keep the group a bit more together but on the whole he was great.
- The main point to raise is that we all felt that this trek is not one for novice's or 'anyone with a reasonable fitness level' - on occasions it was gruelling. All of us, fit to less fit, had to dig deep into reserves to keep going. The Ras day was hard but again we felt unprepared for the final part to the summit - it is more than a scramble, it is a climb - the scouts went above & beyond the call of duty at this point & helped those who were struggling.
I would rate the trip 4/5 which I think would be the average of the group.
I would like to recommend a newly built lodge on the outskirts of Gondar near the airport named Mayleko lodge. It was a wonderful place for R&R after our trip & the owner, Ethiopia, really pulled out all the stops to make our stay as comfortable & relaxing as possible.
I think that is about everything, like i said we had a fantastic time overall & we all have lots of happy memories.
Claire Cooper reviewing Simien Mountain & Ras Dashen Trek on 10 November 2014
As a group of 8, fifty something women, our trek crew: a guide; 2 armed scouts; a cook with 2 assistants; 8 mule men with 10 mules; treated us with great care and kindness from the outset. Our goal was a moderate 10 day, 9 night, camping circuit including all the main camps in the National Park, the peak of Ras Dashen and then a walk out though the northern lowlands along the river Incya to the town of Adi Arkaye
The scenery was stunning from the outset. Our tents were generous to huge and offered a great vantage point to rest and watch the world go by at the end of a long day. April is late in the dry season with very hot, parched and windy conditions which we found challenging. Daily we coped with deep dust underfoot, dehydrating and abrasive sun and wind, temperatures soaring from the upper 80s down to sub-zero at night on the higher stretches. Our party were experienced trekkers and/ or runners so not fazed by the effort required.
Shetu, Our guide, had a proud demeanour, a wonderfully understated sense of humour, coupled with a deep knowledge of the place, people and wildlife. All this belied his youth. Nagar, our cook, took pleasure in serving up nourishing, simple meals and readily adapted to our broad range of tastes and needs. Ginger and Thyme teas soon became a regular feature alongside the end of day snacks coffee and black tea.
The first stretch through the park was busy with other trek parties and it offered us excellent acclimatisation with stunning escarpment views. Chennek camp gave close up encounters with Gelada baboons and Ibex. Walking out of the park, going East, we dropped down to Ambiko for the overnight camp en-route to Ras Dashen. From that point we left all visitors behind seeing only our support crew and local people for the rest of the trip. The climb to the summit was a long day, starting before dawn, walking ever upwards with local farmers, hawkers and construction workers for company. The summit was a scramble and rewarded us with magnificent views. Returning to camp exhausted our muleteers feted us with posies.
As we journeyed out north we stayed at a variety of village and wild camps, sometimes finishing our evenings with a group sing song. On one occasion our cook and scout joined in. The wild camp at Sonar was in a dramatic, cliff top location with huge views and a special atmosphere. The following day we dropped down a spiralling path to the valley over 1,000m below. As we followed the river we saw a huge array of birds and other wildlife.
Ben at Tourdust was quick to respond to all our queries. He helped to sort out a couple of pre-trip setbacks and we would recommend this service for those working on tight timescales. This was a really memorable trip and a great introduction to Africa for those new to trekking on this amazing continent
HelenRutter reviewing Simien Mountain & Ras Dashen Trek on 17 July 2012
Our trip was excellent. Thank you! We were particularly impressed with the way it all worked seamlessly: someone was at each arrival point to meet us (or Alex was on the end of the phone to tell us what to do) or there was a phone message at Reception for when to expect someone.
The Jerusalem Hotel in Lalibela is not the same standard as Tukul Villages but it was OK for one night & we had plenty of warning. Lalibela at Christmas is pretty manic: full to bursting!
I must say that Alex looked after us well. He came to see us in Gondar to make sure everything was in place for the Simiens Trek & that we knew what to expect. When we got back after it, there he was again! Small but highly-valued pieces of customer care, evident again when he spoke to drivers while we were travelling.
All the staff who worked with us were of high quality, especially drivers and guides. Two who stood out were Younus, our driver both times we were in Addis Ababa, who we felt went beyond the call of duty & made our time there enjoyable - our last evening when waiting for a 2 a.m. flight could have been a drag, was in fact absolutely fine because of his suggestions (the Via Via cafe for dinner & then Mama's Kitchen for some music) and company.
The Simiens Trek was outstanding. Spectacular scenery, challenging at times, full of interest. Key to making it so was Dereje Gedamu who is a wonderful guide: we felt privileged to have him. he was ably assisted by the other staff & when our first, excellent chef had to leave at short notice to visit his mother in hospital, a replacement was found immediately (at Chenek!) who fed us to the same high standard. It was all a great experience that we will be talking about for a long time.
We were all pleased to have selected the 8 day option (& were not at all jealous of the peak-baggers heading for Ras Dashen). The second half of the trek was a good contrast to the high altitude section in the National Park's heartland as we descended through more intensively cultivated and populated areas, down steeply to the river and then back up past wonderful rock formations towards Mulit and out to the road at Adi Arkaye. It was full of interest and we were pleased to be pretty much on our own, rather than with the crowds at Geech & Chenek.
By comparison, the TESFA trek was rather tame, although an interesting comparison to see a more pastoral landscape and less remote villages. We had another good guide & enjoyed the lunch & evening stops, and the "loos with a view".
Pleased as we were that we had opted to drive from Bahir Dar to Lalibela, we had mixed feelings about driving the rough Gashena-Lalibela road three times - the starting and finishing points for the TESFA trek were just beyond Gashena. In 3 years when the road is complete this point may become academic, but meanwhile - if anyone else wants to do the same thing - it would be better for them to drive from Bahir Dar to Gashena, meet the TESFA crew there, do the trek & then continue to Lalibela. I am sure that TESFA could look after any extra baggage that people did not want on the trek.
One other point about the TESFA trek: we were not aware that there are several grades offered. I think we did the easiest and might well have preferred something more challenging so perhaps you could clarify the options available.
Only one other critical comment: we were underwhelmed by the Mayleko Lodge near Gondar airport. It was indeed welcome to have somewhere peaceful to return to after the trek, the rooms are nice & a couple of us enjoyed a "refreshing" swim, but on the other hand the restaurant was pretty mediocre and slow: we might have preferred to be out in the town.
Apart from that it was all good! A glimpse of Addis and another of Gondar; trekking with some R&R in Bahir Dar with its different scenery and history, ending with the religious fervour at Lalibela. A great holiday.
Gordon Parker reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 09 February 2016
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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
Extended 8 day trek in the Simien Mountains following the classic Sankaber - Chenek route then down to the Lowlands.
Private Trek Adventure 8 days
Perfect for those short on time, combines the classic 5 day Simiens trek with the cultural highlights of Gondar & Lalibella
Tailor-made Adventure 10 days