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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 $693 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 location
- 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.

Safety

For the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office check www.gov.uk/travelaware

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 496 reviews

(4.96/5)

  • 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.

    MissingGordon Parker reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 09 February 2016

  • We had a wonderful 2 week trip to Ethiopia - we found the country very different from other places that we've been, and also found Ethiopia very different from what we'd imagined it would be. The wildlife and birds we saw were incredible, the mountains and views nothing short of spectacular. We found different parts of the country varied hugely - both in landscape, climate and wildlife - which made the trip hugely varied. The travel arrangements (internal flights included) all worked perfectly - and our guides, drivers and cooks were all professional, friendly and keen to help make our trip as enjoyable as possible. As a vegetarian, I really enjoyed the variety of food (the local beers and wines were great too!), and we found all the hotels we stayed in very comfortable. In particular, the Kuriftu spa was a lovely treat after having spent 5 days in the Simiens trekking. We probably tried to fit too much into our 2 week trip, and were feeling a bit tired by the time we came home, but we would certainly have no hesitations in recommending both Ethiopia and Tourdust to anyone!

    MissingNatalie Nickelson reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 27 November 2014

  • We have had an amazing time in Ethiopia, time went too fast even though we were 7 years behind and 6 hours adrift some where.
    I believe in true feed back to assist in further development .
    Airport pick up didn't matter as was soon resolved, however obtaining a visa was painful. We waited in the queue for one hour forty five minutes, it seemed disorganised and open to those knowing how to to queue jump. Perhaps on a day flight this may not have been too bad, but we just needed to get our heads down.

    Hotel in Addis Ababa was well located and more than comfortable , nice to have a kettle in our room (the only hotel to have one ) with a early morning transfer to Gondar they obliged with boiled eggs for breakfast to take away.

    Our guide for Addis was great Yonas, so much so we invited him out for tea with us, bonus, Alex the man also came, we had a great night in Habesha 2000 , their shoulder dancing knocks spots off my aerobic
    Classes. Food a little expensive compared to elsewhere.

    Flight and transfer to Gondar good, accommodation well situated, afternoon round castle etc was interesting but guide needed to understand ' less is often more ' scripting is never interesting. 70 % is what we see , let us look rather than force their history upon us.

    The trekking - WOW David was fantastic, he knew when to offer information and when to just let us look, so knowledgeable, the views were breath taking the cliffs were pulse raising, the baboons were mind blowing, even the three hours of constant hail and rain couldn't dampen our love for our experience. Our scout was a diamond in his jelly shoes, at a grand age of 70 he guarded our possessions as if they were his own. Alam our cook prepared some amazing food throughout, and although he looked worried at me not being able to digest bread , I was fed more than adequately and never went hungry.

    Flying up to lalibela was smooth, my mind constantly drifting back to the mountains wishing I could still be there , I loved the isolation of our trip , so pleased we didn't have to share it with others. The churches were extraordinary, at times I felt rushed by our guide, I love to photograph, but he seemed bent on filling me full of history.

    MissingPhilip Ingleby reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 30 October 2014

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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 $769 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 $1,245 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 $1,678 pp plus flights

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

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