Trekking Simien National Park in Ethiopia
In the highlands of Ethiopia there is a place in the clouds where green mountains give way to valleys of terraced villages, roaring waterfalls, armies of Gelada baboons, and some of Africa’s greatest trekking adventures. Hiking in Ethiopia’s remote Simien National Park is an experience that is sure to remain deeply rooted in your memories for years to come.
The scenery in Simien National park is not what most expect to see in Ethiopia. The mountains are a vibrant green, and there are high alpine cloud forests as well. If you come here at the right time of year, you are guaranteed spectacular views across this Northern Ethiopian mountain chain. The chances of spotting wildlife like the Ethiopian Ibex and Gelada baboons are very high. Trekking here is also a cultural experience as many Ethiopians live on the fringes of the park building massive terraces to grow their teff. A visit to Ethiopia is not complete without gazing at the awe striking vistas of Simien National Park.
Getting to Simien National Park
Simien National Park is fairly remote, so the best option in which getting here is through an organized tour. Being on an organized tour will save you the effort of arranging transport here, and lessen the chances of wasting your precious days.
When arriving at Addis Ababa there will be a few options you will be given to get to Simien. First being the bus, which is also the slowest option. There is no direct bus so you must take the bus to Gonder first, and then transfer to Simien, this can take days as the roads are not in great condition.
The best option is to take the flight to Gonder and then minivan from there. From Gonder it only will take a few hours before you will reach the head office for Simien National Park.
Getting Prepared for the Hike
Hiking in Simien you are required to bring supplies, there is not much for amenities up on the mountain. The closest community is Debark where the Simien National Park headquarters is located. Debark is also a considerably small community, so it doesn’t make the best destination in which to get snacks, or hiking supplies before your hike.
If you are coming from Addis, or Gonder then we highly recommend that you stock up there for anything you need for the journey.
Be sure to bring sturdy hikers, and a rain proof jacket. Hiking in the Simien is demanding and can be quite tough due to weather conditions.
What to Expect
The Simien Mountains can be clear and beautiful one minute, and rainy with frigid temperatures the next. Hiking here comes with some degree of willpower. The trails are often only mere dirt tracks, or muddy messes, meaning be prepared for tough trekking.
If you plan accordingly, and are prepared for some tough slogs, then the Simien Mountains will reward you. No great hike is easy, right?
Another factor to take into account is the season. Avoid May – Sept as this is the rainy season. In mid winter it can be very chilly here, with nights sometimes plummeting below zero! The days are often warm however, but with the high altitudes be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.
Highlights of Trekking in Simien
The obvious reason people come to the Simiens is the scenery. This massive plateau cut with giant gorge valleys which give way to plummeting waterfalls and sheer cliffs that fall down to plains as far as the eyes can see. The scenery in Simien National Park will leave you speechless.
Imet Gogo Viewpoint sitting at 3926m is one of the best viewpoints in the Simiens, but the majority of the hike here you will see similar incredible views.
Many come to Simien for the wildlife. The star of this show is the Gelada Monkeys. At times you will see armies of them numbering in the thousands covering entire mountain sides. The locals actually see them as a pest, as the Gelada cannot resist the taste of teff that the locals grow here. Watching the Gelada interact with one another is one of Simien’s greatest sights!
If you are lucky enough, you might spot the endangered Walia Ibex. This gravity defying Ibex can be spotted on the sheer cliff sides at times. They are easily recognized because of their massive spiraling horns.
Although it is illegal to live right in the National Park, many of the locals live on the fringes of the park, and use the park trails to connect the villages. You will meet plenty of shepherds pushing their livestock along these paths, and the odd child slinging rocks at the armies of teff hungry Gelada.
Many guides include a stop in one of the villages to check out how the locals live here, and how they harvest teff on the terraces.
Climbing Ras Dashen
Apart from attaining bragging rights to summiting one of the tallest peaks in the region you will also gain a unique perspective of the area that not many who come here get. Ras Dashen is a challenging climb, and will require a few extra days on top of the entire hike to complete.
Many of those who climb Ras Dashen enjoy the change in scenery, as you climb higher the landscape changes looking almost alien to the region. There are also several other nearby peaks in the area that you can easily attain if you have already summited Ras Dashen.
Author: Stephen Gollan