Feature Image: Rod Waddington (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
Stretching across northern Ethiopia, with a landscape formed over millions of years, is the UNESCO protected Simien Mountains National Park. It is truly a wonderous place with peaks reaching over 4000 meters, and wild, untamed natural scenery.
Simien National Park is a place unlike any other; jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m make this one of the world’s most renowned trekking spots.
And even though tourism isn’t huge, you’re never alone when you’re hiking; the park is home to many globally threatened and exotic species including the Wallia Ibex (a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world), Ethiopian Wolves, and Gelada Gibbons.
Thinking of heading on a hiking adventure through Simien Mountains National Park? Let’s take a look at how you should prepare for this epic trip of a lifetime.
Preparing For a Hiking Tour of Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia
Preparing For Your Trip
Before you start packing your hiking gear, you’ll need to get an Ethiopia visa for tourism which you can do online. This saves a lot of time and hassle, and you should have your visa far sooner than applying via an embassy.
In terms of flights, there are a number of airlines who fly into Ethiopia, including Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines. You’ll need to first fly into Addis Ababa, before catching a connecting flight with Ethiopian Airlines to Gondar, the nearest airport to the park.
In terms of accommodation, Limalimo Lodge costs from US$150 per person per night, including meals and some drinks. This incredible lodge is perched on the edge of the escarpment, and is our favorite as it promotes sustainable tourism with minimal environmental impact, and provides new opportunities to the local community.
G Adventures offers tours around the country, including a trek through the Simien National Park, on the 10-day Discover Ethiopia journey, which starts from $2,949 USD.
Intrepid Travel offers a 13 day ‘Explore Ethiopia’ trip which tours the country and includes day hikes throughout the park.
Hiking in Simien Mountains National Park
One of the most important things to know about hiking in Simien Mountains National Park is that it is illegal to hike alone. You must have a guide and a licensed gunman with you at all times.
Ethiopia might have a reputation as a volatile country, but this practice is actually more of an effort to employ local people rather than to protect against any real danger.
That said, you’re not impeded as to the length of your hikes, and still have complete freedom to plan your days as you want. Hikes range from 2-14 days depending on your skill level, and how many hours you walk in a day.
Permits are required to hike in Simien Mountains National Park, and you can organize these from the Park Office in Debark. You can also get a range of travel information and hire an SMNP Scout.
You have a range of hiking trail choices while in the park. Most people base themselves at Simien Lodge and plan hikes from here. There are few signs in the path, but the popular trails are clearly well-trodden and easy to follow.
Sankaber is a popular camp in the park, where most multi day trekkers check into. Perched at 3,250m (10,660ft) above sea level, this is a great stopping point for getting yourself acclimatised.
The Best Time to Hike
The dry season in Ethiopia is the obvious time to hike, from October to March. If the rain doesn’t deter you, you can still hike in the wet season, and you’ll find that the landscapes and vegetation are most lush at this time of year.
The weather from June to August is still warm, but you’ll have afternoon showers each day; if you plan your hiking for the morning, you should be able to avoid the midday rain.
It does get incredibly cold at night in the National Park, even during summer, so it’s important to make sure you have adequate clothing and gear to stay warm.
Fully prepared? Next, read this post on Divergent Travelers about exactly what to expect when you’re out hiking!