Simien Mountains

Not only will you have about awe-inspiring views, the Simien mountains is also home to vast groups of endemic gelada primates as well as elusive leopard, hyena and the endemic Walia ibex.

Overview

The Simien Mountain National Park lies an easy three hour drive north of Gondar. This park protects some of the most stunning mountain countryside in Africa. If you love mountain scenery, then the jagged Simien mountains should definitely be on your bucket list. Their beauty is brought into particularly sharp relief by the vertiginous river gorges.

But the Simien Mountain National Park is not only about glorious countryside. It is also home to vast groups of the endemic gelada primates which are fascinating to watch. Other wildlife include the elusive leopard as well as hyena, ibex and Ethiopian wolf. Furthermore the jagged cliffs are perhaps the best place in the world to see the spectacular lammergeyer.

Walking in the Simien Mountains National Park

These mountains offer fantastic walking and hiking. Choose between easy hikes along the edge of the plateau, to full day excursions, to multi-day trekking and camping trips to explore deeper into the park.

On even a short walk, you are guaranteed to see the gelada, usually in vast numbers. They are charmingly unfazed by your presence. So you can watch their elaborate grooming and mating rituals from close range – fantastic for keen photographers.

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Gloria Darvall

Africa Travel Specialist
Our experienced band of Safari Planners can create a bespoke plan for you. More enriching, more restorative and making more of a difference. Discover how working with a specialist adds value to your African adventure.

Features

Why you may love it

  • One of Ethiopia’s eight World Heritage Sites.
  • Awe-inspiring mountain scenery stretching as far as the eye can see.
  • See the unique gelada baboons, endemic to the Simien mountains.
  • Superb walking from short walks, to full day hikes to multi-day trekking.

Explore the Simien Mountains map

When to visit Simien Mountains

November to March

Best time for trekking

The Simien Mountains have a unique climate in Ethiopia, dictated by its high altitude. Though the temperatures don’t change that much during the year, there is a huge difference between daytime and night-time temperatures. It’s usually sunny and fairly warm during the day. This ranges from 11 to 18C depending on the winds. But then the temperatures plummet at night down to -2C to -10C so warm clothing is appreciated. The days and sunny and relatively warm and the night skies are filled with stars. This is certainly the best time for trekking. A short rainy season occurs somewhere in February to March when it may rain at some point during the day.
AVG RAINFALL 22 mm
MAX TEMP 19 ℃ / 65 ℉
MIN TEMP 3 ℃ / 37 ℉

April to May

Shoulder season

This is a more variable time of year with the possibility of some rain. But it’s still a good time to visit as the rain tends to fall in the afternoons.
AVG RAINFALL 90 mm
MAX TEMP 21 ℃ / 70 ℉
MIN TEMP 6 ℃ / 43 ℉

June to September

Rainy season

This is the rainy season in the Simien Mountains and approx. 75% of its annual rainfall of 1550mm falls during this time. So it rains most days during this time. Naturally, it’s not the best time to visit.
AVG RAINFALL 291 mm
MAX TEMP 16 ℃ / 61 ℉
MIN TEMP 6 ℃ / 43 ℉

October

Green and great for hiking

The rain starts to depart in October and so this is a transitional time with a small chance of rain in the afternoons. However, this is a great time to visit as the mountains are particularly green.
AVG RAINFALL 69 mm
MAX TEMP 18 ℃ / 64 ℉
MIN TEMP 4.5 ℃ / 40 ℉

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Recce to Ethiopia

Back in August, Ian and I managed a long-anticipated recce trip to Ethiopia. It did not disappoint. It's the mysterious, exotic destination of my imagination and really does feel as though you are stepping back to the 12th century at times.

My Trip Report is in two parts: Plus Points and Moot Points. Read on for the Plus Points!

 

  • Ethiopia is full of characteristic sensory stimuli such as the scent of incense, the taste of rich coffee, the other-worldly atonal chanting and the colours of the natural landscape and the ubiquitous swathes of shawls.
  • The breadth and depth of its history and culture plus the extent to which the casual visitor can connect easily with this legacy is mind-boggling. Ethiopia is not just the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, home of our 3.2 million-year-old earliest ancestor, ‘Lucy’. It’s also the home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the oldest forms of Christianity, with ancient churches decorated with enchanting, vividly coloured frescos or hewn from solid rock as if with heavenly assistance. The last emperor, the world-famous Haile Selassie (or Ras Tefari Mekonnen) claimed a lineage reaching back to the union of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. But this is not the most audacious of Ethiopia’s assertions, for the devout believe that the Ark of the Covenant is secreted in the ancient city of Axum in a Holy of Holies that only one man alive may see.
  • The rock churches of Lalibela had been a major ‘bucket list’ item for all four seasoned travellers (and hugely spoiled and lucky travel professionals) who went on the northern ‘historical’ tour and it exceeded all our expectations.
  • Though it was a gruelling travelling schedule (because we are diligent - as well as hugely spoiled and lucky travel professionals) , I feel that is was so different and so thought-provoking that I didn’t feel shattered on my return and I would willingly return to Ethiopia to visit certain places that we missed.
  • Beautiful, interesting scenery. Lots of farms, villages and people going about their business to keep your attention on drives. And everyone (except in the tribal villages in the far south) is so industrious and busy; it is like a Breughel painting come to life.
  • Ethiopians are a really open and friendly people, many of whom speak English as it is taught in school from the age of 7. We didn’t get to test how it would feel to walk about alone and you would probably get huge hassle from kids wanting pens etc. but I don’t think it would be a security risk.
  • The coffee is, of course, very good and local beer and even local red wine (made in the Northern reaches of the Rift Valley) is pretty palatable and inexpensive.
  • The ancient churches, palaces and monasteries are fascinating and utterly unspoiled by gift shops or visitor centres. To visit them now seems as though it is little different from when they were first ‘discovered’ by earlier western explorers and 18th century tourists.
  • The country feels very peaceful and the two main religious groups (70% Christian and 30% Muslim) live alongside each other harmoniously, as we understand it.
  • Ethiopian Airways is surprisingly pleasant with a modern fleet. Domestic flights are cheaper for those flying internationally with the state carrier, which is worth taking advantage of.
  • We absolutely loved our guide, Melkamu, and we thought that our two drivers provided by our local handling agent, Dinknesh, whom we had for the 10 days in 4x4s in the south, were excellent.
Cedarberg : Ginny Russell
 
Did you know
  • GeographyEthiopia is the second most populous country in Africa.
  • PeopleOnly one in five Ethiopians live in urban areas.