Ethiopia Hiking in the Simien Mountains

Simien Mountains National Park © Judith Duk

Forming part of one of the major mountain ranges in Africa, the Simien Mountains rise to their highest point in Ethiopia at Mount Ras Dashen (15,157ft/4,620m). The range boasts several other peaks above 13,123ft (4,000m). The Simien Mountains National Park is known for its dramatic landscapes and spectacular scenery comprising deep canyons, escarpments, dizzying precipices, and jagged spires and pinnacles formed by millions of years of erosion. There are a variety of trekking options, ranging from one-day hikes to treks lasting 10 days; most routes will pass through the small villages and cultivated fields dotted about the lower valleys before reaching the plateaux and high altitude areas, from which point the views are breath-taking.

The park is home to a variety of rare endemic wildlife, including the walia ibex (a type of mountain goat), the Simien fox, and troops of red-chested gelada baboons that live in the cliffs. The gelada baboons are highly entertaining and surprisingly unbothered by humans, peacefully grazing alongside watching travellers. Large birds of prey, such as the lammergeyer, can also be seen.

The small town of Debark is a good base for hiking into the Simien Mountains, and the National Park Office is the place to organise guided treks. All visitors must be accompanied by an official armed ranger due to the lawless nature of some areas of the Simien range following years of civil war. Apart from organising the obligatory escort, travellers should bear in mind that the high altitude in the Simien range can be a challenge.