The Simien Mountains - A view from our expert author

Wolves Simien Mountains Ethiopia by Africa Image LibraryThe Simien Mountains support a range of wildlife, including rare Ethiopian wolves © Ariadne Van Zadnbergen, Africa Image Library

Situated about 100km north of Gondar to the east side of the Axum road, the Simien Mountains are one of Africa’s largest ranges, studded with at least a dozen peaks topping the 4,000m mark. These include Ras Dejen (also spelt Ras Dashen), the highest point in Ethiopia and possibly the fourth-highest peak in Africa. The western side of the range, excluding Ras Dejen, was designated as the Simien Mountains National Park in 1969, and the entire range was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

A single dirt road runs through the park, branching eastward from Debark, and then passing through Sankaber and Chennek camps en route to the Bwahit Pass, where it branches southward to terminate some 10km outside of the park boundary at the small town of Mekane Birhan. This road is open to tourist vehicles, and it provides the opportunity to see most of the park’s key habitats in a short space of time (even as a day trip from Gondar), as well as offering almost certain sightings of gelada. At the time of writing a new road was being planned running from Sawre (the park gate) to Janamora, which will bypass the main escarpment and ease traffic on the escarpment road.

A less efficient but more satisfactory way to explore the Simiens is on foot or by mule, following an extensive network of tracks used by local people to travel between the villages on the lower slopes or to reach the high pastures for grazing animals. These tracks are ideal walking routes and, combined with the range’s impressive scenery, make the Simiens an excellent area for trekking. Most trekking routes take you through small villages and terraced fields in the lower valleys, before reaching a series of dramatic cliffs and escarpments. Beyond the escarpments you reach the beautiful alpine meadows and the rugged wilderness of the high peak areas.

(Entrance US$5.50 pp per day, US$1.50/2.50 for up to/greater than 12-seat vehicle; US$5 mandatory scout)

Expanded from text originally written by David Else and Ariadne Van Zandbergen.

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