Trekking highlights in the Simien Mountains National Park

June 22, 2015

Trekking in the Simien Mountains National Park is hugely varied, covering high plateaus, steep cliffs, terraced farmland, warm lowland villages and the highest peak in Ethiopia - Ras Dejen (4,543m).

We may be biased, but some of the most beautiful and un-discovered walks can be done from Limalimo Lodge itself. There are beautiful day walks that can be done from the lodge, which will take you through rich and varied flora including African Juniper trees, olive trees and Ethiopian acacia trees. For bird lovers you can spot a wide range of birds from both the high plateaus and lowlands.

The escarpment cliffs and gorge sides you’ll pass are covered with cliff-hanging trees, thickets of clematis creepers, tree heather, red hot pokers, Abysinnian Rose and sweet smelling herbs. Walking around the lodge provides you with a different perspective to the Simien Mountains National Park, and for those who have been on a trek in the park before, and want to experience a route off the beaten track, we’d highly recommend this. A couple of routes we’ll be offering include:

  • Queen’s Resting Place: heading downhill from the lodge to a communal building named ‘Queen's Resting Place’, often used for wedding pictures. A hundred metres beyond this takes you to a wonderful viewing point over Limalimo Apo and beyond. A small waterfall flows over the cliff face during wet periods. This spot is so named, following a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950's.
  • Limalimo Abo: which continues beyond Queen's Resting Place and down the path of the escarpment to the lower village of Limalimo Abo. A short walk through the village takes you to a wonderful viewing point of the escarpments to one side, the lowlands in front and the pass and beyond to the left.

The complete Simien Mountain range is truly spectacular (this time we’re not biased…everyone agrees!) and anyone visiting Ethiopia with a love of hiking should try and fit in a trek of at least a few days. Outlined below are the main campsites in the National Park and our highlights on each of them…

Sankaber is likely the first campsite you’ll stop at. If you hiked the last part to get here, you will be feeling the altitude but the views over the escarpment are a great excuse to stop for a breather. The Gelada monkeys often spend time on the grassland areas around Sankabar, in groups of over 100 individuals, 'chatting' to each other whilst grazing. The campsite is at 3250 metres.

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Gich campsite, based at 3,600m, is just outside the village it’s named after. It’s on a high plateau meaning cold nights, and a short uphill hike takes you up to Kedadit – offering spectacular views over the lowlands with front row seats for sunset. Children walk by the site to collect water – a favourite memory is playing Frisbee with them until dark.

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Chennek campsite is the highest campsite of the Simiens at 3,926m, bring thermals and a warm sleeping bag! This is a great place to spot the Walia ibex and if you are lucky the Ethiopian Wolf. Tucked away behind a hillock on a mini plateau is a romantic spot with a bench, looking back to Imet Gogo and Inatye. There’s a ‘pub’ across the road from the site for well-deserved beers and a hand water pump for an ice cold wash for the brave!

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Ambiko is the base camp for the climb up Ras Dejen, Ethiopia's highest mountain. You approach the camp along a path following the Muzema valley scattered with farm dwellings. The camp is next to the church so you can watch the priests arrive in their white robes to their services. You'll be getting to bed early, ahead of starting your climb before dawn. When you come back at the end of the day you'll certainly have a great sense of achievement.

Sona: If you’re heading to the lowlands, either from Chennek or Ambiko, Sona will be the last camping spot on the high plateau. This is where the trekking becomes so much more special. You’ll likely be camping on your own at Sona either in the grounds of the school or perched on the edge of a cliff with the most beautiful sunset over the highlands. With no facilities, you’ll be wild camping…someone will appear with beers for sale though!

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Mekarebya campsite is again based in a small village, with plenty of children keen to play, or seek help with their English and Math homework. It is far warmer in the evenings as you clamber down to the lowlands at around 2,000m (that's considered low in this part of Ethiopia), so you can happily sit out late into the night when camping here and admire the incredible starry sky without getting too cold.

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Mulit is the final stop for lowland treks and is a close contender with Sona for our favourite spot. At the top of a steep ascent, you will be camping in the grounds of someone’s tukul. With donkeys, cows, goats and sheep for neighbours, this is a truly gorgeous spot to end a trek.

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To trek in the mountains, you must first stop in Debark at the National Park office to arrange your entry fee. You must have a scout and registered guide to go trekking in the park – most people arrange this before arriving, and Limalimo Lodge can help with recommending local guides.

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