Situated in northern Ethiopia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the late 1960s, the Simien Mountains National Park presents perhaps the most dramatic scenery in Africa.
Great volcanic plugs, formed some 40 million years ago and eroded over the aeons into fantastic crags, pinnacles and flat topped mountains, “the chess pieces of the Gods”, as one writer described them, tower over precipitous gorges, river valleys and plains stretching all the way to Eritrea.
There are many peaks over 4000 metres, and Ras Dashen at 4620 metres is the highest in the country and the fourth highest in Africa.
While trekking in the Simiens visitors can see the endemic Gelada or bleeding heart baboon, the Walia Ibex, Simien Wolf and rock hyrax, endemic birds such as the Thick-billed Raven, Black-headed Siskin, White-collared Pigeon, Wattled Ibis, White-billed Starling, Spot-breasted Plover and White-backed Black Tit, cruising Lammergeyer with their 3 meter wingspan and Afro – Alpine meadows carpeted with flowers and punctuated by the tall spiky kniphofia or “red hot pokers”.
You can go in for a day, or go the whole hog and climb Ras Dashen – it is not a technical climb and no special climbing ability is needed. Mules can carry you and your luggage for most of the way.
If you are interested in climbing Africa’s fourth highest mountain, Ras Dashen (4624 meters), you should allow eight days in and out. The Simien Mountains can easily be combined with a tour on the Historic Route.
Visitors with little time can fly from Addis Ababa to Gondar, some 100 km from the entrance to the park at Debark. For those who do not like camping, there is a comfortable lodge near Sankaber, which can be used as a base for exploring the park.