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There are few more exciting ways to enjoy Ethiopia’s natural beauty and witness the isolated life in high mountain villages than trekking through one of Ethiopia’s many mountain ranges. Vast Ethiopia Tours offers trekking enthusiasts of all levels a wide variety of destinations as well as many options and modes of transport. Allow Vast to take care of the logistics, equipment and food for your visit to the spectacular Simien Mountains in the north or the equally stunning Bale Mountains in the south. And if you’re looking for a more genuine look into Ethiopian highland culture and customs, see our Unique Tours to the peaks of Abune Yosef and Mekdela.
The Simien Mountains, commonly known as the “Roof of Africa,” is home to the country’s highest peak: Ras Dashen (4620m) and at least another dozen 4000m plus peaks. It is often considered Ethiopia’s most impressive National Park. The steep mountains are also home to three endemic Ethiopian species, namely the Gelada Baboon, Walia Ibex wild goat and the Simien Fox. There are two major itineraries through the Simien Mountains. The first is a trekking route stopping at each of the three camps within the boundaries of the National Park, and the second is a trek that tackles the highest peak, Ras Dashen (4620m), located outside of the protected area. The first route ends at the Chenek Camp where the second route begins. Motivated and experienced trekkers can combine the two circuits for a ten day expedition. We can customize your trek to include camping equipment, cooks, mules and muleteers. Every group entering the National Park is required to carry a local scout. VAST can tailor your trekking itinerary to anywhere from 6 days to 10 days, depending on your time and desires.
Itinerary #1: Simien Park Trek Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous Day 1 Arrival in Addis Ababa. Day 2 Fly to Gonder, Drive to Debark and proceed in vehicle to Sankaber Camp (3250m). All day travel. Overnight Camping. Day 3 Trek from Sankaber Camp to Geech Camp (3600m). 5-7hours trekking through the Koba River valley and the Geech abyss. Early risers may have time to visit Imet Gogo peak (3925m) in the same day. Overnight Camping. Day 4 Trek from Geech Camp to Chenek Camp (3620m). 5-7 hour trekking under Simien peaks and high chances of seeing wildlife. Overnight Camping. Day 5 Drive from Chenek Camp back to Gonder, via Debark. Overnight Hotel. Day 6 Fly from Gonder back to Addis Ababa.
Itinerary #2: Ras Dashen Trek Difficulty: Strenuous Day 1 Arrival in Addis Ababa. Day 2 Fly to Gonder, Drive to Debark and proceed in vehicle to Chenek Camp (3620m). All day travel. Overnight Camping. Day 3 Trek from Chenek Camp to Ambiko Base Camp (3200m). This 8-9 hour hike is very strenuous and takes hikers first to 4200m over the Bahit Pass. The path then descends all the way to 2800m to the Mesheha River and climbs again to the Ambiko Base Camp. Overnight Camping. Day 4 Trek from Ambiko Base Camp (3200m) to Ras Dashen (4620m). This all-day trek passes by the village of Mizma before following an obvious ridge (road) that switchbacks to the top. After reaching the summit, return to Ambiko Base Camp. Overnight Camping. Day 5 Trek from Ambiko Base Camp (3200m) back to Chenek Camp where transportation will be waiting to drive back to Gonder, via Debark. Overnight Hotel. Day 6 Fly from Gonder back to Addis Ababa.
Over 60 mammal species and 260 bird species have been recorded in this region. As an area of natural beauty and ecological importance, visitors to the Bale Mountains will be treated to spectacular views, including old growth forests, alpine streams and waterfalls.And the Bale Mountains are different from the Simien Mountains in that hikers move across vast afro-montane landscapes that are very soft underfoot. Trails through the mountains cross wide juniper forests,heather moorlands and alpine meadows, which at different times of the year exhibit an abundance of flora and color. The Bale Mountains are also special thanks to a series of huts built by a German organization to increase eco-tourism and reduce the mountain dweller’s dependence on forestry. The hike through the mountains provides visitors the chance to see how the local Oromia people live without having to carry tents and kitchen supplies. Each hut is completely equipped with beds and a full kitchen. You and your group will follow a local guide through valleys and highland plateaus either on foot or by horseback. Every village that has a hut benefits directly from tourism and provides hikers with a friendly and peaceful atmosphere. The full circuit of trails can be done in five nights/six days, but due to the proximity of the huts, hikers can choose to visit as many huts as they can. Below VAST has provided a sample itinerary.
Combining a visit to the historic Lalibela rock-hewn churches with trekking in the highlands is the perfect way to experience Ethiopia’s rich history as well as its natural beauty. Lalibela is usually billed as Ethiopia’s number one tourist attraction not to mention holy shrine to which thousands of Orthodox pilgrims flock every year on January 7th. We believe the contrast of visiting the churches that attract people from all around the world with visiting a mountain that very few people visit gives the adventurer the best of both worlds.
After spending three days in Lalibela visiting the amazing rock-hewn churches that have converted Lalibela into the holy land for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, we start our 3-day trek to Abune Yosef (4300m), Ethiopia’s third highest massif. After a 6-7 hour first day and stunning panoramas of arid escarpments and basalt towers, we arrive at the village of Tigu Kebele (3700m), the base camp for attacking Abune Yosef. We will spend two nights in the highland village, eating our meals and meeting local families. The summit day we will wake up and get an early start to increase our chances of seeing the simien fox, an endemic species rarely seen in Ethiopia. It is not uncommon to run into the endemic gelada baboon and see lammergeyers circling around the peak. The third day, we return to Lalibela the same way we came, with a new respect for this high-altitude rugged outpost of spirituality.
The overnight trekking experience to Mekdela gives tourists the opportunity to step over a century back in time to relive one of Ethiopia’s most incredible chapters of history. Not to mention, a very off-the-beaten track excursion where you and your group will be the only foreigners for three days.
Emperor Tewodros II (reign1855-1868) is often considered Ethiopia’s most admired national hero. Mekdela was the third of Tewodros’ capitals during his mandate as well as the site of his dramatic undoing and ultimate suicide. After uniting much of Northern Ethiopia and winning much respect, his empire slowly deteriorated. To fend against his enemies he sought the help of the British and even took British hostages to get the Queen’s attention. This finally led to a massive British invasion of 30,000 troops and the decimation of his army, not to mention the end of his rule. Mekdela was Tewodros’ impenetrable rock but ended up being his tomb.
After visiting the highland town of Dessie, we spend three days hiking to and from Mekdela, spending two nights camping under the starry skies on Mekdela mountain, isolated in the Ethiopian highlands. This is a moderate hike that follows a nice foot path17 kilometers to the mountain stronghold. We spend the night with the Mekdela tourism association the next day visit not only Tewodros’ gravesite, but also the 10-ton cannon he ordered his hostages to build, known as Sevastopol. The third day of the trek, we hike back to the car and drive back to Dessie.
The next part of the tour depends on the day of the week. The city of Bati, lies a few hundred kilometers east of Dessie and is the first major city in the desolate region of Afar. Thus, Bati acts as a meeting point for highlanders from Wollo and salt traders from Afar. On the drive back to Dessie, make a stop at an old growth forest to see the biggest tree in all of Ethiopia.
Total number of days hiking: 3 days
Trek difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Chances of seeing other tourists visiting Mekdela: Arround 3%