Northern Ethiopia and Simiens Trekking (by flight) - 12 Day Tour » Venture Ethiopia - Tours and Travel

Northern Ethiopia and Simiens Trekking (by flight) - 12 Day Tour

  • See the spectacular "Smoking Water" of the Blue Nile Falls
  • Take a boat trip to the famous island monasteries of Lake Tana
  • Admire the medieval castles of Gondar, described as Ethiopia's "Camelot"
  • Superb walking in the Simien Mountains National Park
  • Spot endemic Gelada baboons and other wildlife
  • Trek to the summit of Ras Dashen (4543m), Ethiopia`s highest peak
  • Visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, carved over 800 years ago
  • 6 nights camping, 5 nights hotels
  • 5.5 days trekking, 6.5 days sightseeing

Northern Ethiopia boasts a wealth of both natural and historical treasures. This tour starts with a trip to Bahir Dar, where you'll visit the Blue Nile Falls and take a cruise on Lake Tana.  From Bahir Dar, the tour continues Gondar, where you can explore the Royal Enclosure, and the ruined fairy-tale castles which have earned it the name 'African Camelot'.  Heading north-east, you'll then visit the Simien Mountains National Park, famous for far-reaching views and rare wildlife species.  The Simien Mountains National Park, designated as a UNESCO world heritage site, contains many summits over 4000m and is known for its stunning scenery.  Erosion of basalt lavas has created the dramatic escarpments and freestanding pinnacles that are characteristic of the Simien Mountains range and which are comparable in terms of spectacle to the Grand Canyon.  Five and a half days of trekking will take you through a scenic land of natural wonders and rare wildlife, including the Ethiopian wolf, the strikingly-maned Gelada baboon and the majestic lammergeier or bearded vulture. Trekking through several villages, notable for their carefully tended farmland and friendly people, the walk reaches its climax at the summit of Ras Deshen (4543m), where the views extend northwards to Eritrea.  Finally, you will take a trip to Lalibela.  Here, you can explore the complex of 12th century rock hewn churches, described as "the eighth wonder of the World".

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Day 1 starts with a half-day city tour of Addis Ababa, including its museums, churches and the Mercato, reputedly the largest market in Africa.

Day 2: Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar

In the morning, you will take a flight from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar.  From Bahir Dar, you'll take a boat cruise on Lake Tana, stopping to explore some of the island churches and monasteries containing relics and frescos dating from the 16th century.  In the afternoon, you'll take a trip to the Blue Nile Falls at Tisisat, meaning "smoking water" in Amharic. The spectacular falls are 100m wide and plunge 45m, sending spray high in the air.  A short walk and a trip across a 17th century bridge gives a great close-up view of the falls.  

Day 3: Bahir Dar to Gondar

From Bahir Dar, it's about a 3 hour drive to Gondar, after which you'll take a sightseeing tour of the city.   Gondar is a historic settlement with an atmosphere of mystery and there are views from the city which extend across the surrounding farmland back to Lake Tana.  Founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, Gondar has become one of Ethiopia's largest and most impressive cities.  It is most famed for its walled Royal Enclosure which contains several well-preserved and very medieval-looking castles, dating from as early as 1650. The castles are unusual for the Horn Of Africa, deriving their architectural style from the Moors and the Portuguese. Additionally, Gondar has dozens of churches, the most important being Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity Church of the Mountain of Light), which has an impressive hilltop location. The priest there will explain the story of the many paintings and carvings inside the church.

Day 4: Gondar to Sankaber, via Debark

In the morning, you will take the scenic 2 to 3-hour drive from Gondar to Debark, where you’ll stop for lunch. Debark is a small market town at an altitude of 2700m, close to the boundary of the Simien Mountains National Park. Before entering the park, you’ll have to be registered at the park headquarters just outside town. Here you’ll be joined by a park guide and armed scout – one of the park regulations. You’ll then complete the drive into the National Park, passing through the foothills of the Simien Mountains. The trek starts gently with a 2-3 hour walk in the afternoon. There are superb views across the foothills of the range and you may also be lucky enough to spot your first lammergeiers and gelada baboons of the trip. Your walk will end at Sankaber, where you’ll camp for the night.

Day 5. Trek to Geech

Your first full day of trekking. You’ll meet the muleteers and the trek equipment will be loaded onto their mules. Starting out, you’ll descend in to the Michwahtis Valley and begin the climb up the other side, making a short diversion to see the impressive sight of the Jinbar River plummeting into the Geech Abyss. There is a good trail and after a couple of kilometres, you’ll cross the Jinbar River and then ascend to reach Geech Village (3600m), a cluster of traditional thatched-roofed huts. There may be time to stop off at one of the village houses to enjoy the traditional Ethiopian serving of coffee, known as the 'Coffee Ceremony'. The camping place is just above the village. In the evening, the viewpoint at Kadadit (hole in the rock), 20 minutes away to the north, is an excellent place from which to watch the sunset.

Walk distance approx 11km, 900m ascent, 550m descent, 7-8 hours walking

Day 6. Along the escarpment to Chenek

Your route will take you along the edge of the escarpment.  At all times, the cliff edge is close on the left-hand side and there are ever-changing views and glimpses of the valley below, often through narrow clefts between spurs. The high point of the walk is at Inatye (4070m) and you’ll continue across tussocky moorland to the camping place at Chenek, which is bounded by a semicircular ring of cliffs. The Chenek campsite offers superb views across to the opposite escarpment.

Walk distance approx 13km, 750m ascent, 700m descent, 6-7 hours walking

Day 7. To Ambiquo at the foot of Ras Dashen

To reach the village of Ambiquo at the foot of Ras Dashen, you must initially climb up above the camp towards Amba Bwahit (4477m), the second highest mountain in the range. After 1½ hours, you’ll reach a rocky ridge and a viewpoint which looks across the vast valley of the Meshawa River. You may be lucky enough to spot the Walia Ibex here. You’ll also get your first sighting of Ras Dashen, the highest point in a wall of cliffs and peaks on the skyline at the far side of the valley. You then take a well-trodden path down into the farmland of the valley. After passing through the village of Chiro Leba and crossing the Meshawa River, you’ll ascend steeply to the village of Ambiquo (3200m) where you’ll camp for the night. With over 1000 metres of descent, followed by another 500 metres of ascent to Ambiquo, today will be a long day.

Walk distance approx 16km, 1100m ascent, 1600m descent, 8 hours walking

Day 8. Ras Dashen

Today's ascent to the highest point in Ethiopia, the summit of Ras Dashen, requires a dawn start. You’ll climb slowly and steadily through giant lobelia forests, passing the tiny, perched village of Mizma and gaining an area of open pasture where there are herds of cattle and goats with their attendant herdsmen. The triple-summited bulk of Ras Deshen looms above and it is far from obvious which of these is the highest. Finally, after 7 to 8 hours of ascent, you’ll reach steeper, rocky ground and make the short and easy scramble to the cairned summit. You’ll then take a rest on top to enjoy the views which, in clear weather, extend to Eritrea. A 3 hour descent takes you back to the campsite in Ambiquo.

Walk distance approx 23km, 1600m ascent, 1600m descent, 10-11 hours walking

Day 9. Return to Chenek

Today you’ll return to Chenek, back through the village of Chiro Leba. The camp site at Chenek is at the end of the Gondar-Sanakaber road and here you’ll say goodbye to the muleteers and most of the trek crew. This is another tough day with a considerable amount of ascent and descent (over 1500m). You will overnight at the campsite at Chenek, where you have one last chance to see lammergeier, gelada baboon and walia ibex.

Walk distance approx 16.5km, 1600m ascent, 1000m descent, 8 hours walking

Day 10. Drive to Gondar

From Chenek it is a scenic drive out of the Simien Mountains back to Gondar.

Day 11. Gondar to Lalibela

From Gondar, you will take a flight to Lalibela. Here, you can explore the complex of 12th century rock hewn churches, described as "the eighth wonder of the World".

Day 12. Lalibela to Addis Ababa 

A flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa completes the circuit. The tour ends with dinner at a cultural restaurant in Addis Ababa, where you can sample local dishes and watch energetic traditional dances from across the country.

Important: The above day-to-day schedule should be taken only as a general guide. It is not possible to guarantee that the trip will run exactly according to the proposed itinerary. A variety of factors, including adverse weather conditions, political instability, or difficulties with transportation, can lead to enforced changes. If, during your holiday, the itinerary is affected by immediate or local circumstances, the leader will make any changes that are necessary.

Services Included

  • An experienced professional English-speaking local guide

  • All meals from lunch on day 1 to dinner on day 12

  • All land transport involved in the itinerary

  • Full trek crew including cooks, scouts, muleteers and mules (for baggage transport)

Services Not Included

  • International or internal flights
  • Travel Insurance

  • Ethiopian Visa

  • Tips for staff

  • Miscellaneous expenses – alcoholic drinks, souvenirs etc.


How difficult is the trek?

This trip involves straightforward trekking on good trails which are the paths used by local people as they travel between their villages. As you head west to east on the high escarpment of the Simien Mountains, there are several longer days of up to 8 hours trekking that include a considerable amount of ascent and/or descent (over 1500m). The ascent of Ras Deshen provides a challenge, particularly because of its reasonably high altitude, and the walking day here will be 10 to 12 hours long. The upper part of the climb includes one short section of easy scrambling. You will need to ensure you are physically prepared for the trek. You should be comfortable with walking on good trails but with some steep ascents and descents for typically 5 or 6 hours each day (or more) for several days continuously. Trekking at altitudes above 3000 m does make greater demands on the body than similar terrain at lower elevations, and even fit and active hikers may find this quite challenging.



Food on trek is prepared by trained cooks.  This includes a requirement by the National Park authority for all cooks to be trained in food hygiene standards. Breakfasts typically consist of bread and jam, porridge, omelette or pancakes, with tea and excellent Ethiopian coffee. Lunch is usually a packed lunch of sandwiches (cheese, egg or ham) and fresh fruit. Dinner consists of soup followed by pasta, rice or potatoes with vegetables or meat, and a tasty sauce.  We think you'll be impressed by the range of foods our chefs can prepare on a camp stove and open fire!


A Typical Trekking Day

A typical day starts with an early morning cup of tea or coffee served in your tent at around 6.30 am. After breakfast, during which camp will be struck and the mules given their loads, you’ll start walking in the pleasant cool of the morning. During the day, you are free to walk at your own pace and to take as many photographs as you wish.  After 3 to 4 hours walking, you’ll stop for a picnic lunch.  We aim to reach the next overnight camp by mid-afternoon. Shortly after arrival in camp, tea and biscuits are provided while the cooks busy themselves to prepare the evening meal. Dinner is a substantial meal served in the mess tent.  After dark, the temperature quickly falls and everyone gathers around the campfire.  Ethiopians have a strong oral tradition and they love to share stories, riddles and jokes.  Eventually, everybody retires to their tents for a well-earned rest.



The Simien Mountains have a wet season from June to September and a dry season for the rest of the year. Following the wet season, the countryside is lush and green, with lots of flowers and growing crops. Thereafter, the landscape dries out progressively until the next rains. The climate of the Simien Mountains has been likened to the perfect English summer day. At altitudes of around 3000m and above, you can expect temperatures of around 15°C to 20°C, falling close to freezing point at night and with frosty mornings a possibility. There may even be a dusting of snow on Ras Dashen.  As you descend to the lowlands, you will find daytime temperatures of 25°C to 35°C.



This trip involves going to high altitude. During the course of your trip, you will reach altitudes in excess of 4500 metres. Most people do not experience any adverse effects, other than finding walking a little harder work than usual, but it is important that you follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully, and that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness.  See for more information.

 Upcoming tour dates:

  • If you are interested in this tour, we can arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.



The cost of this itinerary depends on your group size.

A tour for 1 person costs 197,814 ETB (3,661 USD / 3,369 EUR / 2,957 GBP).

A tour for 2 people costs 113,149 ETB (2,094 USD / 1,927 EUR / 1,691GBP) per person.

A tour for 3 or more people costs 84,928 ETB (1,572 USD / 1,447 EUR / 1,269 GBP) per person.


Please see the further details tab for information about services included.

A deposit is required upon booking.  For more details, please see our FAQ page, or read our full terms and conditions.