Trekking in The Simien Mountains (also Semien) in the North of Ethiopia is a spectacular experience.Their absolute beauty earned them to be named a Unesco World Heritage Site. They are big dramatic looking mountains that are the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago.
Exploring the park you see the amazing mountains, cliffs, really long waterfalls, the different vegetation at different altitudes. One of the main attractions of the National Park are the Gelada Baboons (that aren’t technically baboons)that you see in abundance and they are beautiful. There are also other some endemic species such as the walia ibex, caracal and the Ethiopian wolf.
How to get there?
You can either get there easily from Gondar (2 hours by car to the Mountains), which I definitely recommend visiting as well. It is a beautiful town west of the mountains that is referred to as the ‘Camelot of Africa’ for being home to beautiful castles and ancient churches.
Besides Gondar, the closest town to the Mountains is actually a town called Debark, which is smaller and unimpressive. The only reason you’d spend a night or more than a few hours in Debark would be to arrange or begin/end a trek to the mountains (from what I saw).
When to Go to the Simien Mountains
The dry season (October – February), is when the weather is its most pleasant, however the vegetation must look stunning during or right after the rainy season.
What to pack?
In General (Below are specifics with examples)
-Sleeping bag (check with the company you are doing your trek with if this is included, usually not)
-Sleeping matt (layer to put your sleeping bag on)(check with the company you are doing your trek with if this is included, usually it is not).
-Comfortable shoes. You don’t need to have hiking boots except for the day of trying to reach the summit as that is the only day you will encounter snow and will want waterproof shoes. Like these: https://amzn.to/2WHN1pV
-Another pair of shoes other than what you’ll hike in.
-Clothing for cold weather (at night and at the top when its coldest).
Keep in mind that you should have at least 4 layers for your upper body.
Water/windproof shell, Warm fleece/jacket, fleece, thermals.
You should have 3 layers for your legs. get to the top of Africa!
Specifically (examples of the gear from Amazon)
-Waterproof outer shell, like these: https://amzn.to/2yGNtwH
-Fleece or warm/puffy jacket, like these: https://amzn.to/3fvSKYF -Water/windproof pants, like these: https://amzn.to/2LdoLH4
-Hiking pants (preferably with zipper to convert to shorts when warm during day), like these: https://amzn.to/3fy02Lz
-Winter Gloves, preferably waterproof, like these: https://amzn.to/3beGCIk
-WinterHat, like these: https://amzn.to/3beGCIk
-Socks. At least 3 pairs. Smart wool is pretty cool. Like these: https://amzn.to/2WEE0Or
-Headtorch/flashlight, like this one: https://amzn.to/2WhrQMM
-Sunglasses (I recommend Polarized), like these: https://amzn.to/2zjzq0j
-Chapstick preferably with SPF sun protection (sun can be strong, especially on summit day)
-Camera or phone for pictures. I recommend compact mirrorless cameras like these: https://amzn.to/35NBbz0
-Powerbank for electronics you will want to charge (to charge things on the mountain is like $5usd per charge if you are given the option). Like these: https://amzn.to/2YMY3NB
–FOR GUYS: Bring a 1 Liter plastic bottle to pee in at night, trust me you’ll want this to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night to go pee outside (I was recommended this and it was such a good idea).
Make sure you take it off the mountain with you and dispose of.
-Warm clothes for the night (Even though you get tents and sleeping bags, I found myself wearing clothes and a winter hat at night with how much the temperature dropped).
-Toilet paper (for either out in nature or at the bathrooms that normally don’t have paper)
-Proper hiking shoes or comfortable sneakers
Who to arrange a trek/visit to the park with?
While you can book before getting to Ethiopia (I don’t usually recommend this as these prices tend to higher than the ones when you get there and negotiate), you can also arrange your tour in Addis Ababa, Gondar or Debark.
While you can do this trek independently without a tour, you still have to pay park entree fees and you are obligated to have a scout (armed man, not needed, but it creates local jobs) and would have to take and carry your own food, tent, supplies, etc.
This will depend on how many people you are doing your trek with (clearly the more people, lower prices) and on the quality of the company and service you will get.
Asking around it seemed like a 5 day trek costs around $380 USD.
I did my 5 day trek with Trek Ethiopia Travel & Tours and the quality of everything was exceptional, from the coordination of the trek, to the vehicles (new and comfortable), tents, sleeping bags, guide, food (delicious and abundant) and the team are extremely friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. I would definitely recommend them!