If you bring up mental images of Ethiopia, I doubt the first thing to come up would be stunning mountain landscapes, abundant wildlife, and sub-zero temperatures... which is fair enough, as it's so far off the beaten path that I don't think many people even realize how much Ethiopia has to offer to adventurous travellers. In reality, Ethiopia is a very unique country with incredible diversity spanning its borders. I have to admit, when I first decided to start my trip to East Africa with a couple of weeks in Ethiopia, I had no idea what to see or do... I just wanted to see the place where humans evolved. But, as I surfed the web in search of inspo, I soon came across the Simien Mountains National Park, and knew a trek was the perfect way to start off what was to be my biggest adventure yet. I was 100% right.
Spending 4 days hiking through the mountains of Northern Ethiopia was beautiful, challenging, exciting and rewarding in so many ways. I really think it deserves to rank high on any avid traveling trekker's bucket list, so I wanted to share with you the details of my trip, including how to organize it + prepare, what to expect (both good and bad), and some more practical info... plus lots of photos, of course. Keep on reading to find out all about this (very huge) hidden gem.
I wanted to have my trek organized ahead of time, since I was visiting Ethiopia at the beginning of a trip which also included a road trip through Uganda and Rwanda, and a horseback safari in Kenya, so I was on a bit of a restricted schedule, time-wise, and wanted to be sure to maximize my adventure time. I contacted Ethio Travel and Tours a popular choice among travellers, and they were friendly and very helpful. We put together a 9-day itinerary that included my 4 day trek through the Simiens, plus a 4 day trip to the Danakil Depression (more on that in a separate blog post). Maria at ETT arranged everything for me for what I thought was a very reasonable rate: $1160USD for 9 days/ 8 nights, including both of the tours, three domestic flights, two nights in hotels, all my overland transport, permits and park fees, meals and water on the tours, guides, etc.. The cost of the 4 day Simien trip itself was $250 of that total amount. I'm happy to have booked with ETT, because it was a huge help to have everything pre-booked, and the whole 9 day trip went according to plan.
Having said that, once on the trek, I realized that the Simien Mountains portion of my trip was not actually led by ETT staff. ETT simply acts as a booking agent, and arranged everything on my behalf. My (amazing) guide and scout were employed by the Simien Mountains National Park, not ETT, and were paid a very small percentage of the amount I paid ETT. Of course, some of that money also went to my food, park fees, etc... but I want you to know that it's totally possible to organize the trip yourself, without the help of a booking agent. You can simply make your way to Gondar (the town closest to the Simien Park headquarters), then get a driver to take you to the park where you can hire your (mandatory) guide and scout, rent your equipment and supplies, grab your cooks, and bust a move. If you're on a tight budget, a loose schedule, or just feeling particularly independent, I would recommend you just DIY your trek, and avoid giving a big company lots of money who will then give your (extremely hardworking) guides/scouts/cooks only a little bit of money. If you're not quite up for that, then give a shout to my amazing guide Tefera Biweta. He was exceptional, and can help you book everything himself, saving you cash and earning him a better living, while still having the benefit of arranging things in advance. His English is solid, he's an honest and genuine person, and I'm so glad to have had him as my guide! Regardless of how you arrange your trek, I highly recommend you request him as your guide.
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