Highlands of Ethiopia

Highlands of Ethiopia information and booking

  • Duration
    17 days
  • Group size
  • Difficulty
    Moderate - Challenging
Check prices & availability

Schedule Details

  • 17 day trip
  • 10 day trek
  • 7 nights hotels
  • 9 nights camping
Equipment Required
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).


  • Exploring Addis Ababa
  • Boat trip on Lake Tana to the island monastery Ura Kidane Mehret
  • Visit Blue Nile Falls
  • Royal Enclosure in Gondar
  • Trekking the spectacular Simien Mountain escarpments
  • The views from the summit of Ras Dashen
  • Monolithic churches of Lalibela
  • Ancient obelisks of Axum

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

Ethiopia has a fascinating history and is home to many unknown treasures and dramatic landscapes. The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia offer superb wilderness trekking with stunning scenery, enormous cliffs and escarpments and the chance to spot unique wildlife such as the Walia Ibex and Gelada Baboon. On our specially designed itinerary we steadily ascend the escarpment trails to the upper flanks of the Simien Mountains. Establishing our campsites on the volcanic plateau our sense of isolation is complete. The thin cool air is punctuated with the calls of rare wildlife, while below the forested gorges merge with the undulating farming lands that stretch across the vast catchment of the Blue Nile. We combine this exceptional trek with a journey across a land dotted with rock-hewn churches, medieval castles and ancient obelisks reflecting a culture dating back more than 3000 years.

What's included

  • 16 breakfasts, 15 lunches and 16 dinners
  • 3 to 4 star hotel in addis, best available elsewhere
  • All group camping equipment including two person tent, mattress and pillow (sleeping bag not included)
  • Kit bag for trek section
  • Experienced english speaking local guides for each section
  • Western escort to assist local guides
  • Cook, camp assistants, mules and muleteers on trek
  • Boat trip on lake tana
  • Site entrance and national park fees


Day 1 Arrive Addis Ababa (2400m)
On arrival in Addis Ababa please make your own way to the group hotel. Depending on your arrival time, the remainder of the day is free to explore the city's many wide tree-lined streets. Throughout the city there are shops that sell typical artisan wares, materials and antiques. Addis Ababa is one of Africa's fastest growing cities and the fifth highest capital in the world; the altitude may fatigue you easily... so take it easy today. Another point to note is that, being relatively close to the equator, there are almost twelve hours of constant daylight no matter what time of year you visit. Overnight hotel.
Day 2 In Addis Ababa, city tour
After breakfast we have a full-day city tour, which departs at 9:00am from the hotel. We take time to explore the city and lunch out is included. We will visit the National Museum (home of the remains of the famous hominid fossil, "Lucy") and the Ethnological Museum at the Addis Ababa University (housed in the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie). We will also witness the bustle of the “Mercato” (market). This colourful market has an array of fascinating goods and curios, providing a great place for exploration and people watching. Overnight in hotel.
Day 3 Fly to Bahir Dar (1830m), visit Lake Tana monastery and Blue Nile Falls
We depart around 7:00am on the first flight of the day from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar with Ethiopian Airlines (schedules subject to change). On arrival we take a boat trip on Lake Tana - Ethiopia's largest lake, covering 3673 square kms and the source of the famous Blue Nile River. Many of the small islands scattered across this lake shelter monastic churches, some founded as early as the 14th Century. The walls of several of these churches are ornately decorated with stunning mural paintings. We will visit the most beautiful of these, the monastery of Ura Kidane Mehret on the Zeghie peninsula. In the afternoon, we will visit the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tissisat ("Water That Smokes"). One of Africa's most spectacular waterfalls, the river plunges over a sheer chasm more than 45 meters in height and is 400 metres wide when in flood. (Please note, the sequence of events today may be reversed, depending on availability of the boat.) Overnight hotel.
Day 4 Drive to Gondar (2120m)
Another early start for the 185 km drive (approx 3 hours) to Gondar, the capital of Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Gondar is still one of Ethiopia's most impressive cities, with its walled Royal Palace Enclosure (listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage monument). This enclosure lies at Gondar's centre and contains several well preserved castles and other buildings. We take time this afternoon to tour these castles and churches, including the Royal Palace Enclosure, Emperor Fasilidas' Bath and the beautiful church of Gebre Birhan Selassie, immersing ourselves in the history of this old capital. We will meet our trek leader this evening and also pack our kit bags for the trek. Overnight hotel.
Day 5 Drive to Debark, commence trek to Sankabar camp (3200m)
This morning we drive from Gondar to Debark (approx 2 hrs, 100 kms), where the Simien Mountains National Park headquarters are located. After picking up the rest of our trekking crew, our national park scouts, food supplies and our camping equipment in Debark we will drive on a rough road towards Sankabar Camp. We leave the vehicle a few kilometers before camp to take a short acclimatisation walk (1-3 hrs, approx 3 - 5 kms) along the edge of the escarpment for our first views over the dramatic Simien mountain range. The Simien Mountains consist of many high altitude plateau formed by volcanic activity and lava flows, the northern and western flanks of which were subsequently eroded by large rivers forming an incredible landscape of rugged peaks and valleys. Our experienced trek leader and national park scouts are very familiar with this area and will introduce us to some remote areas within these mountains. We walk to Sankabar, our first campsite, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch. If we are lucky we may find some Gelada Baboons playing on the slopes.
Day 6 Trek to Geech camp (3600m, approx. 6-8 hr, 10 km)
This morning our crew will pack up camp and arrange the mules and muleteers who will accompany us on the rest of our trip. Our trek today takes us to Geech. We traverse along the escarpment before dropping down to get views of the spectacular Geech Abyss into which the Djinnbarr Waterfall drops after the rains. From here, we circle around to cross the river and then ascend through terraced farmland to the village of Geech where glimpses of the whole Simien mountain chain become possible. We continue a little further past the village to our designated camp site. Overnight camp.
Day 7 Optional summit of Imet Gogo (3926m, approx. 6-7 hr, 10 km)
From Geech we take a circuit walk with an optional ascent to the summit of Imet Gogo (3926m). This walk is a relatively easy one, geared to help the acclimatisation process while allowing us to enjoy some truly dramatic views. From Imet Gogo, the vast expanse of lowlands is revealed below us, and we gain some perspective of this incredible mountain range. We continue on our circuit walk to Saha viewpoint which makes a perfect lunch spot. There is the option to continue to a third lookout point, Set Derek, before returning to camp for a relaxing afternoon. Black-backed jackals and Lammergeyers may also be seen in this area. Overnight at Geech camp.
Day 8 To Chenek (3620m, approx. 6-7 hr, 12 km)
Today we continue our trek through open grasslands and giant Lobelias, along the edge of the escarpment to Chenek. This is a relatively gentle days walk with a few steep ups and downs. We stop for lunch at Inatiye (4070m) where again we have some magnificent views of the lowlands. Chenek itself is one of our most beautiful campsites, with our tents clustered among the giant Lobelias and superb views of the escarpment. This is one of the best areas to see the endemic Walia Ibex, a large mountain goat unique to Ethiopia, with distinctively patterned fore-legs and large, ridged horns. Geladas Baboons are also common around Chenek. Like the Walia, they are seldom found far from cliffs and are well adapted to living on nearly vertical faces. At the first site of danger they will plunge over the edge where danger cannot follow. The Simien Fox or Abyssinian wolf, though named after this area, is now rarely seen, though you may hear its high pitched call at night. These mountains are also noted for cliff-nesting birds of prey, in particular the large and powerful Lammergeyer (Bearded Vulture). These birds have a wing span of almost 3 metres and are frequently seen performing aerial acrobatics above us. Overnight camp.
Day 9 To Ambiko (3170m, approx. 8-10 hr, 16 km)
This morning we leave for Ambiko at the foot of Ras Dashen (or Ras Dejen). After a steady but steep ascent to Bwahit Pass (4200m), beneath Bwahit Peak (4430m) - the second highest mountain on our route, we rest and take in the incredible outlook of our campsite across the valley below. From here we will also get our first sighting of Ras Dashen (4533m), the highest point in a wall of cliffs and peaks on the skyline at the far side of the valley. We then follow a steep path down to the village of Chiro Leba, stopping for lunch nearby, before crossing the Meshehe River. There is a final steep climb to the village of Ambiko, where we will camp for the next two nights.
Day 10 Summit Ras Dashen (4533m, 10-12hr, 18 km)
Today's optional climb to the highest point in Ethiopia, the summit of Ras Dashen at 4533m, requires a pre-dawn start. We climb slowly and steadily through farmland and giant lobelia forests for about 6-7 hours, before a steep scramble for 20 minutes to the summit. On the summit we will take a rest and absorb the spectacular panorama that awaits. In clear weather it is possible to see as far as Eritrea. From the top we do the same short scramble down then continue descending for about 4-5 hours, back to our campsite at Ambiko. Today is a very long day but well worth the effort if you decide to take on the challenge. Alternatively, take the day to relax at camp or do some short walks in the surrounding area.
Day 11 To Sona (3400m, approx 8-10 hr, 16 km)
Today traverses farming country in the High Simiens as we trek through the upper catchments of the Meshehe River. It is a rewarding day of trekking with the opportunity to meet local people in the fields, on the trails and in the villages. There are some ups and downs today with the highest point being 3600m. At the village of Arkwasiye, we cross the divide into the catchment area of the Ansiya River. We camp near the village of Sona on the edge of the plateau, looking across the Gorge to the spectacular cliffs of Imet Gogo and other peaks.
Day 12 To Makarabia (2000m, approx 5-6 hr, 12 km)
This morning there may be time to visit the local village school of Sona and meet the students (depending on the season). Alternatively, we may visit the school at Makarabia where we camp tonight. Our trek today takes us where only the hardiest travellers venture, dropping over the edge of the plateau and descending very steeply for 1800m to the rugged Ansiya Valley and lowlands. We enjoy a break beside the Ansiya River river at the bottom of the valley before gentle terrain takes us to Makarabia village where we will camp tonight. Looking back up towards the escarpment we can see exactly where we have been over the last five days. Overnight camp
Day 13 To Mulit (1800m, approx 4-5hr, 10km)
This morning we have a short steep descent to the Ansiya River once again. It can be quite hot today as the vegetation is reasonably open around the trail and we have come down significantly in altitude. We follow the river for some distance before a lunch break at the base of the last really steep section of our trek. We take our time ascending to Hawaza village, not forgetting to look back at the massive spires and cliffs from whence we came. It is an easy half hour walk on to Mulit where we will spend our final night camping with a backdrop of rock pinnacles. This evening is a special celebration of our achievements and we will be invited to join our crew in some local singing and dancing.
Day 14 Complete trek (approx 2 hr, 10km), drive to Axum
After a gently undulating walk to the town of Adi Arkay, we complete our trek. We will leave our trek crew here before driving to Axum. We can rest our legs and revel in our achievements while our vehicle passes over roads through mountain regions of wild beauty, running alongside the Simien massif. The amethyst-colored peaks and deep gullies evoke our new-found appreciation for the rugged remoteness of this region. We arrive in Axum late in the afternoon, where a shower offers reward for our recent efforts. Overnight hotel.
Day 15 In Axum
The legends narrated in the Kebre Negest "Book of Kings" recount how the city of Axum as early as the 10th Century B.C was the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided. It is recounted that the song of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon brought the Ark of The Covenant to Axum and it remains there to this day, preserved in a sanctuary. Famous long before the time of Christ, Axum was the capital of the Axumite reign, one of the oldest African empires, and represented a crucial connecting -point between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. A visit is organized to the steles - granite monoliths dating from pre-Christian times and decorated with symbolic engravings. There is also a visit to the Church of Santa Maria of Zion, which contains the crowns of Ethiopian kings and other treasures. Overnight hotel.
Day 16 Fly to Lalibela in the morning, afternoon visit monolithic churches
This morning we take a short flight to Lalibela, located at an altitude of 2,600m above sea level. (Please note: flight schedule is subject to change and availability). The city contains 11 monolithic churches that were built in the 12th century and are carved out of the local pink granite rock. These structures have been classified on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Each church has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The entire city may be described as a sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. We arrive in Lalibela late morning and the rest of the day is dedicated to visiting some of these churches. In the evening, an optional visit to a traditional music house can be arranged (own expense). Overnight hotel
Day 17 Fly to Addis Ababa
This morning we board our flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa where the trip concludes on arrival. (Please note: flight schedule is subject to change and availability) Extra nights in Lalibela or Addis Ababa can be arranged at additional cost. Please ask your consultant at time of booking.