Introduction to the Simien Mountains
Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in all of Africa. The landscape is incredibly diverse, with soaring highland ridges, deep valleys and vast plateaus.
With its incredible scenery, endemic wildlife, and luxury lodges, it’s easy to see why the Simien Mountains is Ethiopia’s most popular trekking destination, and one of the most popular destinations along the northern circuit.
Getting to the Simien Mountains
The best way to get to the Simien Mountains National Park is via a domestic flight into the nearby town of Gondar, followed by a 2-hour drive into the park through scenic highland landscapes. Most visitors will spend a night or two in Gondar to explore the town before heading into the Simiens.
If travelling from Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines offer direct flights which take less than an hour. Note that if you have an international flight with Ethiopian Airlines (either in to, or out of, Addis Ababa) you will qualify for a significant discount (~60%) on all domestic flights you take in the country. The Gondar airport is around 20km from the centre of the town.
Direct flights are available from the city of Axum too, if travelling from there.
If coming from Bahir Dar, you can reach Gondar via a ~3 hour drive across scenic landscapes.
If you are on a tight schedule, an alternative is to base yourself in the town of Debark, the entrance town to the Simien Mountains. There are far fewer accommodation options here, but it is cheaper than staying in Gondar and its proximity to the Simiens means you can get the most out of your first day in the park.
All visitors must first stop in Debark to collect your permits and arrange your guide and scout services.
How do I get to the Simien Mountains?
Ethiopian Airlines run a reliable and comprehensive domestic flight network, with routes to all the major towns in the north and south of the country. The easiest way to get from Addis Ababa to the Simien Mountains is via a short domestic flight to Gondar, the nearest major town to the Simien Mountains. From Gondar airport, it is 103km (a ~2 hour drive) to Debark, the entrance town to the Simien Mountains National Park and the park HQ.
You will be required to stop at Debark to collect the necessary documentation and pick up your guide and scout. From here, a further 1-hour drive takes you into the park itself.
It is not possible to drive straight from Addis to the Simien Mountains in one day - you would need to stop for an overnight en route. We’d recommend flying, if possible.
Gondar is the gateway town to the Simien Mountains. Gondar is 95km (1.5 hours) from Debark. It is a scenic route along the northern highlands (the Kossoye viewpoint is particularly spectacular on the road to Debark and worth a quick visit). The (former) Falasha village, Woleka, makes for an interesting stop.
From Bahir Dar, you can reach the Simien Mountains by air or by road. By road, it is a 3-hour drive to Gondar and then a further ~2 hours to the park (4 hours in total from Bahir Dar to Debark). In most cases, driving is the quickest way to get to the Simien Mountains from Bahir Dar.
There is no direct flight from Bahir Dar to Gondar, so if you travel by air you will need to connect through Lalibela. It is a 30-minute flight from Bahir Dar to Lalibela, and another 30 minutes from Lalibela to Gondar. From Gondar, it is a ~2-hour drive to the Simien Mountains.
There is no direct flight from Mekele to Gondar, so if you travel by air you will need to connect through Lalibela. It is a 30-minute flight from Mekele to Lalibela, and another 30 minutes from Lalibela to Gondar. From here, it is a ~2 hour drive into the park.
While it is possible to drive from Mekele to the Simiens, it is a long 9-hour drive.
The best way to get from Axum to the Simien Mountains is by road. It is 250km - a scenic 5-8 hours from Axum. The journey is slow going up into the switchbacks of the Simiens mostly on un-asphalted roads but the views are good. It is possible to access the Simiens by air, but the net journey is longer than driving directly.
From Harar, it is a ~75 minute drive to the airport town of Dire Dawa. From here, you can catch a domestic flight to Addis (55 minutes) and connect with a flight to Gondar (65 minutes) to begin the ~2 hour drive to the Simien Mountains.
In most cases, it wouldn’t make sense to put the Simiens right before or after a visit to Harar. You might want to break up the trip with visits to other destinations.
If you’re coming up from the Omo Valley, the quickest route back into the north of the country is via a domestic flight via Addis. The best options are a flight from Jinka to Addis (55 minutes) or from Arba Minch to Addis (65 minutes). From Addis, you will connect with a domestic flight to Gondar, followed by a ~2 hour drive into the mountains.
Another option is to drive from the Omo Valley up through the Rift Valley, breaking up the journey with overnights along the great lakes of Ethiopia before arriving in Addis and flying up to Gondar.
If you’re coming from the Bale Mountains, you will need to connect to Gondar via Addis Ababa. You can reach Addis with a 50-minute flight from the nearby Robe airport. Alternatively, you can head to Addis via a drive along the Great Rift Valley, spending a night or two by the great lakes to break up the journey.
From Addis, it is a 65-minute flight to Gondar followed by a ~2 hour drive from Gondar to the Simien Mountains.
Popular Trips to the Simien Mountains
Below are just some options for exploring the Simien Mountains - get in touch with us to build a tailor-made holiday.
Historic North Circuit
Explore the Simien Mountains from a luxury lodge perched high in the escarpment, discover the architectural remains of ancient civilisations, and watch the sun set over the sandstone cliffs of Tigray. The Historic North Circuit is a flagship itinerary in…
- 12 Days
Historic North and Luxury Lodges
Experience Ethiopia's northern circuit in style. Explore the incredible highland scenery, visit ancient monuments, discover unique cultural traditions, and break up your journey at luxury lodges set amongst incredible backdrops.…
- 12 Days
Highlights of the North and South
The classic northern trail extends south into the Omo Valley, passing through the Rift Valley Lakes and highland peaks of the Bale Mountains. A once in a lifetime adventure combining the very best that Ethiopia has to offer.…
- 20 Days
Camping in the Simien Mountains
The classic 3-night camping circuit in the Simien Mountains. This trip is usually included as part of a wider itinerary in the country.…
- 4 Days
Classic Simiens Safari
The Simien Mountains are one of Ethiopia’s most stunning destinations. With its diverse flora and fauna, immense views and extraordinary geography, it’s an exceptional place that can be enjoyed by hardy trekkers and afternoon strollers alike. A couple of nights…
- 5 Days
Simien Mountains and Northern History
This trip packs in a myriad of history, culture and some of the best scenery in Africa. Explore the palaces of Gondar, the world-famous rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, and the sweeping plateaus of the Simien Mountains. Leave enough time either…
- 7 Days
Trekking in the Simien Mountains
Discover the beauty of the Simien Mountains with this one week trekking adventure. Our Brilliant local guides know all the hidden gems to get the most out of your time on the 'Roof of Africa'. Easy to incorporate into a…
- 7 Days
Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking
Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken…
- 12 Days
2 Day Simien Trek
An introduction to the Simien Mountains, this 2 day trek takes you to some of the major viewpoints of the primary escarpment, with one night spent camping at the beautiful Gich campsite.…
- 2 Days
3 Day Simien Trek
This 3 day Simien Trek is the perfect introduction to the national park. Enough time to hike to all the major viewpoints, see the wildlife, and enjoy the beauty of these highlands.…
- 3 Days
4 Day Simien Trek
This 4 day trek in the Simien Mountains starts and ends in Gondar. Hike from camp to camp, across the sweeping plateaus and down into the valleys.…
- 4 Days
6 Day Simien Trek
6 days trekking in the Simien Mountains, across the vast plateaus and down into the valleys to discover some of the most exciting regions of the park. A proper wilderness escape.…
- 6 Days