Introduction to the Simien Mountains
Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park is one of the most spectacular areas in all of Africa. The landscape is incredibly diverse, with soaring highland ridges and breathtaking valleys and 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.
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 to 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 (~60%) discount 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 to basing yourself at Gondar is 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 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. Falashas (Ethiopian Jews) once lived here.
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.
Ethiopian Airlines operate a direct flight from Lalibela to Gondar. It is then a 2 hour drive into the park from Gondar. While it is possible to drive from Lalibela to the Simiens, it is a long ~9 hour drive.
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 a 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 Simiens 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.
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…