The Northern Circuit
SIMIEN NATIONAL PARK
Kibran – Northern Circuit Attractions
Introduction to Simien National Park
Referred to as ‘The Roof of Africa’, the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia form a landscape so vast and spectacular that it rivals the Grand Canyon in Colorado.
Comprising high plateaus and deep, rugged gorges, carved by erosion over millions of years, the terrain rises to form towering cliffs that plummet – some as much as 1,500 meters, into vast valleys. The highest peak, Ras Dashen, towers a staggering 4,620 meters above sea level. On cloudless days the views appear to continue on forever, with one chain of mountains giving rise to the next. When soaking up these incredible vistas it is easy to grasp that 70 per cent of Africa’s mountains are located in Ethiopia.
With a total area of 190km², the Simien Mountains National Park’s varied habitats are home to 22 large and 13 small mammal species. The park also offers a rich birding experience, with about 180 recorded species, of which 16 are regional endemics. The lammergeyer, a large vulture, is often sighted here.
Three distinct vegetation belts occur in the park, each belt featuring interesting flora, including 57 tree species and a wealth of herbaceous plants. The giant Lobelia, which occurs in the grasslands above 3,700 meters above sea level, measures up to 10 meters in height. This fascinating plant grows for up to two decades before flowering for the first time, and then dying.
The park’s admin office/entrance is located at Debark, a market village that lies about 110km north of Gondar, roughly a two-hour’s drive from Gondar.
Good to Know
Recommended length of stay: 2-3 nights
Elevation: 1,900 to 4,430 meters (6,233 to 14,534 feet) above sea level
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Where to Stay when visiting Simien Mountain National Park, Ethiopia
Limalimo Lodge is a haven of understated luxury, designed to blend in with the environment. This boutique lodge has 14 bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms.
In keeping with their ethos of sustainability, the lodge was built using green technologies. Eco-friendly by nature, Limalimo‘s design was inspired by local building techniques, using sustainable sources.
The spacious terrace, perfect for meals or sundowners, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Simien Mountain National Park and the layers of mountains beyond. Facilities include a bar and restaurant, known for its excellent cuisine. All stays at Limalimo are on a full board basis, and the restaurant offers set menus with international dishes. Traditional injera is always available on request. No internet facilities are available and guests are invited to take a break from technology and soak up the natural environment.
Simien Mountain Lodge
Offering all the charm you’d expect from a mountain lodge, Simien Lodge offers warm hospitality in a breathtaking setting. The lodge has 26 comfortable rooms (24 twin and 2 double), located in round thatched stone rondavels or “tukuls”, as they are called locally. The Ethiopian décor is authentic and appealing. All the rooms have ensuite bathrooms, with showers and not baths, to conserve water during the dry months. The water is solar-heated, with electrical backup. The rooms are insulated (ceilings, floors and walls). The cozy bar features a large central fireplace and comfortable furnishing, for relaxed evenings with friends and family. The restaurant also features a generous fireplace and authentic Ethiopian art. A set menu is offered at dinner, with a selection of dishes skillfully prepared by the Head Chef. An a la Carte menu with a variety of international and local dishes, is available throughout the day. Wi-Fi is available in the main area, but not in the rooms.
Good to Know
- The park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1978 as a site of „Outstanding Universal Value“.
- With a total area of 190km², the Simien Mountains boast 57 tree species, a wealth of herbaceous plants, 22 large and 13 small mammals and about 180 recorded bird species.
- Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Menelik’s Bushbuck and the Gelada baboon are among the list of endemic species.
Top attractions to visit when in the Simien Mountain National Park
BIODIVERSITY: FLORA, FAUNA & AVIFAUNA
The Simien Mountain National Park falls within a globally recognized conservation area. The Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot is one of 35 biodiversity hotspots that are regarded as the earth’s most biologically rich, yet threatened areas. This hotspot covers a large area of biogeographically similar mountains form Saudi Arabia to Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The varying altitudes in the Simien Mountains mean that a wide diversity of plant species occur. There are three main vegetation zones: Montane forest (1,900m to 3,000m), Sub-Afroalpine or Ericaceous belt (2,700m to 3,700m) and the Afroalpine zone (3,700m to 4,533m). In addition to the factor of varying altitudes, the Simien Mountains are remote and isolated, meaning that there are rare and fascinating endemic species to be found. More than 1,200 plant species occur in the Simien Mountain National Park, three of which can be found here and nowhere else on earth: Festuca gilbertiana, Rosularia simensis and Dianthus longiglumi.
Endemic animal species include the rare Simien Wolf, Walia ibex and Gelada baboon.
Other large mammals include the Anubis baboon, Hamadryas baboon, golden jackal, Menelik’s bushbuck and Klipspringer. Forming part of the larger Endemic Bird Area of the Central Ethiopian Highlands, the park has more than 180 recorded species, 16 of which are regional endemics.
WALIA IBEX (Capra walie)
The Walia ibex, endemic to the Simien Mountains, is one of the most endangered mammal species on earth. It is estimated that as few as 500 animals still exist.
These giant mountain goats inhabit the high cliffs in the Simien Mountains, at an elevation of around 3,500 meters above sea level. They are most active during the early mornings and late evenings. On sunny days they will try to find some shade to shelter from the sharp sun.
The most distinguishing feature of these giant mountain goats is their horns. Males have massive, backward-curving horns that reach up to 110 cm in length. The females’ horns are much shorter and thinner. The males also have impressive beards, which turn black when they are older.
SIMIEN FOX OR ETHIOPIAN WOLF (Canis simensis)
With fewer than 440 of these beautiful mammals still in existence, the tawny red Simien Wolf is the rarest canid on earth. Endemic to Ethiopia, they are found mostly in afro-alpine mountain habitats, at altitudes above 3,600 meters above sea level. A small population – estimated at a quarter of the total population, inhabits the Simien Mountains; with a larger one being found in the Bale Mountain National Park, in southern Ethiopia. The species was registered as endangered in the Red Data Book of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1990.
The Ethiopian Wolf, unlike other wolf species, is a solitary hunter. They feed on rodents and other small animals. When they are not hunting they move in packs of up to 13 individuals.
GELADA BABOON (Theropithecus gelada)
The Gelada baboon is also known as the “Bleeding-heart monkey” and “Lion baboon”. Endemic to Ethiopia, they can be found on most of the highland plateaus of the Simien Mountains. These fascinating animals are essentially in a genus of their own, as they cannot truly be classified as either baboons or monkeys. Moving in herds of 100 to 200 individuals, these docile grazers are the last existing species of grass-eating primate. You may wonder why they are also known as the Bleeding-heart monkey. Geladas are easily recognizable by the bare patches of skin on their chests. During mating season these patches, in females, turn a remarkable bright crimson.
With 70 percent of Africa’s mountains being located in Ethiopia, is easy to see why the Simien Mountain National Park offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. The highest peak, Ras Dashen, towers at a staggering 4,620 meters above sea level.
The park was added to the World Heritage Site list in 1978. With a total area of 190km², the Simien Mountains boast 57 tree species, a wealth of herbaceous plants, 22 large and 13 small mammals, and about 180 recorded bird species. Of these, the Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Menelik’s Bushbuck, and the Gelada baboon are endemic.
There are many recommended view sites in the park, each offering magnificent panoramic views. Some of the sites are easily accessible by road or 4×4 vehicle, but many require a short hike. The park has a series of campsites, for those who wish to experience some of the most rewarding views during a trekking adventure.
It is possible to drive to the Sankaber campsite, which is an excellent spot for viewing Gelada baboons. An exhilarating 90-minute hike from Sankaber will take you to Jinbar Falls. The waterfall is a worthwhile visit all year round, but is most impressive after the rainy season, as it cascades 50 meters over the rocky cliffs.
Another view site that is accessible by vehicle is Ayena Meda, where you can look forward to more spectacular panoramas and beautiful scenery.
The view site at Chennek is another recommended stop. It is possible to drive there. On arrival, you can explore on foot and enjoy the phenomenal vistas. This is one of the best places to view the Walia Ibex – the rarest mountain goat in the world – as they graze along the rocky outcrops and rugged cliffs. You may even glimpse the rare Ethiopian wolf. Chennek is the perfect location for a picnic lunch, before driving back to your lodge.
LOCAL SCHOOL AND VILLAGE VISIT
where you can also see how traditional injera is prepared.
Local Attractions – Simien Mountain National Park
simien mountain Photo Gallery
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