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Experience the geological beauty of Ethiopia on a trekking adventure through one of the most dramatic landscapes in Africa. Observe the remnants of a once prosperous civilisation on a visit to Gondar before tackling the challenging terrain of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Simien Mountains National Park. As you traverse the rugged peaks and valleys of this ever-changing trail, witness how millions of years of erosion has created an elaborate network of gorges, canyons and escarpments, flourishing with endemic wildlife and traditional civilisations. Keep an eye out for the endangered walia ibex jousting along the rocky ledges, learn about village life and agricultural rituals in Geech camp and sit among groups of gelada monkeys while you watch the sun set in Chenek. Stop by key lookouts en route to soak up scenery that will leave you speechless and have your breath (literally) taken away by unbeatable views at the summit of Ras Dashen - Ethiopia's highest peak.
Day 1: Addis Ababa
Welcome to Ethiopia! A beautiful country blessed with boundless landscapes of lush highlands, dramatic canyons, sweeping deserts and the spectacular Simien Mountains. On arrival in Addis Ababa, meet your Intrepid representative and transfer to your starting hotel. Your important welcome meeting begins at 6 pm this evening. If you arrive early, perhaps visit the National Museum, which contains the fossilised remains of ‘Lucy’, a female hominoid that lived some 3.2 million years ago, and a key discovery on the origin of early mankind. This evening, why not head out with the group for your first taste of Ethiopian cuisine.
Day 2: Gondar
This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Gondar, a city famed for its medieval castles and churches. Often referred to as Ethiopia’s Camelot, Gondar has always been of major importance to Ethiopia’s historical trading routes, and in 1632, Emperor Fasillades made it his capital and it remained so for over 20 years. This afternoon explore the city's unique Royal Enclosure, a World Heritage site home to dramatic Emperor-built castles unlike any other in Africa. The 70,000 square meter compound contains palaces, banquet halls, a chancellery and library, stables, lion cages and even Turkish steam baths. The architecture shows the richness of Axumite traditions as well as the prosperity of Ethiopia in those two centuries. Afterwards, stop by the famous church of Debre Berhan Selassie, one of the finest in Ethiopia, with walls and ceilings covered stunning in ancient murals.
Day 3: Sankaber (3250m / 10660 ft)
Leaving Gondar, take a 2-hour drive north to Debark, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Simien Mountains National Park – an exotic place with unique wildlife, breathtaking views and a captivating combination of endemic wildlife species, superb scenery and traditional village life. After registering, drive the short distance to Buyit Ras and the official park gates, then begin your trek along the northern escarpment, through a landscape of rugged peaks and valleys, making your way to your first campsite, Sankaber. Keep your eyes peeled for troops of gelada baboons playing along the slopes as you traverse through the mountains. These baboons, only found in Ethiopia, are often referred to as the 'bleeding heart baboon' or the 'lion monkey' – their shaggy coat gives them a lion-like appearance, whilst their chest has a marking similar to a red heart or patch. Arrive in Sankaber and enjoy your first evening camping in the Simien wilderness.
Day 4: Geech (3600 m / 11810 ft)
Fuel up on breakfast then begin the hike to your second camp. The initial stages of this path lead through extensive areas of highland grasslands and heather forests and along the way you can enjoy impressive views of the escarpment, including the stunning Jinbar Wenz Waterfall which plummets 500 metres down the Geech Abyss. After descending to the Jinbar Wenz River, a short ascent leads you to Geech village: a combination of slope steepness, overgrazing and rainfall combined with the limited resources in this area has caused noticeable soil erosion, therefore cultivation is completed in a two-year cycle, resulting in one side of the valley being lush with crops while the other lies fallow. Walk the short distance to a campsite situated above the village.. This site has breathtaking views of the mountains and is surrounded by giant lobelia plants which can grow up to 10 metres in height and live for as long as 20 years.
Day 5: Chenek (3650 m / 11975 ft)
Prepare for a spectacular day of hiking as you begin your trek by walking to Imetgogo, an incredible viewpoint situated at the end of a long ridge, 3926 metres above sea level, and offering outstanding views over the gorge and surrounding mountain ranges. After soaking up the epic vistas across this breathtaking landscape, it’s easy to understand why the striking formations have been described as 'the chess pieces of the Gods'. Next, follow a path along the edge of the escarpment before encountering a second viewpoint, Kurbet Metaya, located at 4070 metres. This lookout sits in a gap between the cliffs and reveals impressive views of the steep mountain faces, vast lowlands and tightly clustered houses (tukuls) that form the village of Dihwara. Continue to Chenek campsite, spectacularly located in a beautiful valley at the foot of Bwahit Peak. On arrival, rest on one of the strategically placed benches and keep an eye out for a troop of gelada baboons as you take in the expansive views back toward Imetgogo, which is most striking at dawn and at dusk. If you’re lucky, you may even spot one of the most endangered mammals in the world – the Walia ibex. This mountain goat, endemic to Ethiopia, lives on the steep slopes and grassy ledges of the escarpment and are often spotted along the rocky edges.
Day 6: Ambiko (3200 m / 10500 ft)
Today is the longest trekking day so far (approximately 10 hours) as you make your way to Ambiko. Leave Chenek (3650 metres) this morning and begin a 2-hour ascent to the top of Bwahit Pass (4200 metres), where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over Mesheha Valley and the Dashen mountain range. Looking back, find yourself under the cover of the impressive rock formations of Imet Gogo, which you were admiring from Chenek camp the day before. If you’re feeling energetic, you may like to hike up to the summit of Bwahit at (4430 metres, an additional 1-hour round-trip trek) otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy the sweeping views. From Bwahit Pass, follow the steep path down and across the Mesheha Valley, notice the increase in temperature as you descend to the Mesheha River (2800 metres) before a short climb to your camp for the night, Ambiko (3200 metres). Once freshened up, venture into the village with your leader to strike up a conversation with the locals and sit down for some Ethiopian coffee.
Day 7: Abiko (Ras Dashen summit 4543 m / 14904 ft )
Today is a summit day involving a 16-kilometre trek (10-11 hours) as you ascend 1400 to Ras Dashen. Begin by climbing the steep trail through barley fields and fallow land before reaching the mountain steppe (3700 metres). From here, the terrain flattens as it traverses ridges in the shadows of Ras Dashen. Just below Dashen Pass (4250 metres), an impressive moraine can be seen. A moraine is an accumulation of glacial debris (soil and rock) which occurs in formerly glaciated regions. This moraine was formed 20,000 to 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age, when the Simien Mountain tops had small ice caps. The final stretch involves an exhilarating climb and scramble up and over large boulders, before finally reaching the summit. From the top of Ras Dashen (4543 metres), you’re sure to be mesmerised by the incredible views which span more than 10,000 square kilometres. To the west, the steep faces of peaks in the national park are visible, whilst the Tekeze Valley is visible to the north and the east. Take a moment to soak up the breathtaking views before beginning the decent along the same path back to your camp at Ambiko.
Day 8: Chenek (3650 m / 11975 ft)
You have another challenging day ahead, although not as difficult as the previous one! Leave behind your campsite at Ambiko and trek back to Chenek, the superbly positioned camp site, then descend a further 350 metres to Meshah River. From here, you’ll tackle the challenging climb to Buwuhit pass (4200 metres) before descending back to Chenek camp site.
Day 9: Gondar
This morning, drive along the dirt road that runs from Chenek to Sankaber, leaving behind Simien Mountains National Park, then continue to Debark (approximately 2-3 hours). Stop at Debark to finalize all trekking formalities before taking the 105-kilometre journey back to Gondar, where you’ll check into your hotel and enjoy a welcome shower.
Day 10: Gondar
This trip comes to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time.
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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