School Trek - In the Simien Mountains

Full days of trekking with some easy scrambling on Ras Deshen





From $2,740 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • History Lessons outside the classroom
  • Trekking through the Simien Mountains National Park
  • Lalibela – the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’
  • Gondar - an `African Camelot` for School Adventures in Ethiopia

A School Adventure in Ethiopia is a very different African destination. Known as 'The Roof of Africa', this is a land of surprises, with a wealth of superb trekking, walking and a rich cultural heritage. Ethiopia includes some of the finest mountain scenery in Africa, notably in the Simien Mountains which have been designated a World Heritage Site. This highland area in the northern part of Ethiopia includes many summits over 4000m, the highest being Ras Deshen, the fourth highest mountain in Africa. Geographically, the mountains comprise several major plateaux, which are underlain by basalt lavas thousands of metres thick. It is the erosion of these lavas that has created the dramatic escarpments and freestanding pinnacles which are characteristic of the range and which are comparable in terms of spectacle to the Grand Canyon. We access this northern region by way of a short internal flight from Addis Ababa to the ancient capital of Gondar. This is a wonderful, historically important, city with an unusual collection of 17th century castles and churches. Six days of walking takes us through a land of natural wonders and of rare wildlife, including the Simien red fox, the strikingly-maned Gelada baboon and the majestic lammergeier or bearded vulture. Passing several villages, notable for their carefully tended farmland and friendly people, the trek reaches its climax at the summit of Ras Deshen (4620m), where the views extend northwards to Eritrea. A 2-day visit to Lalibela, with its collection of amazing churches, carved out of solid rock, is a great way to end this exceptional Ethiopian adventure. Providing a variety of completely new experiences, this is a great School Adventure itinerary. This tried and tested KE Schools itinerary can be adjusted to better fit the needs of your group - please call and speak to a KE School Groups Coordinator or email

Is this holiday for you?

This School Adventure in Ethiopia involves straightforward trekking on good trails which are the paths used by local people as they travel between their villages. We head west to east on the high escarpment of the Simien Mountains. There are a number of longer days of 7 to 8 hours and a couple of them include a considerable amount of ascent and/or descent (something of the order of 1000m). The optional ascent of Ras Deshen provides a challenging climb, particularly because of its reasonably high altitude, and the walking day here will be 10 to 12 hours long. The upper part of the climb includes scrambling on loose scree and rock. Students should be comfortable with walking on good trails but with some steep ascents and descents on scree as described, for typically 5 or 6 hours each day, with the occasional longer day, and for several days continuously. The optional ascent of Ras Deshen although a longer day, presents no technical difficulty but trekking at altitudes above 3000m does make greater demands on the body than similar terrain at lower elevations. We recommend a minimum age of 15 years.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Arrive Addis Ababa.
  • Fly north to Gondar.
  • Drive via Debark to Senkaber.
  • Trek to Geech.
  • Day-hike to the viewpoint at Imetgogo.
  • Along the escarpment to Chenek.
  • To Ambiquo at the foot of Ras Deshen.
  • Climb Ras Deshen.
  • Return to Chiro Leba.
  • Return to Chenek.
  • Drive to Gondor.
  • Fly to Lalibela.
  • Sightseeing in Lalibela.
  • Fly to Addis Ababa. Depart.

Land Only

The price of our trips does not include international air travel to the start location in the destination city and country. The start location for joining the trip is identified for each trip. It's usually a centrally located hotel. KE can easily arrange all airport transfers for you.

International Air Travel

Please contact us at KE for air travel advice. We will be happy to discuss the flight arrangement which best suits your group.

2 teachers FREE

The Guide Price assumes that 2 teachers will accompany the group. Their Land Only costs are covered by the group's payment.

Guide Price $2,740*
Park Fees/permits N/A
Other Charges N/A

* We give a price estimate for all of our school trips. This is based on 12-16 pupils and includes two free teacher places. If you are interested in a specific trip, we will send you a quote letter. You may wish to take extra teachers or add on additional days and this can all be included into your quote, on request.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • point
  • peaks
  • trip direction
  • trek
  • transfer

Holiday Itinerary

  • Arrive Addis Ababa.

    On arrival in Addis Ababa we transfer to our hotel and have lunch. In the afternoon we set off on a city tour which includes its museums, churches and the 'mercato'. Addis’s central produce market is the largest in East Africa and has an array of fascinating goods and colourful people. It is a perfect place for exploration and people watching. At an altitude of over 2200 metres, in the foothills of Mount Entoto, Addis Ababa is one of the highest capital cities in the world. On account of the need to acclimatise, we will take it easy on our first day in the country. Overnight at the group hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals d

  • Fly north to Gondar.

    We make a reasonably early start today and return to the airport for the internal flight to Gondar, which was formerly the capital of Ethiopia. On arrival, we make the short transfer to the hotel for lunch. Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, has become one of Ethiopia's largest and most impressive cities, with its walled Royal Enclosure which contains several well-preserved and very medieval-looking castles, dating from as early as 1650. The castles are unusual for the Horn Of Africa, deriving their architectural style from the Moors and the Portuguese. Additionally, Gondar has dozens of churches, the most important being Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity Church of the Mountain of Light), which has an impressive hilltop location. The yellow-robed priest there will explain the story of the many paintings and carvings inside the church…the interior of the church was covered in paintings by a famous artist called Haile Meskel and the famous ceiling is covered with the winged heads of 80 Ethiopian cherubs. Gondar is well-placed, watered by mountain torrents and sitting at an altitude of 2300 metres. There are views from the city which extend across the surrounding farmland to Lake Tana, 35 kilometers (20 miles) to the south. This is an historic settlement with an atmosphere of mystery. In the afternoon, we will make a sightseeing tour of Gondar to include a visit to the Royal Enclosure. Our trek crew will make their final arrangements and food purchases in preparation for the trek. Overnight at the Goha Hotel which is situated on a hill overlooking the town.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Drive via Debark to Senkaber.

    In the cool of the morning, we make the scenic 2 to 3-hour drive from Gondar to Debark. Debark is a small market town at an altitude of 2700 metres close to the boundary of the Simien Mountains National Park. Its colourful and busy market area is surrounded by corrugated-iron-roofed buildings and an odd, small lighthouse-like structure, the minaret of the local mosque. Before entering the park, we have to register at the park headquarters just outside town. Here we are joined by our park guide and armed scouts – one of the park regulations. We have time for some last-minute buying of provisions and then complete our drive to Senkaber where we camp for the night. En route, we pass through pretty country, the foothills of the Simien Mountains, with carefully tended fields, open pasture with grazing horses, stands of trees and distant rocky peaks. At the high-point of the road, there are superb views across the weirdly eroded foothills of the range and we may also be lucky enough to spot our first lammergeiers and gelada baboons of the trip.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Trek to Geech.

    Our first day of trekking. We meet our muleteers and the trek equipment is loaded onto their mules. Starting out, we descend in to the Michwahtis Valley and begin the climb up the other side, making a short diversion to see one of the most impressive sights in the Simien Mountains, where the Jinbar River plummets into the Geech Abyss. On our left-hand side the land rises up steeply to a high plateau and there are eroded pinnacles and steep cliffs, the home of gelada baboons, ibex and Egyptian vultures. There is, however, a good trail and we are likely to be sharing it with groups of local people travelling between their villages. After a couple of kilometres, we have to ford the chilly Jinbar River and then climb through fields of barley to reach Geech Village (3600m), a cluster of thatched-roofed huts and thorny enclosures, situated on an open hillside with scattered groups of giant lobelias. There may be time to stop off at one of the village houses to enjoy the traditional Ethiopian serving of coffee, known as the 'Coffee Ceremony'. The camping place is above the village and close to the stone hut of the park scouts. As an optional afternoon stroll, the viewpoint at Kadadit (hole in the rock) is 20 minutes away to the north. We can expect to be visited at our camp by curious bands of children and (in the night) by hyenas.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Day-hike to the viewpoint at Imetgogo.

    We will leave our camp set up at Geech and make a day hike to one of the finest viewpoints in the area, the promontory and small peak known as Imetgogo (3925m). This is actually a spur protruding from the escarpment and is reached after a couple of hours’ pleasant walking. The last part of the ridge is quite airy and leads by way of an easy scramble to the summit. Here, the views are spectacular indeed, stretching across to the lowlands and including the jagged summits of the escarpment edge. This is a great place for watching lammergeiers and we may even be lucky enough to see them going about their business (dropping bones amongst the rocks to break them and so reveal the marrow – their preferred food). Today is a good day to take things steadily, which will help the acclimatisation process, whilst enjoying one the most dramatic trekking days imaginable, as we return to camp by following the edge of the escarpment. We will also see gelada baboons today. These remarkable creatures, with their lion-like manes can be quite approachable. Overnight at the camp above Geech.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Along the escarpment to Chenek.

    Our route today takes us along the edge of the escarpment, descending at one point into an open, grassy valley absolutely filled with 3 and 4-metre tall giant lobelias. At all times, the cliff edge is close on our left-hand side and there are ever-changing views and glimpses of the valley below, often through narrow clefts between spurs. The high point of our walk is at Inatye (4070m) and we continue across tussocky moorland to the camping place at Chenek, which is bounded by a semicircular ring of cliffs. The Chenek campsite offers superb views across to the opposite escarpment.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • To Ambiquo at the foot of Ras Deshen.

    To reach the village of Ambiquo at the foot of Ras Deshen, we must initially climb up above our camp towards Amba Bwahit (4477m), the second highest mountain in the range. The route follows a pleasant valley with a clear stream and lots of lobelias and provides us with great views back to our camp of the night before. After 1½ hours we reach a rocky ridge and a viewpoint which looks across the vast valley of the Meshawa River. We may be lucky enough to spot the Walia Ibex here. From the summit of Amba Bwahit we will also get our first sighting of Ras Deshen, the highest point in a wall of cliffs and peaks on the skyline at the far side of the valley. We then take a well-trodden path down into this intensively farmed valley, where oxen are still used to draw the plough. After passing through the village of Chiro Leba and crossing the Meshawa River we climb steeply to the village of Ambiquo (3200m) where we will camp for the night. With over 1000 metres of descent, followed by another 500 metres of ascent to Ambiquo, today will be a long day.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Climb Ras Deshen.

    Today's optional climb to the highest point in Ethiopia, the summit of Ras Deshen, requires a dawn start. We climb slowly and steadily through giant lobelia forests, passing the tiny, perched village of Mizma and gaining an area of open pasture where there are herds of cattle and goats with their attendant herdsmen. The triple-summitted bulk of Ras Deshen looms above and it is far from obvious which of these is the highest. Finally, after 7 to 8 hours of ascent, we reach steeper, rocky ground and make the short and easy scramble to the cairned summit. We will take an hour’s rest on top to enjoy the views which, in clear weather, extend to Eritrea. A 3 to 4 hour descent takes us back to the campsite in Ambiquo.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Return to Chiro Leba.

    Return trek to Chiro Leba at the Meshawa River. We have scheduled the afternoon here, so that a visit can be made to the school to allow some time for cultural exchange.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Return to Chenek.

    Today we return to Chenek on a trail which skirts around Amba Bwahit though anyone with energy to spare can make a second ascent of this mountain. Chenek is the end of the Gondar – Sankaber road and we meet our vehicles here and say goodbye to our trek crew. This is another tough day with a considerable amount of ascent and descent (around 1500m). We overnight at the campsite at Chenek.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Drive to Gondor.

    From Chenek it is a 4 – 5 hour drive out of the Simien Mountains back to Gondar where we check back into the comfortable and friendly Goha Hotel. There is another opportunity to look around this fascinating city of castles and churches.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Fly to Lalibela.

    We take a morning flight to the ancient city of Lalibela. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities and a centre of pilgrimage for much of the country. It was built in the 12th century to be the ‘New Jerusalem’ following the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, and was laid out to resemble that city. Lalibela is most famous for its rock-hewn churches which are literally carved out of the surrounding rock, and which date back to the 12th century. In all there are 11 ‘rock churches’, assembled in four groups. Bete Giyorgis (the Church of Saint George) in the Western group is the best known and most impressive. Described as the eighth wonder of the world the church is carved in the shape of the cross and stands 12m high in a square cut ‘hole’ in the rock outcrop from which it is carved. Overnight in hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Sightseeing in Lalibela.

    It is impossible to see all that Lalibela has to offer in a single day and we have scheduled a second day for sightseeing in and around this fascinating town.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Fly to Addis Ababa. Depart.

    After breakfast, we transfer to the airport and take the short flight back to Addis Ababa where, we have the use of day-rooms at the group hotel. We end with a celebratory dinner in the Hotel’s excellent Ethiopian restaurant before transferring to the airport for our flight home.

    • Meals bld

Holiday Information

  • A qualified UK KE Schools leader
  • Professional English-speaking local guide
  • Airport transfers
  • All land transport involved in the itinerary
  • Guided sightseeing and entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary
  • All accommodation as described in the trip dossier
  • All meals
  • A full service trek including all equipment (excluding personal equipment)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa fees if applicable
  • Departure tax on leaving Addis Ababa Airport
  • Internal flights and associated airport transfers Tips for drivers and other trek staff
  • Miscellaneous personal expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc.
Food on trek is prepared for us by our trained cooks. Breakfasts consist of bread and jam, porridge, omelette or pancake, tea and excellent Ethiopian coffee. We normally eat a packed lunch of sandwiches (cheese, egg or ham) and fresh fruit. Dinner is a 3-course meal of soup followed by pasta, rice or potatoes with vegetables or meat, and a tasty sauce. A local speciality is Injura, a flat bread made from a grain grown in the highlands called Tef. It's served in a big basket, and eaten with an array of different lentil and meat curries.
All meals are included in the trip price from lunch on Day 1 until dinner on Day 14.
Addis Ababa Airport transfers are included on arrival and departure. The KE School Group Leader or KE representative will meet you on arrival and assist with the transfers to the group hotel. Full joining instructions along with hotel contact details and an emergency number will be provided with the booking confirmation.
During this School Adventure the group will spend 1 night in Addis Ababa, 2 nights in Gondar and 2 nights in Lalibela. We use comfortable but simple tourist class hotels. Whilst on trek you will have 8 nights camping in 2 person tents. All accommodation is based on twin sharing and you will be paired up with another group member.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

A typical day starts with an early morning cup of tea or coffee served in your tent at around 6.30 a.m.. After breakfast, during which camp will be struck and the pack-animals will be given their loads, we start walking in the pleasant cool of the morning. After 3 to 4 hours walking, we will find a scenic spot to stop for a picnic lunch – packed lunches are provided. During the day you are free to walk at your own pace and to take as many photographs as you wish. We aim to reach the next overnight halt by mid-afternoon. Shortly after arrival in camp we will take some tea and biscuits while the cooks busy themselves to prepare the evening meal. Dinner is a 3-course meal served in the mess tent. This is a great time of day for reliving the events of the trek so far and for general socialising. After dark, the temperature quickly falls and everyone will soon be tucked up in their sleeping bags.
All KE school adventures are led by a specialist UK KE Schools leader. During the trip the leader will be assisted by an English-speaking local guide and on trek will be supported by a trek crew including a cook, camp staff and pack animals and their handlers.
Approximately $200 should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses which will include the airport tax payable on departure from Addis Ababa. If you expect to buy considerable quantities of soft drinks, you should make an allowance for this. It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Ethiopian birr) prior to travel and sterling, euros and US dollars are readily exchanged in Addis Ababa. We suggest you carry your travel money in the form of cash as it can be difficult to change travellers cheques in Addis Ababa and there are no bank ATMs currently in service. If you are intending to buy expensive souvenirs, you should budget accordingly. Credit cards can be used to purchase goods and services and it is a good idea to carry one in case of emergency.
Tipping is the accepted way of saying thank you for good service. Tips do not form part of the wages of your local guides and trek crew but they are very much appreciated. Most groups will want to show their appreciation to the local staff who work so hard to make the trip a success. Normally, tips are given at the end of the trek and this is best done as a group. Most groups will give the tips with a bit of ceremony (or sometimes a party) on the last evening, to mark the end of the trek. As a guide, we recommend that each pupil contributes $40 to these tips. Your KE School Adventure leader will help you make arrangements for a fair distribution of tips among the trek crew.
Your baggage on trek will be carried by pack animals. The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kg. It is possible to leave your travel clothes and any other items not required on trek with the group’s support vehicle.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This School Adventure involves going to high altitude. During the course of your trip you will reach altitudes in excess of 3500 metres. This is not something that you should worry about; the human body is quite capable of adapting to a very wide range of altitudes, but it is important that we follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully. Before coming on this holiday you should read the advice on trekking at high altitude on our website which can be viewed via the link below. You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

  • The packed weight of your trek bag while trekking should be no more than 15 kgs./33 lbs.
  • You must bring the following items:

    • Hiking boots
    • Trainers / sneakers
    • Socks
    • Technical walking socks (2 or 3 pairs)
    • Spare laces
    • Trekking trousers / pants
    • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers / rainpants
    • Underwear
    • Thermal baselayer shirts
    • T-shirts and/or casual shirts
    • Fleece jacket or warm jumper/sweater
    • Lightweight waterproof jacket
    • Down jacket
    • Sunhat
    • Warm hat
    • Eyewear - Sunglasses
    • Thermal gloves
    • Water bottles 1 Litre / 1 quart (x2)
    • 4 season sleeping bag
    • Headtorch / headlamp with spare batteries
    • Daypack 30 - 40 litres / 2000 cu in
    • Basic First Aid Kit including: A broad spectrum antibiotic, antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), altitude (Diamox),painkillers, plasters (band-aids) and blister treatment, insect repellent, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite).

    The following items are optional:

    • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
    • Selection of dry bags (to keep contents of trek bag dry)
    • Washbag and toiletries
    • Antibacterial handwash
    • Sleeping bag liner
    • Thermarest (note: foam camping mats are provided)
    • Small towel
    • Trekking poles
    • Insect repellant– (DEET)
    • Camera, film, batteries
    • Pocket-knife (note: always pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
    • Travel clothes
    • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
    • Small padlock (to lock trek ba

    Equipment hire

    • We regret that it is not possible to hire equipment through KE for this trip.


    • Night time temperatures can drop to below freezing, so you need to ensure your sleeping bag and clothing are adequate for these conditions.

    For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

    A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

    We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

    As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

    KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

    Ethiopia has a wet season from June to September and a dry season for the rest of the year. Following the wet season, the country is lush and green, with lots of flowers and growing crops. Thereafter, the country dries out progressively until the next rains. The climate of the Simien Mountains has been likened to the perfect English summer day. At altitudes of around 3000m and above, we can expect temperatures of around 15°C to 20°C, falling close to freezing point at night and with frosty mornings a possibility. As we descend to the lowlands we will find daytime temperatures of 25°C to 35°C.
    Guide to Ethiopia. Phillip Briggs. Ethiopia. The Bradt Travel Guide. Lonely Planet. Trekking in East Africa. In Ethiopia with a Mule. Dervla Murphy The Sign & The Seal. Graham Hancock
    Simen Mountains Trekking Map. 1.100,000. University of Berne.

    Detailed topographic map with contours at 100m intervals and hill shading to show relief. Hiking trails are shown and symbols denote spectacular viewpoints etc. Coverage includes the town of Debark and the peak Ras Dejen. On the reverse are photographs and notes on the local geography, flora & fauna. Also, trekking route descriptions, illustrated with vertical profile diagrams.

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