The Simien Mountains Trek: Timkat Festival

14 days
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Guided Group
Walking & Trekking
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Trek through Ethiopia's dramatic Simien Mountains.

The dramatic skyline of peaks and jagged volcanic plugs which tower over the highland plateaux of the Simien Mountains compete with rugged gorges and deep gullies to form what is, arguably, the most awe-inspiring landscape in Africa. As we trek through this distant mountain range we pass small hamlets where villagers eke out an existence from the limited arable land. We may come across large troops of Gelada baboons foraging on the escarpment; and, with luck, spot Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolves.

On this itinerary we spend an additional day in Gondar to experience Ethiopia’s Timkat Festival which is one of the greatest celebrations on Earth and a great time to visit the country. Please note that this page relates to the ‘The Simien Mountains Trek: Timkat Festival’ departure only.  To view the details for standard itinerary, please go to the ‘The Simien Mountains Trek’ (TYE).


  • Timkat Festival
  • Castles of Gondar
  • Trekking through dramatic scenery
  • Endemic flora & fauna
  • Remote mountain communities
  • Led by an experienced Ethiopian guide and a UK trekking leader

Key information

  • 9 nights wild camping, 4 nights standard hotels with en suite facilities
  • 10 days point-to-point walking with full porterage
  • Good fitness required
  • Altitude maximum 4543m, average 3300m
  • Harar and Lalibela extensions available

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners
  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Days of Walking & Trekking

Approximately 2.5-12 hours walking per day


High altitude; including steep, rocky terrain

Day by day breakdown
Day 49.0km/5.0miles
Day 512.0km/7.0miles
Day 610.0km/6.0miles
Day 713.0km/8.0miles
Day 817.0km/10.0miles
Day 921.0km/13.0miles
Day 1021.0km/13.0miles
Day 1110.0km/6.0miles
Day 1217.0km/10.0miles
Day 137.0km/4.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


  • Day 1

    Arrive Addis Ababa; half-day city tour.

    The group flight arrives in the morning. Please note that if you are being picked up at the airport (either on the group transfer or private transfer) you will have to exit the terminal to find our representative with the Exodus board. You may see people with signs inside the terminal but they are generally people with special permission such as the UN, Government or hotels with desks inside the terminal. In the afternoon we go on a sightseeing tour that takes us to the Ethnographic Museum and the Church of the Trinity where Haile Selassies' remains now lie.
    Ghion Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Fly to Gondar; tour castles and Debre Birhan Selassie church.

    We have a spectacular flight to Gondar. From the air we see the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian plateau, cut again and again by immensely deep gorges. Gondar was once the capital of Ethiopia and in the afternoon we visit the castles, which were built in the 17th and 18th centuries by several generations of Ethiopia's kings. Nearby is the Debre Birhan Selassie church with its sensational angelic ceiling, and the bathhouse of Fasil at which thousands of Ethiopians celebrate the Timkat festival (this is where we'll be enjoying the festival tomorrow so may delay our visit). As today is the eve of Timkat, there will be a colourful procession with singing and chanting parades of all the churches in town and heading the Fasilades bath house.

    Our hotel is up on a cliff top with wonderful views overlooking the town. Depending on time we will also visit the centre of The Kindu Trust, a local charity which Exodus supports.

    Goha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Timkat Festival

    Today is the most important day in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar. We get up early this morning to take part in the Timkat festivities. We join the Ethiopian crowds at Fasilides' Baths whose water has been blessed by priests and by the side of which the Talbot (replica of the Arc of the Covenant) has spent the night. Young men dive into the water to symbolise the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. Later a procession with singing and chanting parades the Talbot back to the church. The Timkat Festival has been described by some as one of the greatest festivals in the world.

    Goha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Drive to Debark; start trekking to Sankaber Camp.

    We travel by road the 105 kilometres to the small town of Debark, the nearest town to the Simien National Park. There is a little time to explore the area while the guides prepare the equipment and mules for the trek.

    From Debark the landscape suddenly opens onto a picturesque valley dotted with mud huts, horses and livestock. We start our walk at Buyit Ras, entrance to the park, and head towards Sankaber where we have our first night’s camp. There are spectacular views across the range from here. 3 hours walking, 9kms.
    Sankaber Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Trek to Geech via Jinbar Waterfall.

    Walking near small settlements and villages we have fine views across the lowlands and the Simien plateau as we continue our trek heading towards Geech (3,600m). En route we see a stunning waterfall; cascading through a hole in the rock, it falls 500 metres to the bottom of the gorge and is particularly impressive after the rainy season (by Christmas the waterfall may not be visible). The last 2 hours of the day involve a steep climb up to our campsite, where we stay for two nights. 7 hours walking, 12 kms.
    Geech Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Day walk to Imetgogo.

    A spectacular day - in the morning we walk to Imetgogo (3,926m). Situated at the end of a long ridge, which disappears on either side to the lowlands below, there are outstanding views of the gorge and mountain range and it is easy to understand why the striking formations have been described as 'the chess pieces of the Gods'. We should get our first glimpse of Ras Dashen from here and we can see clearly our route for the coming days. If we haven't already encountered them, there is a good chance of seeing the indigenous Gelada, also known as the 'bleeding heart' baboon or Lion monkey. The Gelada is in fact neither baboon nor monkey but the last remaining species of a branch of high altitude, grass eating primates that have all but vanished. We return to the same camp and enjoy an afternoon at rest. 4 hours walking, 10kms, ascent 325m, descent 325m.
    Geech Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Trek to Chennek via Enatyie Escarpment.

    Another wonderful walk - heading in the same direction as yesterday we soon branch off to reach the edge of the escarpment which we follow to the top, Inatye (4070m). The dramatic views continue all the way down to our camp at Chennek. 7 hours walking, 13kms, ascent 650m, descent 570m.
    Chenneck camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    Trek to Ambiko; ascend Bwuhit.

    A memorable but hard day's trekking of ascents and descents as we make our way from Chennek to Ambiko. We should see birds like the Ground Scraper Thrush, Siskins, Falcons and Kestrel. Today is also our best chance of seeing the rare and endangered Walia Ibex, a species that can only be found in the Simien National Park. From Chennek we climb to a pass at 4,200m and from here the fit and energetic may like to continue on a further hour up to the summit of Bwuhit at 4,430m. Otherwise from the pass we have a big drop down to the Meshah River at 2850m, via the village of Chiro Leba, where we may be able to visit the school and small clinic (if open). From the river we ascend 350m to our camp, where we spend 2 nights at Ambiko. 10 hours walking, 17km, ascent 1105m, descent 1570m.
    Ambiko Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 9

    Ascent of Ras Dashen, highest point in Ethiopia.

    We ascend Ras Dashen before returning to Ambiko. This day is the longest day of the trek. It may take up to twelve hours climbing 1350m to the summit. Ras Dashen has 3 peaks and we climb to the middle highest peak - the roof of Ethiopia. Our efforts are rewarded with incredible views from the summit. 12 hours walking, 21km, ascent 1345m, descent 1345m.
    Ambiko Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 10

    Trek to Sona via Arkwasiye.

    Another challenging day, although not as difficult as the previous one! From Ambiko we trek to the superbly positioned camp at Sona. After plenty of ups and downs we might be able to stop for some local coffee in the small village of Arquaziye before continuing for another hour and half to our camping site at Sona. 10 hours walking, 21kms, ascent 965m, descent 1055.
    Sona Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Descend to Ansiya Wenz River and on to Lamo Camp.

    A much easier day! We descend into the lowlands. Our day begins with a 1,100m descent into the Ansiya valley, where we have a relaxed lunch break. We then move onto our camp, near the village of Mekarebya. This is an excellent day for seeing birds and there are very good views up to the Simien Mountains. We can look back with pride upon the areas we have recently trekked. 5 hours walking time, 10kms, ascent 65m, descent 1120m.
    Mekarebya Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 12

    Continue to Mulit Camp.

    From our camp we drop 350m, to where we have another long idyllic lunch spot. The final 2 hours of the day involve a hot 400m of ascent, to our final campsite at Mulit. Here we are completely surrounded by fantastic views all around us. 5 hours walking, 17kms, ascent 515m, descent 425m.
    Mulit Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 13

    Short walk to Adi Arkay where the trek finishes; drive to Gondar.

    Our final day's walking takes us to Adi Arkay from where we drive, via Debark to Gondar (approx 6 hours driving), for a much deserved wash and rest! 2.5 hours walking, 7kms, ascent 50m, descent 440m.
    Goha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Fly to Addis Ababa; evening depart.

    Depending on flight times there may be time to relax and explore Gondar before we fly back to Addis. On our return to Addis day rooms will be provided for clients on the late flight, departing after midnight on day 14 (day 15 ex London). The trip ends in the evening in Addis.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Post-trip Extensions


Standing on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, Harar's location gives wonderful views of the surrounding country, with the vast Danakil desert to the north, the fertile Harar Mountains to the west, and the cattle‐rich Ogaden Plains to the south. Here we discover a uniquely different Ethiopia in this sacred Muslim city of mosques, minarets and markets. It is a centre of Muslim learning, a city which once struck its own local currency and a place that still has its own unique language; long regarded by the outside world as a city of mystery and romance.

Please ask for prices.


Extension Day 1 - Overnight in Addis Ababa.

Main tour ends in Addis Ababa. Free time to relax.

Meals included: Breakfast


Extension Day 2 - Fly from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa and transfer to Harar.

Founded in the early 12th century, the great walls surrounding Harar were built in the 1600s to keep out powerful neighbouring hostile groups. Harar remained an important centre of Muslim learning and trade throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Once an important centre of Islamic scholarship, the city was for many years closed to Christians and early explorers were forced to enter in disguise and at their own peril. We start our exploration with a guided tour of Harar to see the mosques and interesting old architecture of the town, including the old city wall and the house of the French poet Rimbaud. Harar is home to one of the stranger sights that you're likely to see in your journey through Ethiopia. Every night, a local man goes to the outskirts of the city and calls the hyenas from the surrounding area. This practice apparently dates from the 1950s, but was based on an older tradition was first started to discourage the hyenas from stealing local livestock. As the hyenas approach, the hyena man holds out pieces of meat to them, either in his hands or sometimes between his teeth, which the hyenas then take from him. This is a practice that is handed down from generation to generation and only one person fills the role at any one time. This evening you may wish to go and witness this bizarre ritual. Please note that these hyena are wild so you should keep a safe distance.

Meals included: Breakfast


Extension Day 3 – Harar.

A full day in Harar to explore the city to see the mosques and interesting old architecture of the town, including the old city wall and the house of the French poet Rimbaud, Harari Museums, Shrines & Tombs, New & Old Markets and traditional Adare houses. Our guide will be with you and ask him to take you where you want to see or visit.

Meals included: Breakfast


Extension Day 4 - Return to Addis.

Transfer back to Dire Dawa for the flight to Addis Ababa, you will have access to a day‐use room in Addis Ababa before returning to the airport for your flight home.

Meals included: Breakfast


Please note that if you are flying with Ethiopian Airlines you will probably have to spend an extra night in Addis Ababa and catch a day‐flight (on Extension Day 5) due the flight schedules.


This extension can also be done pre‐tour.


Extension Day 1 – Fly from Gondar to Lalibela.

Leaving the group in Gondar you fly to Lalibela and visit the first cluster of rock‐hewn churches in the afternoon. These churches are Ethiopia's top attraction. The churches are mostly cut from solid rock, and therefore have the appearance of being underground. The most famous church is Bete Giorgis (St George, patron saint of Ethiopia), carved in the form of a Greek cross. It is exceptionally well preserved and visually almost flawless. The churches are quite dark inside, with little artificial light, and in some cases limited natural light. In each one there is a resident priest, who is usually happy to put on richly embroidered vestments and pose for a photo with his crosses, ancient bibles and sunglasses (due to constant camera flashes!).

Meals included: Breakfast


Extension Day 2 – Lalibela.

In the morning we enjoy an adventurous mule journey to visit Ashetan Maryam (St Mary), built on a ridge with excellent views over the surrounding countryside. The trip takes approximately 5 hours (round trip) and will start early to avoid the heat. We will ride the mules up the mountain for approximately an hour and then hike the rest of the way up the mountain to the church. After visiting the church we then walk back down to the village on slippery mountain paths. This is a tough walk and is optional. If you choose not to do the walk there is plenty to do in Lalibela: There is the opportunity to walk into the town and visit some of the many shops or relax in a Tej café and sample the local fermented honey drink. In the afternoon we visit another cluster of churches that include the churches of Bete Gabriel and Rafael, Merkorous, Emanuel and Abba Libanos. Bete Emanuel is the best in this group and exceptionally carved with unique Axumite building features, such as the indentations on the walls, symbols of the multi‐storey building taken from the stelae of Axum, monkey heads and false windows. The rest of the day is spent absorbing the atmosphere of this extraordinary town with its Tukul or round houses. Made as two storey buildings, they are unusual in Africa.

Meals included: Breakfast


Extension Day 3 - Return to Addis.

Fly back to Addis Ababa where you will have access to a day‐use room before returning to the airport for your flight home.

Meals included: Breakfast


Please note that if you are flying with Ethiopian Airlines you will probably have to spend an extra night in Addis Ababa and catch a day‐flight (on Extension Day 4) due the flight schedules.


This extension can also be done pre‐tour.

Essential Info



All nationalities require a visa for Ethiopia which can be obtained before departure (at a cost of GBP26) or on arrival (at a cost of USD50 - be prepared to queue for a while). Please note that the Ethiopian government may change their visa on arrival policy at very short notice so make sure to check the latest advice. A certificate of Yellow Fever vaccination maybe required in order to obtain your visa, for instance if you're travelling from a country at risk of Yellow Fever transmission - please check with the embassy for the latest advice.


There are no mandatory vaccination requirements for this trip. Recommended vaccinations for this trip are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever.

Malaria prophylaxis is essential on this trip, and we suggest that you seek advice from your GP or travel health clinic about which malaria tablets to take.

Malaria exists in all areas of Ethiopia below 1800m and although we shall be spending a very short time at low altitudes, it is recommended that you take the appropriate prophylactic throughout the trip.

Bilharzia is known to occur in some of the lakes or rivers visited on this itinerary, we therefore advise all to take advice from your guide or leader locally before venturing for a swim.

Dengue fever and/or Chikungunya are known risks in places visited on this trip. Both are tropical viral diseases spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for either, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners.

Hotel meals are generally good although they can lack variety. Local dishes tend to be very good if you like hot, spicy food although milder versions can be requested. Local food is traditionally eaten with the hands. The sour bread known as injera is used as a scoop for the casserole dishes known as wat. All food on trek is cooked for you and, although local produce can be a bit limited in the mountains, it is usually of a high standard. Vegetarians can be catered for, though you may find the diet somewhat limited. Clients who have specialist dietary requirements must contact us to discuss if they can be accommodated. Ethiopia is a poor country and they are not familiar with gluten or lactose free diets.

Please note that you should not drink the tap water in Ethiopia. In urban areas we suggest drinking bottled water.  During the trek the water is taken from wells and streams and boiled/purified before drinking.

We also suggest that you bring snack food as this can be difficult to obtain outside of Addis Ababa.


It is likely to be sunny most of the time on all departures. Most of Ethiopia is high, so although the sun is powerful, the temperature is usually very pleasant. There is, however, the risk of sunburn at high altitude, so it is essential you ensure you are adequately protected. Nights are generally cool to cold, depending on altitude and frosts are possible overnight in the mountains, when the night temperature could drop to 0ºC and exceptionally to -5ºC. Daytime temperatures seldom rise above 25ºC except at lower altitudes.

Adidis Ababa

Is this trip for you?

This is a strenuous trek with several days spent close to or above 4,000 metres. There are a number of long days including the optional ascent of Ras Dashen (at 4,543m it is the highest mountain in Ethiopia and this involves 1,300m of ascent and descent in one day). There is a lot of ascent and descent on many of the days and some fairly exposed rough trails. We do not suggest that you attempt this trek unless you are confident of your ability. The total cumulative amount of ascent is 6,500m, and the descent is 7,650m. There are 10 days walking with full porterage, and the trip is graded 5 (this is at the tougher end of the grade 5 scale though). Good health and fitness are important and you should take regular exercise before travelling on this trip. On the October departures there is the possibility of some river crossings. The trails in the Simien Mountains are generally well marked and the landmarks are distinctive. We will be walking for about 6-7 hours a day (although on 4 days as much as 10-12 hours) and the terrain can be quite tough in places. Much of the trek is in remote areas. If you suffer from vertigo, you may want to carefully consider this trip before booking. There are steep drops in the Simien Mountains, which is what makes the scenery so spectacular. There is never an occasion when you need walk close to the edge of the cliffs so if you are happy to stand back you should not be discomforted in any way.

The Timkat Festival can be very crowded and busy and wandering hand have been known to pick pockets, so care should be taken with valuables.

You may find our Fitness Training Guide a useful reference:

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Wild Camping & Hotels

You will spend 9 nights wild camping and 4 nights in standard hotels. Tents will be erected by local staff members, who will also cook and wash up. Limited single accommodation is available and we can arrange extra accommodation before or after the trip. 

Single accommodation (available on request).

Call for general departures:
+91 80 4213 6106
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Be the first to post your review! If you have recently returned from an Exodus adventure and want to help other travellers with your feedback then simply use the link below to post your holiday review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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Call us on +91 80 4213 6106