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Head off the beaten track in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains

simien mountains

Trekking enthusiasts are always looking for the next challenge to take on - often off the beaten track and away from crowds of other travellers. If that's the kind of walking holiday you love, Ethiopia and its Simien Mountains should certainly be on your radar.

Sadly, this African nation is most commonly associated with the pictures of severe drought and poverty that have been broadcast on news networks around the world. However, it is home to some truly stunning natural landscapes that are ideal for exploring on foot, one of which is the Simien Mountains. The peaks are protected as part of a national park that spans 13,600 hectares and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Explore Worldwide is one of the tour operators that offers walking holidays to this area. If you're curious to find out more about trekking in Ethiopia, read the guide below to give you an idea of what to expect. The walking... Of course, the most important component of a hiking holiday is the trails you can have access to and you'll be spoilt for choice in the Simien Mountain National Park. The trekking here is challenging - especially the ascent of the 4,543 m high Ras Dashen - and during your trip you'll explore the peaks, valleys, ridges, rivers and villages that make the area so special. There are several viewpoints you will visit during the course of your treks, including Imet Gogo at 3,926 m, from where you'll have amazing views across the lowlands of the Simien range, and a spot north of Bwahit, which promises stunning vistas of Ras Dashen and the Mesheha River. A further highlight of trekking in the Simien Mountains is the opportunity to stop and cool off in the rivers, streams and lagoons that are hidden among the peaks. One particularly beautiful location is found en route to Mulit from Mekarebia, where you can relax next to a gorgeous lagoon that has been formed by a waterfall. The wildlife ... As well as wonderful walking routes, there is lots of fascinating wildlife to look out for as you wander, including some species that are only seen in Ethiopia. Among them is the Simien wolf, the Gelada baboon, which can be seen on living on the sheer rock cliffs in the national park, and the Walia ibex, a type of mountain goat that is found nowhere else in the world. Other creatures that are not quite as rare, but no less impressive, that you may catch a glimpse of include the golden jackal, Anubis baboon and klipspringer - a small species of antelope. The national park is also a haven for birds, with 400 different kinds spotted in the mountainous region. Among them are Verreaux's eagle, the lanner falcon, the auger buzzard and the lammergeyer (or bearded vulture). The history ... Although you'll fly into and out of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, you will also spend time in another of its important cities - Gondar. This was the capital of the country in the 17th century and, as a result, it is home to various important historical relics. There are several beautiful castles in Gondar, which, unlike other such fortifications in Africa, have architectural styles influenced by the Arabian and Axumite civilisations. Fasilides Castle is particularly worth visiting, thanks to its impressive towers and battlements, as is the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, which is protected by 12 towers and features intricate paintings inside on its walls and ceiling. Matt Cook enjoys travelling and cycling which helps in his role of eCommerce Manager for Adventure Travel company Explore.