I absolutely fell in love the Simien Mountains and one of the many reasons for this were the stunning views (as well as the Monkeys!).
Apart from the Simiens Mountains, the view with the High Priest of Miriam & Daniel Korkor in Hawzein was also incredibly memorable. The hike up to these two Gheralta Cluster rock-hewn churches is quite a tough one. It is probably 2.5 hours up and 1 down, but in parts, it is a bit of a scramble. Once you are up there, however, your effort is rewarded with the most sensational views.
Traditional Tej ‘Honey Wine’. Ethiopia’s traditional dish – however good Injera is, it’ll grow pretty old rather fast, but their Honey Wine is delicious and everywhere you go it will be made specially with a local recipe.
Any coffee I tried was amazing…and as part of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, they burn Frankincense to go along with it. It was never really explained as to why they do this, but perhaps it's due to the belief that one of the three wise men is said to have been Ethiopian?
Best Night’s Accommodation
The Maribela Lodge in Lalibela. The hotel is located on a cliff edge, with a westerly view over a valley – making those sundowners even more special! After a day exploring the rock hewn churches, this hotel is a great place to relax and appreciate the view as the Lammergeier vultures soar by.
Limalimo Lodge in the Simien Mountains was also pretty impressive. I didn’t stay here, however, I did have a little inspection. Located just within the national park borders, you can do hiking excursions, see three types of monkey and even do a local village visit. I would recommend doing three nights here, so you have one full day to drive further into the park and then another day to explore around the lodge.
Exploring the rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela. An icon for Ethiopia, these churches do really take your breath away. The most famous of all, Saint Georges Church (below), is something truly special - particularly at sunset! In Lalibela, there are two sets of clusters - North Western & South Eastern. The North Western cluster makes up 12 churches in total and includes two of the largest monolithic churches in the world and the South Western cluster are a smaller set but equally impressive and definitely not to be missed out on. You could easily spend a whole day exploring these, however, I would recommend touring over two days – dedicating a tour to each cluster - so you don't get too ‘churched out’…
In the Simien Mountains, the main place to see the endemic Walia Ibex occurs mainly along 25 km of the northern escarpment between Adarmaz Camp and Chennek Camp. You have to drive there and once you reach it, you'll be met with the most incredible views (although the whole drive is pretty breathtaking).
Once there, we got out of the car and took the opportunity to get some photos of those impressive views while our guide told us to wait as he was sure something would come. It was at that point we heard the human-like hum of the Gelada Monkeys approaching over a cliff ahead of us. The hum grew and grew and grew, until we were surrounded by about 800 monkeys. The noise was incredible, just like being in a crowd of people.
Our guide then suggested we wait for just a little longer. As soon as he said this, a family of Ibex, one male with impressively curved horns and five females, descended over the cliff as if they'd heard him themselves and didn't want to keep us waiting! We probably spent an hour on that escarpment - it was a really special moment.
Any Tips for Travellers
Ethiopia's history and culture is incredibly rich, and the local people are super proud of it. Ask your guide or driver anything you want to know - they will be happy to tell you about anything to do with their beautiful country.
Also, make sure you have a guide throughout your tour, rather than just a driver and local guides in certain places. They will not only be able to answer all of your questions, but they can assist with local restaurants, local customs and make the long drives interesting as well as enjoyable!