2017 Ethiopia: Simien Mountains, Aksum, Danakil Depression

Places Simien Mountains, Gondar, Shire, Aksum, Adigrat, Mekele, Danakil Depression, Weldiya
Time & length February 2017, 3 ½ weeks
Partners Sofia Matousek
An 8-day trekking trip in the Simien Mountains, including a climb of Rash Dashen (4,450 m), Ethiopia’s highest mountain, followed by a road trip through northern Ethiopia, the Danakil Depression and a climb of the volcano Erta Ale.
I didn’t have much time to prepare for a winter trip last year since I was already busy making arrangements for summer 2017 in Greenland. That’s why Sofia and I decided to do something easy that doesn’t require much planning: A 3-week vacation in northern Ethiopia with some trekking and some sightseeing seemed appropriate.

We landed in Addis Ababa on February 3, spent a whole day in the city and then took a bus up to the historic city of Gondar. After a few days looking through the historic castles and ruins, we started our trekking trip in the Simien Mountains. We spent 8 days in the national park and hiked from west to east, at the end we climbed Rash Dashen (4,450 m), Ethiopia’s highest mountain.

We then organized a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a driver and went on an 8-day road trip through northern Ethiopia. The highlight of which was a 4-day visit of the Danakil Depression with its salt desert at -123 m altitude, salt miners who load more than 100 kg of salt on their camels to take to the nearest city, a week-long march. We also visited the Dallol hot springs and the active volcano Erta Ale. For this tour we had to join an organized group with military protection.

I was very impressed with Ethiopia scenically, the beauty of the nature there is really magnificent. The mountains, the salt desert, the strange landscape around the hot springs, the volcano… all that was unique in a way I have never seen before.

We didn’t get along so well with the people though. Very often we were lied to, cheated on, mislead with false information and treated without any respect. Some people even seemed to be hostile against westerners, it started with aggressive street kids and ended with men molesting my girlfriend.

Money was always an issue, often white people are being charged 20- or 30-times more than locals. That’s not even a secret, in fact people say so openly because they believe it’s only fair that “rich people” pay more for the same (mostly bad) service, which is why we exceeded our budget by about €1,000. By the way, Ethiopia is Africa’s center of foreign aid and has received more money than almost any other country in the world from western countries, maybe that just makes people even more greedy and irresponsible? Talking to some educated Ethiopians and understanding their views on foreign aid and the corrupt governments, I came to understand that all this money pouring into the country could be seen as subsidization of dependency and helplessness with corrupt government officials profiting and the poor just deeper into stagnation. Of course this is all subjective, please make up your own mind if you ever come to travel in Ethiopia.

Anyway, here are the pictures.

Addis Ababa and Gondar

Simien Mountains Trekking


Between Aksum and Mekele

Danakil Depression, Erta Ale volcano and Afar Region