RESPONSIBLE TOURISM specialist, Village Ways, is to start operating in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains.
With the support of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Village Ways has developed a unique new way to experience this sensational part of highland Ethiopia with stays in three remote village communities – virgin territory for tourists. The new Villages of the Simien Mountains holiday, which will combine thrilling walking in dramatic landscapes and an immersion in authentic Ethiopia, will launch in January 2016.
In the rugged north of Ethiopia, the Simien Mountains boast a landscape like no other, with craggy, flat-topped mountains intercepted by deep gorges, rivers and waterfalls. Deserving of their long-standing World Heritage Site status, the Simien Mountains are arguably one of the world’s most beautiful areas and a walker’s paradise. This walking route offers a completely new way to experience these mountains, well away from the much-used trekking route in the heart of the National Park.
The adventure begins in the ancient city of Gondar, before moving north to the magnificent Simien Mountains, home to Ethiopia’s highest massif. Over five days, and in the company of a private local guide, guests can enjoy unforgettable walks (on average four hours a day) across a dramatic province against the backdrop of the Simien Massif. From escarpment top to valley bottom, across dramatic ridges and through sprawling farmland, at altitudes of over 3,000 metres, you can expect a sense of wildness, immense vistas and a wealth of wildlife.
Based in the Janamora Woreda, on the southern fringe of the Simien National Park, guests experience rural life in the villages of Taga Mariam, Kalid Abo and Timbala, which until now have rarely received visitors. All sitting at over 3,000 metres, each village enjoys panoramic views over the vast plateaux towards Ras Dashen, Ethiopia’s highest peak, and offers a warm and genuine welcome. With two nights spent in each village, there is plenty of time to become immersed in local life, whether learning about the farming traditions, or getting hands dirty and joining in.
Stays are in round thatched ‘tukul’ guesthouses, which over the past two years have been newly built by the communities with the support of Village Ways and AWF. The inhabitants have also received training in hosting, guiding and cooking for guests.
This project is an innovative partnership between a rural tourism specialist and a wildlife conservation body, where the aim is to help protect highly important wildlife areas (the Simiens is a crucial habitat to some of Africa’s rarest animals) by providing alternative income streams, reducing agricultural pressures and incentivising wildlife preservation.
The price is from £875pp based on two sharing (reduced prices of £669 for parties of four or more), including eight nights’ accommodation (two nights’ B&B in Gondar and six nights’ full board in the villages), private walking guide in the Simien Mountains and all travel starting and finishing in Gondar. International and internal flights extra. This is a special introductory price, valid for departures between January and May 2016. Choose to add on an exploration of the core area of Simien National Park with a two-night stay in a comfortable lodge on the fringe of the Park from £279pp.
For further information contact Village Ways (+44 (0)1223 750049, www.villageways.com)