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Simien Mountains – “Chess pieces of the gods”

The Simien Mountains present the most dramatic mountain scenery in Ethiopia and perhaps even in the whole of Africa: “the chess pieces of the Gods” as one writer described them, tower over precipitous gorges, river valleys and plains stretching all the way to Eritrea.

No place for hyperbole here. No need to resort to over-worked adjectives. For the sights of the Simien Mountains are genuinely and universally awe-inspiring — forcing all simply to contemplation. One is compelled to want to know the forces and powers that have enabled these wonders. The Simien Mountains National Park has many summits above 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) with Ras Dashen, the highest point in Ethiopia and the fourth highest in Africa being 4,620 meters (15,157 feet). With at least three general botanical zones, the park is known for its distinct ecology, animals and vegetation. Three of Ethiopia’s seven large endemic mammals — the Walia Ibex, Gelada Baboon and Simien Red Fox — are found here. Known as the “Roof of Africa” and located 120 km from Gondar, the Semien Mountains National Park was the first of the country’s nine World Heritage Sites to be designated. Visitors to the park should be prepared for the possibility of warm days and the likelihood of sunburn. November and December are the coldest months — maximum temperature during the day is about 150C (600F) and at night it drops to 30 – 50C (350- 400F).