Simien National Park
Buses travelling between Shire/Axum and Gondar pass through Debark, the main jumping off point for the national park and the only settlement of any size in the vicinity. Ask to be let off here. From Shire, Debark is 5-7 hours; from Gondar about 3h.
Within the National Park, there is a road which can access some of the campsites and villages. 4x4s and lorries go through Sankaber, Geech and Chenek, although most visitors use mountain hiking paths to get around.
The Simien National Park contains Ethiopia's biggest and most spectacular mountain range, the Simien Mountains. Ras Dashen at 4553m is the country's highest peak, although the views from the Northern Escarpment are arguably a bigger draw, with rock faces falling away thousands of feet from summits like Inatye (4070m) and Imet Gogo (3960m). Wildlife is also an attraction of the park with the rare Walia ibex being found in higher parts of the ranges. If you're really lucky, you may even see one of the fewer than a hundred individual Simien foxes (or Abyssinian wolf) found here and in a few other mountain ranges in Ethiopia. These are the world's rarest canid and Africa's most endangered carnivore living on a very restricted diet of montagne rodents. Troops of Gelada baboons are indigenous and a common sight on hikes.
Nearly all visitors to the Simien National Park come to hike through the spectacular mountain scenery. Hikes can be arranged at the park headquarters in Debark. On top of a basic park entry fee, guides, scouts, mules, equipment and food can be arranged (though for greater culinary variety, most people stock up in Gonder/Axum).
It is the essentials that are usually bought in Debark, the National Park's main town. A woven gabi (a kind of thick shawl) is useful for the cold mountain nights, and can be purchased at the local market. A few stores sell tinned food and bread; once on the mountain, (live) chickens and eggs can be bought from villagers. Maps are available at the park headquarters.
In Debark, The Simien Park Hotel, situated on the main road, offers reliable Ethiopian food. Once on the mountain, the only alternative to one's own supplies is the Simien Lodge, located at Buyit Ras, a few hours hike from Debark.
Both hotels mentioned will happily serve you a St. George beer or a delicious cup of Ethiopian coffee, even if you are not staying.
Visitors usually spend the first and last nights of their stay in Debark. The main hotel is the Simien Park Hotel, situated on the main road. As of 2008, single rooms started at 35 birr, while doubles cost around 80 birr. On the mountain, the Simien Lodge - self-proclaimed as "the highest hotel in Africa" at 3,260m - offers upmarket accommodation in tukels, or huts. A dorm bunk costs USD31, a two-person tukel USD135, and a four-person tukel USD183.
As with entering, bus services between Gonder and Shire provide the only public means of getting out of the National Park.
Be sure to arrange transport out of the park before entering. There are no working phone lines in the park, so you can't call headquarters for a 4x4 once you're in. Buses and trucks aren't allowed to pick up hikers. They'll ask for upwards of USD200 to overlook this rule.