Ethiopia - Simien Mountains and Tigray

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The Tigray Plateau

The Tigray plateau lies in the north of Ethiopia, with Gondar to the West and Wollo to the South. The communities lie in Eastern Tigray, sitting on escarpment tops of up to 3000 metres in the sandstone mountains north of Gheralta. The landscape is dramatic; wild, vast and utterly beautiful, and famed for its incredible churches carved into the rock face. The capital of Axum boasts a World Heritage site with incredible ancient stelae and obelisks; it also lays claim to housing the Ark of the Covenant. It is a region with fascinating history, awe-inspiring landscapes and leg-stretching walks - combined with natural hospitality.

 

The Village Communities of Tigray

Much of the rural population lives in remote highland mountain villages spread out in ‘Hedamo’ farming homesteads. With commanding views and landscapes of soaring cliffs and valleys, Shimbrety, Erar, Gohgot, Saheta and Enaf all have their own charm. Each village has a guesthouse - based on the traditional Hedamo style, with a flat roof used as a terrace and built from local stone -  which provide a simple, unforgettable opportunity for guests to immerse themselves in the culture of this ancient civilisation. The fifth guesthouse, at Saheta, was built in 2015 with funds from Village Ways.  Each Hedamo has three bedrooms with a double and single bed and a separate shower and eco-toilet.

Shimbrety is an escarpment top village, sitting at 2,800 metres, with fantastic views and a good possibilities for watching the astonishing gelada baboons. Erar is similarly positioned. Gohgot sits at the foot of a cliff, though still on high ground, and there are several rock-hewn churches within walking distance of the village. Enaf, at 3,000 metres is the highest of the villages and boasts spectacular views over the sandstone cliffs and valleys and towards the Agame Massif.

You are well looked after by your local guide, who accompanies you throughout your walks and stays with the communities. The walking here can be demanding, with some steep ascents; on average five hours walk between each village.

 Farming practices have changed little with oxen used for both ploughing and for threshing. Farming relies heavily on a successful rainy season and cereal crops provide the major means of livelihood in the mixed farming system. Teff is an important crop used for making injera, at the heart of traditional Ethiopian cooking. 

Axum at the Heart of Ethiopian History

Ethiopian history has at its heart the legend of the Queen of Sheba and the foundation the Solomonic Dynasty in Axum. The Axumites were famed for their architecture and craft skills; as masons and metal workers, skills which are retained to this day. Axum remained the capital where the coronations of emperors were held until the reign of Haile Selassie. It remains Ethiopia's most important centre of Orthodox Christian faith with many archaeological remains of interest and historical significance. The Ark of the Covenant is the most reserved holy relic, now kept in a small chapel in Axum's monastic complex. A fascinating town to visit.

Travelling to Tigray

We look after you from the moment you arrive in Addis. Your Village Ways holiday includes all transfers between the cities and the communities, excluding internal flights from Addis Ababa to the northern towns.

We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to Ethiopia and internal flights, which can be booked with Ethiopian Airways as a multi city flight. We offer some general advice and useful links regarding travel, visas, insurance, health requirements.

Information on travel in Ethiopia

 

Climate and Seasons

The Tigray highlands, lying mostly above 2,000 m elevation, fall within the cool zone (Dega). The climate is mild, with average annual temperature around 16 degrees Celsius. The midday warmth diminishes quickly by afternoon, and nights are usually cool. The mean annual rainfall is some 1,275 mm, with heavy rain in July and August. 

As in any mountainous area, there are local climatic differences according to the terrain: cooler conditions occur at higher elevations and temperatures are greater in the deep valleys. 

The four main seasons are described below.

Kiremt or Meher Season

This (summer) season extends from June to August. This is the period of heavy rainfall. Average temperatures range from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius, humidity levels are high (75-85%) and cloudy skies reduce sunshine. But this is a verdant time, with hillsides becoming green with new vegetation.

Tseday Season

This lasts from mid-September to November, is the main harvesting season. The skies are clear, there is minimal rainfall and lower humidity (65-70%). Mean maximum and minimum temperatures range from 20 degrees down to 5.0 degrees, respectively. Warm clothes are needed, especially in the cool evenings.

Bega Season

This winter period extends from December to February. This is the dry season, with minimal rainfall, low humidity and an average of 9 hours of sunshine per day. Temperatures average between about 22 degrees (maxima) and 6.0 degrees (minima). In January, overnight frosts can occur and snow may fall at the highest elevations. This is the season for warm clothes.

Belg Season

This covers March, April and May. Showers of rain build up and temperatures start to climb. May is the hottest month, with mean maxima and minima temperature of 25 and 10 degrees, respectively.