Comprising one of the principal mountain massifs of Africa, the Simien Mountains are made up of several plateaus, separated by broad river valleys. A number of peaks rise above 4000m, including Ras Dashen. It has been registered by UNESCO in 1978.

The dramatic landscape of the Simien Mountains is the result of massive seismic activity in the area about 40 million years ago. Molten lava poured out of the Earth's core reaching a thickness of 3000m. Subsequent erosion over the millennia has left behind the jagged landscape of the Simien Mountains: the gorges, chasms and precipices. The famous pinnacles - the sharp spires that rise abruptly from the surrounding land - are volcanic necks: the solidified lava and last remnant of ancient volcanoes.

The mountains are home to three of Ethiopia's larger endemic mammals: the walia ibex, the more common gelada baboons, and the very rarely seen Ethiopian wolvess.

Simien National Park has been inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger since 1996.

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