Africa’s has some of the most stunning and varied mountain terrain in the world, from Morocco’s Atlas to South Africa’s Drakensberg. And there’s no better way to get a close look than on foot. Here are 10 of the best mountain hikes in Africa; some are for beginners, some are only for the steady footed, but all will make you feel accomplished.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Africa’s most-climbed mountain, Kilimanjaro reaches 19,336 feet into the sky and is the continent’s tallest peak. On your way to the top, you’ll pass through five different climates, but you can choose a number of routes varying in difficulty, foot traffic and scenery. The easier routes are Machame, Shira and Limosho, but the lengthier routes will get you more acclimatized, meaning your chances of making it to the top without getting altitude sickness are better. You can also opt to climb just part way up. Climbs run from US$2,500 to $10,000.
Mount Kenya, Kenya
Africa’s second-tallest peak, Mount Kenya requires a little technology to reach the top, since parts of the peak are covered in forest, moorland, rock, ice and snow. January and February are ideal to make the climb, as well as between July and October. There are huts available for your stay on your way to the top, or you can camp. The trek costs about US$850.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco
The Atlas Mountains encompass the Middle-, High- and Anti-Atlas ranges. The High Atlas is home to Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s tallest peak. It’s a rather challenging hike, but well worth it for the view from the top. Going up to the summit and back down to the town of Imlil can be done in a day, but try to stretch it out over three days to truly soak it in.
Simien Mountains, Ethiopia
This massive range of mountains in Ethiopia features multiple summits over 13,000 feet, the tallest being Ras Dashen (14,901 feet), Africa’s fourth-highest mountain. The hike offers stunning landscapes with gorges and streams, as well as rare wildlife like the gelada baboon and walia ibex.
The Drakensberg, South Africa
The Drakensberg is South Africa’s tallest range. The lower section is ideal for day hikes, horse riding and viewing San rock art. For more challenging treks visit the routes on the higher passes, like the Drakensberg Traverse—this is a two- to three-week hike that crosses multiple giant peaks and includes the gorgeous Tugela Falls. For a shorter hike, try the path from the Sentinel to the Cathedral peaks.
Mount Meru, Tanzania
Mount Meru is a volcano and the second-tallest mountain in Tanzania, reaching 14,980 feet. Those hoping to climb nearby Mount Kilimanjaro often use Mount Meru as a training run to get acclimatized. The trek to the top takes three to four days and will take you through lush rain forests and rocky moors, and past fig trees, buffaloes, baboons and giraffes. The best time to go is between August and October. Expect to stay in huts along the way.
Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda
Rwenzori sits just north of the equator, on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Sometimes called the Mountains of the Moon, at least two of its summits reach more than 16,400 feet. On the top of the peaks you’ll see permanent snow, and on the way up you’ll pass thick forest, bogs, boulders, glaciers and elephants. The main trail — the Central Circuit—takes between four and 10 days depending on your pace. The best time to go is between December and February, or June and August.
Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
There are many routes, up, down and around the iconic flat-topped mountain in the middle of Cape Town. Platteklip Gorge is the steep, plodding “short route” up, which most people bypass in favor of the cable car. Once you are at the upper cable station you can take a relatively easy one-hour hike through fynbos and fauna to Maclear’s Beacon, the rocky cairn which marks the highest point on the mountain. Alternately, you can take the Pipe Track from the lower cable station along the contours on the west side of the mountain, and enjoy views of the Twelve Apostles and the sea. On the east side, the track through Skeleton Gorge starts at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and rises up into a cool canopy of indigenous Yellowood, Milkwood and Wild Peach trees.
Mount Cameroon, Cameroon
The locals call this range ‘Mongo ma Ndemi,’ which means Mountain of Greatness. It is an inactive volcano and West Africa’s highest peak, reaching 13,255 feet. There are several paths to choose from, with the oldest and most challenging, the Guinness Trail, named for the yearly marathon race that used to be sponsored by Guinness beer. You’ll need a guide for the two to three-day hike, and you’ll stay in huts or camp along the way.
Mulanje Mountain, Malawi
Mulanje is a huge granite massif in southern Malawi offering several hiking routes, all leading up to charming huts. A great hike for families, it traverses tons of explorable streams and peaks. Try to stay two nights on the mountain. The Mountain Club of Malawi has great information on the multiple paths and related fees. Members of the club can use the cooking facilities on the hikes. The best time to visit is between May and October.
Karen Elowitt contributed to this article.
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