Diverse landscapes and countries in Africa make for incredible hiking.
Every avid hiker should make traveling to Africa their next trekking priority. The continent offers a multitude of landscapes and environments suitable for every level of hiker, and most trips feature spectacular views as well as indigenous and colorful flora and fauna. From Kenya to South Africa and all the way up to Morocco, the continent has volcanoes, canyons, gorges, and seaside mountain ranges all ready for your next big adventure.
Located in southern Uganda, Mt. Sabinyo is part of East Africa’s Virunga Massif range. This ancient volcano lures hikers in with stupendous views of changing ecosystems, chance wild mountain gorilla encounters, and emerald green foliage, but with several false summits and steep rocky cliffs, this challenging hike isn’t for everyone. However, the panoramic views and opportunity stand in both Uganda and Rwanda simultaneously upon reaching summit keeps eager hikers coming back for more. Though Mt. Sabinyo may only be a daylong hike, it’s well worth the trek.
INSIDER TIPIf you have the funds, extend your Uganda trip to go trekking with mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. While on a gorilla trek in Bwindi, you’re virtually guaranteed a gorilla family sighting and experience.
Towering over the rest of Southern Malawi, Mt. Mulanje offers trekkers the chance to interact with plenty of local wildlife and excellent scenery while trekking from hut to hut in search of the 3,000-meter summit. Vervet monkeys, rock hyraxes, and black eagles generally accompany hikers along the eighteen possible routes, making the trip as enjoyable as it is gorgeous.
Known as the roof of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the continent, is the crème de la crème of African hikes. Multiple routes including Lemosho, Northern Circuit, Shira, and Machame offer different insights into this ecologically diverse masterpiece, with trips ranging from five to nine days. Do yourself a favor and spend as much time as possible on this mountain, soaking in the bright orange sunrises and crisp mountain air.
INSIDER TIPBook with a reputable company to make sure that your guides and porters are treated ethically. Your future on the mountain rests in their hands, and they deserve good gear and pay.
WHERE: Democratic Republic of Congo
Mt. Nyiragongo, with its bubbling red lava, rocky outcrops, and a bathroom that overlooks a good portion of northwest Rwanda, is the world’s largest active lava lake. After hiking the majority of the first day, travelers spend one-night camping in huts on the rim of the volcano before descending the following morning. The hike is challenging, and the slippery volcanic rocks make it even harder, but the views of the undulating lava are more than worth it. Nyiragongo is located in the somewhat tenuous Democratic Republic of Congo, right outside the city of Goma, a fact that makes this already impressive hike even better.
INSIDER TIPMonitor the news before both booking and setting out for your Nyiragongo hike, as changing political situations in Goma sometimes make the volcano inaccessible to tourists.
Table Mountain, possibly the most iconic image in all of South Africa, can be accessed by several hiking trails or the quick and easy cable car. Opt for the Skeleton Gorge route, a trail that covers approximately 3.8 miles and gains elevation quickly. It leads hikers through an idyllic ravine, a whole host of floral zones, a picturesque reservoir, and finally to the classic Table Mountain summit.
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Kenya’s tallest mountain, and Africa’s second tallest mountain,takes less than a week to climb, but offers comparable views to neighboring Mt. Kilimanjaro at a fraction of the cost. The mountain offers three main summit options, and only one of them–Lenana at 4,985 meters–can be reached by hikers. The other two, Batian and Nelion at 5199 Meters and 5188 meters respectively, are reserved for technical mountain climbers. Regardless of the route, travelers are guaranteed a beautiful journey filled with thick forests, animal encounters, and stunning granite peaks.
INSIDER TIPDon’t rush it. Upgrade to a five-, six-, or seven-day hike to take advantage of acclimatization opportunities and increase your chances of summiting.
As the highest peak in Morocco, North Africa, and the entire Arab world, Mt. Toubkal is not for the faint of heart. Rocky paths piled high with snow and steep inclines make this mountain quite challenging, but adventurers will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Atlas mountains and an up-close look at the diverse terrain. All routes begin at Imlil near Marrakech, and with good visibility hikers at the summit are rewarded with views of the mountains as well as the Sahara Desert off in the distance. Choose the four or five-day hike, as opposed to the simple two-day route so as to spend more time walking through remote valleys and interesting Berber villages.
INSIDER TIPOn your way down the mountain, keep an eye out for the remnants of a 1960s cargo plane from the Portuguese army. The wreckage still remains scattered on the mountainside, perfectly preserved by the ice and snow.
Fish River Canyon
Hikers apply months in advance to trek through Fish River, the largest canyon in Africa and second largest in the world. Reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, Fish River’s large ravine can take a few weeks to fully hike, though most tourists opt for the 85-kilometer, four-day trail. Get ready for some serious desert hiking though, with all the weird and wonderful sights the canyon has to offer–stark rock formations, dramatic sunsets, natural hot springs, and curious wildlife characterize Fish River best. Due to the scorching heat in the summer months, the trail is only accessible between May and mid-September.
INSIDER TIPBook your trip in advance, as permits can run out quickly.
The Otter Trail, located along South Africa’s picturesque garden route, is arguably one of the most visually appealing hiking trails in the world. Stretching for forty-three kilometers along majestic scenery and pristine blue waters, hikers come back to hike this trail again and again and again. It takes approximately five days to complete, and rustic guesthouses and campgrounds along the way line the ocean-side trail. Rugged coastlines and flowering fynbos fields make this trip a must do–this is South Africa at its best.
INSIDER TIPBook up to a year in advance, as permits for the Otter Trail run out quickly.
Located in northern Ethiopia, the Simien Mountains are a world heritage site for a reason. The hikes in this range, while difficult, are truly breathtaking. Unique wildlife, like the Gelada monkeys and Ethiopian wolves, set the scene in the park’s vast gorges and valleys, while laughing schoolchildren, farmers hard at work, and Ethiopian villages live along the trail. Unlike many of the other hikes on this list, the Simien Mountains exist not outside of communities but within them. Coupled with unparalleled mountain views, few places in the world offer up a better trekking experience.