Top 5 Hiking & Climbing Routes in Tanzania

Guest post by Marian Morgam:

Tanzania is an exotic tapestry of colors, flavors, and sights. From the vast plains of the Serengeti, teeming with Africa’s iconic Big Five, to paradisiacal islands that call for horizontal me-time on sun-soaked beaches, there is so much more to Tanzania than what you’d expect.

Jaw-dropping sights abound at every corner when you’re on a safari in Tanzania, but if it’s a killer view you’re after then look no further than the region’s heavenly mountains.

Here are our top 5 mountains in Tanzania that provide the most breathtaking views and trekking experiences. Don’t forget your best travel camera.

1. Mount Kilimanjaro

Best for: Intermediate – advanced climbers
Fitness level: High
Recommended days: 7 Days (depending on route)

Whether you’re daring enough to climb it or simply just want to take in this snow-capped mountain from the ground, stopping over at Kilimanjaro is an essential part of any Tanzanian itinerary.

The views at the top of Kilimanjaro lure thousands of trekkers to the roof of Africa each year and are completely worth the time and effort.

At 5896m, the peaks of this equatorial mountain can certainly seem imposing but that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach. Mount Kilimanjaro has six climbing routes that vary in length, scenery, and difficulty.

There is no single “best route” so when choosing a path to climb, it all comes down to your previous experience and fitness, the time of the year, and personal preference.

The Marangu route is the oldest on the mountain and often referred to by locals as the “Tourist Route” or “Coca-Cola Route” as it is the most popular (and because there is a hut that sells coca-cola along the way).

The trail begins among the ripe banana stands of Kilimanjaro’s verdant lower slopes and gradually inclines up through the dense, wet montane rainforest toward alpine meadows and moorlands before reaching the peaks.

It’s worth noting that, although this route is dubbed the easiest, it is definitely NOT for the faint of heart and only a third of the climbers on this route reach the summit, so you should definitely train your body for the trek.

The Machame route is a longer, scenic climb that takes more experienced trekkers across a succession of valleys, ridges, and barren lunar landscapes, before reaching the twin summits of Kibo and Mawanzi.

To aid acclimatization, plan on at least a seven-day round trip for a summit attempt, and budget at least USD$1700.

2. Mount Meru

Best for: Beginner – intermediate climbers
Fitness level: Moderate
Recommended days: 5 Days

Situated in the Arusha National Park, Tanzania’s second-highest peak is often lost in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, but these rugged slopes offer an exhilarating trek like no other.

If you’re after no traffic and a great wildlife experience, Mount Meru is the perfect mountain to climb! Because Meru is lower than Kilimanjaro, a trek can be done comfortably in four days and three nights. But, do not underestimate the mountain

While it is generally considered a “warm-up” to Kilimanjaro, its steepness, terrifying drop-offs on the final ascent, as well as the effects of altitude make it challenging climb. It is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and the fourth highest on the continent, but the rewards are unparalleled.

The ascent starts in a savanna, taking intrepid travelers through lush forest on the mountain’s lower slopes, rising up through picturesque glades and finishing with an exhilarating walk along the knife edge of Meru’s (dormant) volcanic crater rim.

The treks are geared more toward hikers than climbers and the paths lead travelers over an array of landscapes, brimming with elephants, giraffes, and buffalo!

2. Ol Doinyo Lengai

Best for: Beginner – intermediate climbers
Fitness level: Moderate
Recommended days: 3 Days

Have you ever thought of yourself as brave enough to climb an active volcano? If so, Ol Doinyo Lengai, aka the “Mountain of God” is one worthy adversary and can be completed in three days.

You can climb the volcano all year round, but during wet seasons (March to May, October and December) the roads to Ol Doinyo Lengai make it horrible to travel.

Thanks to its prime location in the eastern Rift Valley, this fiery peak offers amazing views. This impressive mountain, which dominates the whole plain, represents a great beauty due to its peculiar, almost perfect conical shape of about 1,600 m base diameter, and with the summit at 2,768 meters above sea level.

Its slopes have been formed by compacted ash for thousands of years, and its deep ravines, cracks and white lava flows are clearly visible from any spot, giving it an inhospitable and majestic appearance at the same time.

Because it is an active volcano, it’s very hot there, so make sure you bring enough water. To get a unique, breathtaking view of Tanzania, climb Ol Doinyo Lengai before sunrise.

4. Usambara Mountain Range

Best for: Beginner – intermediate hikers and climbers
Fitness level: Moderate
Recommended days: Routes range from 1 to 10 days

The Usambara mountain range is one of Tanzania’s most underrated attractions, home to a plethora of wildlife, verdant tea plantations and numerous scenic viewpoints.

Usambara is a vibrant, diverse location to admire and is often said to be the pinnacle of beauty in Tanzania and a true gem of Africa.

Although the mountains are known for their comfortable climate all year round, the best time to visit is a between June and November, the dry season.

While not on the main Tanzanian northern tourist circuit, these glorious mountains offer a unique African experience, where hikers can spot exotic wildlife in Magamba forest or take in jaw-dropping natural scenery such as the Mkuzu Waterfall.

There are many varieties of hikes in Usambara and if you happen to have more time there are options of longer multiple day treks in the Usambara Mountain region. This is a great way to see the local area and experience the hospitality of Tanzanian people.

5. Udzungwa Mountains

Best for: All hikers and climbers
Fitness level: All
Recommended days: Routes range from 20min hikes to 5 day treks

The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is a paradise for both hikers and backpackers. It is an impressive destination covering a massive area of 2000 sq km of wild East African forests.

Although Uzdungwa is not usually listed in the catalogs of Tanzanian routes, it can be a great destination for those who love hiking. It provides an excellent network of forest routes, among which is a half-day walk to the Sanje waterfall that plunges 170 meters through a mist to the forest valley below.

Because of such a wide range in altitude and habitat types, Udzungwa National Park has one of the highest numbers of species worldwide. Six species of primate are found here, including the Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje Crested Mangabey, which are native to the area.

The plateau also supports a diverse, large mammal community including elephants, buffaloes, lions and leopards.

Udzungwa has the richest forest bird habitat in Tanzania. The dry season takes place from June to October, and that is when it is best to visit.

Each mountain is an earthly treasure, and there will be no regrets whichever one you choose. We wish you safe travels as you embark on your next adventure!

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and reach new heights. Go on an epic mountain safari in Tanzania! It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marian Morgam is a travel blogger from Minnesota. She has traveled to almost 50 countries and spent two years living and working in Europe as well as volunteering in Tanzania. Currently, she is working on a book about tips for backpacker travelers around the world.

This article was originally published in bookallsafaris.com.

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 3

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

day 3 – Þórsmörk (Básar) to Skógar

25km, 10-12hrs

When I think back on Laugevagur, my first thoughts are of the amazing waterfalls on the last day. Is there a more spectacular chain of falls anywhere else on Earth?

Happily, the weather was quite good when I woke early. Then a thunder storm rolled in and disappeared before I’d finished coffee.

Later I learned that Mark was already up high. Very nervous. There’s no place to hide from lightning in Iceland.

Here I was psyching up for the 900m climb to Fimmvörðuháls pass.

I knew it could be a long, tough day climbing to the icefields up on a high plateau. It’s the most glaciated section. But at least there are NO RIVER CROSSINGS!

The ascent was quite easy, as it turned out.

What’s this?

These were the first hikers I saw coming the other direction. Doing this with a day pack is quite popular.

Stunning views.

Recall the 2010 volcano that disrupted air traffic all over Europe?

This is it. You walk that massive lava flow.

Moodi and Magni (Thor’s sons) are two summit cones pushed up in 2010.

Magni

Everyone climbs Magni to enjoy the 360 degree view.

One worry late in the season is the snowfields turning to slush. Or water.

Happily, it was still good walking for me on July 29th.

Baldvinsskali is a small emergency hut en route. Hikers are allowed to escape the wind and elements if needed.

My only complaint about this hiking day is some road walking on the way down. I’d prefer they make a parallel walking trail.

How far to Skógar?

Waterfalls begin.

The trail follows the river down.

Every tourist to Iceland visits the falls at Skógar.

Made it!

About half way through the day I’d decided to bus back to Reykjavík, if I could. Mark was shooting photos at the base of the falls. I bought a ticket on his bus.

You could stay over. Skógar has a hostel and camping. As well as several restaurants.

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 2

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Hvannagil to Þórsmörk (Thorsmork)

26km, 10-12hr

Hoping to make a huge day, I was one of the first to leave camp. In the fog.

Bleak and flat to start.

Bridge! Thank God.

What an epic landscape!

Quite quickly you arrive at this pretty tourist area built 1995.

I had some hot brunch in the cook tent. Then moved on quickly. Some stop here to climb one or two summits as day hikes.

More bridges!

Interesting geology at every turn.

I was missing that brief bit of blue sky from yesterday. Everyone wore their rain gear today.

This is volcanic ash. Worse than sand, it gets into everything.

Oh my. This is amazing.

My first … tree !?

Trees are rare in Iceland. But there are plenty in Þórsmörk (Thorsmork)… Thor’s forrest.

(Iceland was actually 25% forested at one time. Timber cutting resulted in only about 1% remaining.)

When you finally arrive Þórsmörk you need choose between 3 separated campsites: Húsadalur, Langidalur or Básar.

Husadalur is biggest and has a natural hot springs.

But if you plan to continue hiking next day to Skógar, Básar is the best choice. It’s closest to the exit trail for next morning.

That’s where I headed.

Langidalur is pretty, however. The tenting looks superb.

I met again two Canadian women waiting for the bus. They’d had enough of rugged Laugevagur. Here’s the vista that dissuaded them from climbing up to the glaciers next day.

It does look intimidating.

If you do decide to linger at one of the 3 campsites, there’s even more day hiking here than at Landmannalaugar

Básar is sprawling. Busy with campers and day hikers.

I asked for advice on a quiet tent spot.

While I was eating dinner Mark from Boston arrived.

He and I were the only two from the start who had made it this far, this fast. We both planned to get an early start next day and finish to Skógar. It would be the toughest and best day of all.

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 0 AGAIN

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Stuck in Landmannalaugar

Though it had rained all night off and on, it hadn’t rained hard. I was optimistic poking my head outside the tent in the morning.

No go. 

Recommendation from the information office was that we should stay in camp another night. Forecast for the following day was “improving“.

Sigh …

A hiker recently died on this section during a big storm.

I did grab a cancellation for a spot in the 110 bed tourist hut operated by Ferdafelag Islands. (Others had booked at least 6 months in advance.)

In fact, I got in early and had my pick. Farthest from the door, against the wall. It cost $90 – no meals. The most expensive bunkbed of my life. Tenting is $20 / person.

Landmannalaugar tent city was packed.

Many — including me — heeded the advice that we should stay. As day hikers rolled in it got more and more crowded.

At the time I trusted the advice. They know a lot about alpine rescue here.

So … a lazy day to read my book. Take a nap. And, of course, do the rest of the local day hikes.

I made my own routes including parts of the Sulphur Wave trail (towards Brennisteinsalda). Wandered the Laugahraun lava fields. I climbed part way up Blue Peak (Bláhnjúkur).

The weather never really got any worse.

In fact, this was some of my best hiking of the trip.

I enjoyed another hot springs soak, of course.

And hung out in the cook tent as late as possible. Before climbing into my warm, comfortable bunkbed. Those out in tents were getting soaked.

If you want to know more, check out HOW TO VISIT AND WHERE TO HIKE IN LANDMANNALAUGAR, ICELAND.

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 0

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar

Years ago I tried and failed to do this hike. Roads and rivers were impassable in June of that season.

Since then it’s been near the top of my bucket list.

Click PLAY or watch on YouTube to see why.

I bought my fuel at Iceland Camping Equipment in Reykjavík. It’s VERY expensive.

Later I learned that every hostel and campsite has plenty of free fuel canisters left behind by foreign hikers who will soon fly out.

I enjoyed my last restaurant meal – traditional Icelandic meat soup.

There are a number of ways to get to Landmannalaugar. Reykavik Expeditions and TREX are the two biggest bus services.

I went early to catch the 4pm bus. … Last bus leaves at 1pm. Never believe anything you read on the internet.

click for bigger map

click for bigger map

Next morning I was surprised to see young people from Alaska loading bikes. I’d not heard of people cycling Laugevagur. Turns out it’s a bad idea.

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar is about 4 hours … if you don’t get stuck.

It would be FUN to drive your own rental monster truck.

Landmannalaugar is a sprawling mess of a campsite.

While the rest of the world was suffering a heat wave, Iceland has had the worst summer weather in recorded history (100 years).

Forecast was not good. We worried whether or not we’d be able to attempt the hike.

I put my Hubba up on a platform in case of flood during the night.

At the information office you can buy a crappy day hiking map for about $3.

Most recommended is the Suournamur loop (about 9km). I first took a detour up the Ljiotipollur ‘Ugly Puddle’ trail and found myself this lookout for lunch. Ljiotipollur is an explosion crater lake.

If you find any trail crowded in Iceland, you only need walk a few minutes on any side trail to feel like you have the island to yourself.

Suournamur trail is gorgeous. It climbs up above the campsite.

I left a Summit Stone atop one of the cairns.

Not much can live up here.

I really liked this ridge walk section.

I got my feet wet on the river crossing after coming down. Situation normal hiking Iceland.

The highlight of Landmannalaugar for many are the natural hot springs.

FIRST you need to get there down a long boardwalk without freezing.

Having had hernia surgery just a week prior, I wasn’t suppose to soak the wound … but couldn’t resist.

When weather is bad, everyone crowds into the warm, bright cook tent.

After having dinner with a lovely couple from Austria, I hit the tent early hoping for good weather next morning. Forecast was for a BIG STORM. ☹️

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Laugavegur trek, Iceland

I’m starting Iceland’s most famous walk July 24, 2018. Wish me luck.

My first attempt a few years ago failed. Wanting to hike in June, the trails were far too muddy.

One of the best hikes in the world is the Laugavegur

 (Landmannalaugar to Skógar route)

by clesenne

by clesenne

AT A GLANCE

  • IcelandIceland‘s best hike
  • weird and wonderful landscapes
  • best route is Skógar – Landmannalaugar 77km (48mi) in 4-6 days in either direction
  • shorter options 55km (34mi) or 22km (13.6mi)
  • tent or sleep in huts
  • permits not required
  • steep rough, rocky and slippery slopes
  • in good weather, this trek is only moderately difficult
  • up to 100 hikers starting each day during high season July and August
  • it can be dangerous in bad weather. About every second year someone dies.

Click PLAY or watch Alastair Humphrey’s highlights on Vimeo.

Check our Laugavegur information page on how to organize this adventure for yourself.

Washington State – Ape Cave Trail

This fascinating hike includes a trek through the 2.5 mile Ape Cave, the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States. …

You’ll want to bring sweatshirts and plenty of outerwear, head lamps or lanterns, flashlights and spare batteries. …

Ape Cave was formed about 2,000 years ago from lava streaming down Mount Saint Helens.

Skamania County’s Ape Cave Trail