For the fit and adventurous, hiking trails offer the perfect opportunity for exploring and taking in the natural beauty different regions have to offer. Africa’s natural habitat, diversity, rich animal life, and generally warm climate provide these scenic trails an unrivalled opportunity to get to know the continent in a down-to-earth way. Here are our top picks across Africa.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Not only is Mount Kilimanjaro Africa’s highest peak, it is also Africa’s most popular trekking destination. At 19,336 feet, or 5893 meters, you would have trekked through five different climatic zones by the time you reach the peak, but one thing is guaranteed: the view at the top and the experience to the top is worth the climb! The easiest route is the Rongai, which is more secluded and cast in the wilderness and takes six to seven days to complete. The more popular Marangu is slightly easier, taking about five days to summit. The more difficult routes are the Machame, Limosho, and Shira. Because of Mount Kilimanjaro’s proximity to the equator, the region doesn’t experience extreme winter and summer temperatures but rather wet and dry seasons. The best and busiest time of the year to attempt the climb will be during the dry season from December through to the beginning of March and from late June to the end of October.
Mount Kenya, Kenya
For those unsure about the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya—Africa’s second highest peak—offers a climb with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro on a clear day. However, be warned: just because it’s not the highest peak in Africa doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easier! Part of a larger reserve, the natural beauty of forest, lakes, moorland, rock, and ice provides for splendid views. The more difficult routes to Batian (5200 mi/8368 km) and Nelion (5188 mi/8349 km) will require technical climbing while routes such as Lenana (4985 mi/8022 km) can be accessed by hikers. The best time to go is between January to February and July to October.
Otter Trail, South Africa
With over 1,000 registered hiking trails on offer, South Africa has no shortage when it comes to exploring the outdoors on foot. Boasting some of the most beautiful hiking trails in southern Africa, such as the Drakensberg Traverse or a hike around the Blyde River Canyon, South Africa offers a large variety of different climates and natural habitats to choose from. Given this abundance of choice, the Otter Trail is probably the most popular of South Africa’s numerous hiking trails. Running through the Tsitsikamma National Park in the Garden Route, this trail might be challenging to complete, sometimes requiring treks through rivers, but its breathtaking coastal views leave ample opportunities for whale and dolphin watching. Described as one of the best hiking trails in the world, it stretches twenty-six miles, or forty-two kilometers, and takes five days to complete. Be sure to book up to a year in advance—it’s that popular! If you are planning to swim along the way, the best time of the year to walk the Otter Trail is during summer months from October to April.
Naukluft Hiking Trail, Namibia
Situated in the eastern part of the Namib Naukluft Park in the South of Namibia, the Naukluft Hiking Trail stretches seventy-four miles, or 120 kilometers, and takes eight days to complete. The terrain is rough, meaning hikers have to be fit, and temperatures can reach excessively high levels which is why the best time to attempt this hike is between March and October. While the days are hot, night time can be very cold. This hiking trail comes with a disclaimer: it is hot, dry, and rough, but the area is rich in a variety of wildlife and bird species.
The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail, South Sudan to Uganda
The opening of the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail has unfortunately been delayed by the turbulent conflict in the region but it’s set to open this year. Five hundred miles, or 805 kilometres, in total, this trail will start from Gondokoro, near Juba – the capital of South Sudan – winding its way through the African bush and into Uganda to the shores of Lake Albert. The trail is bound to offer splendid scenic scapes not previously witnessed in unspoilt terrain. In the spirit of the original explorers, Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker, Julian Monroe Fischer—the mastermind behind the trail—hopes that the trail will resonate in the face of the ongoing current global slave trade and conflict in the region. The idea is to boost tourism in this part of Africa and draw attention to the natural beauty of the region. In the long run, Fisher hopes the trail will become the Appalachian Trail of the African continent, highlighting the continent’s natural beauty and recreation options instead of the unrest and poverty so often associated with Africa.