Mountains in Tanzania
Although Mt Kilimanjaro tops the list as Africa’s most famous and highest mountain, Tanzania boasts many other mountain ranges and attractive peaks. Most of the country’s mountains and volcanoes are located in the north and east of the country. They vary from the dramatic crater of Mt Meru and the active volcano of Ol Donyo Lengai to tamer options like the Usambara Mountains and the comparatively gentle slopes of the Crater Highlands.
Hiking trips and mountain climbing in Tanzania are becoming popular options for visitors not content with merely observing the country from the back of a game viewing vehicle. Instead, adventurous types are taking
advantage of the many trails and peaks Tanzania has to offer.
Above the gently rolling hills and plateaux of northern Tanzania rise the snowy peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro, its slopes and glaciers shimmering above the rising clouds. Kilimanjaro is located near the town of Moshi and is a protected area, carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without leaving a trace of their presence. The mountain’s ecosystems are as strikingly beautiful as they are varied and diverse. On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain is farmland, with coffee, banana, cassava, and maize crops grown for subsistence and cash sale. A few larger coffee farms still exist on the lower slopes, but much of the area outside the national park has been subdivided into small plots.
Once inside the park, thick lowland forest covers the lower altitudes and breaks into alpine meadows once the air begins to thin. Near the peak, the landscape is harsh and barren, with rocks and ice being the predominant features above a breathtaking African view. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is the highlight of many visitors’ experiences in Tanzania. Few mountains can claim the grandeur and the views of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, and the Maasai Steppe that belong to Kilimanjaro. Hiking on the ‘rooftop of Africa’ is the adventure of a lifetime, and anyone from a seasoned trekker to a reasonably fit first time enthusiast can scale the snowy peak. top
The dramatic crater of Mt Meru is often neglected in favour of its famous neighbour to the east, but a visit to this spectacular mountain, located within Arusha National Park, is an unforgettable experience. Its lower slopes are covered in dense highland forest, where colobus monkeys play and buffalo graze concealed beneath the thick foliage. The extinct volcano’s extensive base gives way to a perfectly formed crater, and another internal crater with sharp, sheer cliffs. An ash cone forms a subsidiary peak and the Momela Lakes and Ngurdoto Crater are visible from the slopes of the Mountain. top
Rising up from the floors of the Rift Valley, the Crater Highlands form a lush chain of mountains and volcanoes that includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the surrounding Maasai tribal lands. Hiking safaris take visitors from Ngorongoro Crater to the foot of Ol Donyo Lengai and offer a chance to see some of the most spectacular and stunning scenery in Tanzania. Exploring this little-visited wilderness is the hiking adventure of a lifetime. Within the crater rim, large herds of zebra and wildebeest graze nearby while sleeping lions laze in the sun. At dawn, the endangered black rhino return to the thick cover of the crater forests after roaming the dew-laden grasslands in the morning mist. Just outside the crater’s ridge, Maasai herd their cattle and goats over green pastures through the highland slopes, living alongside the wildlife as they have for centuries. top
Eastern Arc Mountain Range
Stretching from the Taita Hills of southern Kenya to the southern highlands of Tanzania, the Eastern Arc Mountain Range has some of the oldest geological activity on the continent. Estimated to be at least 100 million years old – with some formations up to 600 million years old – the relative stability of their climate means that the area hosts a surprising array of biodiversity, from plant and insect life, to spectacular bird species. top
The Livingstone Mountains are a low-altitude chain that borders Lake Nyasa. Remote and difficult to reach, climbing is largely uncharted and for the most part the area remains unexplored by trekkers and guides. Monduli Mountains Just a few hours drive from Arusha, the Monduli Mountains make a lovely day trip or can be part of a longer hiking itinerary. Maasai pastoralists herd their cattle along the slopes and cultural tourism programmes give visitors the opportunity to learn about traditional medicines and local Maasai culture. The surrounding views of the Rift Valley, Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro are incredible. top
Remotely located on somewhat bumpy tracks 200 km south-west of Arusha, Mt Hanang’s extinct volcanic crater makes for a stunning feature above the undulating plains. The two-day climb takes trekkers through numerous tribal areas, including the land of the semi-nomadic Barabaig, recognisable by their goatskin garments. top
Ol Donyo Lengai
Overlooking Lake Natron and the bushland of Kenya to the north, Ol Donyo Lengai, which means ‘the home of God’ in Maasai, is an active volcano and one of Tanzania’s most spectacular and undiscovered climbs. The volcano erupts sporadically, sending streams of grey lava down the crater rim and spitting hot ash high into the air. The climb, undertaken overnight so hikers can experience sunrise over the Rift Valley escarpment, is highly challenging.
Part of the Eastern Arc range in north-eastern Tanzania, the remote Pare Mountains are extremely rewarding to the avid trekker searching for hiking trails off the beaten path. Home to the Pare people, agriculturalists and pastoralists who have largely retained their traditional way of life, a hike through the Pare Mountains takes visitors through local villages and beautiful forests and offers the chance to see a little-visited part of the country. top
Located west of Dar es Salaam, the Udzungwa Mountains rise up steeply from the western edge of the Selous Game Reserve. Vervet Monkeys play high in the forest canopy, and small forest antelope can be viewed at the right time of day. Botanical diversity is exceptional, and the park is host to a large number of endangered bird species. The unique geological and environmental conditions of the Udzungwa region have produced a large number of endemic species, making the region a treat for nature lovers.
Views from the peaks of the mountains, towards the Selous Game Reserve and the distant Indian Ocean coast, are incredible and well worth the effort. Five distinct trails cover the forests and mountain peaks within the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, offering various levels of difficulty for everyone from novices to experienced trekkers. Better yet, there are no roads through the park, so hikers have the area all to themselves. top
The Usambara Mountains are part of the Eastern Arc chain in the north-eastern part of the country. Their western and eastern ranges are divided by a 4km wide valley of small villages and farms, and hiking trails cover the foothills and larger peaks. Day walks and overnight treks take visitors through some of the most concentrated areas of biodiversity in Africa. Bird watching is especially rewarding, and the views from the mountaintops stretch over the Maasai Steppe and, on a clear day, as far as the Indian Ocean. top
Overlooking the agricultural area around Morogoro, the Uluguru Mountains are part of the Eastern Arc range and are named after the Luguru people, a matrilineal group that farms on its verdant slopes. The area has some of the oldest forest in Africa, and because the ecosystem has remained undisturbed by climactic and geographical changes for an estimated 25 million years, hiking in the area is particularly rewarding. A plethora of endemic bird and insect species are found here, but permits are required to reach most of the peaks and permission must be sought in advance. top