When planning hiking adventures, people in many parts of the world tend to forget about African destinations. As the world’s second-largest continent, however, it should come as no surprise that some of the most incredible wilderness on the planet can be found there. From high alpine moraines to sandy beaches, lush rain forests to expansive deserts, the Africa’s 54 countries have it all.
If you’ve ever thought about traveling the world to hike and explore nature, these five hiking trips are for you. Travelers can expect to find stunning scenery, vibrant local cultures, and unforgettable experiences when they choose these African destinations for their next nature journey.
#1: Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
When you talk about hiking adventures in Africa, you have to include Mt. Kilimanjaro. This grand peak is one of the world’s Seven Summits and the highest mountain in Africa—rising to 5,895 meters (more than 19,000 feet) in elevation. While reaching the summit is by no means easy, this is one of the few mountains of its size with multiple trekking routes to the summit that require no technical climbing skill.
Kilimanjaro is the adventure of a lifetime for many. The week-long trek up one of the seven established routes will take you through dense forest, open savanna, and high alpine terrain—and there is no shortage of incredible views. Trekkers can expect to see a variety of Tanzanian wildlife like dik-dik, mongoose, chameleons, sunbirds, and even the occasional elephant or zebra.
#2: Maasai Mara, Kenya
Southeast of Kilimanjaro lies a vast savanna home to the Maasai people—the Maasai Mara. This expanse of grassland connects with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and holds some of the world’s most incredible and vast ecosystems. Visitors to the Maasai region can expect nothing short of an incredible adventure, interspersed with encounters with wildebeest, zebra, and the “Big Five”—black rhinos, African elephants, leopards, lions, and Cape buffalo.
Both the Maasai Mara and Serengeti National park have ample opportunities for individual and guided hiking trips. Explore the region with the guidance of indigenous people on a Hiking with the Maasai Custom Safari, which offers several days of cross-country trekking and a 4×4 safari, all guided by local Maasai.
#3: Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, South Africa
South Africa is home to one of the most incredible natural features in the world—the Blyde River Canyon. This lush valley is the third-largest canyon in the world, and is marked by a clear, blue river cutting through sheer stone drop-offs 800 meters high. Geology nuts will have no shortage of excitement here, from the Bourke’s Luck Potholes to the massive dolomite spires known as the “Three Sisters.”
The geological features aren’t the only part of this canyon that makes it uniquely incredible. The often-extreme climate has allowed for a diverse ecosystem of both plant and animal life, and hikers through the area share their space with all of South Africa’s five primates, crocodiles, otters, hippos, and dozens of rare bird species.
Ambitious hikers in Blyde River Canyon Reserve can take advantage of the Blyderivierspoort Trail, which winds 60 kilometers through varied terrain, with trail huts along the way. The more adventurous can extend out into the large trail network in the reserve and spend up to 20 days backpacking.
#4: Mt. Kenya, Kenya
Like Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya is a prominent, high-elevation, and stunning peak that extends well over 5,000 meters into the sky. Located in the heart of Kenya, only a dozen kilometers south of the equator, this dormant volcano contains every type of climate, from savanna at the base, lush bamboo and timberline forests, chaparral, and of course, glacial ice caps.
Due to its incredibly varied ecological zones, Mt. Kenya is home to incredibly varied flora and fauna. In the Afro-alpine zone, a particularly rare type of climate, hikers can see truly unique wildlife—as well as breathtaking scenery all around. Unlike other similarly-sized mountains in the region, Mt. Kenya is home to a number of large predators, and hikers might be able to catch a glimpse of leopards, hyenas, and possibly even lions.
One of the major summits of Mt. Kenya is accessible via a multi-day trek that requires no technical climbing. For those with climbing experience—or looking to gain some—climbing routes are established on all three summits.
#5: Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
The Danakil Depression is a little different from the last four adventures—because it’s completely one-of-a-kind. Found on the border of northeast Ethiopia and Eritrea, this region lies on a junction of three tectonic plates that have sunk the earth deep into the crust. The complicated geology of this area makes it one of the most bizarre places in the world, marked with extreme heat, volcanic activity, and unique mineral and rock formations. From lava flows and geothermal lakes to geysers and multicolored salt deposits, the Danakil Depression is truly a spectacular sight.
The Danakil Depression is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, and yet life flourishes here. The Afar people thrive here, as do numerous species of plants and animals who have adapted to the extreme environment. Visitors to the region are encouraged to hike at night, and to be sure to bring along a filtered water bottle and plenty of fluids to combat the extremes in the lowest, hottest, and driest place on Earth.
Your Next Nature Adventure
The next time you plan to travel, consider one of these incredible nature destinations. Africa has an incredible variety of climates, cultures, and activities—and all of them offer the experience of a lifetime.
This guest post was written by Rebecca Crawford from the Hiking Mastery blog.