The best hiking trails in Africa worth exploring

The best hiking trails in Africa worth exploring

Africa, a continent of boundless beauty and rich diversity, is often associated with sprawling savannahs and magnificent wildlife.

But let’s not forget that this enchanting landmass also boasts some of the world’s most stunning hiking trails. With its plateaus, mountains, ridges, and basins, Africa is a tapestry of natural wonders, offering an unparalleled variety of flora and fauna that define the untamed essence of this beautiful continent.

Venture into equatorial forests, vast savanna grasslands, towering highlands, tropical deserts, serene lakes, meandering waterways, and an array of other breathtaking landscapes.

If you’re tired of the same old routine, craving adventure, or just looking to escape the urban jungle, then pack your hiking boots and join us on a journey through Africa’s hidden treasures – its mesmerizing hiking trails.

Drakensberg Royal Natal National, South Africa

Distance: 4.5 miles

Elevation gain: 558m

Difficulty: Moderately difficult

Time to complete: 45 minutes

If you’re a passionate hiker visiting Africa, make sure you carve out time for an unforgettable exploration of Drakensberg Royal Natal National Park. Nestled amidst South Africa’s highest mountain and graced with the second-highest waterfall on the planet, the Tugela Falls, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a nature lover’s dream.

The highlight of your journey revolves around the Tugela Falls and Amphitheatre hike, a breathtaking adventure that converges along the 13-kilometer Sentinel Trail. The trail kicks off as a rustic dirt track, zigzagging its way up the mountainside.

Along this scenic ascent, you might chance upon playful monkeys frolicking in the grass, setting the tone for the extraordinary journey ahead.

As you continue your ascent, you’ll encounter a series of chain ladders that beckon you to scale Sentinel Peak, the gist of your trip. It’s at this vantage point that you’ll be treated to a mesmerizing spectacle – the awe-inspiring Tugela Falls, gracefully cascading into the valley below.

But the adventure doesn’t end there. A little further along your path awaits the Amphitheatre lookout, a captivating gem within the park celebrated for its panoramic 360-degree vistas.

From here, you’ll behold the grandeur of the canyon below and the sprawling majesty of the Drakensberg Mountain ranges, an experience that’s nothing short of spellbinding.

Machame Route Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Distance: 37 miles

Elevation gain: 4157m

Difficulty: Hard

Time to complete: 7 days

The Machame route, a seven-day camping expedition on the majestic Kilimanjaro, offers an exceptional opportunity for scenic wonders. Previously known as the “Whiskey Route,” this trail now attracts approximately 35% of all climbers seeking the ultimate Kilimanjaro experience.

In just 7 days, you’ll ascend Kilimanjaro, moving from the sun-soaked equatorial base to an Arctic-like zenith. Along the way, you’ll traverse through a symphony of ecosystems, including lush grasslands, tropical rainforests, picturesque alpine meadows, enchanting moorlands, high desert terrains, and culminating in a surreal world of ice and snow.

Each day along the route reveals a distinctive natural habitat, making it a sought-after choice among adventurers. This journey unfolds as you approach Mount Kilimanjaro from the southern gateway, commencing with a brief drive from Moshi to the Machame Gate.

The trail then guides hikers through the lush rainforest, eventually leading to the vast expanse of the Shira Plateau, where numerous routes from Kilimanjaro merge, creating a sense of collective awe.

As the journey continues, you’ll head east, traversing below Kilimanjaro’s Southern Ice Field along the famous Southern Circuit path, ending at Barafu. The grand descent is made via the Mweka route, concluding this extraordinary adventure through one of Africa’s most iconic and imposing peaks.

Tsingy de Bemaraha, Madagascar

Distance: 3.5 miles

Elevation gain: 715ft

Difficulty: Hard

Time to complete: 5 hours

In the western reaches of Madagascar lies a place of unparalleled wonder: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Covering a vast expanse, this extraordinary terrain, which loosely translates to “walking on tiptoe” in Malagasy, presents a unique hiking opportunity. To conquer this geological marvel, you’ll cover about 5.6 kilometers and around 5 hours of your time.

Imagine a landscape dominated by razor-sharp rock formations, soaring up to an astonishing 100 meters in height. It’s almost unfathomable to think of ancient people navigating these treacherous stone structures barefoot.

The park is divided into two parts, so to truly appreciate its grandeur, plan for a two-day adventure encompassing both the Small Tsingy and the Big Tsingy.

To make the most of your experience, I recommend embarking on the Small Tsingy trail on your first day. Prepare to be captivated by its exquisite beauty and uniqueness.

Your journey kicks off with a picturesque wooden canoe ride along the Manambolo River, taking you to the trailhead. This half-day hike promises a remarkable introduction to this natural wonder.

Now, let’s talk about the second day, which is when things get truly mind-blowing. Strap on your harness and get ready for the Ferrata adventure within the Big Tsingy.

This thrilling experience will take you on an epic journey, as you traverse tunnels in the rocks, encounter the occasional lemur hanging about, scale the rocky outcrops for panoramic views, and cross precarious hanging bridges that will leave you with your heart in your mouth.

Getting to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park involves a day-long expedition on dusty 4×4 roads from Morondava, with a bonus detour through the renowned Baobab Alley.

This remote and challenging journey means that not many travelers make their way to this hidden gem, making it a truly unique adventure for the intrepid explorer.

Mount Toubkal, Morocco

Distance: 37 miles (roundtrip)

Elevation gain: 1500m

Difficulty: Moderately difficult

Time to complete: 2 days

Perched at Morocco’s highest point lies the majestic Mount Toubkal, nestled within the High Atlas Mountains, where its impressive summit reaches an altitude of 4,167 meters.

Hiking Mount Toubkal is an exhilarating and demanding adventure, yet the rewards reaped from this arduous trek are nothing short of extraordinary.

As you ascend, the path meanders alongside enchanting waterfalls, tranquil brooks, verdant riverbanks, and fragrant walnut groves. Adding to the charm of the journey, you’ll even have delightful encounters with endearing mules along the way.

However, as you approach the 3,207-meter mark, the terrain undergoes a dramatic transformation, becoming increasingly rugged with formidable rock formations to scale.

Your journey begins in the quaint village of Imlil, nestled at the very base of this grand peak. A stay here for at least one day is essential to properly organize your hiking expedition for the following day.

It’s essential to note that due to a regrettable incident in 2018, where a tragic incident unfolded, hikers are required to be accompanied by a guide. It’s a precautionary measure aimed at ensuring safety and preventing any future misfortunes, although such incidents are thankfully rare.

For those intrepid souls who dare to challenge Mount Toubkal, the standard two-day hike usually culminates with a night’s rest at the base camp, situated at an elevation of 3,207 meters.

However, if your heart longs for a more leisurely pace and a deeper immersion in the lap of nature, it’s advisable to set aside three days for this extraordinary hike, allowing for ample time to savor the splendors of the journey.

Manchewe Falls, Malawi

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1095m

Difficulty: Hard

Time to complete: 2-3 hours

You might already be familiar with Lake Malawi, but let me introduce you to the lesser-known gem, Manchewe Falls. Nestled high up on the Rift Valley Escarpment above the lake, this stunning cascade is a sight to behold.

With a breathtaking drop of 125 meters down the escarpment, Manchewe Falls stands taller than even the most renowned waterfalls such as Victoria Falls and Iguazu Falls.

To embark on this enchanting adventure, take a short 4 km hike from the charming town of Livingstonia. This small settlement, adorned with a couple of eco-lodges is an excellent launching point for exploring the area.

I highly recommend enlisting a local expert for this trek. The expansive network of trails is unmarked, and some lead to dead ends.

You can easily arrange for a knowledgeable guide at the Mushroom Farm, one of the nearby eco-lodges, for just a small fee. This guide will not only ensure you stay on the right path to reach the base of the falls for an unparalleled view but will also introduce you to natural pools along the way, perfect for a refreshing swim.

You’ll also have the opportunity to visit a hidden cave concealed behind the falls, where local legend has it that people sought refuge from the harrowing days of slave traders.

While you’re at the lodge, inquire about other exciting hiking possibilities in the area, such as treks to smallholder coffee farms or the nearby Chombe Plateau. There’s a world of adventure waiting to be explored in this remarkable corner of the world.


These African hiking trails are the embodiment of adventure and awe. They promise to leave you breathless, not just from the physical exertion, but from the sheer magnificence of the landscapes and the unique experiences they offer.

So, lace up your hiking boots, embrace the spirit of exploration, and let Africa’s hidden treasures be your guide to unforgettable adventures.

Pearce Kibaale is a freelance writer, content creator, and Editor-in-Chief of Trip Dhow.