Hiking Mt. Mulanje Malawi

Hiking Mt. Mulanje Malawi

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We have done a fair amount of hiking on this trip, but our four days and three nights hiking Mt. Mulanje was by far the most intense, interesting, and rewarding. When we arrived in Africa we had never heard of Mulanje but shortly after arriving in Zambia, we heard people talking about it as a ‘must do.’

Getting to Mulanje

Mt. Mulanje sits next to a town of the same name. The town is home to some of the largest tea plantations in the world and the landscape looks like a giant manicured garden. To get there:

  1. Get to Blantyre. AXA is easily the best bus company in Malawi. This is Malawi though so obviously all transactions need to be done in person and with cash.
  2. From Blantyre you need to take a minibus to the neighboring town of Limbe . The trip is about 10 minutes. (You can also take a taxi. It’s much more comfortable but also many times as expensive.)
  3. At the minibus area in Limbe you can fairly easily find a minibus to Mulanje. We sat in the bus for about 40 min before it was full with people to leave but this amount of time varies. (Again, you can take a taxi but it will cost closer to $35 instead of $1.50)
  4. Once in Mulanje, you can take a taxi or bicycle taxi to a lodge at the base of the mountain. This reservation you should call ahead to book.

Once you’re there:

Guides

To hike the mountain, it’s required that you hire a guide. If you’re in Blantyre and mention you’re hiking the mountain they will no doubt try to set you up with their friend as a guide. We strongly advise against this. The guides have a union where they alternate. We showed up with our own guide, and there was a minor but drawn out confrontation with the union guides when we arrived. We also learned that our guide was trying to overcharge us so we decided to go with a union guide instead. The guide will cost $25 a day.

We also opted to hire a porter for $20 per day. This isn’t required but the climb is very steep and most people recommend a porter.

The Route

Most people spend two nights on the mountain. They climb about 8 hours to Sapitwa Hut near the summit and spend the night. Then Summit in the morning and climb down to Chambe Hut (another 8 hour day) for the second night. The climb down from Chambe is just a few hours but there are waterfalls and pools where people like to stop.

We opted to slow this route down. We spent our first night at Chambe and then two nights at Sapitwa before coming all the way down on the 4th day. You could easily spend a week on Mulanje though. We heard the huts on the southern part had gorgeous views and pools but we didn’t see them.

Also, don’t worry about bringing water since you can fill your water bottle and drink directly from the streams on the mountain.

The Hike

We chose the less steep option for our first day. The rolling foothills are covered with beautiful trees.

Mt. Mulanje trees

There were pools  to stop and swim,

Mt. Mulanje swimming

and several places to admire the view.

Mt. Mulanje couple

Once on top, there are a series of valleys that flow between the peaks.

Mt. Mulanje Valley

After about five hours of hiking we reached Chambe hut.

Mt. Mulanje Chambe Hut

The next morning it was time to cross the mountain toward Sapitwa, the highest peak.

Mt. Mulanje path

Throughout the hike, we cooked over a fire in the stone stoves found in each hut.

Mt. Mulanje cooking

Our relaxed pace gave us plenty of leisure time, which we spent eating and reading.

Mt. Mulanje food and book

The huts have beer, but you need to use the nearby streams if you want it cold.

Mt. Mulanje beers

The sunrise is pretty great.

Mt. Mulanje sunrise

The next morning it was time to take on Sapitwa. It’s a tough slog, and very steep.

Mt. Mulanje steep

There were many beautiful and interesting passages up to the summit but the camera was away. At the top though, I marveled at the line drawn across the sky. Also, it was my birthday, so that was cool.

Mt. Mulanje line sky

Mt. Mulanje trees and rocks

The next day it was time to head back down.

Mt. Mulanje down

There were many beautiful flowers.

Mt. Mulange flower

Along the way, there was again time for swimming.

Mt. Mulanje waterfall

Muyende Bwino

Mt. Mulanje thanks

  • Will
Will Minton

Will Minton

Will Minton is a writer and educator based in Louisiana. He spends his time hiking, playing guitar, and learning from people he meets on the road. He also wrote the novel Pictures of the Sky.
Will Minton

2 thoughts on “Hiking Mt. Mulanje Malawi

  1. I’m planning a RTW for about a year from now, starting with Africa. This wasn’t even on my radar, but now it feels like a must-do. Can I ask how much the bus from Lilongwe to Blantyre was? And how much accommodation at the bottom, and then on, the mountain was? Someone told me they did the actual hike part (guide, porters, food, and 2 nights on the mountain) for $80 for two people. Does that sound reasonable to you?

    Any help is appreciated!

    1. Hi Kristen,
      I believe the Lilongwe-Blantyre bus was around 6600 Malawian Kwatcha. We stayed at Doogles in Blantyre, which was $26 for a double (a dorm would be cheaper.) We stayed at the cottage in Likabula, which was $35 for a double. You have to call them ahead of time. THe number is in Lonely Planet. They have meals available there too. There is also a hut that is cheaper at the base, but it is a little bit of a hike from the entrance and you have to bring your own food.

      I highly recommend getting a guide in Likabula from the park station. They are $25 per day for the guide and $20 per day for the porter. Everybody in Blantyre will try to hook you up with a guide, but we got scammed by one of these “guides” and ended up firing him and going with a union guide from the park station – who was AWESOME. Make sure you take enough cash. There are no ATMs in Likabula. The huts are $1 per night per person. You should expect to tip your guide, porter, and hut keepers. A couple dollars for the hut keepers is good.

      I can’t remember how much it costs to get from Blantyre to Mulanje,but here are the componants you need to know: Blantyre-Limbe (3000MWK taxi), Limbe-Mulanje (2000MWK-ish minibus), Mulanje-Likabula (7000 taxi or 1500 bicycle taxi). A taxi direct from Blantyre to Likabula is 15000-18000 MWK.

      There are a couple of places to stay in Mulanje as well, but they are not great.

      Good luck! This was the part of our trip that was the most “figure it out in the moment.” There is not great info out there, but you’ll be able to navigate it!

      Mulanje was one of the highlights of our trip – I definitely recommend it!

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