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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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)
- 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:
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.
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.
We chose the less steep option for our first day. The rolling foothills are covered with beautiful trees.
There were pools to stop and swim,
and several places to admire the view.
Once on top, there are a series of valleys that flow between the peaks.
After about five hours of hiking we reached Chambe hut.
The next morning it was time to cross the mountain toward Sapitwa, the highest peak.
Throughout the hike, we cooked over a fire in the stone stoves found in each hut.
Our relaxed pace gave us plenty of leisure time, which we spent eating and reading.
The huts have beer, but you need to use the nearby streams if you want it cold.
The sunrise is pretty great.
The next morning it was time to take on Sapitwa. It’s a tough slog, and very 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.
The next day it was time to head back down.
There were many beautiful flowers.
Along the way, there was again time for swimming.