At 14,967 feet/4,562 meters, Mount Meru is Tanzania's second-highest peak after Mount Kilimanjaro, and the fourth-highest mountain in Africa. It's located in northern Tanzania at the heart of Arusha National Park, where it has remained dormant for over a century. On a clear day, you can see Mount Kilimanjaro from Mount Meru, as the two iconic peaks are separated by a distance of just 43 miles/70 kilometers. The first successful ascent on record is still in dispute. It is credited to either Carl Uhlig in 1901 or Fritz Jaeger in 1904 – both Germans, reflecting the power of colonial Germany over Tanzania at the time.
Mount Meru is a serious three to four-day trek and although it is often used as a practice run by those hoping to summit Kilimanjaro, the smaller mountain is actually the more technical. A guide is mandatory on every trek and there is only one official route up to the summit. The route is well marked with huts along the way offering simple, comfortable beds. Unofficial routes on the west and northern sides of the mountain are illegal. Acclimatization is important, and while you won't need oxygen, spending at least a few days at altitude before attempting the climb is highly recommended.
The best time to trek is during the one of the dry seasons (June to October or December to February).
The Momella Route
Mount Meru's official route is named the Momella Route. It starts on the eastern side of Mount Meru and ascends along the northern rim of the crater to Socialist Peak, the summit. There are two routes to the first hut, Miriakamba (located at 8,248 feet/2,514 meters). You can choose between a shorter, steeper ascent or a slower, more gradual climb. A four to six-hour walk the next day brings you to Saddle Hut (at 11,712 feet/3,570 meters), with good views of the crater along the way. On day three, it takes approximately five hours to summit and return to Saddle Hut in time for lunch, before continuing down to Miriakamba for the final night.
The walk along the crater rim is considered to be one of the most spectacular treks in Africa.
Guides and Porters
Guides are mandatory for every trek up Mount Meru. They are armed and are there to protect you from the mountain's abundant wildlife (including buffalos, leopards and baboons). Porters are not mandatory but make the trek more enjoyable by helping to carry your equipment. Each porter carries up to 33 pounds/15 kilograms. You can hire both porters and guides at the Momella Gate, but it's a good idea to book in advance by at least a day. If you're trekking with an operator, these services are usually included in the price.
Ask around for tipping guidelines as hiker tips make up a significant percentage of the total income for the mountain's guides, porters, and cooks.
Mount Meru Accommodation
On Mount Meru itself, Saddle Hut and Miriakamba Hut provide the only accommodation. Huts fill up well in advance, so if you're planning to trek during the high season (December to February) it is often prudent to pack a lightweight tent. Recommended accommodation in and around Arusha National Park includes Hatari Lodge, Meru Mbega Lodge, Meru View Lodge and Meru Simba Lodge.
Getting to Mount Meru
Mount Meru is located inside Arusha National Park. Most visitors fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is 60 kilometers/35 miles away. Alternatively, the city of Arusha is a 1.5-hour drive from the park. You can reach Arusha by domestic flight or long-distance bus from several locations in Tanzania and Kenya. Your tour operator will usually provide transportation to the mountain from either Arusha or Kilimanjaro International Airport. If not, you can hire a local taxi or rent a car.
Trekking Tours and Operators
The average price for a trek up Mount Meru starts at around $650 per person including food, accommodation and guide fees. You need a climbing permit and it takes at least 12 hours to obtain one. Booking your climb through an organized tour operator is more expensive, but also makes the logistics of the trip much simpler. Recommended operators include Maasai Wanderings, Mount Kenya Expedition, and Adventure Alternative.
This article was fact-checked by Lema Peter, an expert trekking guide and member of the Meru tribe.
Updated by Jessica Macdonald