At 14,980 feet/ 4,566 meters, Mount Meru is Tanzania's second highest peak, and according to some, the fourth highest mountain in Africa. Conical in shape, Mount Meru is located in northern Tanzania at the heart of Arusha National Park. It's a dormant volcano, with the last minor eruption occurring over a century ago. On a clear day, you can see Mount Kilimanjaro from Mount Meru, as the two iconic peaks are separated by a distance of less than 50 miles/ 80 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 colonial power of Germany over Tanzania at the time.
Mount Meru Trekking
Mount Meru is a serious three to four day trek and is often used as a practice run by those hoping to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. 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 dry season (June - October or December - 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 (8,248 feet/ 2,514 meters) - a shorter, steeper route or a slower, more gradual climb. A four to six hour walk the next day brings you to Saddle Hut (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 sights in the world.
Guides and Porters
Guides are mandatory for every trek up Mount Meru. They are armed and are there for your safety in light of the mountain's abundant wildlife. 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 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 - February) it is often prudent to pack a lightweight tent. Recommended accommodation in and around Arusha National Park includes Hatari Lodge, Momella Wildlife 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 from the park itself. Alternatively, Arusha (the capital of northern Tanzania) is a 40 minute drive from the national park. Shuttle buses to Arusha depart daily from Nairobi in Kenya. From elsewhere in Tanzania, you can catch long-distance buses to Arusha or book an internal flight. From Arusha or Kilimanjaro International Airport, your tour operator will usually provide onwards transportation to the park itself; or you can hire the services of a local taxi.
Trekking Tours and Operators
The average price for a trek up Mount Meru usually 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 Wandering, Mount Kenya Expedition and Adventures Within Reach.
This article was fact-checked by Lema Peter, an expert trekking guide and member of the Meru tribe.
It was updated by Jessica Macdonald on December 16th 2016.