The Most Beautiful Hiking Trails in Northern Zambia

Hike up Kalambo Falls, the second highest falls in Africa
Hike up Kalambo Falls, the second highest falls in Africa | © Alberto Loyo / Shutterstock

The Northern circuit of Zambia has a breathtaking physical landscape filled with waterfalls, national parks, and mountains, which provides the perfect setting for hiking enthusiasts. These are the most beautiful hiking trails in Northern Zambia.

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park is the home of the walking safari, which was pioneered by conservationist Norman Carr. The benefit of a taking part in a walking safari rather than game drives is that animals can be viewed up close, and you can learn about the flora and fauna of the area. There are various camps in the park that offer walking safaris, such as Zungulila Bushcamp, where guides lead guests on the plains to see buffalo and elephants by the river. At the Kapamba bush camp, a morning bush walk can be done and an afternoon can be spent sitting in the river. Those who would like to take part in longer walking safaris can book a week-long mobile safari trip that includes morning and evening safari walks.

International park entrance fees are USD $25 per person per day, although some lodges offer packages with park entrance fees included.

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Mutinondo Wilderness

In the the rolling hills, rocky outcrops, and miombo woodland of the Muchinga Province lies the Mutinondo Wilderness, a private area of 100km sq. There are approximately 37 miles of wilderness trails in the property, which offer a variety of options for hikers. The least strenuous option for novice hikers is to climb up the granite whalebacks and take in the views of the escarpment.

More experienced and independent hikers can book up to a week-long walk, which according to Mutinondo Wilderness’ website includes sights of interest such the Iron Age and cycad sites, a cave, waterfalls, and a river. Plants, birds, and evidence of wildlife are pointed out by the local guides. Shorter hikes offered are two or four days.

Mutinondo Wilderness is approximately 372 miles from Lusaka and can be reached by self-drive or via Tazara railway’s Mpika stop if on the express train, or Kalonje if on the ordinary train. Transfers can be arranged from both stops by Mutinondo. Hikers can either camp or stay in chalets.

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Lavushi Manda National Park

Its location in the Muchinga escarpment makes Lavushi Manda National Park ideally-suited for self-hiking, or with a guide if desired. There are various hiking trails that can be arranged through the park’s website. Conquer the 5,974-foot Lavushi Mountain in a two-and-a-half hour hike to the peak where the sun rises over the red rocks. The mountain hike is best done from the Peak campsite.

The miombo woodlands in the park are a result of the Lulimala, Lumbatwa and Lukulu river. The latter river flows into the Mumba Tuta and Kapanda Lupili Falls, near which are two campsites of the same name. While Lavushi Manda does not have the large wildlife that other parks do, hikers can spot klipspringer, yellow-spotted rock hyrax and Smith’s red rock rabbit, Verreaux’ eagles and augur buzzards patrol birds near the mountain. Jackal, vervet monkeys and duiker can be spotted in the lower regions.

Park entrance fees are approximately USD $5 for international visitors, while camping fees are USD $15 per person per night. Vehicle fees are USD $1.70 for local vehicles and USD $15 for internationally-licenced vehicles. Park fees and camping fees must be paid at the entrance to the park.

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Mafinga Hills

Experienced hikers who like a challenge can attempt to climb the Mafinga Hills, which has the highest peak in Zambia, the 7,674-foot Mafinga Central. They are located on the border of Malawi and Zambia. Muyombe, which is the town closest to Mafinga Hills’ western side, is the best starting point. From there, a local guide can be hired who will request permission from the local headman (traditional ruler). The hike up the mountain is on rocky terrain, takes about three-and-a-half hours depending on fitness levels, and there is no set hiking trail. As there are no companies offering hikes to the Mafinga Hills, there are no set costs, meaning negotiations would have to happen with the guide.

Nyika Plateau

Rolling hills, forests, and rocky outcrops and wild flowers make up the Nyika National Park, which stretches across parts of Zambia and Malawi (the larger part is in Malawi) making an ideal hiking spot. There are six different hiking trails to pick from lasting from one to five days. The Jalawe and Chipome River Trail is one of the more popular walks, where elephants and buffalo can be seen. This trail is organized by the Chelinda Lodge, which is the only accommodation in the park and is on the Malawian section.

Entrance to the park is only from the Malawian side and is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the international fee is USD $10 per person and USD $5 per vehicle.

Nyika Plateau National Park is ideal for hikers

Nsumbu National Park

The Nsumbu National park in the Northern Province is one of the most ecologically diverse parks in Zambia, with the sandy shores of Lake Tanganyika, a valley, swamps, and the Kampasa forest, which is perfect for hiking. Ndole Bay Lodge provides three hiking options within the national park. The forest option is a three-hour walk along the edge of a wetland and features sightings of puku, bushback, baboons, hippos, and crocodiles. Elephants and buffalo are sometime seen as well.

The second hiking option is along the edge of an itigi forest and includes the Kala sand dunes. Elephants can be seen during this walk. The third option is the balancing stones walk.

Hikers are accompanied by an armed ranger. Park entrance fees are USD $10 for international visitors. Walks are seasonal.

Kalambo Falls

The Kalambo Falls, located in the Northern Province, is the second highest waterfall in Zambia. The top of the falls boasts a great view into the surrounding gorge. The hike to the top of the falls takes two hours up and two hours back down. It is a moderate hike, with steep rocky outcrops interspersed with flatter areas and is about a 1,640-foot climb from the shore to the top. Hikers can camp at the premises for USD $15 per person per night. This also includes the entrance fee.

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