Africa is home to some of the world’s deepest lakes, longest rivers and, of course, a number of its most prominent mountains. Many of these are located within the East African Rift, an active zone of tectonic activity over 20 million years in the making.
The world’s second-largest continent, Africa’s topography is incredibly varied. From the Atlas Mountains in the north to the Kalahari Desert in the south, Africa has a wide range of landscapes and ecosystems.
While Africa’s highest mountains do not compete in lists of the world’s highest peaks above sea level, they are some of the most topographically prominent. In other words, they are some of the tallest relative to their surrounding terrain. So read on as we explore the highest mountains in Africa.
The Highest Peak in Africa
The identities of the highest mountains in Africa and its highest peaks are not necessarily one and the same. Most of Africa’s highest mountains have more than one peak and these appear numerous times in any list of highest elevations. Take, for example, Mount Kilimanjaro. Two of its three peaks feature in Africa’s top ten tallest points. Mount Kenya has three entries. For our list’s purposes, we’re counting down the four mountains that make up the ten highest peaks in Africa. And we’re starting with the tallest mountain in Africa.
1. Mount Kilimanjaro
Height: 19,340 feet | Location: Tanzania | Parent range: The Eastern Rift mountains
Mount Kilimanjaro holds several impressive titles. At 19,340 feet, it is the tallest mountain in Africa. This also makes it a member of the Seven Summits, a list of the highest mountains on each continent. And it is the world’s fourth most topographically prominent mountain, ahead of European giants such as Mount Elbra and Mont Blanc.
Located in northeastern Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is technically a volcano rather than a mountain. And this leads us on to its next accolade, that of being the tallest volcano on Earth. This is thanks to the highest of its three volcanic cones, Kibo. Its other two cones, Mawenzi, and Shira have elevations of approximately 16,890 and 13,140 feet respectively. And, in fact, Mawenzi is the fourth highest peak in Africa.
Located within the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kilimanjaro National Park, the mountain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with over 25,000 people climbing it each year. It stands as a solitary peak amidst the surrounding plains.
2. Mount Kenya
Height: 17,057 feet | Location: Kenya | Parent range: Eastern Rift mountains
Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest mountain in Africa. The mountain is located in the east-central part of the country, about 87 miles north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. Like Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano that consists of three distinct peaks: Batian, Nelion, and Point Lenana. The tallest of these is Batian at 17,057 feet. Nelion is next at 17,021 feet, making it the third highest peak in Africa. And lastly, Point Lenana at 16,355 feet, the sixth highest point in Africa.
Many features of Mount Kenya make it a spectacular sight. Its varied belts of vegetation include a forest protected as a biosphere reserve and is home to numerous endemic plant species, among them senecios and giant lobelias. Several rivers flow from Mount Kenya, including the country’s largest, the Tana River, and it provides water for over two million people.
Set within the UNESCO-listed Mount Kenya National Park, some 16,000 people visit there each year.
3. Mount Stanley / Mount Ngaliéma
Height: 16,762 feet | Location: Border Democratic Republic of the Congo – Uganda | Range: Rwenzori mountains
Rising up over 16,760 feet is Margherita Peak, the highest of the nine permanently glaciated peaks of Mount Stanley, the third tallest mountain in Africa.
Spread between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, Mount Stanley is part of the Rwenzori or “rainmaker” mountain range in the western branch of the Great Rift Valley. The mountain itself is named after Henry Morton Stanley, the first European to view the mountains in 1889. Its local name is Mount Ngaliéma, and it is also known as the Mountain of the Moon, the name given to the wider mountain range by ancient geographer, Ptolemy.
Classed as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Stanley is located within Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
4. Mount Meru
Height: 14,968 feet | Location: Tanzania | Range: Eastern Rift mountains
Just 43 miles west of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania’s Arusha Region is another volcanic entry on this list, Mount Meru. Reaching almost 14,970 feet above sea level, this dormant stratovolcano last erupted in 1910. Located within Arusha National Park, Meru’s features include a crater lake and glaciers. Meanwhile, its surrounding savannahs are home to leopards, monkeys and almost 400 bird species.
Africa's Highest Mountains
As this list of Africa’s highest mountains comes to an end, it’s clear that the continent’s awe-inspiring topographical features reflect its diversity of plant and wildlife. We hope it “peaked” your interest.