Ol Doinyo Lengai Climb

Guide to Climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai: Tanzania’s Active Volcano

Ol Doinyo Lengai, which means “Mountain of God” in the Maasai language, is the only active volcano in Tanzania. While most tourists come to Tanzania to climb the mighty Kilimanjaro, Ol Doinyo Lengai on the other hand is a shorter but more adventurous and strenuous climb that should definitely be on your list.

As amazing as it looks from the far, this has to be the hardest and the steepest climb I’ve done so far.  Please don’t take this climb lightly. This is also the only climb I’ve done where getting up was easier than getting down.

Read until the end to find all the important information you need before doing the Ol Doinyo Lengai climb.

Ol Doinyo Lengai History & Facts

Let’s start by knowing a little more about Ol Doinyo Lengai’s history. The Maasai people have long considered the volcano sacred, believing it to be the home of their God, Engai. When there is scarce rainfall in the region, they make offerings to the Mountain and the Mountain of God always listens to them.

The mountain has two volcanic craters where one can see the lava. Ol Doiny Lengai last erupted in 2007-08 which impacted the villages, tourism, and wildlife in the region.  

Ol Doinyo Lengai has the coldest lava in the whole world. The lava has Natrocarbonatite characteristics. This means the Lava is not as hot as the other lava in the world, and the lava is black which turns to white because of chemical reactions. The lava at Ol Doinyo Lengai has a temperature of 540 – 593 Degrees C. 

It is so cold that it looks like mudflow during the day, and the lava glows mostly during the night. 

Where is the Ol Doinyo Lengai Hike

The Ol Doinyo Lengai mountain is situated in the eastern portion of the East African Rift Valley, near Lake Natron in Tanzania. Hikers can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding area, including the Great Rift Valley and Lake Natron while experiencing the unique geology and culture.

Ol Doinyo Lengai Hike Details

What is the distance of the hike?

The Ol Doinyo Lengai hike is an 11 – 12 km return trip.

How long does it take to finish the climb?

When I asked my guide Timan about this, he said it takes around 6 – 12 hours based on the hiker’s fitness. 

It took me an overall 11 hours to finish this trek, which also included multiple long breaks during the ascent and spending time at the summit. 

How difficult is the Ol Doinyo Lengai hike?

It is really hard, and if you are planning to hike Ol Doinyo Lengai soon, I would suggest preparing well for it and not taking the hike lightly. It is one of the hardest climbs I’ve done so far. 

If a hike takes the same time to ascend and descend, you can already imagine the difficulty of the hike.

It gets freezing at the summit because of the winds and the temperature, so you can’t stay there long.

What is the incline of the Ol Doinyo Lengai hike?

You go up about 1600 meters in just 5 kilometers, so you can imagine how steep the climb is. After the first 2 hours of climbing, you hit a really steep part until the summit, almost like going up a 75 to 80-degree angle.

What is the altitude of Ol Doinyo Lengai?

Ol Doinyo Lengai rises to an elevation of 2962m(~9717ft).

Which is the best season to climb

The best season to climb Ol Doinyo Lengai is during the dry season, which is from June to October. During this time, the weather is much more stable and the chance of rainfall is lower, making it safer and more enjoyable for climbers. It is important to plan your climb during this season to have the best experience possible, as you can also combine it with your safari trip.

The other best season would be from December to February.

How to reach Ol Doinyo Lengai 

Reaching the base of Ol Doinyo Lengai

Ol Doinyo Lengai can be reached by flying into Kilimanjaro International Airport or Arusha Airport and then taking a connecting flight or driving to the town of Arusha.

From Arusha, you can book a tour or hire a guide to take you to the base of the volcano. It takes close to 4-5 hours from Arusha to reach the Ol Doinyo Lengai tourism office. You can also reach Ol DOinyo Lengai after your migration safari via Lake Natron to see the flamingoes.

You can also take public transport from Arusha directly to Ol Doinyo Lengai, but that’ll be one hell of a journey!

My Ol Doinyo Hike experience

I did this hike in collaboration with Benson Safaris. While Mr. Benson was also to join me for the hike, he had to drop out because of something urgent coming up at the last moment.

I had just returned to Arusha a day before after completing my safari and successfully watching the wildebeest migration on the Mara River. Since planning this trip, I have been excited about the hike to Ol Doinyo Lengai, seeing the only active volcano in Tanzania. 

But to be honest, more than excited, I was also scared about whether I would be able to finish this trek because I had read about the difficulty so much. Let me take you through my journey of summiting the Ol Doinyo Lengai.

Starting from Arusha towards Ol DOinyo Lengai

I was met with Zablon(guide from Benson Safaris) at my hotel in Arusha. We were ready to start our journey to the base of the Ol Doinyo Lengai, and can you imagine I had the whole Land Cruiser to myself for this trip!

We started at 9 am from Arusha, and within 20 minutes we were outside the city. The landscape changes so drastically that it seems like you are already in a national park. Since I had been on the same route when I went for the safari, I decided to take a nap! 

The roads are amazing until you reach Mto Wa Abu, and then the bumpy journey begins! Hold your seats tight for the next 3 hours. 

After close to 1hr 30mins from Mto Wa Mbu, I saw a mountain that resembled very much Ol Doinyo Lengai, but it was the Empakaai crater.

Our first stop, God’s Hole

God' hole Tanzania

After driving for 2 hours on the bumpy roads, we reached our first stop, God’s Hole. It’s like a crater or a big hole. The Maasai come here to pray when there is no rainfall. You can also find a lot of women near this spot selling souvenirs.

After spending time at God’s Hole we were back on the bumpy roads, and there is one additional benefit. You also get a free facial. =!

After a while, we stopped for our lunch break. Zablon gave me packed lunch boxes, and the food was so good. They even asked my preference for the kind of food I wanted to eat, before the trip.

The first glimpse of the “Mountain of God”

First glimpse of Ol Doinyo Lengai

Just after our lunch spot, I looked left and I got the first glimpse of Ol Doinyo Lengai. This time, I double-checked to confirm if this really was the mountain that I was going to climb. I was mesmerized and in awe of the mountain because by the same time tomorrow, I would have summited this mountain.

I asked Zablon to stop and stood there to take some pictures. There was a mix of emotions seeing the mountain for the first time.

For the next 30-45 minutes, I just kept looking at the mountain, trying to figure out which route we were going to take to reach the summit. Zablon then informed me we would be climbing from the North of the mountain. 

We were then at the Natron checkpost where I had to submit my documents, Zablon did all the work for me while I kept looking at the enormous Ol Doinyo Lengai.

Get a guide and rest before the climb

View of Ol Doinyo Lengai from tourist office

After the initial registrations and document checks, we were ready to meet our guide. So one can not climb Ol Doinyo Lengai without a local guide. Since I was doing the climb with Benson Safaris, they had already made all the pre-arrangements, which also included the guide.

I met Timan at the tourism office who was going to be my guide. He was just 26 and had climbed the mountain more than 50 times. The majority of the tourists come to Tanzania to climb either Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru and not a lot of them know about Ol Doinyo Lengai

We were then on our way to our stay for the evening. Timan gave me a few instructions about the climb and things I needed to carry, which the Benson Safaris team had already informed me of.

Staying at Africa Safari Lake Natron

Staying at the beautiful property of Arica ssafari Lake Natron

After reaching the beautiful property of Africa Safari, which overlooks Lake Natron, we had some juice, and I decided to rest. Not just because of the bumpy ride but also because we start the climb at midnight. 

When I reached the room, it was still 4 pm, and I had a good 5 hours to take a nice siesta(nap). So after getting things ready for the evening, like my trekking clothes, gear, and equipment, I was ready to doze off.

But for some reason, I was just unable to sleep, or rather I did know the reason. I just kept thinking about the climb. And can you imagine I was finally able to sleep at 7 pm? And by 9 pm the hotel staff was there to wake me up. I was even more terrified now because I hadn’t rested properly.

I packed all my luggage, and we went to the restaurant to have dinner. I barely had any food because we were starting our climb soon. By 10:45 pm we were ready to move to the base of the mountain.

Reaching the base of Ol Doinyo Lengai and starting the trek

Ol Doinyo Lengai at night

We picked up Timan on the way and then headed towards the base. It took us close to an hour to reach the base, and with each passing minute, I was getting more and more anxious.

After reaching the base, we started layering up and getting ready for the climb. It was freezing not because of the temperature but because of how windy it was. It was now close to 1 am when we started our climb. Timan had also brought a Maasai climbing stick for both of us.  

Starting the climb with Timan

The initial one hour was easy, and I was starting to get a little confident. When I asked Timan how I was doing, he said I had a good pace. We did take a few 1-minute stops in between but kept walking. We took our first big stop for 30 minutes because we had a good pace and not many places on the climb could cover us from the strong winds. 

By 3:30 am, we had done the majority of our initial climb, and Timan said we could stop here for an hour. I was not tired but had sweated a good amount. Once we stopped, I started to feel very cold.

Big stop before the main incline

During the rest stops on Ol Doinyo Lengai

By the time I was eating my snacks(bananas), I saw Timan already snoring. On the other hand, I was struggling because of the cold winds. I tried different spots but was barely able to sleep. By 4:30 am, we met with the other group. We then continued the climb as we had to reach the summit to see the sunrise.

Just after this, the incline part started but since it was still dark, I could not make out how much we had climbed or the steepness. By 5:30 am, there was a little light and then I saw the incline, which was easily 75 degrees. I was comfortably able to climb and reach the gulley, which was a small place before reaching the crater top. 

Reaching the crater top

Reaching the crater top

It was already 6 am when we were almost near the crater. I could see the summit approaching and I was beaming with confidence that I was able to reach the top. But in the back of my head, I knew this was work half done!

There were times when the clouds would completely hide the path ahead of us, and the visibility would barely be a few meters. When we reached the crater top, I was startled to see the two craters of the Ol Doinyo Lengai. I had tears of joy! I guess that happens to me whenever I climb these mighty mountains!

Two craters at Ol Doinyo Lengai

There was a very narrow path that was going around the complete crater. I moved ahead to have a greater look at the coldest lava! It wasn’t like I had seen in any of the documentaries. This was more like white and black ash, and in some places, I could see the red lava spewing out of the crater. 

Sunrise from the top of Ol Doinyo Lengai

Sunrise from the top of Ol Doinyo Lengai

It was always on my bucket list to climb an active volcano, and it was finally happening right in front of my eyes. Just sat there soaking in the view and just on my right, I could see the beautiful sun just coming over the cloud bed. 

Ol Doinyo Lengai Crater view

Those 30 minutes at the crater clicking pictures and watching the sunrise and the volcano were not at all easy. It was freezing even though the sun was out. Timan said when it’s less clouded one can also see Mt Kilimanjaro from the top. I could barely keep my hands out of the gloves, and thank God I carried a neck warmer, which helped me cover my face.

Sorry, but no amount of pictures can do justice to what I saw there at that moment. 

Tip: If you have even the slightest of vertigo, it’s better to have someone with you as it can get very daunting. Both the crater and the descent.

Starting to descend 

The incline at Ol Doinyo Lengai

It was just past 7 am when we started to make our descent. I was confident because of the previous treks I had done that descent was the easier part of a trek, but boy was I wrong.

As soon as we reached the gulley and I looked down, I could see the climb that we made during the night, and yes I was scared. During the descent, there were places where I had to use my hands as well for support. 

View of the rift valley from Ol Doinyo Lengai

But I was also enjoying the view of the Rift Valley and Lake Natron, the descent generally is less tiring but puts more pressure on your knees. After close to 3 hours of descent, my legs had started to give up and I asked Timan how much longer.

The hardest descent?

Descending from Ol Doinyo Lengai overlooking the rift valley

After every 5 minutes, I kept asking Timan how long more, and we kept taking breaks sooner because of the pain in my knees! He kept repeating “Pole Pole, no rush in Africa”. My head was also burning because of the heat, to which Timan came and poured one full bottle of water on my head, which made me feel a lot better. 

After some time, I could see our jeeps, and I thought it would just take me 30 minutes to reach them. I was very relieved. By this time, the steep decline was also over.

Successfully completing the Ol Doinyo Lengai hike

It still took me close to 2 hours to reach the Jeep. I want to thank Timan for supporting me during our hike, especially during the descent. Thanks to him, I finished the hike successfully. If it was not for him, I would not have been able to climb the mighty Ol Doinyo Lengai.

Heading back to Arusha

After the climb, we went back to the African safari accommodation to freshen up and get rid of all the mud. We were soon on the way back to Arusha and decided to have lunch on the way back.  

On the way, we stopped a few more times to capture the Ol Doinyo Lengai. I still couldn’t believe that just a few hours back, I was at the top of the mountain. Most of the journey I spent sleeping, and it took us 4-5 hours to reach back to Arusha.

I hope this gives you a fair idea about the climb 

Ol Doinyo Lengai Climb Cost

Zablon posing in front of Ol Doinyo Lengai

There are two options on how you can do the Ol Doinyo Lengai climb: One is with a tour operator who arranges everything for you, and the other option is doing it by yourself.

After doing it with Benson Safaris, I understand how difficult it would have been if I had done it by myself. If you’re really on a budget, then do it by yourself. Otherwise, I would suggest doing it with Benson Safaris or any other tour operator. Sharing the hike cost and inclusions below:

No of personCost per person
1 person $2,067
2 person $1,563
3 person $1,250
4 person $1,050
5 person $970
6 person $900


  • 1-night stay in Arusha and Lake Natron
  • Transport from Arusha to Arusha
  • All the meals during the trip
  • All the entrance and guide fees for climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai
  • Cultural tours on the way back from Lake Natron

Contact Benson Safaris: +255 788 841 723(Whatsapp)

Email: info@bensonsafaris.com

Why did I do this hike with Benson Safaris?

While researching about the hike, I found barely a few companies who organized it. I was happy to stumble across Benson Safaris, who helped me prepare for this hike and arranged everything for me. 

The other reason that stood out was they supported Lengo Football Academy. Lengo Football Academy is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to change kids’ lives through the power of Football. I even visited the academy on my trip and was very amazed to see the kind of impactful work they were doing. I will soon be sharing a blog on my experience at Lengo Football Academy.

How to do the hike by yourself

On the jeep after conquering Ol Doinyo Lengai

It is possible to do this hike by yourself but it has a lot of challenges. Let me list all the steps, and the cost of doing the Ol Doinyo Lengai climb by yourself.

The most important aspect of doing it by yourself is managing how to get there, finding accommodation to manage the climb, and finding a local guide.

You can find Loliondo buses from Arusha to Lake Natron gate that run daily. While the buses have fixed timings, it’s best to check with them about the availability. You can find more details here: Loliondo Coach

Here are the other costs related to the hike

Ol Doingyo Lengai Climb pricePer person cost($)
Bus to and fro Cost30
Guide Fees for Ol Doinyo Lengai123
Vehicle cost(To and fro Ol Doinyo Lengai base)100
Stay in tent at Maasai Giraffe Eco Lodge + Food(For 2 nights)106
Tourist Tax for staying in tent/room70
Conservation fees35
Lake Natron fees(Additional)20
Engaresero River Gorge(Additional)20
Total~ $504

You can also contact Timan directly and he can help you arrange everything: +255 766 931 371

Note: The roads are really bumpy and the bus journey is not at all comfortable

Ol Doinyo Lengai Hike Packing list

Though you might think that it’s just a single-day hike, you need to be very well prepared for it. Here is a list of clothing and gear that you must carry for the climb

  • Hiking boots
  • A fleece/sweat-proof t-shirt
  • A warm layer jacket
  • Down Jacket
  • Headlamp
  • Neck warmer
  • Warm Cap
  • Gloves
  • Trekking Pole(You can also ask your guide to arrange a Maasai stick)
  • Snacks, energy bars, and electrolyte

Ol Doinyo Lengai Hike: Conclusion

I hope this guide helps you answer all your questions regarding how to climb Ol DOinyo Lengai. I am still amazed at finishing this hike because it is one of the most adventurous things I’ve done so far. 

Apart from it being adventurous, it is a difficult hike, and I would say again to prepare well for it. Also, a very special thanks to Benson Safaris, Zablon, and Timan without whom I would not have been able to have this amazing experience.

FAQs about Ol Doinyo Lengai

Q1. What is the coldest erupting lava in the world?

Ans. The Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania spews the coldest erupting lava globally, known as natrocarbonatite lava, with temperatures ranging from 500-600°C (930-1,110°F).Source

Q2. Where is the location of Ol Doinyo Lengai?

Ans. Ol Doinyo Lengai is located in Tanzania, in East Africa. It is a stratovolcano that is part of the East African Rift System, near Lake Natron. The volcano is known for its unique carbonatite lava, which is cooler when compared to other lava types in the world.

Q3. What is unusual about Ol DOinyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania Africa?

Ans. Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania, Africa is unique because it is the only active volcano in the world that erupts natrocarbonatite lava. This lava appears black when it is fresh but turns a greyish-white color when exposed to the air. 

Q4. What is the only active volcano in Tanzania?

Ans. The only active volcano in Tanzania is Ol Doinyo Lengai, located in the East African Rift in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This volcano is unique because it erupts natrocarbonatite lava. Ol Doinyo Lengai is considered sacred by the Maasai people who live in the region.

Let me know in the comments who posed better on the top of the land cruiser, me or Zablon? If you have any other questions regarding the climb or safari in Tanzania, you can drop them below in the comments or DM me on Instagram: stories.of.raku

If you liked this, why not check out my other posts too from East Africa?


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