How does climbing the tallest free-standing mountain and highest peak in Africa sound? Crazy? Adventurous? Many people want to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, but this bucket list hike is a bit of a challenge, and not every hiker will be able to get to the summit of Uhuru Peak, which sits at a whopping 5,895 meters (19,340 ft) above sea level.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenge and a half to accomplish, but there is a great sense of satisfaction and achievement waiting for all those who reach the top. However, preparation is key, and some advance planning for your Kilimanjaro hike is a must!
Here’s all the essential information, including frequently asked questions, for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Whether you are a novice hiker or an advanced trekker, there’s a Kilimanjaro trek suitable for you. There are six to seven predominant Kilimanjaro trekking routes, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is a bucket list activity for most keen hikers. The highest peak in Africa is also the largest freestanding mountain on earth, which makes climbing to the top a truly unique experience. The Kilimanjaro summit is crowned with a perpetual layer of snow, but to get to the top you’ll pass through five distinct climate zones, including cultivated land, forest, heather/moorland, alpine desert, and finally, the Kilimanjaro summit zone. This makes the hike to the top one of the most varied and rewarding treks you’ll ever do.
There is no shortage of fabulous views along the Kilimanjaro trek. In particular, the Great Barranco Valley offers an other-worldly vista, complete with twisted, alien-looking plants, tumbling waterfalls, and incredible views of the glaciers further up the mountain. As you rise higher and higher you may even ascend above the clouds, providing fabulous photo opportunities, especially at sunrise and sunset. The gorgeous glaciers near Crater Camp will transport you to another world entirely, one where ice and rock dominate the landscapes. Finally, the real joy of summiting Kilimanjaro lies in finally getting to the top, and experiencing the incredible vista from the Roof of Africa, Uhuru Peak.
There are no words to describe the feeling you’ll get after successfully summiting Kilimanjaro. This epic adventure is a must for nature lovers and keen hikers, and although it’s a challenge, it’s a manageable feat for most fit and healthy walkers. There are hardly any other treks on earth that will take you so high without requiring specialist equipment or climbing skills, and that will transport you through such varied, diverse and interesting terrain.
Now, here are some of the most popular Kilimanjaro routes to choose from.
There are 6-7 main Kilimanjaro routes to reach the summit at Uhuru Peak. The main Kilimanjaro routes are Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit, and for experienced trekkers, the Umbwe route.
Each Kilimanjaro route varies in both length and difficulty, so consider this when booking your tour.
The Machame route, aptly nicknamed the Whiskey route, is quickly becoming one of the most popular Kilimanjaro routes, as it offers an extra challenge for eager trekkers. What’s more, the Machame route is incredibly scenic as it takes you up steep switchbacks and through a dense section of the rainforest.
If you’re wondering how long is the Machame route, then know you should plan for at least six to seven days. Just be aware that seven days or longer is preferable, especially as you will want to acclimate appropriately in order to avoid altitude sickness. Adding a day helps with acclimatization, such as on this slower-paced, 7-day Machame route.
The Lemosho route is known as route-less-travelled when it comes to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but not for long! As more and more trekkers come to challenge themselves on the mountainside, the Lemosho route is quickly becoming more popular, especially as it offers unparalleled 360-degree views on all sides of Mt Kilimanjaro.
So exactly how long is the Lemosho route? It is recommended to plan for at least seven days on the Lemosho Route, and as always, a slower pace is better, as it allows more time for acclimatization. Check out this slower-paced Lemosho route itinerary.
Travel Tip: With the increasing number of visitors each year, Kilimanjaro National Park is struggling to offset the impact trekkers are having on the mountain, soil conditions, and local flora. Your registered tour company will be able to offer more insight on what to do and what to avoid doing along the Kilimanjaro routes, but in general, stay on marked trails, take all of your trash away with you, and trek mindfully.
Best time to climb Kilimanjaro
It’s possible to climb Kilimanjaro at any time of year, as its proximity to the Equator means that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too dramatically over the seasons. Rather, the region experiences both wet and dry seasons, and these will dictate the best times for trekking. In general, it’s best to climb Kilimanjaro when the weather is dry, as precipitation can lead to muddy, slippery and snowy conditions on the mountain. This means that it’s best to avoid the rainy season from late March to early June.
The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is between January and March. You’ll experience mild temperatures, fairly clear skies, and only the occasional rain shower during the day. Alternatively, plan your trip between July and October. The temperatures at this time can be quite cold, especially at the summit, but you’ll experience very clear skies and may even have a chance to catch the great wildebeest migration!
In addition to the weather, you might also want to consider lunar cycles when planning your trip. Summiting Kilimanjaro under the light of a full moon is one of the most magical experiences you can have during your trip, as the moon illuminates the glaciers and peaks of the mountain. If you can, time your trip to coincide with a full or nearly-full moon.
When it comes to planning your Kilimanjaro hike, it is wise to book a Kilimanjaro tour in advance from a reputable tour company. We at 10Adventures Tours partner with some of the best local guides all over the world, and have great options for trekking tours around Kilimanjaro. We work with reputable companies that consider your personal safety and limitations, provide required trekking and camping equipment (of good quality), porters, skill level, best routes, scenic vistas, and more.
There are hundreds of Kilimanjaro tour companies operating and competing for the market share, but there are only a dozen or so that you should trust with your life and money. With such a saturated market, choosing the right company can be difficult, which is why we are pleased to work with great tour operators at 10Adventures Tours!
Tip: Only book with tour companies who respect and fairly pay their staff and porters. A good way to check for this is to verify if your Kilimanjaro tour company is on the partner program list of the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC) and also on the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP).
Frequently asked questions about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro
Here are the most frequently asked questions about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that are helpful to know when planning your trip.
How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?
The cost of Kilimanjaro tours varies depending on your chosen route and length of your trek. However, for a reputable tour company, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 USD. A higher price tag doesn’t guarantee better service, so it’s worth taking the time to do a little research.
How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
Finding out how long it takes to climb Kilimanjaro is one of the first things to do when planning your trip. Many of the popular routes will take a minimum of six days, but this can vary considerably according to your selected tour. In general, it is preferable to add a day or two in order to adjust to the altitude. Additionally, if you’re going to Tanzania, it makes sense to combine a Kilimanjaro trek with a safari, beach holiday or perhaps a bike ride. This ride from Kili to Ngorongoro Crater is spectacular!
How hard is it to climb Kilimanjaro?
The difficulty levels for climbing Kilimanjaro vary depending on which route you take and your personal fitness level. Most trekkers find climbing Kilimanjaro at the moderate-very difficult level on the trail rating system. The biggest factor is how your body handles altitude. Kilimanjaro peaks at 5,895m (19,340’), which makes even simple trekking much more difficult.
Training to climb Kilimanjaro
Once you’ve decided on your trip, you’ll need to factor in some time for training to climb Kilimanjaro. Training is essential for everyone, but will vary depending on your personal health and fitness. In general, it is recommended to train by engaging in frequent challenging hikes in the months prior to your climb.
Who was the first person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
The first people to successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro were Hans Meyer and Ludwid Purtscheller in 1889.
How many people climb Kilimanjaro each year?
Estimates range from 35,000 to 50,000 people, with that number expected to increase in the coming years.
Where do you fly into to climb Kilimanjaro?
The best airport to fly into to climb Kilimanjaro is the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JBO), located southwest of the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. The nearest town is Moshi.
Should I book a Tour to climb Kilimanjaro?
The easiest way to climb Kilimanjaro is to book a tour before you leave. Planning the logistics, ensuring there is space at camps and hiring all the necessary guides and porters is a lot of work, and you should budget a few days at minimum if you want to do it once you arrive in Moshi. You’ll also need to be more flexible with your dates if you book your trip once in Moshi. As with all tours, book your Kilimanjaro trek with a reputable tour operator to maximize your chances of success.
Is Kilimanjaro a hike or a climb?
You need no technical mountaineering skills for many of the routes that ascend Kilimanjaro, which is good to know, especially for beginners. You do not need any mountaineering expertise in order to navigate a Kilimanjaro trek. However, while it’s only a hike, it is at high altitude, and the trail can be challenging, requiring the use of hands in some places.
How fit do I need to be to climb Kilimanjaro?
Due to the changes in altitude and switchback trails winding up the mountain, it’s advisable to have a decent, moderate level of fitness. Physical fitness isn’t the determinant factor for success however, as both a 7-year old and an 89-year old have been known to successfully summit Kilimanjaro. Rather, a successful climb is determined by your overall health, your body’s ability to adapt to altitude, and most importantly, a positive attitude.
Check out this feature article about a 68-year-old Colorado woman who does all the training and planning for an eight-day group tour of 11 guests with three guides and 33 porters. Her inspiring story takes very unexpected turn when she reaches the top.
How many different climates does the Kilimanjaro trek cross?
You will cross at least 5 sub-climates to reach the summit. Mount Kilimanjaro is a world of its own, and as a free-standing mountain it has no neighbors. Yet, on its own it stands tall and proud with a ring of perpetual snow and ice at the top. To reach it, you must trek across several different climate zones, from hot, dusty desert all the way to the icy summit of Uhuru’s Peak. So pack wisely, and pack light, as there are weigh-in stations along the Kilimanjaro trek in order to control foot traffic and regulate how much climbers can carry.
How can I maximize my chances of summiting Kilimanjaro?
Choosing a trusted Kilimanjaro tour operator is your best chance at success. Of the many people attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, estimates suggest that only 65-70% will actually make it to the summit. Many people underestimate the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro. But with the right tour operator, those chances increase to over 90%. Since the market is competitive, be sure to do your research in choosing a trusted Kilimanjaro tour operator who will both challenge you, but keep your health and safety a priority.
Ultimately, climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime achievement for most people. While getting to the top of Kilimanjaro is no easy feat, it is a remarkably satisfying experience for all those who attempt it!