Mount Kilimanjaro - the highest free-standing mountain in the world - has been enticing adventure-seekers for over a century. Glacier-covered peaks dissolving into alpine meadows, which- in turn- contrast the formidable mass of verdant rainforests and darker gorges that cover the slopes of this volcano make for an unforgettable experience. Here, days of enjoying the wonders of African nature through varying climatic zones culminate in the spectacular views of the morning sun gleaming off the snow-covered glaciers at the summit of the highest point on the continent.
For most of the trekkers reaching the summit is one of the pivotal lifetime achievements. Many of them are thinking a lot before making a decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. After all, it is a long trip to a remote country in Africa. Also, compared to other hiking trips all over the world, Mt Kilimanjaro adventures are more expensive. Together combined, all these things make it necessary to plan your trip carefully.
There are many things to consider while planning your Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Lack of information, and, consequently, failure to make proper preparations is the main and only reason why even young and fit trekkers sometimes fail to reach the summit. On the other hand, armed with the right information, climbers of all ages and physical fitness levels confidently make their way to the top.
In addition to that, numerous operators are marketing Mt Kilimanjaro too aggressively, often failing to inform the hikers about the required safety measures and preparation. The hiking challenge is often described as “easy” and hardly a thing is ever told about high-altitude acclimatization and its impacts on the climbers. Everything is made to maximize the number of clients, while safety aspect is often forgotten.
As the number of those eager to climb Kilimanjaro is rising, we decided to make this guide so that future adventurers can avoid common pitfalls. It answers the most frequently asked questions: what is “high altitude acclimatization”; what equipment is needed; what is the best time for a comfortable and safe Kilimanjaro hike and how to get to Kilimanjaro.
Our guide also explains the differences between Kilimanjaro climbing routes, gives you a sneak peek into the inner workings of a successful climbing expedition and prepares you for the camping experience.
In short, the best time to visit Mt. Kilimanjaro is from early June to late September and from late December to late February. These times are short on rain and sunny most of the time, which goes a long way to ensuring the best views.
Check our article to find out more about the best seasons to climb Kilimanjaro.
RAIN AND SUN SEASONS IN TANZANIA
Tanzania has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The first dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until early March. After a period of long rains, dry weather returns in the late June or early July. The second dry season lasts until the middle of October to complete the annual cycle.
Dry seasons are the time when there are a lot of trekkers on Kilimanjaro, especially on Machame and Marangu routes. If you want a more private Kilimanjaro experience, you should opt for Lemosho, Rongai or Northern Circuit routes.
Though Kilimanjaro climbing is more challenging during the rainy season, this choice has a number of fair advantages. First, the number of other trekkers is minimal. Secondly, everything around is lush green. Thirdly, it is the only time to see the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro. The photographers will enjoy the time!
FULL MOON DATES | KILIMANJARO
Tour Groups with Altezza you can join!
Mount Kilimanjaro Map and Routes
While parts of some of Kilimanjaro climbing routes overlap, each has its own attraction. Varying degrees of physical challenge and acclimatisation opportunities are offset by magnificent views and, sometimes, traded off for greater privacy on the less frequented treks.
Choosing the right route is critical for your summit success. Below we are giving a short description of each route, examining their pros and cons.
Machame Route Machame is the second most popular route on Kilimanjaro. It is often busy during high season. Featuring excellent acclimatization and great views it is a really good route to consider. Make sure to choose the 7-day program. A shortened 6-day version of Machame, while cheaper, has one of the lowest success rates.
Marangu Route The most popular and difficult route for a Kilimanjaro climb. Though crowded at times, it is the only route that offers huts- rather than tents- for your overnights. The fact that ascent and descent follow the same path will not be felt as a disadvantage, as the views are ever-changing under the African sky.
Lemosho Route Lemosho route combines excellent acclimatization and high scenic value. Because the route trailhead is quite remote very few local operators run this trek. 7-day option is highly recommended.
Northern Circuit Route This newest trekking route on Kilimanjaro will be ideal for those keen on seeing the northern, rarely visited slopes. This option is the longest on Kilimanjaro but you will never see crowds on Northern Circuit.
Rongai Route Rongai is the only route with a trailhead in the northern part of Kilimanjaro. It features great views and a moderate altitude acclimatization transition. Those seeking a more private experience of communing with nature away from the crowds will find this less-frequented trek an excellent option.
Umbwe Route Umbwe is the shortest way to Uhuru with the steepest ascent. Acclimatization there is challenging. Recommended for the experienced mountaineer only.
Accommodation in Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro Quick Facts
Preparing and Training for Climbing
Fitness for Kilimanjaro climb
Though climbing Mount Kilimanjaro does not require special mountaineering skills, the experience will be more enjoyable and memorable if you are in good physical shape. This is not to say that you must be an athlete- if you can comfortably walk up to 15 km per day, you may consider yourself physically prepared for a Kilimanjaro adventure.
At the same time, there are some basic exercises that can maximize your fitness level for the Kilimanjaro hike.
Cardio (aerobic) training
The purpose of cardio training is to stimulate and optimise your body’s oxygen consumption. Being able to trek without being unduly short of breath despite high altitude goes a long way towards making the climb more enjoyable.
Good examples of cardio training include jogging (or running on a treadmill), swimming, martial arts, and cycling. They train your circulatory system, making it better prepared for using limited amounts of oxygen efficiently.
If you haven’t practiced any aerobic activity for a while, our advice is to start training 2-4 months before the start of your Kilimanjaro adventure. If, however, you are training rather regularly, you should just keep the regime.
At the same time, we recommend giving yourself a break from exercise for a couple of weeks before the climb.
Mistakes of the physically fit climbers
Those who are in excellent shape are particularly prone to everextending themselves by hiking too fast, especially on the first days of the trek. This has often been seen to result in the fittest climbers, including professional athletes, dropping out of the climb after 3-4 days, while the less fit members of the group would have gone on to summit successfully. The importance of allowing sufficient time for acclimatisation can not be overstated!
Remember: good fitness level helps you tackle fatigue, but it only has a moderate effect on your acclimatization transition. However fit you may be, always walk slowly.
Hiking trips in the countryside
Essentially, Mount Kilimanjaro adventure is a long hike over often rugged mountain terrain with many up- and downhills. Making a few day trips (hiking time should be 5-10 hours) in the countryside is a good way to understand what lies ahead and prepare yourself.
Moreover, if you buy new boots for your Kilimanjaro climb, these trips will be a good way to break them in. Using previously unworn hiking boots can easily detract from one’s enjoyment of the mountain by giving one sores and blisters.
Make sure you pack everything you need for your Kilimanjaro adventure. Pay attention to the following:
- Passport, valid for 6 months or more
- Visa, unless you are eligible for visa-on-arrival
- Yellow fever vaccination, if you are traveling from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission
Pack your Kilimanjaro outfit - check our article to see what gear and clothing you will need for this trip. And remember- poor-quality equipment and hiking boots that have not been broken in are a fail-proof way to turn what should be the adventure of a lifetime into disaster.
If you have any medical conditions, consult your physician before undertaking the climb and make sure to bring the medications you may require. While your guides will be equipped with standard medical kits designed to handle all common emergencies, you should take care of any special medical requirements, i.e. insulin or antiallergens.
Though all meals and drinks are provided on the trek, having a reasonable amount of snacks and energy bars of your choice is not a bad idea.
Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes
There are six routes leading to the peak of Kilimanjaro. Each route has something special to offer. Some are known for great acclimatization, others for epic panoramic landscapes. Two of them - Lemosho and Machame - are our favorites.They combine great acclimatization transition and high scenic value. Though Machame is sometimes crowded, Lemosho is always a great choice. You should not, however, think that the other routes are bad. Despite the fact that acclimatization on other routes may be more challenging, the hiking experiences are nevertheless unique.
Climbing Equipment and Gear List
While camping equipment is provided by your guiding service, you will be responsible for bringing your personal hiking and clothing gear. Your choice will largely determine the comfort and safety of your Kilimanjaro experience.
On this trip you will be traversing five different climatic zones, ranging from rainforest with its hot and humid conditions to the glacial planes at the top with their sub zero temperatures. You should be adequately prepared.
In short, your hiking gear pack should include light clothes for the first days of your adventure, warmer ones for the middle leg and al sturdy and warm outfit for the summit night. Remember to take an insulated waterproof jacket, pants and rain poncho because tropical showers are not that infrequent on Mt Kilimanjaro. A good sleeping bag is an absolute must. Overall, you should be ready for the hot (+25 C°) days and cold (-15C°) nights.
High-quality, sturdy hiking boots are especially important. You can not hike Kilimanjaro in training sneakers, though it is advisable to bring them along for walking at camp. Quality hiking boots that have been well broken in will make all the difference on your way to conquering the highest point in Africa.
Buy high-quality gear only. This does necessarily mean focusing on world-class brands- there are many affordable alternatives. However, do not consider cheapest models and fakes. Ensure that your boots are neither too big nor tight. This will ensure you avoid sores, blisters and possible traumas.
Because buying everything may be too costly you should also consider the option of hiring some items or the whole kit on the spot from one of the Kilimanjaro rental shops.
Check our Kilimanjaro kit packing list to learn everything you need to know about equipment and gear.
Weather on Mount Kilimanjaro
The weather on Kilimanjaro varies with the seasons. The first half of January till the beginning of March and early July through early October are short on rain with clear skies making these the best times for climbing. These, however, are also the times when some of the routes may feel somewhat crowded.
Do not cross out the rainy months from your travel dates - though the hike will be more arduous, you will be rewarded with the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro and significantly lower numbers of hikers, even on the popular routes.
TEMPERATURE IN MOSHI, TANZANIA
RAINFALL IN MOSHI, TANZANIA
Safety on Kilimanjaro
Professional guiding crews make Mount Kilimanjaro climbing expeditions strikingly different from other popular mountaineering trips. While on most of the other popular treks the guides simply lead your way, your Kilimanjaro climbing crew will be taking care of everything - from carrying your duffel bag with gear to preparing meals and pitching tents. Each member of the climbing crew receives special training and certification according to his/her role in the team. Most Kilimanjaro climb crew members dream of becoming chief guides someday, yet only a select few succeed. Apart from good English, this position requires years of training, perseverance, and dedication. The specific composition of your guiding team largely depends on the tour type and duration. Thus, longer trips and remote routes both require larger crews for more equipment and supplies.
Fair treatment of porters
While booking a Kilimanjaro tour remember to check if a tour operator is taking proper care of the climbing crews. A good outfitter, such as Altezza Travel, always provides three nutritious meals daily and proper equipment - sleeping bags and well-insulated tents - to guides and porters.
Also, it is customary to give tips to your climbing crew if you liked their performance. An amount of USD 250-350 from each climber is today's standard.
Kilimanjaro Climbing and Camping Conditions
On most of your Kilimanjaro days, you will be reaching camp in the afternoon. By that time your camp crew will have everything ready for your stay - tents will have been pitched and hot lunch prepared for you to replenish your strength. You will also find your duffel bag brought straight to your tent. The whole team will assemble in the dining (“mess”) tent at 18:00-18:30 for dinner. After that, the guides will perform obligatory health checks and have a short briefing about the next day’s program.
Free time on the mountain may be occupied with pastimes of your choice. Some choose to socialise with fellow climbers, while others prefer solitary reading or listening to music in their tents. That extra nap that may mean all the difference in the way you feel the following day is always an option. Your acclimatization will be growing with each new day spent on the Mountain, preparing you for the culmination of your trip - summiting at Uhuru Peak.
Do not forget about acclimatization hikes - they will seriously boost your stamina and improve acclimatization on the way to Uhuru Peak, not to mention that they are the most exciting pastime in the camp. The guides will be informing you about such hikes after the group arrives at the camp.
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
There are no power outlets at Kilimanjaro camps. Taking a power bank is therefore advisable. Solar power banks are also useful.
No, you can’t. The rules of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park expressly state that licensed guides shall accompany all trekkers.
Our absolute favorite is Mount Kilimanjaro: Trekkers Guide to the Summit by Mark Whitman. Other recommended sources are The Shadow of Kilimanjaro: On Foot Across East Africa by Rick Ridgeway and Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain by Henry Stedman.
The correct contemporary English spelling is Kilimanjaro. However, other spellings of the name may be found in other European languages. For example, the word Kilimandzaro is quite popular in Poland and other East European countries.
Of course, you can! There are plenty of international organizations running charitable Kilimanjaro climbs. Some great examples include:
- Wings of Kilimanjaro. Apart from giving you a chance to fly from the roof of Africa, this project focuses on helping the impoverished local communities by building schools and wells.
- Joining Lifewater trips is a great way to help in providing clean water to rural areas.
- Action against Hunger project focuses on running various food security, water, and sanitation programs.
Depending on the route, standard Kilimanjaro itineraries take from five to eight days to complete. 5-day and 6-day packages should only be considered by experienced hikers with prior acclimatization. A longer duration is always recommended for better acclimatization transition. Adding extra acclimatization days to the standard packages is possible and advisable.
Not at all, though, as with any other language, it takes some time. Here are some basic phrases:
- Hello = jambo
- How are you? = habari gani?
- Good = nzuri
- Goodbye = kwa heri
- A pleasure to meet you = nafurahi kukuona
- Have a good sleep/Goodnight = lala salama
- Please = tafadhali
- Excuse me = samahani
- My name is = jina langu ni
- What is your name? = jina lako nani?
- Do you speak English? = unaongea Kiingereza?
The standard voltage in Tanzania is 230 V. Power plugs used in Tanzania are D and G types (similar to the ones used in the United Kingdom).
It is a mixture of Indian, Arabic, and traditional African cuisines. As food is an integral part of any culture, tasting local dishes is highly recommended.