| Other visitors come for trekking at lower altitudes, where altitude sickness isn't
The national park
The national park begins at 2,700 m/5,577 ft (the altitudes below that are protected
by a forest reserve). The montane forests reaching up to 3,000 m/9,800 ft offers scenery
and views, and holds some wildlife, including Abbot's duiker, elephant, African buffalo,
eland, leopard, black and white colobus, blue monkey and birds.
At higher altitudes, the forests are replaced by moorlands, where macro vegetation such
as giant lobelias may be seen. The mammal wildlife here is sparse, while some birds
can be seen. The lammergeier, a huge montane vulture, is reported from here. At even
higher altitudes, the landscape turns into alpine desert, and towards Uhuru Peak, into
You should regard the below information as an introduction to climbing Kilimanjaro.
Further reading from sources focusing on climbing and trekking is highly recommended
before you attempt the mountain.
Guided climbs and groups
Only guided climbs, arranged by licensed tour
operator, are allowed. You may join a group (some operators have set dates for
groups that anyone may join) or have a private climb arranged just for you and your
party. The group is followed by guides, cooks and porters.
You may book a complete tour package, including international flights, transfers and
hotel stays before and after the climb, or just the climb, starting and ending at the
foot of the mountain. Like safaris, mountain climbs can be tailored.
Kilimanjaro is situated less than two hours' drive from Arusha,
which means that you can start a climb the day after returning to Arusha from a safari
to Serengeti, Ngorongoro
The Kilimanjaro climb follows one of a number of set routes, of which some are harder
or more difficult than others. You should choose one that suits your shape and experience
from mountains, or you may face a climb that's too tough for you.
Each route has a minimum number of days (the shortest is five days long). It's wise
to choose a tour that has an extra day for acclimatization on the mountain. Such a day
reduces the risk of altitude sickness, and increases your chances to reach the summit.
The final stage of the ascent is the same for all routes described below (except Western
Breach). This stage, called Barafu (meaning ice or snow in Swahili), goes
from Barafu hut up to Uhuru Peak.
It's walking, not climbing
You don't do any proper mountain climbing, but walk, sometimes in very steep terrain.
There are also more advanced routes for experienced mountaineers, but you who read this
page are probably not one of them.
|| Mountain huts
Marangu and Rongai
Marangu and Rongai are the least tough routes, leading up the mountain from the east
and north respectively. Both can be climbed in five days. Do it in six, to allow for
a day of acclimatization.
The Marangu route has been known to be busy, with many groups passing. Being the easiest
route, it has been nicknamed 'the coca-cola route'. It's the only route that offers
overnight stays in mountain huts (all other routes mean camping in small tents). It's
considered less scenic than other routes. Still, once you come out of the mountain forests
at the end of the first day, you'll have great views.
Fewer climbers choose the Rongai route, and even though it's meant to offer a nicer
nature experience than Marangu, it's not really scenic.
Both Marangu and Rongai climbers use the Marangu route for descending from the mountain.
This adds to the traffic on the Marangu route.
Umbwe is the shortest way up the mountain and can be done in six days. It's steeper,
less scenic and more dangerous than the other routes, and shouldn't be attempted if
you lack experience. The descent follows the Mweka route, which is used for descents
The Machame route has become the most popular route with Kilimanjaro climbers during
the last years, and has quite a lot of traffic. Generally, you can expect less traffic
if you start the climb in the middle of the week instead of during weekends.
Machame is tougher than Marangu and approaches the mountain from the south-west. You
should be in good shape to attempt the route, which passes through forests and moorland,
and is said to be one of the most varied. (Machame, Shira and Lemosho are all more varied
than Marangu and Rongai, but also tougher, as the route keeps going up and down, and
as there is more rain.) You can do the Marangu route in six days. The descent follows
the Mweka route.
Shira is a less common route. It's seven days long, and joins the Machame route from
day three. The two first days climb the western side of the mountain and cross the Shira
plateau. This long route automatically adds one day of acclimatization. If you lack
experience from outdoor life or mountain climbs, the long stay on the mountain may be
a disadvantage (see Mountain fatigue below). The descent follows
the Mweka route.
Lemosho is an eight-day route from the west, passing through forests, moorlands
and the Shira Crater. It joins the Machame route on day four. The descent follows the
The Western Breach is an alternative for the final stage, leading to Uhuru peak from
the west. It's an option for climbers approaching Kibo from the Shira plateau, and offers
a much more difficult and dangerous ascent than Barafu, which is the normal last stage
to the peak. You shouldn't attempt the Western Breach unless you know what you are doing,
and you should only do it using an experienced and competent climb operator.
An option: mountain walks
If you are more interested in walking the mountain and enjoying the scenery than challenging
the highest peaks, you may book a trekking tour instead, staying at lower altitudes.
You may trek between low-altitude mountain huts, or doing a day-tour on the mountain,
walking up to just below 3,000 m/10,000 ft, and then return down.
There are also other mountains offering trekking, such as Mount
Meru just outside Arusha, where tourists are by far fewer, or the beautiful Usambara
Mountains along the road between Kilimanjaro and Dar
es Salaam. Volcanoes such as Oldoinyo Lengai (an active volcano in northern Tanzania)
and Longonot (in southern Kenya) can be
Note, March 2008: Oldoinyo Lengai is erupting and is not a suitable area for
climbing or trekking at this time.
Who can climb Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Kilimanjaro isn't for athletes only, and it's open to absolute amateurs, with
no previous experience from climbing mountains.
Everybody who tries to climb Kilimanjaro doesn't reach the summit. It's tough, both
physically and mentally. Stamina is important, as you will be expected to walk for a
number of full consecutive days in air that is getting thinner and cooler the higher
you get. You need to be mentally strong, and really want to reach the summit, as the
climb may be hard and your body upset in various ways.
To succeed, you should choose a route that suits your physical shape and your experience
from mountains. You should make sure you are as fit as possible. You should read all
you can about the mountain and climbing it, and prepare yourself mentally, remembering
it's going to be hard. You should choose a travel company or tour operator that doesn't
save on equipment or provisions. You should go during a time of year when weather and
other conditions are favourable. And you should book an itinerary that has acclimatization
on the mountain included.
Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness, may start at 3,000 m/10,000 ft. It has
nothing to do with how fit you are, so you can't prevent it. The cause of it is that
the body hasn't adapted to the low air pressure. The only cure is to increase the air
pressure, i.e. descend to lower altitudes.
Common symptoms are headaches, dizziness, lack of appetite, fatigue, swelling of hands,
feet and face, etc. High altitude pulmonary oedema and high altitude cerebral oedema
can quickly develop, and an immediate descent from the mountain is necessary, as both
can be fatal. Because of the condition, the person affected may not be able to walk,
but has to be carried.
There is medicine for altitude sickness, but it does not cure the sickness, only reduces
You may reduce the risk of altitude sickness by choosing an itinerary that allows for
acclimiatization. That means spending time at some altitude, allowing your body to adapt
to the thinner air.
Adding a number of days (not just one) for acclimatization isn't necessarily good. It
helps your body adapting to the altitude, while wearing other capacities down. The primitive
camp conditions, poor sleep, inactivity, lack of good and varying food, and the general
wear on your body gradually decreases your ability to perform well physically.
Lower age limit
The official age limit for joining a climb is 10 years, but a more suitable age limit
would be 15 or 16.
Upper age limit
There is no upper age limit. If you're older than 60, or have had heart or respiratory
problems previously, you should discuss your climbing plans with a doctor before booking.
All climbers, especially those who are 4045 years or older, should consider a
medical check-up before starting the tour. (You may get your vaccinations and a prescription
for malaria prophylaxis at the same time.)
At the end of the day, it's all up to you. Are you fit enough to climb a mountain 6,000 m/20,000
Climbing Kilimanjaro is not without risk. It's a big strain on your body. Altitude sickness
may develop into high altitude pulmonary oedema or high altitude cerebral oedema, from
which you may die unless you quickly descend, or are carried, to lower altitudes. Deaths
do occur on Kilimanjaro, because of sickness and from accidents.
Everyone who's going higher than 3,000 m/10,000 ft in Kilimanjaro National Park has
to pay a rescue fee (usually included in the tour package) to the park authority. The
rescue service is simple, should it be needed, and mainly means carrying you down from
the mountain. There are no helicopters.
Will you reach the summit?
Whether you will be able to reach the summit or not depends on many factors, such as
the services provided by the climb operator, the weather and time of year, your physical
condition, your equipment, and if you are prone to altitude sickness or not.
Preparing at home
You will perform better if you are in good shape. If you are in poor shape, you shouldn't
attempt the climb at all. It requires you to walk broken ground for a number of full
consecutive days, in air getting thinner and thinner. The final stage to reach the summit
is a six to eight hour tough walk at very high altitude and in a very cold climate.
Walk as much as you can before the tour, wearing the boots that you will wear for the
climb. Go for long walks, lasting several hours. Go bicycling or jogging a couple of
times a week. Lifting weights is of less use when preparing for a climb.
Go trekking if you have the opportunity. Walk full days, preferably in hilly areas.
If you are not used to camping, you should try it to prepare for what's waiting during
the climb. Get used to outdoor life, including in bad weather, and you'll handle the
primitive conditions during the climb better.
Preparing on arrival
Rest well before the climb. If it's the first activity after arriving in East Africa,
you may benefit from adding one or a number of days to relax before starting the climb.
Such days allow you to slow down, catch up on sleep after the flight and start adapting
to the African environment. They also allow your head to switch from whatever you were
up to at home before travelling, to the climb. This doesn't mean that you have to spend
the days doing nothing; some physical activity is good for you, and you may for example
do lighter walks at lower altitudes.
During the climb
Drink a lot of water, which helps acclimatization. Avoid tobacco and alcohol, which
do the opposite. Walk slowly without getting out of breath. Try to sleep well during
the climb (bring earplugs).
Choosing a tour operator
The competition between the many local climb operators is tough, and many of them compete
by price. You usually get what you pay for, and a lower price usually means that the
operator spends less on food, equipment, porters, guides etc, i.e. things and services
meant to help you beat the mountain.
On a six-day climb, approximately USD 400 of the climb or tour price cover set fees,
which are the same for all operators. The rest of the price is the operator's budget
for getting you all the way up. A USD 700 climb has only half the budget of, and less
resources than, a USD 1,000 climb.
If you book you climb with a travel company in your own country, the company has already
chosen a local climb/tour operator to cooperate with. But if you plan to book directly
with a local operator, you may choose from more than 200 operators licensed to arrange
Kilimanjaro climbs. We suggest that you start looking at the large and medium-sized
operators (you'll find them on the web), to compare what they are offering.
You may climb Kilimanjaro all year round, but your chances of reaching Uhuru Peak are
affected by the weather and the season when you attempt it. The following table shows
the conditions on the mountain during a normal year.
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Number of visitors
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temp/Little rain/Clear/Few visitors
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temp/Some rain/Some clouds/Normal # of visitors
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lot of rain/Cloudy/Many visitors
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Lodges and hotels
Machame is a good hotel in quiet surrounding by the foot of Kilimanjaro, not far from the park
gate where the Machame route begins. The standard and service is good. The hotel has a swimming
pool, a bar, and an ambitious restaurant with good food.
More about Aishi Machame
Web site: www.proteahotels.com
Lodge is a fairly new lodge
next to Kilimanjaro International Airport, a 45-minute drive from Arusha.
The lodge has good standard. There are 40 rooms, restaurant, bar and swimming
pool overlooking Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. The lodge works fine for stays
after arriving late to the airport or before departing early. The airport
isn't very busy, so the noise doesn't really bother much.
More about KIA Lodge
Web site: www.moivaro.com
Keys Hotel (Moshi) is really two hotels, in Uru Road and Mbokomu Road in
Moshi. They have 30 and 48 rooms respectively, and offer basic tourist standard.
Both have restaurant, bar, swimming pool and Internet.
Web site: www.keys-hotel-tours.com
Kilimanjaro Backpackers Hotel (Moshi) is a budget hotel in central Moshi.
There are single and double rooms with ceiling fans. The bathrooms are shared
but separate. There is a restaurant and a bar. Internet, money exchange and other
facilities are available at sister hotel Kindoroko a short walk from Kilimanjaro
Web site: www.kilimanjarobackpackers.com
Kindoroko Hotel (Moshi) is a basic hotel in Moshi, offering rooms with
ensuite bathroom, ceiling fan, refrigerator and television. There is an indoors
restaurant, a rooftop restaurant & bar, and a business centre.
Web site: www.kindorokohotels.com
Kilimanjaro Crane Hotel (Moshi) is a basic hotel with 30 rooms, all with
ensuite bathroom, television, air conditioning and phone. The hotel has a restaurant,
a bar and a car rental service.
Web site: www.kilimanjarocranehotels.com
Kibo Hotel (Marangu) is a 45-room tourist class hotel in a building from
the early 1900's, situated not very far from the Marangu Gate of Kilimanjaro National
Park. There is a restaurant for up to 200 persons, a bar and a garden with a swimming
Web site: www.kibohotel.com
Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort (Marangu) is a good hotel among banana and
coffee plantations 7 km/4 mi from the Marangu Gate of Kilimanjaro National Park.
The hotel is built and styled in a modernized colonial style. It has 25 rooms,
all with satellite television, mini bar, phone and Internet port. There are two
restaurants and a bar, garden swimming pool, gym, business centre, conference
room for 80, and a playground for children.
Web site: www.kilimanjaromtresort.com
Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge (Marangu) is a tourist class hotel in a large
lush garden at the foot of Kilimanjaro. The main building, a former farm house,
has reception, restaurant, bar, lounge and Internet. 30 rooms in garden bungalows
all have views of Kilimanjaro from the veranda. The hotel has a garden swimming
pool, and offers outings in the surroundings.
Web site: www.kilimanjarosafari.com
Marangu Hotel is not very far from the Marangu Gate. The central building
is a former farm house form the early 1900's, surrounded by a fairly large garden,
where rooms in cottages and the swimming pool are found. The cottages are of varied
style, but all have private bathrooms with bathtub or shower.
Web site: www.maranguhotel.com
Springlands Hotel is a tourist class hotel situated on the southern slopes
of Kilimanjaro, not far from Moshi Town. There are rooms with tiled ensuite bathrooms,
indoors and outdoors dining facilities, a garden bar, a large garden swimming
pool, television room, fitness room, gift shop, Internet, bicycle rental, equipment
rental for climbers and safe deposit. The hotel has its own shuttle bus service
Web site: www.springlandshotel.com
Mt. Kilimanjaro View Lodge is a basic lodge set high on the slopes of southern
Kilimanjaro, halfway between the Machame and Marangu gates. It is operated by
locals of the Chagga tribe. You stay in Chagga style bungalows with private bathrooms
and wide views of the surrounding lowland. You can expect a bumpy ride getting
to the lodge, as it's 16 km/10 mi on unpaved road off the main road.
Web site: www.mtkilimanjaroviewlodge.com
Makoa Farm (Machame) is mainly a horseback riding lodge just south of Kilimanjaro,
but can also be used for a overnight stays in connection with mountain climbs,
or for relaxed farm vacations. The farm is an old coffee estate built in a nice
setting on a hilltop not very far from the Machame Gate of Kilimanjaro. It is
owned by two veterinaries and former professional endurance riders, and has some
25 horses and a variety of other farm animals. The riding activities offered range
from farm rides to eight-day riding safaris.
Web site: www.makoa-farm.com
Kahawa Shamba on the slopes of Kilimanjaro is a basic bungalow lodge operated by the local community.
The rooms are built like the traditional huts of the local Chagga tribe, and have private bathrooms with
basic guesthouse standard. The activities offered include walks in the forested surroundings and horse
Hemingway's Camp is a tented camp in the bush west of Kilimanjaro. It is not focused on climbing,
but on safaris in the wilderness west and north of the mountain. The activities offered include day and
night game drives, bush walks and visits to the local Maasai. The area shares its eco-system with Amboseli
in Kenya, famous for its many elephants, and is a dry area where for example lesser kudu and gerenuk may
be spotted. Expect a good safari atmosphere.
ya Tembo is set by the border to Kenya north of Kilimanjaro. The area shares part of its wildlife
with the Kenyan park Amboseli. The camp has 12 tents with ensuite bathrooms,
and a restaurant. The safari activities offered include game drives, night safaris, bush walks and
visits to Maasai villages.
Web site: www.tanganyikawildernesscamps.com
Web site: www.kirurumu.net
Ndarakwai Camp is an environmentally friendly tented lodge on privately
owned Ndarakwai Ranch, a game area between Mount Meru (Arusha) and Kilimanjaro
(Moshi), situated towards the north and the Kenyan border. The camp has 12 safari
tents with ensuite bathrooms, and offers bush walks, game drives, night game drives,
bird watching and (with prior arrangement) horse rides in the bush. There is also
a tree-platform for game viewing by a waterhole. You can expect a good safari
atmosphere, with campfires, kerosene lamps and wildlife around.
Web site: www.ndarakwai.com