Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is Africa’s highest peak and one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. You may climb the Mount by several routes, which have been established by the Tanzania National Parks Authority to avoid unauthorized hiking and preserve the pristine beauty of the wilderness for generations to come.
There are seven different official Kilimanjaro routes that you can choose from to climb to the summit. Each route has its own pros and cons. Find out exactly what it’s like to climb Kilimanjaro, what you need to pack for Kilimanjaro, and what the best Kilimanjaro preparation looks like.
We recommend Lemosho and Rongai routes for novices, Northern Circuit and Machame for the beginners, and Marangu and Umbwe for climbers with prior hiking experience. Camping on all routes except Marangu (where the night stops are in huts).
Different climate zones of Kilimanjaro
When you trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro, you pass through different and distinct climate zones. With most routes, you start the trek by hiking through the beautiful acacia forest. You then climb up to reach the moorland or heath zone, which is dotted with striking giant groundsels and giant lobelias. You then ascend into the alpine desert and pick your way through tussocks, before reaching the arctic zone at the top of the mountain. Kilimanjaro was formed by a volcano, and at the top of the mountain, you trek through scree, snow, and ice. You pass also by glaciers. The summit point, known as Uhuru Peak, sits on the crater rim and is a mighty 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level!
Our Kilimanjaro Routes
Briefly, it does not take spending a fortune for a safe, comfortable and successful climb. However, the price below USD 1600 should alert you, as it is the first signal that your tour operator forsakes basic safety measures and hires semi-qualified (or unqualified altogether) guides and porters, who agreed to work for a pay far below the market average. Some tour operators do not pay their crews at all, who sign up for the expedition relying on tips only.
In addition to that, “budget” means poor diet, second-rate obsolete equipment and no operations in place. Thus, though embarking on a cheap trip may seem attractive financially, in reality, it jeopardizes your safety and perpetuates porter’s mistreatment.
There are many routes that lead to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Each of them has its own pros and cons and should therefore be thoroughly researched in order to make an informed and educated choice. Take a look at each of the Kilimanjaro routes in detail here:
- Lemosho Route
Lemosho is the most beautiful Kilimanjaro route
- Machame Route
The Machame is the most popular Kilimanjaro route
- Marangu Route
The Marangu route offers hut accommodation
- Rongai Route
Rongai is the only route that approaches the summit from the north
- Shira Route
The Shira approaches the summit from the west
- Northern Circuit
The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest Kilimanjaro route
- Umbwe Route
Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route
Note : that the Mweka route leading to Mweka Gate as marked on the map below is a descent route only.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a unique adventure because a person with average fitness level has high chances for reaching Peak Uhuru. The slopes of Kilimanjaro is the place where proper high-altitude acclimatization is more important than your endurance, stamina and strength.
However, we do encourage everyone, to take some workout. Not only will it help you to feel more comfortable on the trek (some hikes are 10-14 km long), but also some sport is always good for your health overall.
Our blogs about high-altitude acclimatization and fitness program will be useful.
Weather in Northern Tanzania is a good illustration of a typically tropical climate with a dry and rainy season. The temperature rarely falls below C⁰ 25-35 (77- 95 F). March-May is the rainy season with high precipitation. November-beginning of December is the small rainy season. Check your luggage in accordance with our packing list.
Mount Kilimanjaro has a special temperature regime. Traversing five climatic zones, it features different temperatures, ranging from “hot” at the beginning of your trek to “very cold” (especially on the summit night, when the temperature may fall below 15 C⁰) in the summit areas. The closer you are to Uhuru Peak, the colder the air becomes. Rainfall and wildlife decrease progressively.
Know more about the weather make sure to read our blogs about the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
In short, you may climb the Mount all year round. Climbs during the dry season are, however, more comfortable. The dry season spans the periods from the second half of December till March and from June till November.
At the same time, the rainy season has some advantages as well.
Read our blog “When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?” to understand which season is the best for y.
For all those climbing with us and with other tour operators, we have prepared the following insider tips:
It is not about your level of fitness only. Determination, motivation and well-planned acclimatization transition are more important.
Do not save up on your personal equipment. Branded high-quality clothes and sleeping bags often have decisive impact on successfulness of your climb. All personal equipment is available for rent in our office.
Be ready to have no shower for a week or so. Portable showers are, however, available for extra fee.
Public toilets may be uncomfortable, especially for the ladies. Thus, renting a portable toilet makes sense.
Taking an mp3 player or an Ipod is a good idea. Enjoy the sceneries on the way and better preserve battery for the summit rush.
Mount Kilimanjaro in a nutshell:
Location: Kilimanjaro region, the United Republic of Tanzania
Geographic coordinates: 03°04′33″S 37°21′12″E
Type of the mount: Stratovolcano
Altitude: 5,895 m/19,308 ft
First climb: Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller on October 6, 1889
Climbs annually: Over 30,000
Administrative authority: Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA)
How fit do you have to be?
In short, an ordinary fitness level is sufficient to reach the peak. If you can walk 10-14 km/6-7 miles per day, certainly you can climb.
Many websites recommend intensive training. Our practice, however, showed that people with ordinary fitness level who got proper acclimatization always reach the summit. Yet, professional athletes, who failed to get acclimatized well (either because they “rush”, or because their guides fail to control their trekking progress) are at serious risk of high-altitude sickness and evacuation.
We do recommend you to take some exercises for your Kilimanjaro adventure. See our training program. A good fitness level will always be a good advantage for a Kilimanjaro adventurer, as it will help you to tackle daily trekking challenges with ease and comfort.
If, however, for some reason you do not have an opportunity to take some workouts for your Kilimanjaro adventure – do not give up. Consider choosing a more extended program (such as Lemosho 8-day) with less daily trekking distance
How long does it take to walk up Kilimanjaro?
Depending on the route which you choose for your climbing adventure, it may take from 5 to 8 days. Longer programs with camping in Kilimanjaro crater are also available.
Do I need to have insurance for the tour?
Yes, travel insurance is mandatory for taking part in our trips. If you are climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with us, make sure to check that your insurance package includes high-altitude trekking (up to 6,000 m) and helicopter evacuation.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will give you competent insurance advice for your Kilimanjaro adventure.
Do I need to have a vaccination for the trip?
It is imperative to have a vaccination against yellow fever to enter Tanzania in case you are traveling to Tanzania from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission. In all other cases, there are no immunization/vaccination restrictions to enter Tanzania.
For all those interested in getting more information we recommend reading our blog Tanzania vaccination requirements.
Trekking, hiking or climbing?
Though three terms are often used interchangeably, there are some semantic differences. Hiking refers to the easiest type of leisure “walking” activities and implies that a hiker is walking by specially designated and adapted trails or human-made roads.
Trekking also refers to the process of walking, yet this concept implies that a “trekker” walks a longer distance than a hiker and exerts himself physically above the ordinary level. Another noticeable difference is that trekking expeditions take place in areas with no transportation.
The idea of “mountain climbing”, on the other hand, is fundamentally different from “hiking” or “trekking”. There are two distinguishing features of mountain climbing. Firstly, it means using special equipment (clothes and gear), which is not usually used for hiking or trekking expeditions. Secondly, the purpose of a climbing expedition is to reach the top of a mountain, while hiking and trekking may be practiced in other wilderness areas.
Thus, semantically Kilimanjaro tours are both climbing and trekking. One-day adventures to the lower camps may be classified as “hikes”.
We at Ndoto Explorers are tolerant of the conceptual differences and use all these terms interchangeably.
High altitude acclimatization
In short, at 6000 m (19700 f) altitude the proportion of oxygen molecules in the atmosphere is substantially lower than at sea level. It is discomforting for a human body, which is accustomed to getting certain amounts of oxygen.
We can get adapted to the shortage of oxygen molecules, but it is possible only when we progress upwards slowly to allow our body to make the necessary transformations in our respiratory system. Too fast ascent is the shortest way to HAPE and HACE, which are both life-threatening conditions.
Proper acclimatization is the most important aspect of a successful climb.
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