The Number One Kilimanjaro Guide for over 16 years!
Welcome to the most authoritative and popular guide to climbing Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro!
So you want to climb Kilimanjaro??
Since 2001 our bestselling guidebook, ‘Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain’, and this website, has been the authoritative guide to Kili. In that time it has been used by tens of thousands of trekkers – just like you!
Kilimanjaro – The Essential facts
The following questions are the ones we get asked the most in our capacity as the writers of the guidebook:
Just as trekkers all want different things, so the trekking operators all offer a slightly different service too. Some companies are very good when it comes to customer relations. Some have a very good reputation for treating their staff well. Some companies are very good at booking a trek at the last minute. Some agencies are more generous and flexible with refunds and cancellations than others. Some companies treat single trekkers more fairly than others – for example, they give solo trekkers their own hotel room before the trek and their own tent when on the mountain at no extra charge. Other Kilimanjaro agencies, however, insist that solo trekkers share a room with other single climbers, and charge extra for those solo trekkers who want their own tent or hotel room.
So we’ve made it easy for you: if you want help in choosing your trekking company, just send us an email. Simply drop us a line, give us an idea of what you want from your trek – and we’ll provide you with our opinion on which trekking company is right for you.
And remember: we are the only website not trying to sell you a trek. And we are also the only website not affiliated to any agency. And don’t worry: we won’t charge you a penny (or a cent, or a shilling….) for this service.
At the risk of sounding like a salesman, I would also advise you to look at our guidebook. In it you’ll find a comprehensive review of all the major agencies selling Kilimanjaro climbs. We also provide advice on what questions you should be asking your agency, and what should be included in your trek package. We also look at whether it is better to book your trek before you arrive in Tanzania – or wait until you arrive and book your trek then.
By booking early you give yourself more time to prepare and train for your trek. It also increases your chances of getting exactly the trek you want, with the route you want, the dates you want and your preferred choice of hotel too. That said, when we were booking climbs we often had people who booked their trek just a few days before it was due to start. If you are fit enough and have the right gear, there is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you are fully aware of the challenge that awaits you and know about the dangers too.
Of course you can take a climb in the rainy season. But there is a much higher chance you’ll encounter rain, and the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi are likely to be wreathed in thick cloud too. Indeed, several agencies even suspend their operations in November and December.
It’s true that visibility is less at this time though we take issue with those companies that say that your chances of reaching the summit are significantly lower too; that simply isn’t the case. True, once every couple of years or so there may be too much snow, blocking you from reaching the summit. But this is rare. So as long as you are dressed for the conditions then, in our experience, you’ve got just as good a chance of getting to the summit.
Curiously, Christmas and New Year, when the weather is far from perfect, are actually amongst the most popular times for climbing.
As to the relative merits of the two trekking seasons, the differences are small though significant:
The January-to-March trekking season
The January to March season tends to be (slightly) colder and there is a much greater chance of snow on the path at this time. The days, however, are often clearer, with only the occasional brief shower. It is usually an exceptionally beautiful time to climb and is often a little quieter than the other peak season of June to October, which coincides with the main academic holidays in Europe and the West. In this latter season the clouds tend to hang around the tree-line following the heavy rains of March to May. Once above this altitude, however, the skies are blue and brilliant and the chance of precipitation minimal (though still present).
The June-to-October trekking season
Although the June to October season tends to be busier, this is not necessarily a disadvantage. For example, if you are travelling independently to Tanzania but wish, for the sake of companionship or simply to cut down on costs, to join up with other travellers for your Kilimanjaro trek, then the high visitor numbers in the June-October peak season will give you the best chance of doing this. September in particular is a very busy month – probably the busiest on the mountain.
But even if you do crave solitude when you walk, it can still be found on the mountain during this peak season. After all, the trails are long, so you can always find large gaps between trekkers to allow you to walk in peace. And besides, the mountain is just so huge that its presence will dwarf your fellow trekkers to the point where they become, if you wish them to be, quite unnoticeable.
For more information, including details on our own personal favourite times to climb, please visit our page on the best time to climb Kilimanjaro. Do also check out the Snow Forecast website for up-to-date predictions of the weather.
The mountain has its own airport and there are currently five major airlines serving Kilimanjaro International Airport (three-letter code: JRO). The most popular carrier is the Dutch airline KLM, largely because a) they fly frequently (pretty much every day in the high season) and b) they have an extensive network of regional flights in the US and UK (and Europe), which makes them more convenient than other airlines.
Kenya Airways have also been serving the airport for many years and I have to say, having flown with them last time, that I was impressed with their service and the quality of the plane. Given that Nairobi is less than an hour’s flight from Kilimanjaro Airport, this probably means that they will be the natural choice if you want the most direct flight (depending on where you’re flying from, of course). They’re pretty cheap too.
Ethiopian Airlines have also been flying to Kili for many years. They have two big selling points: 1) They’re cheap; and 2) they fly via Addis Ababa, which means you may be able to stop over and see a bit of the country – which is something everybody should do at least once in their life (it’s lovely and fascinating).
Two airlines that started flying at approximately the same time to JRO are Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airlines. The former are often the cheapest though there is a hidden price to pay: they tend to arrive at 1 or 2am, which means that you’ll have to pay for an extra night’s accommodation. For example, say you fly into Kilimanjaro Airport on the 2nd, you’ll actually need to book accommodation for the 1st as you are arriving so early in the morning on the 2nd (and you aren’t allowed to sleep in the airport). As for Qatar Airlines, they have a good reputation for service and are popular with those flying in five the rest of Asia.
In addition to the above there are the local airlines including Precision Air, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways and one that most people use to get around the rest of Tanzania and Kenya; Rwandair, which serves that country; the local budget airline fastjet which connects Kili with Dar es Salaam and Entebbe in Uganda; and a host of smaller airlines, many connecting Kili and northern Tanzania with Zanzibar.
If you can’t find anything suitable, do try Nairobi Airport, which is just an hour’s flight from Kilimanjaro Airport or six hours by shuttle bus to Arusha, where many of the trekking companies are based. Flights to Nairobi can be slightly cheaper – there is more competition and more choice – and it’s a good way of seeing a bit of the region before heading up it’s highest mountain.
For those travelling overland we have a whole section devoted to travelling in Tanzania. While for more information on how to get to East Africa for your trek, please visit the Getting to Kilimanjaro section of this website.
Here’s an example. Your birthday is on the 10 March and you want to do a seven-day trek on the standard Machame Route. So you need to book a trek running 5-11 March. That way, you’ll spend five days (5, 6, 7, 8, 9 March) walking to Barafu. You will then walk through the night (beginning at about midnight), reaching the summit at dawn on the 10 March. You then spend the rest of the 10th March walking down to Millennium or Mweka Campsite. The final day is then spent walking to Mweka Gate.
Make sure you ask for a kit list from your agency so you are sure of what you need to bring. See our what to take section for a comprehensive list of equipment to bring.
There are in fact six main paths leading up the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain. These are (running anti-clockwise, beginning with the north-westernmost trail)
- The little-used Shira Route
- Lemosho Route
- Machame Route
- Umbwe Route
- Marangu Route
- and, running from the north-east, the Rongai (aka Loitokitok) Route.
To see a comprehensive and accurate PDF map of the routes on the summit, please click on the image below. (Please click on it once to bring up the map. Then click on the top right-hand corner to enlarge the map):
So which route is the best? Well, in one sense it’s very difficult to answer this question. Because everybody wants something different from their trek.
For many people, the sole purpose of climbing Kilimanjaro is to get to the summit. Fail to do that and the whole trip has been wasted. If this is you then Lemosho, Machame and Rongai (the one with the Mawenzi diversion) are, statistically, the best bets. (The Alternative Lemosho Route that we used to offer – and some other companies still offer – actually has the best success rate of all.)
On the other hand, those looking to avoid the crowds (again, ignoring alternative routes) should look at Lemosho and Umbwe.
For a no-nonsense, cheap-ish climb then Machame, Marangu and Umbwe are good.
While if you don’t want to stay in tents then Marangu is the only option.
The route with the best views and scenery? Well they’re all brilliant in this respect. I love the forest on the Lemosho and Umbwe Routes. I love the beautiful view of Kibo from across the Saddle on the Rongai and Marangu Routes, and across the Shira Plateau on the Lemosho Route.
So what is my personal favourite of all the trails? Well, the part of the mountain I enjoy the most is the forest on the lower slopes. I also love taking photographs and so appreciates great views and scenery. Furthermore, I like to avoid the crowds on the mountain. If you’re going to spend a week on one of the planet’s most unique wildernesses, it’s good to spend it without hundreds of other trekkers. A few others is nice, but not hundreds. And yes, I do also like to acclimatise well: life’s always so much better when you don’t have a splitting headache. And I do like to reach the summit too! – so any route that aids this is good.
For this reason, my favourite of the ‘official’ routes is Lemosho, which ticks all of the above boxes: the forest is the best in my opinion, the views and scenery once you leave the forest and gaze at Kibo across the Shira Plateau are jaw-dropping, and the chances of getting to the summit are high, particularly as it’s also the longest ascent route on the mountain. It’s also a fairly quite route, at least for the first 3-4 days before you meet up with the hordes on the Machame and (to a lesser extent) the Umbwe Route.
Of all the routes – official and otherwise – the Alternative Lemosho is my favourite path of all. It’s both even quieter than the official Lemosho and seems to improve one’s chances of acclimatising still further.
But I should reiterate my statement that I made at the start of this piece. Whatever route you’re on, you’re going to be on Kilimanjaro. So it’s inconceivable you’ll be disappointed.
You can find out much more about the routes by following this link: Routes on Kilimanjaro.
When buying insurance for climbing Kilimanjaro you must make clear to the insurer that you will be trekking on a very big mountain. If you are going to be mountaineering and using ropes then you need to tell them that too. This will probably increase your premium (it usually doubles it) and may even exclude you from being covered altogether. But if you don’t make this clear from the start and pay the lower premium you may find, should you have to make a claim, that you weren’t actually covered at all.
Do note, however, that it pays to bear in mind that you are not actually doing any climbing, you are just walking. In other words, you won’t be using any ropes, crampons or other climbing gear . The insurance company should know this – but many of the staff they employ don’t! So do make this clear or they’ll be charging you a higher premium unnecessarily.
Remember, too, to read the small print of any insurance policy before buying one to protect you, and shop around too, for each insurance policy varies slightly from company to company. Details to consider include:
- How much is the deductible if you have to make a claim on your Kilimanjaro insurance?
- Can the insurers pay for your hospital bills etc immediately, while you are still in Tanzania, or do you have to wait until you get home?
- How long do you have before making a claim and what evidence do you require (hospital bills, police reports etc)?
- Does your policy include mountain rescue services, helicopter call-out and so forth? If it doesn’t, don’t buy it! That said, remember that helicopter rescue is very limited on Kilimanjaro. For one thing, helicopters can fly only up to a certain altitude and can’t land anywhere on the Kibo summit (which is where you are likely to need helicopter rescue!). Secondly, by the time they’ve arrived, it may well be too late, particularly if you have collapsed due to altitude sickness. So while it’s always worth having cover that includes helicopter rescue, it is likely to be of limited use. And if you do find yourself in a situation where helicopter rescue could come in useful, the chances are by the time they arrive you’ll either be: a) Dead. Or b) Bouncing down the slopes on a stretcher (which they keep at the ranger’s huts) to the KCMC hospital at the bottom of the mountain. Which would be the quickest way, anyway. In fact, I’ve never seen a helicopter land on Kili myself in all the years I’ve been climbing it; and the only time i know it happened was not in an emergency situation. Instead, it was to help bring up all the heavy cameras and other gear for the IMAX film about the mountain!
As you’re probably aware, you must expect the premium for the entire trip to double when you mention that you are climbing Kilimanjaro, even though you will actually be trekking up Kilimanjaro for only a few days. However, you will need to be covered for your entire trip: there are just as many nasty things that can happen to you – indeed more – when off the mountain than on it. You are not going to contract malaria, for example, while you’re on the mountain (the anopheles mosquito that spreads it doesn’t go above 1200m, and you usually start your trek at least 1500m up the slopes). Theft becomes a much bigger issue away from the mountain too.
For a list of useful insurance companies that do cover Kili climbs, please visit our Kilimanjaro Insurance page.
Usually, if you’ve had to descend, you will return to the previous campsite before deciding on a suitable rendezvous point to meet up with your fellow trekkers on their descent. However, the guide may decide that the most appropriate action would be to evacuate you off the mountain altogether. If this is the case, you will accompanied on your descent either by one of the assistant guides, a summit porter or, if he deems it necessary, by the guide himself. In order to ensure your safety, the guide will probably want you to descend as quickly as possible without risking injury.
As extra insurance, any decent company will also provide every trek with a couple of oxygen bottles. Do note, however, that once you’ve been administered oxygen it is no longer safe for you to continue to ascend as the 99% oxygen inspiration de-activates the body’s triggers which accelerate its Haemoglobin production. In other words, oxygen is there to help you get off the mountain safely – it should never be used as a means of assisting a climber to the summit.
While you are descending, the guide will contact the base in Moshi or Arusha to update them on the situation. As such, by the time you reach the exit gate there should be a car waiting for you to take you back to your hotel. Usually your transfer back from the mountain to the hotel will be included in your package, even if you have come off the mountain early. However, you will still need to pay for any extra nights accommodation you require.
Want to know more?
You can find out much more about Kilimanjaro and what it takes to climb it by reading the Practical Information and On the mountain sections. And don’t miss our Countdown – a checklist for Kili climbers to guide you through preparing for the adventure of a lifetime!
How to use this online guide
This website is divided into five main sections, which together provide you with pretty much all the basics you need to know to plan and prepare properly for your trek. These five sections are:
Background information The history, geography and culture etc of Africa’s highest mountain. Not essential for Kili trekkers – but interesting nevertheless!
Practical information A must-read for anyone thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro, from how to book, getting fit for your trek, what to wear and pack and much, much more.
On Kilimanjaro What it’s like on the mountain, what to take in your daypack, how to avoid altitude sickness and lots of other useful advice.
Travelling In Tanzania Basic information on travelling to and around Africa’s country, including security & safety, health, public transport etc.
Need more advice about your trek?
Then just ask!
Want to know which Kilimanjaro trek agency provides the best quality treks?
- Which company treats their crew the best?
- Which one offers the best value climbs?
- Which one is best for solo trekkers?
- Want more information on any company you’re interested in?
Then just drop us a line!
And we’ll tell you what we think, based on our extensive research and knowledge of the companies that work on the mountain.
We can advise you on any aspect of your trek:
- Want to know our favourite route up Kilimanjaro?
- What time of year do we think is the best to climb the mountain?
- What items we can’t do without on the mountain?
- Whether we think you should have a private trek – or join a public one?
- Which national parks should you visit on safari after your trek?
There’s no fee for this service. It’s just our opinion, and our advice, freely given – from the man who knows more about Kili than anyone else on the planet!
The 4th edition of our bestselling guide to is now out:
Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain
‘Stedman’s wonderfully down-to-earth, practical guide..’ Longitude Books (New York)
‘A top pick. It covers everything… Any travel collection needs this’ California Bookwatch
‘Comprehensive and informative….’ Wanderlust magazine
‘You wouldn’t want to be without this book if heading for Kili’ Backpack magazine
‘Contains almost everything you could possibly want to know’ Strider magazine
‘Stedman is a Kili obsessive…and that shows on every page’ Trek & Mountain magazine
‘A model of what a guidebook should be’ David Dean
The ‘Kili Bible’
For over 16 years our guide has been considered the Bible for climbing Kilimanjaro. It is used by everyone from porters to park rangers, trekking agencies and tourist offices. Plus, of course, thousands of trekkers just like you.
It’s not difficult to see why, for our guide is the ONLY ONE with:
full descriptions and over 30 detailed maps of each of the trekking routes. Because we have climbed them all. Many times.
Is the only book with an extensive and unbiased review of the agencies and operators that arrange and advertise Kilimanjaro treks. We look at agencies in Tanzania as well as those in the UK, US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Is the only book with guides to Arusha, Moshi and Marangu. These are the three places that will be your base before and after your climb
Has the most in-depth guide to preparing for your Kilimanjaro trek. Covering everything to help you get ready for the biggest adventure of your life!
Provides the most detailed background information on Kili. This includes the history, geography and geology of the mountainas well as a study of the local Chagga tribe.
A full description with maps of the Mount Meru trek.
The most comprehensive study of altitude sickness, or AMS – including causes, prevention and treatment.
Has a comprehensive in-depth full-colour flora guide.
- We also provide:
- A thorough health and fitness section for staying healthy in East Africa and on the mountain.
- City guides to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the two cities that you are most likely to fly into, as well as an intro to Kilimanjaro Airport;
- A guide to travelling around Tanzania, including a look at visa requirements, currency, budgeting, transport, food etc);
- Advice on how to look after your porters and crew – and the mountain itself
- Loads of contemporary and historical photos and illustrations.
- Everything you need to help you get from the comfort of your favourite armchair at home to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain – and no other guide can provide anything like that kind of coverage.
In short: you need this book! Click below for info & to buy from Amazon.
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