The Number One Kilimanjaro guide for over 12 years!
Welcome to the most authoritative and popular guide to climbing Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro!
So you want to climb Kilimanjaro??
Since 2002 our bestselling guidebook, ‘Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain’, together with this website has been the authoritative guide to Kili, used by tens of thousands of trekkers just like you!
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 visa regulations, security & safety, health, public transport, money etc.
Climb the mountain with us! Special discounted rates, free guidebooks, alternative routes – and the personal support, help & advice of the #1 Kili expert from the very start!
Don’t have time to read through everything in depth? Then here’s 21 essential facts that all would-be Kili trekkers should know:
Twenty-one essential Kilimanjaro facts
Apart from the first two, the following questions are the ones we get asked the most in our capacity as the writers of the guidebook and trek organisers.
Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, East Africa, right on the border with Kenya. More>>
There are various estimates as to how high it is ranging between 5892.55m and 5896m. But most people use the figure of 5895m and this is the height you will find printed on the certificates handed out to those who successfully reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. What does it look like>>
In one sense, yes. All the main routes up the mountain are really just walking routes so you don’t need to be a mountaineer. Sure, there are a couple of places on some routes where you may need to use your hands to steady yourself or haul yourself over a rock or two. But overall, it’s just a walk. Indeed, there are a couple of people who’ve climbed up the mountain in wheelchairs, so the ability to walk isn’t even a pre-requisite. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy, however…
Not any more. In 1991 the park authorities made it compulsory for all climbers to sign up with an agency. They in turn will provide you with a crew (consisting of a guide and his assistants, a cook and several porters). You can thus no longer turn up at the foot of Kili with a rucksack of food and clothes and hope to do it all yourself. As the choice of which agency to sign up with is such an important one (indeed, it’s probably the most important decision you’ll make regarding your climb), we provide an extensive review of all the major ones in the guidebook. We also, of course, operate our own agency (see Climb with us
There’s no need to go overboard with fitness preparations for climbing Kili. The main reason why people fail to reach the summit is altitude sickness rather than lack of necessary strength or stamina. (Please visit our altitude and AMS section for more details on this topic.) That said, the trek will obviously be more enjoyable for you the fitter you are, so anything you can do in the way of training can only help – after all you will be walking at very high altitude for about 16 hours during the climb to the summit and back so you do need a certain degree of fitness. For a more in-depth look at fitness for Kilimanjaro, including a suggested regime, visit our fitness page
The minimum legal age for climbing Kilimanjaro is ten. If you are under 16 you actually get a significant discount on the park fees of around US$90 for every day you spend on the mountain (a lot of agencies won’t tell you about this so make sure you insist on this! At the other end of the scale, there’s no limit on how old you can be to climb: currently the record for the oldest man and oldest woman to climb Kili is held by the same couple, Martin and Esther Kafer
, from Vancouver, who have been married since 1953 and who reached the summit in September 2012 aged 85 and 84 respectively.
There are a few deaths on Kilimanjaro every year with acute mountain sickness (AMS) and heart attacks the main causes. Very occasionally there are freak accidents too, such as lightning strikes.
The minimum number of days is 5 though many agencies (including ourselves) will not sell you a trek for such a short period as it doesn’t really give you enough time to acclimatise safely. At the other extreme some groups trek for 9-10 days, though most treks are 6-8 days in length.
Not cheap, I’m afraid. The absolute cheapest (and, I’m afraid, not recommended) Kilimanjaro trek will set you back about US$1200, with most companies charging US$2000-5000. That said, I should think that anybody who has climbed to the summit will agree that whatever price you pay, it will be worth it. Once again, you can find out how much the agencies are charging for 2014 in our review of them in the Kilimanjaro guidebook.
The mountain can be climbed all year round though there are a couple of rainy seasons – April-May and November-mid-December – that are best avoided. We think Jan-Feb and October are the best months as the skies tend to be clear and the mountain quieter than at other periods. Click on the following links for More about the Kilimanjaro climate
>> and a more detailed examination on The best time to climb
It’s a good question, particularly if you want to reach the summit on an important day such as your birthday. The easy way to work it out is as follows: regardless of the length of your trek, you will normally reach the summit at dawn on the penultimate morning of your trek.
So, for example, for a seven-day trek you would reach the Uhuru Peak at dawn on the sixth day. The rest of that day – and the morning (at least) of the last day – will be spent descending back down the mountain to the exit gate (Marangu or Mweka, depending on which route you used to ascend the mountain).
So, to give you an example, if your birthday is on the 10 March and you want to do a seven-day trek on the standard Machame Route, then 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 that day walking down to Millennium or Mweka Campsite, and the final day is spent walking to Mweka Gate.
You will need to bring clothes that cover every possible weather condition, from steamy jungle to snowy sunset. You can find a complete list of what to wear in our Clothes
A lot depends on what company you are trekking with as some agencies supply more than others; for example, some agencies supply sleeping mats and even sleeping bags while others (the majority) will expect you to bring these themselves (though they pretty much all have the facility to rent these items to you). Make sure you ask for a kit list from your agency so you are sure of what you are expected to bring. Essential items that you need to bring include a sleeping bag and mat, head torch, water bottles, towel and small wash kit, sunscreen, sunglasses and a rucksack and daypack. See our what to take
section for a comprehensive list of equipment to bring.
This is a matter of personal taste, of course. Personally, we prefer to keep away from the crowds, so we usually advise our clients to avoid routes such as Machame and Marangu, at least in high season when they are just too busy. The other three routes are thus our favourites though each have their disadvantages: Rongai has little forest on the way up as it starts on the drier northern side of the mountain; Umbwe is renowned as the hardest route and is quite steep in places; while Lemosho and Shira are usually a little more expensive as transport to the start is a little difficult. If your agency provides an ‘alternative’ route these are often the best as they give you the chance to get away from the crowds and may improve your chances of acclimatising and thus reaching the top safely, too. You can find out much more about the routes up Kilimanjaro by following this link: Routes on Kilimanjaro
; while you can follow these links for details of our Alternative Lemosho
and Unique Rongai
There’s plenty of wildlife on Kilimanjaro, though your chances of seeing much are slim. This is largely because the animals would rather not be on the parts of the mountain where more than 50,000 people tread every year. For this reason, you’ll be lucky to see anything larger than a monkey or a mouse – though every so often somebody will write in to say that they saw a buffalo/eland/leopard/elephant on the trail. Wildlife
Improving. Time was when many toilets on Kilimanjaro were so full they started to develop their own geological formation – neither stalagmite nor stalactite, but stalagshite. Thankfully, the park authorities are starting to get to grips with the problem and have built some state-of-the-art eco-toilets at the major campsites. In addition, many decent trekking companies now provide their clients with their own private toilets.
The national language is Swahili but on Kilimanjaro the local language is Kichagga, spoken by the Chagga people
, which has several dialects. English is widely spoken, at least amongst the guides and more educated members of the mountain crews.
This varies from company to company and on the severity of the injury/illness but usually the injured/unwell party will be accompanied down the mountain by an assistant guide while the rest of the party continue their ascent. You can read about how we deal with trekkers who need to be evacuated here.
It varies from company to company, of course, but on the whole it’s hearty, healthy,wholesome – and hopefully there’s a lot of it too. Vegans/vegetarians and those with food intolerances can all be catered for as long as you give your agency enough notice. Food on the mountain
Yes, though reception is patchy. Sometimes you’ll have to go for a day or two without being able to communicate with the outside world. In the book we provide to clients we provide details of where we’ve found reception on the mountain.
There’s very little science to back this claim up and I certainly don’t recommend you take up the tobacco habit to increase your chances of getting to the summit. But this rumour has been hanging around for years now – and I have to say in my experience there could be something to it. Around five years ago I led a party of 12 Scottish guys up the Machame Route; all of them made it, but my distinct memory is that the two smokers in the group merrily skipped their way to the summit (a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean) – while the majority of the others all suffered from the altitude to some degree. Is it because their bodies are used to less oxygen? Or was it just a coincidence? Who knows – but I’d love to find out if it’s true – and why!
What to do next
You can find out much more about Kilimanjaro and what it takes to climb it by reading the Practical Information and On Kilimanjaro sections. And don’t miss our Kilimanjaro Countdown – a checklist for Kili climbers to guide you through booking and preparing for the adventure of a lifetime!
Do check out our own trek booking service too: Not only do we offer free guidebooks to all our climbers, alternative routes that both take you away from the crowds and increase your chances of summitting, but we are also the only agency that offers treks that are cheaper than if you went directly to the tour operator! Your friends and family can now follow your progress, too, using our track-a-trekker facility.
Why book anywhere else?