Kilimanjaro: The Number One Guide for over 15 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!

Climbing Kilimanjaro – The Essential facts

The following questions are the ones we get asked the most in our capacity as the writers of the guidebook:

Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, East Africa, right on the border with Kenya. More>>
There are various estimates as to how high it is. But most people use the figure of 5895m. 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. Occasionally you may also need to 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. The choice of which agency to sign up with is thus the most important decision you’ll have to make. Which is why we provide an extensive review of all the major ones in the guidebook.
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, on the final push to the summit you will be walking at very high altitude for about 16 hours! So a certain degree of fitness is necessary. 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$90-100 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, with the current record holder 86 years of age!
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 and rockfalls.
The minimum number of days is 5. That said, many agencies 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 not recommended) Kilimanjaro trek will set you back about US$1200. Most companies charge in the region of US$2000-3500. Some actually charge US$5000 or more! That said, that anybody who has climbed to the summit will agree that whatever price you pay, it’s worth it. Once again, you can find out how much agencies charge in our review of them in the Kilimanjaro guidebook.
The mountain can be climbed all year round, There are, however, a couple of rainy seasons – April-May and November-mid-December – that are best avoided. We think January-March and October are the best months as the skies tend to be clear and the mountain quieter. Click on the following links for More about the Kilimanjaro climate>> and a more detailed examination on The best time to climb>>We also like the Snow Forecast website for up-to-date predictions of the weather on Kilimanjaro.
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 this: 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 of the last day – will be spent descending back down the mountain to the exit gate.

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. 

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 section.
A lot depends on what company you are trekking with. Some agencies supply more than others. For example, some supply sleeping mats and even sleeping bags while others (the majority) will expect you to bring these themselves. That said, 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 need to bring. Essential items that you will need to bring include

  • a sleeping bag and mat
  • head torch
  • water bottles
  • towel and small wash kit,
  • sunscreen,
  • sunglasses
  • 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  advise people 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. They 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.

There’s plenty of wildlife on Kilimanjaro, though your chances of seeing much are slim. This is largely because the animals would prefer to avoid those 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. That said, every so often somebody will write in to say that they saw a buffalo, eland, leopard or 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 tackle the problem. They 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. Usually the injured/unwell party will be accompanied down the mountain by an assistant guide while the rest of the party continue their ascent.
It varies from company to company, of course, but on the whole it’s hearty, healthy,wholesome. 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. What’s more, 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 that, 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. 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? I’d love to find out if it’s true – and why!

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 Kilimanjaro sections. And don’t miss our Kilimanjaro 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:

Colobus tiny Background information The history, geography and culture etc of Africa’s highest mountain. Not essential for Kili trekkers – but interesting nevertheless!

Sunglasses tiny 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 the mountain tinyOn 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.

Baby baboon, TanzaniaTravelling In Tanzania Basic information on travelling to and around Africa’s country, including security & safety, health, public transport etc.

Summit banner best tinyBook a Kilimanjaro climb! Special discounted rates, free guidebooks, alternative routes!


Book your Kilimanjaro climb with the best!

As the number one authority on Kilimanjaro, and the producers of the bestselling guidebook to the mountain for the past fifteen years, we are in the best position to know which agency offers the best and best value treks on Kilimanjaro.  And after successful negotiations we are delighted to announce that we can offer  treks that are cheaper than if you went directly to the agent!

You get all of the following:

Alternative routes that both take you away from the crowds and increase your chances of summiting,

Free guidebooks to all climbers who book their trek through us.

Friends and family can follow your progress using their track-a-trekker facility.

Discounts for groups of three or more

Private treks for no extra charge!

Budget, minimum service alternatives for those who want to do Kili on the cheap!

Why look anywhere else?

The 4th edition of our bestselling guide to climbing Kilimanjaro is now out:

Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain

Kilimanjaro guidebook cover

‘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 14 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 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.
  • Indeed, you’ll find everything you need to help you get from the safety of your favourite armchair to the very summit of Africa’s highest mountain –  and no other guidebook can provide anything like that kind of coverage.

Click  below for more info and to buy the book from Amazon.

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