Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa is a famous trekking destination. It’s one of the Seven Summits - the highest mountains of each continent in the world, with its summit Uhuru Peak reaching a massive 5888 meters above sea level. Each year, thousands of trekkers from around the world come to challenge the mountain. However, there is some confusion about where the trek can be taken from. So in this article, we’re going to clear up the question - can Mount Kilimanjaro be climbed from Kenya?
The simple answer to this question is… no - since Mount Kilimanjaro lies wholly in Tanzania. But this doesn’t mean you can’t mount a Kilimanjaro trip from Kenya. It’s actually very close to Kenya and easy to reach from there. We’ll talk about how to do that further on. But why do people believe that you can climb Kilimanjaro from Kenya? This comes down to a few misconceptions and misleading information.
Mount Kilimanjaro actually lies only 20 km from the Kenyan border, in the far north of Tanzania. This means that you get some of the best views of Kilimanjaro from the Kenyan side of the border. Therefore Kenya’s tourism board and its tour companies often market Kilimanjaro as a Kenyan attraction. This has caused some controversy with Tanzania, as Kenya already has a much higher tourism rate than its neighbouring country. Tanzania accuses Kenya of trying to steal its tourism for a destination which actually lies within Tanzania! There are also political historical reasons why this controversy continues to bloom, as the ownership of the Kilimanjaro region, and shifting borders between Kenya and Tanzania have a blotted history. A popular myth is that Queen Victoria “gave away” Kilimanjaro from Kenya to Tanzania - however history actually paints a slightly different picture. It makes for some interesting reading, check out these articles:
As Nairobi Airport in the capital of Kenya is a cheap flight destination compared to the Tanzanian options, many people opt to fly to Nairobi rather than Tanzania to get to Kilimanjaro. Sometimes mistakenly believing that Kilimanjaro is actually in Kenya. In fact, driving to the Kilimanjaro region from Nairobi takes about 8 hours and includes a border crossing. It’s also possible to take a short flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport from Nairobi. We have a full article covering the best ways to get to Kilimanjaro, but we’ll also go over the Kenyan transportation options to Kilimanjaro below.
Kilimanjaro climb from Kenya. A saddle billed stork and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Photo by Diana
Some information out there implies that some of the Kilimanjaro trekking routes start within the Kenyan border. This is incorrect. There is one popular route - the Rongai Route, which usually begins only a few kilometers from the Kenyan border at Rongai Gate, but this is still within Tanzania. Rongai is a highly rated option popular with expensive tour companies, as it is a quiet route which offers a unique perspective. As it climbs Kilimanjaro from the north, trekkers pass through unspoiled wilderness and alpine desert. There is more information on Kilimanjaro routes, available on various sources.
So what do you need to know about Mount Kilimanjaro and where will you need to be when you are trekking it? The mountain sits within Kilimanjaro National Park, a large conservation area adjoining the Kenyan border. Just south of Mount Kilimanjaro, and therefore within Tanzania, are three major towns: Moshi, Arusha and Marangu. The vast majority of trekking tours up the mountain depart from these settlements. They also act as trekking hubs; full of accommodation for tourists, and house many trekking companies. Regardless of the route you’ll take up Kilimanjaro, you’ll probably need to be in one of these towns first and need to get here first.
If you want to do your Mount Kilimanjaro climb via Kenya, you need to get into Tanzania and the Kilimanjaro region first. Be aware that you will need a Kenyan tourist visa which can be bought on arrival in Kenya (and you may require a multiple entry visa if you are returning to Kenya afterwards). You’ll also need to buy a Tanzanian tourist visa when you enter the country at the border or airport, and have the relevant documentation, immunizations and cash to do so. There’s a few ways to travel to Kilimanjaro from Nairobi.
A short local flight to Kilimanjaro. Photo by Alchen
So, it’s pretty easy to get to Kilimanjaro from Kenya, just allow for the extra time and cost to reach it. For more information, check out our How to Get to Kilimanjaro article.
Kilimanjaro climb from Kenya. Four giraffes walking close to Africa's roof. Photo by Jalil
Now that Kenya doesn’t seem like such a bad option, you may be thinking, what is best for Kilimanjaro - Kenya or Tanzania? This really depends on the kind of trip you want. Kenya has a lot to offer and many travellers do both countries in one holiday. Many Kenya tour packages offer a mountainous addition to Kilimanjaro. Mount Kenya is another popular trekking mountain and close enough to Tanzania to allow climbing both peaks within the same trip. It also has a similar challenge level to Mount Kilimanjaro. Kenya also has a lot of great safari opportunities and some people prefer to combine a safari in Kenya and dip into Tanzania just to do Kilimanjaro.
On the other hand, if your trip is primarily about climbing Kilimanjaro, then sticking to Tanzania is probably a better option. Flying direct to Kilimanjaro International Airport gets you immediately within striking distance of the mountain, so you can do the trek and fly out again within a week. Other travellers with more time like to combine Kilimanjaro with Tanzania's incredible safaris, either in the Kilimanjaro region or down in the world famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. An advantage of skipping Kenya is avoiding cost, time, and immigration hassles with getting to Kilimanjaro from Kenya. Unfortunately, it’s usually more costly to fly into Tanzania.
Kilimanjaro from Kenya. Wilderness surrounding Mt Kili. Photo by Ninara
Ultimately, what works best for you will depend on your itinerary, current flight costs to each country and mostly how much time you have available. If you are still looking, here are 10 reasons you should climb Kilimanjaro.
So to sum up, although technically you can’t climb Kilimanjaro from Kenya, it sits right on the Kenyan border and it’s easy to get into Tanzania from Nairobi to tackle the mountain, and many travellers prefer this as it fits into their trip plans or sometimes costs less. We hope this article has cleared up some of the confusion and mystery around the question, and given you some options to think about!