Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa is a world famous trekking destination and one of the Seven Summits - the highest mountain of each continent. If you’re thinking about doing a Kilimanjaro trek, in this article we’re going to look at some interesting facts about the mountain!
It stands in the protected zone of Kilimanjaro National Park, in the far north of the small country of Tanzania, in Eastern Africa. This is a poor country but famous for Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, another popular trekking mountain. Tanzania is also world renowned for its famous African safaris, home to Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park where you can see big game animals and the famous “Big 5” (lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards and buffalo).
Kilimanjaro is known for Big Game Animals and popular among wildlife enthusiasts. Photo by Philip
The highest mountain in Africa, the elevation of Kilimanjaro stands at a mighty 5895 meters above sea level, rising from around 4900 meters at its base. In world standings it is hard to say, but it is believed to rank within the top 500 highest mountains in the world. In prominence however, it is the 4th highest mountain on Earth. It’s also the world’s largest freestanding mountain (i.e. not part of a mountain range).
Kilimanjaro is an ancient volcano. There are three volcanic cones on the mountain named Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo - which is the highest and where Kilimanjaro’s summit, Uhuru Peak, stands. Kibo is the only remaining volcanically active cone and still has fumaroles which emit gas, but its last major eruption occurred over 360,000 years ago - and records from local tribespeople indicate there may have been a minor eruption around 200 years ago.
Kibo peak the only volcanically active cone of Kilimanjaro. Photo by Pius
Kilimanjaro’s name is believed to have come from the local Swahili language and in their culture the mountain has many creation myths. It was first discovered by Europeans in the colonial era, where it attracted the attention of explorers and it became a hotly contested race to reach the summit first. The first summit attempt was in 1861, but it wasn’t until many failed attempts by different explorers that Kilimanjaro was finally conquered by Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Pertscheller, accompanied by German geology professor Hans Mayer. Since then, it has remained a popular expedition destination and as tourism developed became a world-famous trekking challenge thanks to its easy accessibility and fame.
Kilimanjaro now attracts over 30,000 tourists every year who come to trek up the mountain. The Kilimanjaro National Park is protected zone to preserve the wildlife and habitat of the region. The nearby towns of Moshi, Arusha and Marangu have become trekking hubs for visitors and are full of tour agencies and accommodations. The mountain’s tourism supports thousands of locals who flock to the mountain for work, including guides and porters who travel up the mountain with clients to support them on their trek. Kilimanjaro is achievable by people of all ages as it doesn’t require special training to climb, so it is popular with families and elderly trekkers alike. Kilimanjaro is also popular for charity treks and has many celebrities who have climbed it to support various causes.
Due to its height and isolated position, Kili has a unique micro climate. Weather on Kilimanjaro varies throughout the year with rainy months interspersed with relatively dry seasons from January to March and June to October, which are peak trekking times. Weather can change rapidly on the mountain, especially at high altitude. Snow may fall at any time of the year near the peak as well as high winds. Temperatures can range from well below freezing at night to highs of thirty to forty degrees centigrade in the hot daytime sun. An interesting fact is that the northern slopes get much less rain than the southern slopes (see Rongai route for more details)
Trekking Kilimanjaro in the rain. Photo by Steve
Kilimanjaro has five ecological zones which you will pass through on your trek. These are rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert, and an arctic ice cap. It's possible to see colobus and blue monkeys, a variety of birdlife and even big game on the northern route.
Kilimanjaro has an ice cap which splits into separate glaciers. These are sadly declining due to climate change. By 2040 most of the ice on the mountain is expected to be gone.
Kilimanjaro is a challenging trek but perfectly achievable with a sensible approach and training. Due to its huge elevation, there is a risk of getting altitude sickness and so acclimatization and good pacing is vital. The high altitude also makes physical activity more strenuous. Good fitness training in advance and allowing extra days to acclimatize on Kilimanjaro are the best ways to prepare for these.
Comfort is also a luxury that most Kilimanjaro treks don’t offer - most treks are camping only and the extreme and quickly changing weather conditions can make life difficult. However, the majority of trekkers prepare properly for this and meet the challenge head on and make it to the summit!
There are seven different routes to Kilimanjaro. Photo by Stig
Kilimanjaro has seven main routes. These are:
For more details about Kilimanjaro routes and their strengths and weaknesses, check out the different routes to Kilimanjaro.
To wind things up, here are some Kilimanjaro world records and little factoids for you!
Fun Facts about Uhuru peak. Photo by Abir
We hope you found this article interesting and that it has inspired you if you are thinking about doing a Kilimanjaro trek! Also find out which is harder: Kilimanjaro vs Everest trek!