Few experiences in Africa can compete with standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and gazing down at the continent six kilometres below you. Needless to say, climbing Kilimanjaro is on many people’s bucket lists and up to 30,000 adventurers set out each year to conquer it, making Africa's highest peak the most climbed mountain in the world.
But you may be surprised to learn that although Mount Kilimanjaro - known as Kili by the locals - is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, you can simply walk up it. None of the routes to the top require mountaineering skills, specialised equipment or even previous climbing experience.
However, although it's a relatively simple hike up, hiking to the Roof of Africa is physically and mentally demanding and should not be underestimated, no matter how many people climb Kilimanjaro each year. Altitude sickness can set in above 3,000 metres - sometimes with serious consequences - and there’s no prior indication as to who might suffer from it. It can take up to a week of tough physical exertion to reach the top and you'd better be prepared for climatic extremes from heavy rain and blazing heat to blinding sunshine and freezing temperatures - it may even snow!
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a fairly straightforward task. Firstly, you have to engage the services of a licensed guide. There are many specialist operators using seasoned, professional guides and tough-as-teak porters. These companies will take care of the logistics; all you have to do is turn up. You'll need to arrive properly prepared however - the right clothing, boots and a good sleeping bag are essential - and although it's an 'everyman's mountain', you'll need to be reasonably fit and healthy.
You'll be part of a group and it does require a team effort to summit so it's vital that you work closely with your guides and listen to their advice. Guides are supported by the porters who carry all the heavy gear and supplies up and down the mountain and cook all the meals - you'll be carrying a day pack and your personal effects.
Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time of the year, but the rainy seasons (April-June; November-December) make the forest more slippery and the summit might be blocked by snow. September is a great month to climb Kilimanjaro but so are June, July and August if you don't mind colder temperatures. If you want the best conditions to climb Africa's highest peak, go during warm and dry January and February.
Use our Kilimanjaro map above to view these two recommended Kilimanjaro routes:
THE MACHAME ROUTE
The 6-7 day Machame route is the most scenic route leading to the summit but it’s physically more challenging in sections though with a more gradual start. Accommodation is in tents.
Recommended tour: Kilimanjaro Trekking Machame
THE LEMOSHO ROUTE
This 9-day trek up the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro is a lesser-known circuit but provides exceptional views of Shira Ridge and Kibo's Glacier.
Recommended tour: Kilimanjaro Trekking Lemosho