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Mount Kilimanjaro facts: What you need to know about Africa’s highest peak

Article by Zaytoen Domingo

Zaytoen Domingo

Posted: May 10, 2019

One of the best parts about volunteering in Tanzania is helping to empower the local community. The second? Exploring the country. For many volunteers, a major bucket list item is summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.

Few experiences can compete with standing at the top of the highest point in Africa as the sun rises in the distance!

Mount Kilimanjaro is also one of the world’s Seven Summits (the highest mountain peaks on each continent). It’s also the easiest to climb successfully. It’s a non-technical hike that doesn’t require any mountaineering experience.

That said, it’s still a tough hike. You’ll trek for five days or more through a varied landscape up to the summit. You’ll also need to be mentally prepared, fit, and have quality high-altitude clothing and camping gear.

Here’s everything else you need to know about summiting Africa’s highest peak!

Quick facts about Mount Kilimanjaro

Where is Mount Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro is located inside of Kilimanjaro National Park in the northern part of Tanzania. It lies near the border of Kenya, and you’ll need a permit to enter the park. If you want to climb the mountain, trekkers are required to use an official guide company.

How tall is Mount Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Its summit, Uhuru Peak, is Africa’s highest peak. It rises to a height of 5,895 meters above sea level and is only 2,950 meters shorter than Mount Everest.


What are the origins of Kilimanjaro’s name?

No one is sure where the name Kilimanjaro comes from. The most popular theory is that the name is formed from the Swahili word for mountain, “Kilima” and the Chagga word for whiteness, “Njaro”.

A second theory suggests that Kilimanjaro is an incorrect pronunciation of the Chagga phrase “we failed to climb it”.

Facts about Mount Kilimanjaro’s ecology


Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano. It has three volcanic cones, Mawenzi, Shire and Kibo. The only active one is Kibo (the highest peak), but its last major eruption took place more than 360,000 years ago.

Since 1912, the mountain has lost more than 80 percent of its ice cap due to climate change. It’s predicted that within the next 20 years, Kilimanjaro will become ice-free.

One of the things that makes Kilimanjaro unique is that it boasts five climate zones. At the base of the mountain is cultivated land and a rainforest characterised by tropical weather. As you ascend the slopes, the landscape turns from health and moorland to an alpine desert. At the summit, you’ll find a glacial zone and the inner crater’s Ash Pit – one of the largest in the world.


Facts about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

The best time to summit Kilimanjaro is during the dry seasons of January–March and June–October. The slopes are easier to climb, and you’ll have uninterrupted views of the landscape while you ascend.

If you want to avoid the crowds that climb during high season (June to September), book your trek between December and March. The weather is colder in the evenings and you’ll have snow on the summit and little rain along the way.

How many people climb Mount Kilimanjaro every year?


It’s estimated that 35,000 people attempt to summit Kilimanjaro every year. However, only two-thirds are successful due to altitude sickness and other health problems that cause climbers to turn around.

If you want to improve your chances of successfully climbing the mountain, take your time reaching the summit. The longer your trek, the more time your body has to adapt and acclimatise to the high altitude.

How many routes does Kilimanjaro have?

Original photo: “Kili081” by Ricky Tay is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 

There are seven official routes for Kilimanjaro. The Lemosho, Shira, Machame, Umbwe, and Marangu routes use the Southern Circuit to summit the mountain via Stella Point. The other two routes (Rongai and the Northern Circuit), ascend from the north-east and use Gilman’s Point to reach the summit.

If you don’t want to camp your way up the mountain, you have to use the Marangu route. It’s the oldest trail up Kilimanjaro and the only one with hut accommodation.

The Mweka route is used for descent only.

Kilimanjaro World Records

Who was the first person to summit Kilimanjaro?

In 1889, Germans Hans Meter and Ludwig Purtscheller, and a Tanzanian man called Yohana Lauwo became the first documented people to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Who was the youngest and oldest person to summit Kilimanjaro?

The oldest person on written record to summit Mount Kilimanjaro is 85-year old Martin Kafer. The youngest person to successfully climb the mountain is Keats Boyd, a seven-year-old from Los Angeles.

What’s the fastest recorded ascent for Mount Kilimanjaro?


The quickest roundtrip is currently held by local guide Simon Mtuy. He went up and down the mountain in eight hours and 27 minutes. In 2001, Bruno Brunod summited Uhuru Peak in five hours and 38 minutes. It’s the fastest verified ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Can people with physical disabilities summit Mount Kilimanjaro?

In 2007, South African Bernard Goosen climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in six days in his wheelchair. In 2012, Kyle Maynard, who has no arms or legs, travelled up the mountain without any assistance and successfully made it to the top.

Other interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro


  • In 2014, 30 cricket players climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro and played a game of cricket at Crater Camp. It holds the record for the highest game of cricket ever recorded.
  • Nearly every person who has summited the mountain has recorded their experience in a book at the summit.
  • In 2016, Pizza Hut set a Guinness World Record by delivering a pizza to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • In 2016, the tallest tree in Africa was discovered on Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s believed to be over 600 years old and is part of the Entandrophragma Excelsum species family.

Volunteer in Tanzania


Take a trip to Tanzania that aims to help empower local communities before your summit attempt.

You can choose from volunteer projects in areas such as women’s empowerment, community development, and education.

Want to find out more about volunteer opportunities in Tanzania? Speak to a member of our team today

By Zaytoen Domingo

Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.
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