Size: 5,895 metres (19,336 feet). Location: Northern Tanzania, near Moshi Town.
Mount Kilimanjaro's name is a mystery wreathed in the clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don't even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa. It lies with Mount Kilimanjaro National Park near Moshi Town in northern Tanzania.
Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of Tanzania mountains. When you see it, you understand why. Facts about Mount Kilimanjaro include that it is this the highest peak on the African continent and also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet). Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to one of the world's most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman's Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their Kilimanjaro climbing certificates and their memories.
There is so much more to climb Kilimanjaro then its summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic. Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated footslopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot's duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias. Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent.
How To Get There
128 km (80 miles) from Arusha Town. About one hour's drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
What To Do
Six usual trekking routes to the summit most notiably Machame and Marangu Routes and other more-demanding mountaineering routes. Day or overnight hikes on the Shira plateau. Nature trails on the lower reaches. Trout fishing. Visit the beautiful Chala crater lake on the mountain's southeastern slopes.
When To Go
Clearest and warmest conditions from December to February, but also dry (and colder) from July-September.
Huts and campsites on the mountain. There are several hotels and campsites outside the park in the village of Marangu and Moshi Town.
To successfully climb Mt Kilimanjaro slowly increase your acclimatisation time and maximise your chances of reaching the summit. To avoid altitude sickness, allow a minimum of five nights, preferably even more for the climb. Take your time and enjoy the beauty of the mountain.