Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on top of many travellers’ bucket lists. And since this isn’t easy to do, we made this simple guide to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Each year, around 50,000 tourists attempt to climb the summit of the iconic mountain.
This is not a surprise, as Kilimanjaro provides the thrill and adventure that many adventurers want. Apart from that, it’s also a remarkable feat to hike the highest free-standing mountain in the world, and many successful hikers consider this a badge of honour.
However, there are many things involved in hiking Kilimanjaro, and these things can help you succeed in your endeavour in climbing the famous mountain. So, without much further ado, here’s a simple guide to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Guide to climbing mount Kilimanjaro: Things you need to know
Before climbing the tallest mountain in Africa, it’s best to know the essential things before attempting its summit. Knowing these things will equip you to successfully reach Uhuru Peak—the highest point on Kibo’s crater rim.
So, what do you need to know about climbing Kilimanjaro?
Climb during dry season
Book a tour from a reliable local tour operator
It can also help boost the country’s economy if you choose a local guide outfitter to climb Kilimajaro. With the best and recognized tour operator in Tanzania, you can get the best experience in your Mount Kilimanjaro adventure!In addition, you can also enjoy the safari through the Serengeti and its renowned Ngorongoro Crater for a few extra thousand dollars.
Pick your route carefully
This factor can make or break you. Thus pick your route well. In Kilimanjaro, there are seven established routes, and these are the following:
- The Marangu Route
- The Machame Route
- The Lemosho Route
- The Shira Route
- The Rongai Route
- The Northern Circuit Route
Among the seven established routes in Kilimanjaro, the Marangu route is the quickest, easiest, and most affordable. Meanwhile, the Machame route will take six to seven days to the top and is undoubtedly one of the challenging routes.
Furthermore, the Lemosho route can take up to seven to nine days to the top, but the long journey is all worth it due to its scenic route. It’s also best to know that the more days you spend in the mountain, the more expensive it gets.
However, it’s all worth it in the end, as the longer routes have more success rates than those fast ascent routes. The long journey gives your body the time to acclimatize, increasing your chances of a successful climb.
When is the best time to scale Kilimanjaro
The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is between January to February or June and October as these are the dry months of Tanzania. As much as possible, avoid trekking from March to May and November through December as these are the wet seasons of the country.
It takes time to acclimatize
Some climbers don’t succeed in climbing the top of Kilimanjaro summit due to altitude sickness. This is why it’s essential to give your body time to acclimatize better, and you can attain that using the longer routes.
How hard is it to ascend mount Kilimanjaro
Nowadays, it’s not that hard to climb Kilimanjaro because there are well-established and accessible trek routes, like the Marangu route. Thus, the most challenging thing you’ll face in your journey is altitude-related problems.
Do I need a guide to hike Kilimanjaro?
Yes. It’s a requirement to have a guide licensed by Kilimanjaro National Park to climb Kilimanjaro. Most climbers have a team that consists of porters, lead guides, assistant guides, and cook.
What must I pack in Kilimanjaro?
In climbing Kilimanjaro, it’s important to pack the following climbing essentials:
Hands & feet gears
Getting to Kilimanjaro
To get to Kilimanjaro you need to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA): CODE (IATA: JRO, ICAO: HTKJ) which is served daily by many airlines. The closest major cities to Kilimanjaro National Park are the city of Arusha and the town of Moshi. Depending on where you are traveling from, you can usually fly direct to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) via the Gulf (Qatar airlines, Emirates) or via Europe (KLM).
Alternatively, you can fly into Tanzania’s capital, Dar-Es-Salaam (DAR), for a short internal flight to (JRO), or to Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International (NBO) airport for a connection to JRO (Kenya Airways, Precision Air).
One of the best way to find cheap flights to Kilimanjaro International Airport is by flying into Nairobi Kenya. It’s also possible to travel by road from Kenya after flying in there. There are numerous bus and shuttle options to take you to Moshi town or the city of Arusha , though the roads can be quite rough at times; you might consider this if you’re feeling adventurous, trying to save money and have sufficient time.
Where to fly to climb Kilimanjaro – International Flights to Kilimanjaro
If you want To get to Kilimanjaro you need to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). The airport is situated south-west of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Below we have listed airlines that fly directly to Kilimanjaro airport (JRO).
- KLM: Direct flights from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro airport
- Condor Air : Direct flights from Frankfurt to Kilimanjaro airport
- Turkish Airlines: Direct flights from Istanbul to Kilimanjaro airport
- Kenya Airways: Direct flights from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro airport
- Precision Air: Direct flights from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro airport
- Qatar Airlines: Direct flights from Doha to Kilimanjaro airport
- Ethiopian Airlines: Direct flights from Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro airport
- RwandAir: Direct flights from Kigali to Kilimanjaro airport
If you are unable find direct flights to Kilimanjaro airport, you can fly to Kilimanjaro airport via Dar Es Salaam or Nairobi (Kenya). Mount Kilimanjaro is much closer to Nairobi than it is from Dar Es Salaam. Nairobi receives a lot more air traffic than Kilimanjaro Airport, making it have competitive prices.
Best way to fly to Kilimanjaro from us, Europe and UK
For climbers in US, Europe and the UK, the easiest thing to do is to fly from a major local airport hub near your location to Amsterdam (most major airports in US, Europe and the UK have flights to Amsterdam), and then catch the KLM Airlines to JRO connecting flight.
Kilimanjaro Frequently asked Questions
The first and most important thing I need to say on this matter is as follows:
All the main routes up the mountain are just walking routes.
I really need to emphasise this point. You do not need any technical climbing or mountaineering skills to get to the summit. So you don’t need to be a mountaineer. You just need to be able to walk.
Indeed, given the number of paraplegics and those in wheelchairs, even that skill is not essential. Blind climbers have felt their way to the top and amputee victims have hobbled and crawled up to the top.
Even the walking is not particularly exhausting. After all, just do the maths. For example, the most popular route is the Machame Route, which is 60.76km (37.75 miles) in length in total from gate to summit and back to gate. Do it in six days and that’s only a fraction over 10km per day (ie just over 6 miles); do it in seven days and it’s only around just 8.5km per day, ie a little under 5.5 miles per day.
- Take as many days as you can afford to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, on a route with a high success rate. Treks typically last 5-8 days, though we consider five days to be too short – and dangerous! – and so should you. Remember: the longer you spend on the mountain, the greater your chances of getting to the summit.
- Pack some warm clothes and decent boots,
- Stick to a training regime before you leave,
- Eat and drink plenty when you’re on the mountain.
And to help you negotiate the whole process of preparing for your trek, we’ve compiled a schedule that takes you step by step through the process of preparing for your trek. And you can follow this link for advice on how to maximise your chances of reaching the summit.
Do all of the above and, with a bit of luck, you’ll be fine. But even if, after all our advice, you still fail to get to the top, well at least you’re in good company. Famous people we know who failed to reach the summit include tennis ace Martina Navratilova, tycoon Roman Abramovic and, so it has long been rumoured, mountaineer and conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary!
The big disadvantage with the above trails is that they are best done over eight days rather than seven. And as a result, they are a little more expensive than the other trails.
So if you can’t afford the time or money for an 8-day hike, then my favourite seven-day path is Rongai. Again, this has some spectacular views and is quieter than many other routes. Once again, it also has a very high success rate.
Finally, if even a seven-day adventure is too expensive, then the best six-day option is Machame. It’s overcrowded at times but it’s cheaper and has, for a six-day hike, a good success rate for getting people to the summit. (Though not as good as the seven- or eight-day choices, of course.)
Of course, this is just my personal opinion and there are advantages with all the routes. If you don’t want to sleep under canvas, for example, then the Marangu Route is the best choice. Why? Well, because it’s the only one where you sleep in dormitories. Or if you want a more adventurous experience, I think the Umbwe trek is perfect: quiet, steep and spectacular.
The mountain is open every day of the year. There are two rainy seasons, April-May (known as the ‘Long Rains’) and November-mid December (the ‘Short Rains’). Few people climb Kilimanjaro during these seasons.
The main trekking seasons, therefore, coincide with the mountain’s two ‘dry’ seasons: January to mid-March and June to October.
Note that rain will probably still fall on your trek during these months too. Because it’s rare to climb Kilimanjaro without getting rained on at least once .
The cheapest way to organise a climb is to just turn up at the airport, get a taxi to Moshi or Arusha, and negotiate with the companies there. But you need to have confidence in your bargaining skills, and – at the risk of sounding like a salesman!
If you book in Moshi then you can, just possibly, get a Kilimanjaro trek starting at about US$1000. Of course, at this budget I cannot guarantee the reliability or honesty of the company concerned. But I can guarantee that their treatment of porters will be terrible, and the wages they pay desultory.
So we urge you to think of the bigger picture, and spend more on your trek, to stop this exploitation. Because most decent companies will charge at least double the price above – ie around US$2000 for a standard trek on the Machame Route.
And it’s not unusual for some companies to charge US$3000, or even US$5000 per person for a trek!
These items are, typically, not included in your trek package so you’ll need to budget for them:
- Tanzanian visas (US$50 for most people, US$100 for American passport holders)
- Meals when you’re not on the mountain (other than breakfast).
- Travel insurance
Your trekking agency will provide you with a list of clothes and other items that you need to bring for your trek.
Typically, they will provide a tent and cooking equipment – so you don’t need to bring them.
The ground operator may also supply sleeping mats and, in some instances, sleeping bags too. So check with them what they provide and what you need to bring. They may also rent out certain items, too, such as head, torches, walking poles and clothing. Hiring various items for your trek makes a lot of sense, particularly if you don’t plan to do any trekking or camping after you’ve finished with Kilimanjaro.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that getting to the top is easy. You still have to battle against the cold and exhaustion. Most importantly, there’s the lack of oxygen that’s available to breathe at altitude and the complications (altitude sickness etc) that follow. This is what defeats most climbers. Which is why we go into detail on this site (and even more so in the book) about altitude sickness, its symptoms, how to prevent it – and what to do if you get it.
I would say that over 90% of people fail because of altitude sickness. The rest: well, injuries or other illnesses undoubtedly cause others to stop before they reach the top: upset stomachs can be common on Kilimanjaro. A lack of fitness counts for a few people, though not that many.
But I have to say that, after altitude sickness, the most common reason as to why people fail to get to the summit is attitude sickness. In other words, people just give up. Which is why it’s important to understand just how hard it can be to climb Kilimanjaro, and to be aware of all the hardships and privations – the cold, the possible lack of sleep, the nausea and headaches etc – that you’ll suffer on the mountain.
If you’re aware of them, you’ll be prepared for them – and, as such, you’ll be less likely to give up on the mountain.
It is only logical, therefore, that if you manage to avoid altitude sickness, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting to the top. (The actual summit of Kilimanjaro, by the way, is known as Uhuru Peak.)
So how do you do that? Well, reading our advice about altitude sickness on this site and in the book will help.
It also helps if you can go with a decent company, which is why we provide a lot of information on this site about how to choose a trekking company. It is also why, in the guide book, we provide reviews of over 80 of the most prominent companies working on the mountain (as well as the overseas agents that use them). Or if you can’t be bothered to read all that, then we do have our own trekking company, Kilimanjaro Experts, which we believe ticks every box when it comes to being a safe, fairly priced and ethical operator.
It’s a question I get asked an awful lot. The first thing to say is that all routes on Kilimanjaro are beautiful. So if you have been booked on a trek, and had no say in what path you will be taking, then don’t despair. Because you should have a great time on a lovely route, whatever trail you end up taking.
That said, there’s no doubt that some trails seem better than others. Now I could go into a great detail about the relative advantages and disadvantages of each route. But to keep it simple, this is what I usually say:
Of all the trails in the park, my favourite route is possibly the 8-day Alternative Lemosho. (Note that some companies call this the Northern Circuit but be careful, as this name can refer to several quite different routes.) It is, in my opinion, the route with the best forest for the first day or so. It also has the best views and scenery once you leave the forest. It takes you away from the crowds that are on some other trails, choosing instead to opt for quiet paths away from the crowds and the noise. And because it is the longest route, so it gives you more time to acclimatise – which it also has the highest success rate of any on the mountain.
If you can’t find a company that deals with this route specifically, then the standard Lemosho Route is good too, though this does have more crowds on it and the success rate is slightly lower.
We like trekking at any time on Kili. But if I was pushed into saying what two months I like best, I would have to say March and October. There are two main reasons for this:
1) The weather is usually good and the skies are often clear during these months.
2) Because they both fall just before the rainy seasons, they tend to be quieter than at other times. Trekkers tend to be worried that the rains will come early, so avoid these months. But in our experience, the rains are more likely to fail altogether than arrive early. As a result, the mountain is usually emptier and quieter – yet the weather is still lovely.
Of course, occasionally the rainy season does arrive early, such as in October 2019, when the weather was dreadful. But these are the exceptions.
Included in this price should be the following:
- Airport transfers at the start and end of your trip
- A couple of nights in a hotel, usually one either side of the trek
- Transport to and from the mountain at the start/end of the trek
- All park fees, rescue fees, conservation fees and camping fees
- Food and drink on the mountain, as well as camping equipment
- Wages of your guides, assistant guides, cook and porters
While it is always good to get fit, there’s no need to go overboard with fitness preparations for climbing Kilimanjaro.
Some guidebooks and websites go into extraordinary detail about fitness regimes. But there’s no need. Why? Simply because the main reason why people fail to reach the summit is due to altitude sickness rather than lack of necessary strength or stamina.
So just remember: you don’t need to be very fit to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
It’s more that you need to be ‘not unfit’ (if that makes sense).
If you’re out of shape on the mountain, then you’ll find it a struggle tackling the gradients each day, may fall behind your friends (even though you should all be going very slowly), and will generally have a fairly unpleasant time – which is not what any of us want.
Besides, on the final push to the summit, and the descent that follows, people typically walk for 16 hours. So try to get into some sort of shape before your climb – it may increase your chances of reaching the summit only slightly, but at least you’ll enjoy the trip much more.
So what sort of training should you do? Well, there is no substitute for following a structured anaerobic and aerobic training regime for at least 12 weeks in the run up to your trek. Running, jogging, swimming, cycling – all of these are good exercises to follow.
The best thing you can do, however, to prepare for your walk – is to go for a walk!