Kilimanjaro Massif

  • © Emily Townsend
  • Kenton"s Muted Greeting - © Arabella Cecil
  • Porters Leaving Lava Towers - © Arabella Cecil
  • © Arabella Cecil
  • Giant Lobelia - © Arabella Cecil
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • © Emily Townsend
  • Giant Senecio forest - Great Barranco - © Arabella Cecil
  • Kili as Earth Mother - her flanks support rain and cloud forest to 9,500ft - © Arabella Cecil
  • Footsteps crunching across the solafluction - © Arabella Cecil

Key information: Kilimanjaro Massif

  • The highest mountain in Africa, a spectacular, charismatic, free-standing retired volcano. Justly famous, and sections of the summit climb can be crowded.
  • Pass through varied ecosystems, gaze at cliffs, caves and lava fields.
  • A wide selection of multi-day treks across the massif, using huts or camping on the lesser known routes. You don't need to make the beyond-tough final ascent to make walking here worthwhile.
  • This is a high, tough mountain, turning into an altitudinous slog at the end, for which you will need to be self-sufficient: be prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating86
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest19
  • Human interest3
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points4
  • Total rating86

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 5,896m
  • Level of Difficulty: Difficult
© Emily Townsend


At 5,896m, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world:  Kilimanjaro is spectacular, romantic and a famous "bag"; but the 40,000 people on the mountain each year make at times for crowded huts and trails on the summit approaches. You will feel triumph and exhilaration if you are one of the 40% who reach the peak, which your altitude misery will not wholly ruin. Most people, though, are too debilitated by headache, nausea or worse to manage the final ascent. This is one tough mother.

Although now dormant, Kilimanjaro is, amazingly, less than a million years old a blink in geological terms. Its vast crater area was, until recently, covered by an ice sheet up to 100m thick the "snows" that inspired Hemingway. The last dying glaciers are predicted to have vanished by 2040.

You can understand why Kilimanjaro has been so admired, and draws adventurers from all round the world. A view of it, on a rare clear day, towering in all it majesty above the acacia plains of East Africa, breathes life into that tired word "iconic".

You will ascend through dense rainforest, damp giant heather, sparse scrub moorland, alpine desert, and then rock and ice, deep into a complex of volcanic craters, cliffs and glaciers. As the trail climbs, you may catch spectacular views across a region of natural wonders and you should spot animals of interest - eagles and buzzards will soar above but bigger game is scarce, unlike on neighbouring Mt Meru.

There is a multitude of ways to walk on Kili, whether or not you are heading for the summit. Unless you are set on reaching the summit, a trek across the massif, reaching around 14,000ft so suffering (relatively) less, but avoiding the crowds on the motorways to the peak, are wildly rewarding. For those with the time and desire, an acclimatising crossing of the volcano followed by an assault on the summit is the best of all options. 

Our Kilimanjaro Summit page gives more information on the ascent to the summit.

It is a requirement of the Kilimanjaro National Park to have a Tanzanian guide to ensure safety and to organise suitable lodgings/camping, food and porters (you really wont want to carry everything yourself to these heights).


Routes which reach the summit include:

  • The Machame route (from the southwest) to the summit, which requires camping so is less heavily used than the Manangu route. It reaches altitude fairly quickly, but then leaves more time to reach the final ascent, which aids acclimatisation. 
  • The Manangu (or "Cola Cola") route (from the east) is the shortest route to the summit with huts all the way. It is heavily used, with crowded huts and a nose bum slog at the end. Avoid if you can.
  • The Shira and Lemosho routes which approach from the west and can be extended to create an almost leisurely ascent and crossing. The more direct Mweka and Umbwe routes from the South are also available, ascending steeply through the cast cliffs of the Western Breach. All these routes involve camping.


Remember: the slower you ascend, the less miserable it will be at the end. Most of the above routes can be extended or linked up to create longer ascents and crossings of the high shoulders of the volcano. If you are not aiming at an eventual ascent of the summit, you are even freer to choose varied and discursive routes of the (relatively) lower slopes.

Possibly the best route of all - if you have the time and the money to take more time in the ascent - is Nature Discovery's (see Natural High Safaris; ascend the western flank, then walk around the little-frequented northern slopes, to the ravishing Mewenzi tarn, below Kilimanjaro's shattered second peak, then across the desert saddle and up to the summit. organise an expedition here : we have travelled with Tourdust, and were delighted. They were very nice and flexible to deal with, and evidently cared about quality, as their walk was meticulously prepared and our support team were outstanding in every way. We are proud to be their partners.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.


We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Kili as Earth Mother - her flanks support rain and cloud forest to 9,500ft - © Arabella Cecil

share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Footsteps crunching across the solafluction - © Arabella Cecil...

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