At 19,341 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the tallest mountain in Africa, it’s the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Mount Kilimanjaro erupted out of the Tanzanian plains more than one million years ago, forming a towering volcano that is now dormant.
Despite its impressive height, you do not need special mountaineering skills to climb Mount Kilimanjaro—or “Kili,” as its fans call it. All seven trails to the peak are hiking trails, so you will not be scaling any cliff faces as you ascend the Roof of Africa. These factors have made Kilimanjaro an accessible trek for many athletes who don’t climb. For example, it is the tallest mountain to be scaled by a person in a wheelchair.
But climbing Kilimanjaro does require fitness and patience. Air pressure and oxygen levels drop the higher you go up the mountain, making some people so sick they stop climbing. Training prior to your trip and a slow ascent of at least 6–8 days, depending on your route, can help.
Taking your time also lets you appreciate the shifting scenery as you ascend Kili. Farms and grassland dominate the foothills, followed by coffee plantations and cloud forest suffused with birdsong. Higher up, African heath is dotted with striking giant lobelias. The geometric lines of alpine desert and gleaming white glaciers adorn the mountain top.
Completing the climb in 5 days is possible for individuals who are very fit and already acclimated to high altitudes. One way to adjust is to trek up Tanzania’s Mount Meru, about 43 miles away and 14,967 feet tall, prior to climbing Kili.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is truly rewarding, not only for the sense of accomplishment but also for the beauty you encounter along the way.