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Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa

 

Everest in Asia, Aconcagua in South America or Mount McKinley in North America are just a few of the famous Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each continent, which are a challenge for many. At 5895m, and located in northeastern Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is the roof of Africa. This impressive mountain is actually made up of Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo. Three solitary volcanoes that have formed a unique ecosystem full of contrasts, where savannah and rainforest coexist with glaciers, deserts and alpine landscapes. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Kilimanjaro National Park attracts thousands of people every year eager to summit Uhuru Peak on Kibo, the highest of the three volcanoes. Today we want to tell you everything you need to know to climb Kilimanjaro: how to get to the roof of Africa?

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro how to get to the roof of Africa

Climbing Kilimanjaro how to get to the roof of Africa-CC/Yosemite

 

How to travel to Kilimanjaro

 

As you know, Kilimanjaro is in northeastern Tanzania, just a few kilometres from the Kenyan border. Flights to Kilimanjaro usually arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport, with Moshi or Arusha being the main starting points. There are other possibilities that are probably cheaper, but you will most likely have to make stopovers.

 

The visa

A visa is required to enter Tanzania. Fortunately, we can skip the tedious procedures of applying in person and apply online using the E-Visa electronic visa. The E-Visa is the equivalent of the traditional visa, the only difference being that the E-Visa is applied for online. Although it is always preferable to apply well in advance, most electronic visas are validated within a few hours, while traditional visas can take weeks. To apply for it, once we have our round-trip tickets, we must fill in a form providing all the information requested, and if all the requirements are met, after making the corresponding payment, we will receive the visa directly by e-mail. All we have to do is print it out and carry it with us for the duration of our stay, which cannot last more than 30 days. With the​ electronic visa for Tanzania, you can access Kilimanjaro International Airport, but it also allows you to enter Tanzania through the border crossing with Kenya (Namamga).

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro how to get to the roof of Africa

Kilimanjaro-CC/Bkmiles

 

Other aspects to be taken into account

There are no vaccinations required to enter Tanzania from Spain, although it is advisable to visit an international vaccination centre for advice on which vaccinations are recommended for this trip. Bear in mind that the ascent of Kilimanjaro cannot be done on your own. It is compulsory to hire a local guide and porters, which is why the vast majority of people book closed packages with specialised agencies. Another important aspect is the need to have a good travel insurance, a specific insurance that covers the type of activity you are going to do.

 

When to go, what to bring and how to prepare?

The best time to go to Kilimanjaro is during the dry months of December to March and June to October. The biggest problem you will encounter in these months is the large number of people attempting the climb.

In general, the company with which you contract the activity will give you a list of the material you must carry, which should not exceed 15kg in weight. But don't panic, in your backpack during the ascent you will only carry the essentials, the rest will be carried by the porters.

Physical preparation along with acclimatisation is essential if you want to have a chance of summiting Uhuru Peak. It is therefore important that you train for mountain hikes, at altitude and over a certain distance, so that your body is better prepared for the effort and the lack of oxygen that altitude brings with it.

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro how to get to the roof of Africa

Porters-CC/Clay Junell

 

The best route to climb Kilimanjaro

 

As you might have guessed, there are several routes to climb the roof of Africa, and there are six common routes to climb Kilimanjaro. Each of them has its own characteristics in terms of difficulty, length, price, beauty and, of course, success rate. In reality there is no best route to climb Kilimanjaro, nor is there the worst, rather it is factors such as your experience, your physical condition, the time and money you have available as well as your tastes that will determine which route is best for you. Climbing Kilimanjaro can take anywhere from 5 to 9 days, depending on the route you choose, and this will affect the price and success rate.

 

The Marangu Route

Many people think that Marangu is the best and easiest way to climb Kilimanjaro, in fact it is known as the Coca-Cola Route. Its attractions include hut accommodation and a short, uncomplicated ascent. But statistics show that only 30% of the people who attempt it reach the summit, and altitude sickness is one of the main factors that affect the ascent of Kili.

 

Kilimanjaro climbing routes map

Kilimanjaro climbing routes map-CC/Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes and Huts photomap fr.svg: Sémhur

 

The Machame Route

Slightly more demanding than the previous one, it is perhaps even more popular and therefore very crowded. Known as the Whisky Route, it takes in beautiful scenery and passes through such iconic places as the Shira Plateau, Lava Tower and Barranco Wall. With an extra day's expedition this route has a higher success rate due to better acclimatisation, giving it the relative title of the best route up Kilimanjaro for many.

 

The Lemosho Route

Lemosho is probably the most beautiful route to summit the Kili. Its relatively new route was designed with acclimatisation in mind, taking eight days to complete, as long as we can afford the cost, otherwise we can always do it in six days but the success rate will be reduced. This route joins the route with Machame to crown the mountain together.

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro how to get to the roof of Africa

Climbing Kilimanjaro-CC/Ben Cane

 

The Rongai Route

Not very crowded, very advisable given its orientation if you go out of season when the rains are the protagonists, less physically and technically demanding and with a rugged landscape in the middle of nature. These are the calling cards of this route, which also gives us the opportunity to acclimatise properly. All this gives it the title of the easiest route to climb Kilimanjaro, although to think that climbing a mountain of 5895m is easy is probably the first mistake.

 

The Umbwe Route

If Rongai is the easiest, Umbwe is arguably the most difficult. It is not because of its technical difficulty, as it is not a route that stands out excessively in this section. It is because of the direct of the ascent and the exposed nature of some of the steps, which make it a hard and demanding itinerary reserved for prepared and experienced mountaineers, although the final stretch coincides with the course of the Machame route.

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro how to get to the roof of Africa

Camp-CC/Stig Nygaard

 

The Shira Route

This itinerary does not give a moment of respite, the first day takes us to an altitude of 3500m, a fact that for many people can be a problem of acclimatisation. The route allows us to discover this mountain from another perspective. As in other cases it ends up merging with the Machame route.

 

The Northern Circuit Route

I know you are now wondering, didn't you tell me there were 6 routes? Yes, there are indeed six routes, although there are variants and other less known or less followed routes. The Northern Circuit Route is just over 90 km long and is the longest in terms of both distance and time. Its route initially coincides with that of Lemosho, but halfway round the summit on its north side, crossing the Rongai route and conquering Uhuru Peak from the east, via Marangu. This route not only allows us to get to know Kilimanjaro in more depth, but also offers us a much higher success rate than the others, but also a higher cost.

 

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