Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano that burst forth from the surrounding landscape about a million years ago. It is the tallest free-standing, meaning that it is not part of a mountain range, on Earth and stands 5895 metres tall looking down on the Tanzanian plains that surround it.
As well as being one of the most recognisable mountains on Earth, those snow-packed peaks are also relatively easy to access, which means that it makes it onto the bucket lists of thousands of people every year as well as those wanting to not only challenge themselves but also maybe raise some money for charity in the process. A typical year sees around 20,000 people attempting the trek.
Getting to the base of the mountain is an experience in itself and would-be trekkers might be surprised to learn that on the way to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro you will actually pass through five separate ecosystems. You will start off for example surrounded by green lush forest which is full of wildlife and numerous different species of plant life. There are even leopards and elephants in the area but the disturbance created by human traffic making their way to the mountain means that you will be very lucky to see them. As the elevation rises towards the summit, the greenery gives way to a more baron landscape which may make you feel like you are in a science fiction movie as the surroundings feel more like a moonscape than a landscape.
There are seven different routes that can be taken, but not all are recommended for the casual visitor, so be careful to seek the advice of a guide. The oldest and most direct route is called Marangu and is about a 22-mile trek and passes through grasslands and cacti fields. You will even find basic hut accommodation along this route, whereas all of the others will require you to take along your own accommodation, i.e. a tent.
The more adventurous visitor might be inclined to tackle a route known as Machame. Unlike Marangu which is direct, quick, and therefore cheaper, Machame gives you time to acclimatise at various locations. The route can be steep in places, but it is also more spectacular in terms of the scenery as you will be passing through forests, moorlands and deserts before climbing onto the glacier fields.
If solitude is your thing and you want to avoid the crowds on the other routes, an option would be to go for the Rongai route. Its starting point near the Kenyan border and the eight days or so that it takes to complete the journey mean that it attracts fewer visitors but it will enable you to spot various wildlife such as elephants and antelope.
Whichever route you plan to take, make sure that you seek the advice of a guide to ensure that the route is within your capabilities and budget and make sure you take all of the correct equipment with you. However, once all the planning and preparation has been done, when you actually get around to completing the journey you will not be disappointed.
Best time to go: May to October for the best weather and warmer water