Mount Kilimanjaro National Park

At 5896m Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and one of the continent’s magnificent sights, It has three main volcanic peaks, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The name itself “Kilimanjaro” is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans.

Above the gently rolling hills and plateaux of northern Tanzania rises the snowy peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it’s slopes and glaciers shimmering above the rising clouds. Kilimanjaro is located near the town of Moshi and is a protected area, carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without leaving a trace of their presence. The mountain’s ecosystems are as strikingly beautiful as they are varied and diverse. On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain is farmland, with coffee, banana, cassava, and maize crops grown for subsistence and cash sale. A few larger coffee farms still exist on the lower slopes, but much of the area outside the national park has been subdivided into small plots. Once inside the park, thick lowland forest covers the lower altitudes and breaks into alpine meadows once the air begins to thin. Near the peak, the landscape is harsh and barren, with rocks and ice the predominant features above a breathtaking African view.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highlight of most visitors’ experiences in Tanzania. Few mountains can claim the grandeur, the breathtaking views of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, and the Masaai Steppe, that belongs to Kilimanjaro. Hiking on the ‘rooftop of Africa’ — the highest point on the continent at 5896 metres — is the adventure of a lifetime, especially because, if paced well, everyone from seasoned trekkers to first-time enthusiasts can scale the snowy peak. For more information, see the ‘Mountain Climbing ‘section under ‘Things to Do.

Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don’t even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa.

Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).

Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates.

And their memories.

But there is so much more to Kili than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic.

Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated foot slopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias.


Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent.

Best things to do in Kilimanjaro region

Hike to Materuni Waterfall and swim in its pool

Materuni Waterfall is a spectacular 90 m waterfall in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro. A short but taxing hike along a forested footpath brings you to the base of the waterfall, where the water collects in a beautifully clear little pool that’s safe to swim.

During the hike there and back you pass through coffee and banana farms, as well as traverse streams and small footbridges. Keep your eyes open for monkeys, duikers, birds and other small creatures.

Go on a Kilimanjaro coffee plantation tour

The lower slopes of Kilimanjaro are a fertile farming area thanks to meltwater from its arctic summit. The coffee farmers here are famous for their 100% arabica coffee, which has a fresh flavour and smooth texture. Tours of the coffee farms are a popular post-Kilimanjaro activity – understandably, as having an expertly brewed cappuccino or americano after a week of roughing it on the mountain is just perfection!

What a tour involves

A coffee farm tour includes being shown around the farm to learn how the coffee is grown and harvested. Actually harvesting of the beans take place between July and September. If you’re there between October and November, you’ll get to see the coffee bushes in bloom, with the flowers giving off a jasmine-like fragrance. Next, you’re shown the roasting and grinding process. Often, you can take part in the process so that you can enjoy a freshly brewed coffee near the end using the beans you processed!

Meet the Chagga

At some farms employees accompany the coffee roasting process with traditional singing and dancing. It’s a wonderful experience to be exposed to the traditions of the Chagga people, a distinct and thriving people group who have lived for centuries along the southern and eastern slopes of Kilimanjaro, among other areas.

Support the local coffee industry

These farm tours help to support the Kilimanjaro coffee industry, with most of the farms being smallholdings. If you don’t have time to visit one, we highly recommend at least picking up a bag of arabica beans as the perfect souvenir of your visit to the Kilimanjaro region. 🙂

Take a dip in Kikuletwa Hot Springs

Swimming in the Kikuletwa Hot Spring is definitely one of the best things to do in Kilimanjaro region – and certainly the most relaxing! The hot spring (also known as Chemka Hot Springs for the nearby campsite) is encircled by trees, giving you a sense of being tucked away from the world and its demands.

A relaxing oasis

The hot springs is the perfect post-Kilimanjaro activity, in our opinion. All that’s required of you is to slide your weary body into the warm water and …. nothing else. 😉 You can chat with your friends and neighbours, enjoy the birdlife hopping about in the fig trees around you, and let the fingerlings (small fish) nibble the dead skin off of your feet. When you feel revitalised, swing out on the tree rope and see how many expressive shapes you can make with your body as you drop into the water!

There are also food stalls at the hot spring selling delicious hot meals and snacks, so really you can just rock up and stay as long as you want.

Visit Olpopongi Maasai Cultural Village

Visiting a Maasai village is definitely one of the best things to do in the Kilimanjaro region. The Maasai are the most famous tribe of East Africa and live in Kenya and northern Tanzania. A Nilotic ethnic group numbering around 1.5 million, they’re known for (among other things) their warrior culture and hunting prowess, thatched villages, impressive jumping dance, vibrant clothing, and intricately beaded jewellery.

Olpopongi Maasai Cultural Village & Museum

There are many Maasai villages in northern Tanzania offering welcoming and fantastic visitor experiences – tours that are run by and benefit the Maasai themselves, which is important. One such place that’s a favourite with our local leader Kazi and we can highly recommend is the Olpopongi Maasai Cultural Village & Museum on the western edge of the Kilimanjaro region. 

Mountain bike or hike in Rau Forest Reserve

Fancy mountain biking or hiking in pristine forest near the base of Mt Kilimanjaro? Rau Eco & Cultural Tourism is a community-based youth tourism enterprise that always impresses visitors. They offer well-organised mountain biking and hiking day trips through the underground water forest of Rau.

Highlights of both the biking and walking tour include:

  • Exploring the rice paddies and learning about the daily life of rice farmers
  • Passing through local villages like Mnono and Mabogini village (naturally you wander further on the bike trip than on the hiking trip)
  • Seeing black and white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys up close
  • Visit an African teak tree believed to be 196 years old that’s a sacred site of prayer among locals
  • Witnessing the many different water birds that love this catchment forest
  • Tasting local banana beer
  • Enjoying a delicious cooked lunch (a vegetarian option is available)
  • Planting a seedling as part of the enterprise’s “one trip – one tree” initiative