Kilimanjaro National Park

The largest freestanding volcanic mass in the world

Country: Tanzania | Type: Natural | Theme: MountainNatural Landscape

Introduction to Kilimanjaro National Park Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 meters, is the highest point in the African continent and largest freestanding volcanic mass in the entire world.  On a clear day, it can be seen from over 100 miles away.  That National Park surrounding the mountain covers approximately 75,575 ha.  The mountain is noted as a breathtaking natural phenomenon; its snowy peak is a stark contrast to the surrounding plains.  A forest also encircles the mountain, harboring numerous species of animals.  Mammals are particularly abundant and many species are endangered. The mountain has three main volcanic peaks: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira.   The oldest peak is Shira, which is a relatively flat plateau on the western side of the mountain.  The Mawenzi Peak is located on the eastern side and is rugged due to erosion.  Kibo is the most recent of the peaks, consisting of two craters.

The main draw of Kilimanjaro National Park is, of course, the mountain itself.  It is one of the most accessible high summits in the world.  Many people are able to reach the crater of the mountain without much equipment other than proper clothing and a walking stick.  However, to reach higher locations such as Uhuru Point, the summit of the mountain, or Gillman’s Point is much more challenging.

If you plan on climbing to the summit or other high points of the mountain, it is important to keep a few things in mind.  Firstly, the lighter your travel, the easier you climb will be.  Go slowly as you climb and be sure to drink plenty of water.  Bring proper clothing and dress in layers, as temperatures atop the mountain can be as low as 25 degrees Celsius.  Also, be familiar with the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which results from exposure to high altitudes.  Nearly 70 percent of climbers experience some form of AMS.

When planning a visit to the park, it is wise to keep the weather in mind.  Tanzania has two rainy two seasons: the monsoon period or rainy period and the short rainy period.  The monsoon period lasts from late March until June and can produce heavy downpours as well as powerful storms.  The short rainy period runs from November to mid January, although the rains tend to be less severe. It you want to avoid the rains, you probably want to plan your trip outside one of these two time periods.

Several different tour groups offer guided climbing of Mount Kilimanjaro.  If you want to undertake the climb all the way up the mountain, it is wise, for safety’s sake, to hire a guide.  Guided climbs to higher points on the mountains can take up to six days.

Mount Kilimanjaro began to form about one million years ago.  Originally, there was most likely a river where the mountain now is.  However, the formation of the Great Rift Valley approximately two or three millions years ago caused fractures to form in the earth’s crust.  This allowed volcanoes to begin forming, giving rise to Kilimanjaro and other volcanoes in the region.

About three quarters of a million years ago Mawenzia, Kibo, and Shira began to form as lava broke through the surface.  Of the three, Shira became extinct first, the northeast side becoming covered from Kibo eruptions.  Erosion caused a plateau to form.  Mawenzi and Kibo continued to be active volcanic formations, their lava forming what is commonly referred to as the Saddle of Kilimanjaro, a plateau-like formation between Kibo and Mawenzi.  When Mawenzi became extinct, its center collapsed and lava crept through crags, giving this part of the mountain its characteristic jagged and eroded look.

By air:

The two major airports in Tanzania are Kilimanjaro International Airport and Dar es Salaam International Airport.  Carriers that fly into Tanzania include British Airways, SA Alliance, Swiss Air, Gulf Air, and Emirates.  In addition, charter flights are available from Zanzibar, Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi, and Kilimanjaro from the following charter airlines: Kenya Airways, Regional Air, Air Kenya, and Precision Air.

Key Facts

Nearest City:Moshi
Coordinates: Lat: -3.0667, Long: 37.3667


  • Highest point on the African continent
  • Largest freestanding volcanic mass in the entire world
  • Contains three main volcanic peaks
  • One of the most accessible high summits in the entire world
  • Many tours and guides are available for climbing the mountain
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