17 Fascinating Facts About Mount Kilimanjaro

One of the most amazing mountains in the world can be found in the east of Africa.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Mount Kilimanjaro.

1. Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous mountains in the world and is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, a country in the east of Africa that borders the Indian Ocean.

The mountain is located in the northeast of the country and over 500 kilometers (350 miles) to the northwest from the country’s capital Dar es Salaam.

facts about mount kilimanjaro

2. It’s the highest mountain in Africa

The summit of the mountain, which is called “Uhuru Peak,” stands 5,899 meters (19,354 feet) above sea level. This doesn’t just make it the tallest mountain in Tanzania but also the tallest mountain in all of Africa as well!

This also means it’s one of the so-called “7 summits,” the tallest mountains of each of the 7 continents in the world!

One of the most interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro is that the original height based on a British survey in 1952 was 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), and new measurement techniques have determined the height to be different.

Kilimanjaro height

3. It holds another amazing record as well

Apart from being the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is also the highest single free-standing mountain in the world, this for the fact that it’s not part of a mountain range.

It’s located on a plateau and stands about 4,900 meters (16,100 feet) above its plateau base.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the fourth most topographically prominent peak on Earth as it has topographical isolation of 5,510 kilometers (3,420 miles).

Mount Kilimanjaro Plateau

4. It’s a dormant volcano

The mountain is a composite volcano that is considered to be dormant at the moment. The first eruptive activity is believed to have started about 2.5 million years ago.

The last important eruptive phase happened about 1.9 million years ago, resulting in the northern peak of the volcano collapsing.

5. The volcano consists of 3 cones

Another one of those fascinating facts about Mount Kilimanjaro is that the volcano actually consists of 3 distinctive cones:

  • Shira – The lowest at a height of 4,005 meters (13,140 feet).
  • Mawenzi – At a height of at 5,149 meters (16,893 feet).
  • Kibo – Contains the Uhuru Peak at 5,899 meters (19,354 feet)

Only Kibo is believed to be dormant and both Shira and Mawenzi are extinct.

Kibo and Mawenzi from the air
Kibo and Mawenzi cones. / Source

6. The highest cone might erupt again

The fact that Kibo is dormant means that it’s very possible that he might erupt again in the future. The last activity is believed to have happened between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago.

That’s also when the current crater of Kibo was created. The flanks of the crater stand between 180 and 200 meters (590 and 660 feet) tall and the volcano’s cone is pretty much symmetrical.

The caldera of Kibo is about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) in diameter.

7. Kibo has over 250 additional cones on its flank

One of the most amazing facts about Mount Kilimanjaro is that the northwest and southeast flanks of Kibo are covered with over 250 of what is referred to as “parasitic cones.”

These cone-shaped accumulations of volcanic materials were formed at the same time that the last eruption of the volcano took place, and create a remarkable sight today!

Kibo from the air
Kibo / Paul Shaffner / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

8. A German was the first man to reach the summit

After two previous unsuccessful attempts to reach the summit in 1861 and 1871, German geographer Has Meyer was the first to achieve this goal in the year 1889.

Together with Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller he reached the summit on October 6 of that year and were the first non-Africans to confirm that Kibo indeed has a crater.

Must have been a pretty amazing moment, don’t you think?

Hans Meyer

9. A remarkable discovery was made 100 years after the first ascent

In the year 1989, the 100-year anniversary of the first ascent by Hans Meyer and his team was celebrated. The Africans who assisted Meyer to reach the top were awarded posthumous certificates.

As the celebrants were checking pictures of the events 100 years earlier, they saw that one of the African guides resembled a man they actually know and who as still alive at the time named Yohani Kinyala Lauwo.

Could it be that this man was one of the guides assisting Meyer in 1889?

He didn’t know how old he was and didn’t remember Meyer but did mention that he assisted a Dutchman living in the area to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and the fact that he didn’t wear any shoes while making the ascent!

Without absolute certainty, the committee believed he was one of the guides, which means he must have been born around 1871 and 118 years old in 1889, pretty astounding!

kilimanjaro facts

10. Mount Kilimanjaro used to have a German name

Did you know that Tanzania was formed in the year 1964 and was actually part of a German colony before that?

German East Africa became a colony of Germany in the late 1880s, about at the time that Meyer succeeded to reach the top. When he did, he renamed the mountain Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze (Kaiser Wilhelm peak), named for German Emperor Wilhelm II who ruled from 1888 until 1918.

One of the most remarkable facts about Mount Kilimanjaro is that the mountain had this name until 1964 after which it was changed to its current name. The highest peak was also named “Uhuru Peak” then which means “Freedom Peak” in Kiswahili.

11. The foot of the mountain is covered in cloud forests

Mount Kilimanjaro has several layers of vegetation based on height. The lowest part is for the most part covered in cloud forests, spread over an area of 1,000 square kilometers (250,000 acres).

Kilimanjaro forests

12. It’s freezingly cold at the summit

Mount Kilimanjaro has several climate zones based on the level of elevation:

Bushland: 800 – 1,800 meters (2,600 – 5,900 feet)
Rainforest Zone: 1,800 – 2,800 meters (5,900 – 9,200 feet)
Heather / Moorland: 2,800 – 4,000 meters (9,200 – 13,100 feet)
Alpine Desert Zone: 4,000 – 5,000 meters (13,100 – 16,400 feet)
Arctic Zone: 5,000 – 5,899 meters (16,400 – 19,354 feet)

The mountain also has two distinct rainy seasons, between March and May, and in November. A lot more rain falls on the northern slope than on the southern as well.

The summit area of the mountain is extremely cold as the average yearly temperature is about −7 °C (19 °F)!

Kilimanjaro facts

13. The ice on the mountain is slowly disappearing

Up to about 12,000 years ago, the permanent ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro was about 400 square kilometers (150 sq mi), down to an elevation of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet).

By the time Hans Meyer made the first ascent to the summit in the late 1880s, only about 20 square kilometers (7.7 sq miles) of the permanent ice cap was left.

Between 1912 and 2011, about 85 percent of the remaining ice cap disappeared, up to just 1.76 square kilometers (0.68 sq miles) and decreasing at a rate of about 2.5 percent.

Luckily, the impact of the permanent ice cap disappearing completely, which is estimated to happen between 2040 and 2060, will be negligible for the people living in the area as the forest in the lower parts of the mountains supply the water.

14. Two animal species were named after Mountain Kilimanjaro

Not too many animals live on the mountain itself, especially not large animals. In the lower parts, and more specifically in the forests and bushland, a lot of animals can be found. These include bushbucks, chameleons, dik-diks, duikers, mongooses, sunbirds, and warthogs, as well as elephants, zebras, and hyenas.

Two specific animal species who live in the area have been named after the mountain, the “Kilimanjaro shrew,” a type of mammal resembling a hedgehog, and the chameleon species “Kilimanjaro two-horned chameleon.”

Mount kilimanjaro interesting facts elephants

15. The oldest people to climb Mount Kilimanjaro were well into their 80’s

How about that for a world record?

The oldest man to climb the mountain was an American named Robert Wheeler, who was 85 years and 201 days when he reached the summit in 2014.

The oldest woman to reach the summit has earned the Guinness World Record though because Anne Lorimor from the United States was 89 years and 37 days when she reached the summit on July 18, 2019!

16. There are 7 different routes to reach the summit

Even though the achievement of the veterans climbing the mountain is amazing, we need to be honest and mention that climbing the mountain isn’t anything like climbing a mountain in the Himalayas or the Andes Mountains.

The main difficulty is the cold and the height, so if you’re fit enough and have warm clothes, you can potentially make it to the top.

If you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, there are 7 trekking routes to choose from. These all have different names, Lemosho, Lemosho Western-Breach, Machame, Marangu, Mweka, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe.

Some of these routes can take up to a week to reach the top and come back, but the feeling of standing on top of the tallest mountain in Africa definitely makes it worthwhile!

summit of mount kilimanjaro
Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro / Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

17. Mount Kilimanjaro is a very popular tourist destination

The various routes and the fact that it’s relatively easy to complete the trip to the top make Mount Kilimanjaro one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tanzania.

Back in 2013, the Kilimanjaro Nation Park generated about $51 million USD in revenue and it’s estimated that about 20,000 people try to reach the summit every year.

This provides a lot of job opportunities in the area as well, as 1,000’s of guides and cooks are working in the area to accommodate the tourists who are looking for the adventure of a lifetime!

fun facts about mount kilimanjaro