60 Killer Facts about Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most iconic and recognizable mountains. This Tanzanian giant has featured prominently in explorers’ accounts, literature, and films.

Below you’ll find all kinds of fun interesting, and surprising facts about Mount Kilimanjaro!

General Mt. Kilimanjaro Facts

  • Mt. Kilimanjaro is located in the northeastern corner of Tanzania, with the Tanzania-Kenya border running right along its northern and eastern side. Along with the Serengeti, it is the most popular of the things to do in Tanzania.
  • At 5895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing (not part of a range) mountain in the world, totally surrounded by plains.
  • The mountain rises 4877 m (16,001 ft) above the surrounding plains.
  • Kilimanjaro is a dormant stratovolcano (built up by layers/strato of volcanic ash, lava, and rock). It is one of the largest volcanoes in the world.
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro is the 4th most topographically prominent peak in the world, after Mount Everest, Aconcagua, and Denali. Topographical prominence measures how far one would have to climb down a mountain before ascending an even higher one.
Snowy summit of Kilimanjaro with clouds around it
Snow on the crater of Kilimanjaro
  • Kilimanjaro is three degrees (about 330 km/186 mi) south of the equator, a similar latitude to Borneo and the Amazon Rainforest.
  • The mountain is one of the few places in the world where snow can be seen so close to the equator.
  • The origins of the name “Kilimanjaro” are disputed, but it most likely comes from “kilima”, which means mountain in Swahili, and “njaro”, which means white in the Wachagga language, after its ever-white peak.
Scene of Mt. Kilimanjaro from the Lion King with elephants walking at bottom
Kilimanjaro as seen in The Lion King
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro can be seen in The Lion King and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
  • There is a safari-style ride called Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida.

Mt. Kilimanjaro Natural Facts

  • Kilimanjaro has three distinct cones: Kibo, the main summit (5895 m/19,341 ft), Mawenzi (5,149 m/16,893 ft), and Shira (4,005 m/13,140 ft). Much of Shira has collapsed into a plateau.
  • Mawenzi and Shira are extinct volcanoes, while Kibo is dormant (meaning it could someday erupt again).
The summit of Mawenzi and Kibo on Mount Kilimanjaro
Kibo and Mawenzi peaks of Kilimanjaro
  • Kibo is 24 km (15 mi) wide at Saddle Plateau, a plateau between Kibo and Mawenzi.
  • There is a large crater in the Kibo cone. Thus the peak of Kilimanjaro is the highest point on the rim of this crater, named Uhuru Peak.
  • Uhuru Peak is a part of an escarpment of 180 to 200 m (590 to 660 ft) cliffs rising up the south rim side of the crater (visible on let side of the crater in the above photo).
Sign standing at Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro
Summit sign at Uhuru Peak
  • Although 5895 meters (19,341 feet) has been the official height of Mt. Kilimanjaro since a survey in 1952, other readings since then have ranged from 5892 m/19,331 ft (1999) to 5902 m/19,364 ft (2008).
  • A sign at Uhuru peaks states the official figure, 5895 m (19,341 ft).
  • The crater contains a caldera formed by the collapse of the former peak, as well as several gas-emitting fumaroles.
  • Within the caldera there is an inner cone, and within that cone there is another crater called Reusch Crater. And within that crater, there is a 350-meter-deep ash pit, a circular sunken pit that contains yellow sulfur around its rim.
A huge circular ash pit inside Reusch Crater on the summit of Kilimanjaro
The ash pit inside Reusch Crater
  • A huge ice cap measuring 400 km2 (150 mi2) covered Kilimanjaro until the end of the last ice age.
  • Currently there is less than 2 km2 (1.77 mi2) of ice remaining at the summit.
  • Almost all of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers and ice fields are expected to disappear in the next 15 years.
A glacier near the summit of Kilimanjaro
Glacier near the summit
  • A number of rivers and streams flow down from Kilimanjaro, especially on the south side of the mountain.
  • Winds on Kilimanjaro tend to flow upslope in the daytime and downslope at night.
A elephant feeding with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background
An elephant near Kilimanjaro
  • Although large animals are rare on the mountain itself, elephants, cape buffalos, zebras, leopards, and hyenas have been seen on its lower slopes.
  • The Kilimanjaro shrew and a chameleon called Kinyongia tavetana are native to Kilimanjaro and the area around it.
  • Maize, wheat, beans, and sunflowers are grown on the foothills around Mt. Kilimanjaro, while coffee is grown between 1000 m (3300 ft) and 1800 m (5,900 ft).
Giant groundsel plants on the slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro
Giant groundsel, a rare plant found only on Kilimanjaro
  • Kilimanjaro has rainy seasons in March to May and in November. This is also when snow usually falls on the summit.
  • The average temperature on the summit of Kilimanjaro is −7°C (19°F).

Facts about Kilimanjaro National Park

  • It is the fourth most visited national park in Tanzania, with 75,297 visitors in 2019. It was surpassed by Serengeti (472,705), Tarangire (288,645), and Lake Manyara (213,395).
Umbwe gate sign with various distances listed on it
Umbwe Gate in Kilimanjaro National Park
  • The national park encompasses the entire mountain plus six montane forest corridors around it. These forests act as a buffer zone to the mountain.
  • The national park was created in 1973 and expanded to include more forest zones in 1987.
  • The park is currently 775.75 km2 (292 mi2) in size.
A cluster of tents on the side of Kilimanjaro
Trekkers overnighting at Shira camp on the way up Kilimanjaro
  • Kilimanjaro National Park brings in more than USD50 million per year.
  • About 1/3rd of visitors to the national park climb Kilimanjaro.
  • Over 10,000 local guides, cooks, and porters work in the park.

Historical and Climbing Facts

  • The oldest rocks that make up Kilimanjaro are about 3 million years old.
  • Shira peak began erupting 2.5 million years ago, while Kibo (today’s tallest peak) and Mawenzi Peak did around 1 million years ago.
A sign on a rock pointing out the direction to various natural scenic spots on Kilimanjaro
Natural sights on Kilimanjaro
  • Kilimanjaro last erupted 150,000 to 200,000 years ago.
  • Kilimanjaro was mentioned by several non-African explorers as early as the 1st century CE.
  • In 1848, German missionary Johannes Rebmann was most likely the first European to see the mountain, while Karl Klaus von der Decken made a failed attempt to climb it in 1861.
  • In 1899, German geology professor Hans Meyer and mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller became the first to reach the highest point of Kilimanjaro. They were also the first to see the mountain’s crater.
Some tents among rocks near the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro
The final camp before the summit of Kilimanjaro
  • In 1989, the organizers of a 100-year celebration of the first summit of Kilimanjaro awarded certificates (posthumously) to the Africans who helped Meyer and Purtscheller reach the summit. One of them may have been with them when they summited.    
  • Today there are seven different hiking routes up Kilimanjaro, taking 5 to 9 days.
  • Anne Lorimor (age 89) is the oldest person to climb Kilimanjaro, in 2019, while the youngest was Ashleen Mandrick (age 6) in 2018.
Two book covers by Ernest Hemingway that feature Mt. Kilimanjaro
Hemingway’s short story and book about Kilimanjaro
  • The fastest return ascent of Kilimanjaro was 6 hours and 42 minutes, by Karl Egloff in 2014 (from Umbwe Gate, at 1600 m/5249 ft).
  • In 2007, wheelchair user Bernard Goosen made it to the summit, while in 2018 Kyle Maynard, who has no forearms or lower legs, crawled to the summit without assistance.
  • In 2011, a couple got married on the summit of Kilimanjaro.
  • The world’s highest cricket match took place at 5752 m (18,871 ft) on Kilimanjaro in 2014. The charity event raised over £80,000.
Some trekkers on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with the summit sign, in silhouette
Hikers on the summit of Kilimanjaro
  • 2/3 of those who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro make it to the summit, and 3/4 of them experience symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • About 1 out of every 10,000 people who climb Mt. Kilimanjaro die. More than half of the deaths are from altitude sickness.

For more fun mountain tidbits, read these facts about Mt. Fuji in Japan!