Where is Kilimanjaro and How to Get There

What’s the size of Texas plus Colorado and fits the population of California, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico? Tanzania.

Where is Kilimanjaro?

The beautiful nation of Tanzania is the 31st largest in the world, and 13th largest out of 54 in Africa. Located on the east African coast, Tanzania incorporates 3 islands, including Zanzibar, and is home to the continent’s lowest and highest points:

  • Lake Tanganyika, its floor at 4826 ft (1471 m) below sea level. That’s 17X deeper than Death Valley, the lowest point in the United States.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro, its peak at 19,341 ft (5895 m) above sea level.

Incredible!

Kilimanjaro lies in the Northeast region, merely a 40-minute flight from Nairobi airport in neighboring Kenya, and 190 miles (300 km) south of the equator. Due to its proximity to the equator, there are 2 seasons here: long rains (March-May) and short rains (Oct-Dec).

50 miles (80 km) east is the tectonically active Rift Valley, a breathtaking series of trenches running from Lebanon all the way down to Mozambique. We’ll go there on Day 8.

Our porters were mainly from Moshi, the capital of the Kilimanjaro region, one of 31 administrative regions in the country. While the national language is Swahili, over 120 tribes preside and 100+ languages are spoken.

Following German and British colonial rule, the United Republic of Tanzania gained independence and was established in 1964.

Map of Tanzania: bordered by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33843808

The most straightforward transportation I would recommend is flight.

Let me break down a few options depending on which continent you are traveling from.

From the US:

Kenya Airways operates direct flights from JFK to NBO (Nairobi), followed by a 1 hour (40 minutes in the air, really) flight from NBO to JRO (Kilimanjaro). We took the KQ 3 out of JFK on Sunday midday and the KQ 426 out of Nairobi to land in Kilimanjaro by 2:30pm the next day. Expect to spend $1100-1300 USD.

JFK – JRO sample flight

From Europe:

There are several combinations of flights you can take to reach Kili. Layovers include Amsterdam, Switzerland, to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. From London, roundtrip flights range from $600-900 USD.

LHR – JRO sample flight

From Asia:

Assuming departure from Hong Kong, it takes around the same amount of time to reach Kili as it does from New York City. Depending on your airline, expect layovers in Doha, Addis Ababa, or Nairobi. Roundtrip flights range from $800-1000.

HKG – JRO sample flight

From other African nations:

Flights within Africa were surprising expensive relative to distance. However, don’t lose the opportunity to visit nearby countries. From Botswana to South Africa and the Zanzibar Archipelago, you’re spoiled for choice.

On arrival in JRO

Our guide from Everlasting Tanzania picked us up in a comfy bus and took us on a 1.5-hour ride to Arusha, the neighboring region to Kilimanjaro, for a one-night rest at Ilboru Safari Lodge.

You can grab a taxi for $50-70 USD to Arusha or Moshi, the closest cities to the Kilimanjaro trailhead, assuming you take the Machame Route up. Local services generally accept US dollars. Otherwise, exchange $1 USD for roughly 2250 Tanzanian shillings.

Cruising into the bustling, bumpy road in Arusha that led into our lodge.
Arusha locals sell their wares outside my window and wave to me. I was impressed by the density of salons, over 15 on one long street.

At Ilboru, we repacked our big bags, dropping excess belongings we didn’t need on the mountain, briefed with our head guide Saidi – who was to become our mountain dad for the next 7 days – and laid down for one final sleep before our ascent kicked off the next morning.

So it begins.

Day 0 Evening: Our head guide, Saidi, briefs our group on the Machame route (middle bottom red line) to Uhuru Peak under dramatic lighting and to electric anticipation before bedtime

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