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A snowy mountain on the distant horizon is a rare sight in Africa. Yet Mount Kilimanjaro is just as African as the lions and giraffes. Because of its privileged location, the Roof of Africa is very popular with hikers and climbers. Those who would rather not undertake the long journey to the summit can still enjoy the spectacular landscape around it.
Mount Kilimanjaro in fact comprises 3 volcanoes, and along with the surrounding area became part of the Kilimanjaro National Park in 1973. Today, the park covers 75,575 hectares with rainforest, highland deserts and glaciers. The highest peak (at an altitude of 5,895 metres) towers 5 kilometres above the surrounding landscape, earning Mount Kilimanjaro the title of the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is accessible to anyone who has a good level of fitness, although it is a long climb to the top. The summit sits at an elevation of almost 6 km and the surrounding landscape lies at an average altitude of 900 metres. Climbing gear is not required and most people reach the edge of the crater with no more than a walking stick along the gradually ascending trail. However, warm clothes and perseverance are essential. Although the spectacular route up starts in the tropics, it will end in the snow. In the green forests at the bottom you will find elephants, leopards, monkeys and buffalo; at the top expect only the most weather-resistant vegetation and lichens that manage to cling to the bare rocks. Even the easiest route requires at least 5 days and nights, allowing walkers to gradually adjust to the altitude. And it would be a shame to rush as the landscape and the views along the way deserve just as much attention as the highest summit, Uhuru Point.
Of course not everyone wishes to reach the snowy summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The slopes of this stratovolcano offer plenty of attractions and activities. The many hiking trails in the lower regions of the park are the most accessible. With a 4-wheel drive vehicle one can also visit the Shira Plateau, known for its rich fauna. Anglers will be thrilled to cast their fishing rod and catch some trout in the turquoise waters of Lake Chala on the eastern side of the park.
Kilimanjaro National Park