Enjoying The View From Kilimanjaro
Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa – and the world! At 19, 341 feet, this free-standing mountain is a hiking mecca for dedicated trekkers. But for many people who undertake a Kilimanjaro hiking tour, the view from the top of Kilimanjaro is the main goal. Instead of enjoying the scenery along the way, they focus on the view from the top of the mountain. Today, we’re going to take you on a scenic tour of Kilimanjaro – from the base of the mountain to the top!
The Unique Climate Zones Of Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is made up of five unique climate zones: the Cultivation Zone, the Forest Zone, the Heath-Moorland Zone, the Alpine Desert Zone, and the Arctic Summit Zone. Hikers pass through all of these zones during Kilimanjaro trekking tours, no matter which route up the mountain they follow. From tropical forest to the arctic tundra of the summit, a Kilimanjaro hiking tour can be compared to walking from the equator to the North Pole!
Zone #1 – The Cultivation Zone
The lower climate zone of Kilimanjaro National Park is a bushland zone where coffee and banana cultivation thrive. Kilimanjaro is famous for its single-origin coffee, and plantation tours are a popular outing among visitors to the region. However, this isn't a section of the park that you walk during a Kilimanjaro hiking tour. All of the trailheads start higher up the mountain, so your tour operator will drive you through this zone to the start of your chosen trail.
- Altitude: 2,600 to 6,000 feet
- Temperature range (days): 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperature range (nights): 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit
Zone #2 – The Forest Zone
This zone often surprises hikers. The base of Mount Kilimanjaro is ringed in a thick rainforest, where trees are covered in moss called “old man’s beard” and the forest floor is shrouded in lush undergrowth. There are even many flowers to see at this elevation. The most unique is the Kilimanjaro impatiens. This rare, red-and-yellow flower can only be found at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and only those who are brave enough to sign up for a Kilimanjaro trekking tour can see it.
- Altitude: 6,000 – 9,200 feet
- Temperature range (days) – 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperature range (nights) – 40 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Zone #3 – The Heath-Moorland Zone
The forest seems to stop abruptly as you enter the heath and moorland zone, which is characterized by scrubby shrubs, giant heathers, and tussok grasses at the lowest elevation. As you begin your ascent and the temperatures drop, you’ll see giant lobelias and senecios. These plants have developed unique characteristics to allow them to thrive in drastic temperature swings. Few animals live in this zone, although hikers have seen eland, small antelope, and an occasional elephant. At this elevation, you are above the tops of the trees! Mist often covers this mountain zone in the mornings, making the views during your climb magical.
- Altitude: 9,200 to 11,000 feet
- Temperature range (day): 50 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperature range (night): 30 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Zone #4 – The Alpine Desert Zone
As you cross into the Alpine Desert Zone on your Kilimanjaro hiking tour, the landscape becomes more inhospitable and you begin to feel like a true trekker. The landscape is dominated by rugged rock formations and panoramic views. Mosses and lichens cover the rocks, avoiding the soil but thriving in this harsh environment. There’s very little water at this elevation and even less rain. You may see an occasional antelope during your trek in this zone, but it is very rare.
- Altitude: 13,200 to 16,500 feet
- Temperature range (day): 10 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperature range (night): 10 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit
Zone #5 – Arctic Summit Zone
Kilimanjaro’s view from the top is close! But first, you have to brave the intense daylight sun and the freezing temperatures at night. This zone is dominated by huge glaciers and large boulders, with half the available oxygen as you had at the beginning of your Kilimanjaro hiking tour. No animals or plant life can survive in this zone, where cold, blustery winds howl and ice and snow cover the ground. From here, you will begin your final summit attempt to Uhuru Peak, where you will be able to look out from the top of Africa over the plains below!
- Altitude: 16,500 to 19,340 feet
- Temperature range (day): 10 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperature range (night): -15 – 20 degrees Fahrenheit
A Summit Sunrise Surprise On Kilimanjaro
Most people are surprised to find out that on the day you summit Mount Kilimanjaro, you will start this portion of your Kilimanjaro hiking tour at midnight. There are two reasons for this: the distance you need to cover on summit day is the greatest total distance covered in one day. Once you reach the summit, you still have to hike back down to camp for the night! And two, a sunrise surprise. One of the best reasons for taking such an early start is that you will have a perfect view east to see the sunrise. This view from the top of Kilimanjaro is the prize hikers seek. From there, you can rest easy knowing you’ve succeeded in reaching the top of Kilimanjaro – and the top of Africa – before you make your way back down the mountain