Mount Kilimanjaro is a currently inactive strato-volcano in northern Tanzania, near the border with Kenya. At 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) above sea level, Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest peak and the world's highest free-standing mountain. As such - and aided by its relatively easy ascent - Kilimanjaro has become a major destination for mountaineers and trekkers from around the world.
Although positioned close to the Equator (330 km south), Mount Kilimanjaro is famous as Africa's snow-capped mountain looming over the plains of the savannah. In recent years, however, the snows have been fast disappearing. Kilimanjaro National Park protects the area above 2,700 metres (8,850 ft), on the mountain and includes the moorland and highland zones, Shira Plateau, Kibo and Mawenzi peaks.
The Park also has six corridors or rights of way through the Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve. The Forest Reserve, which is also a Game Reserve, was established in 1921; the Park was established in 1973 and officially opened in 1977.
The landscape on Kilimanjaro is very beautiful. The mountain can be divided into 5 climatic zones, each with its own fauna and flora. The lower reaches of the mountain are dominated by evergreen forests. At approx. 3,000m the landscape starts to change into a shrub land setting. At around 4,000m the landscape becomes very arid and rocky, similar to a lunar landscape.
The fourth zone consists of a very fine glacial scree / silt dessert setting. The top of Kilimanjaro is partially snow-capped with large glaciers interspersed between the volcanic craters. The glaciers have been receding over the past 40 years, though.
There are seven official trekking routes by which to ascend and descend Mount Kilimanjaro: Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Mweka, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe. Of all the routes, Machame is considered the most scenic, albeit steeper, route. It can be done in six or seven days. The Rongai is the easiest and least scenic of all camping routes. The Marangu is also relatively easy, but this route tends to be very busy, the ascent and descent routes are the same, and accommodation is in shared huts with all other climbers.