One of the most popular “bucket list” destinations for avid hikers and climbers is Mount Kilimanjaro. A long-dormant volcano, Mt. Kilimanjaro boasts the highest peaks in Tanzania, as well as the entire African continent. Considered the easiest to climb of the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each continent, Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular destination for both experienced and amateur hiking hobbyists.
Uhuru Peak, at 5,895 meters above sea level, is the highest free-standing peak in Africa. Located on the volcanic cone Kibo, as part of Mt. Kilimanjaro, reaching Uhuru Peak is the end goal of 20,000-35,000 hikers each year. With beautiful scenic views of Tanzania, Uhuru is a breathtaking hike.
Also known as “Everyman’s Everest,” Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular hiking destination because making the climb is possible for hikers of all skill levels. While climbing a peak the size of Kilimanjaro is not a simple hike, with the right provisions and preparation, even a novice can reach Uhuru Peak and take in the beauty of Africa’s highest point and one of the most beautiful of the Seven Summits.
More about Uhuru Peak
Uhuru Peak is the final destination goal for tens of thousands of hikers each year who attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. For those that attempt the hike, an impressive 40% actually reach the summit. With five to eight different routes, all with varying levels of difficulty, hikers are offered guided trips up the peak, with experienced climbers available to help visitors reach their goal.
Uhuru peak meaning
Uhuru Peak is located on Kibo, which is the highest of the three peaks that make up Mount Kilimanjaro, along with Mawenzi at 5,149 meters high and Shira at 3,962 meters high. The name Uhuru is Swahili for ‘freedom’ and was given to the site back in 1961 when Tanganyika, now part of Tanzania, was granted independence from the United Kingdom.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing peak in the world, meaning it is not part of an actual mountain range. Mount Kilimanjaro is considered a stratovolcano, made up of layers of hardened lava, volcanic ash, and tephra, forming three separate volcanic peaks. Two of the peaks are considered to be extinct – Mawenzi and Shira, and the third peak, Kibo, the highest, is considered dormant but not yet extinct, with the last volcanic activity occurring approximately 200,000 years ago.
Mount Kilimanjaro is also unique due to its climate, as from base to peak, it passes through five distinct ecosystems or climates. Hikers who make the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro will pass through each of the following climates during their journey, which typically takes five to eight days:
- Alpine Desert Zone
- Arctic Zone
- Cultivation Zone
- Heather-Moorland Zone
- Rainforest Zone
The average temperatures at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s base are between 69º and 80º Fahrenheit (21º to 27º Celsius). In contrast, at the top, at Uhuru Peak, the temperature can range between 32º and -22º Fahrenheit (0º to -30º Celsius).
Fun Facts about Uhuru Peak
- While it may be the highest peak in Africa, experienced athletes and climbers can make the climb from the base of Kilimanjaro to Uhuru Peak in less than a day!
- There are eight different pathways up to Uhuru Peak, five of which are used regularly through guided tours. They vary in difficulty. Some are easy enough for beginners, while others are so difficult, even athletes struggle with the steep climb and quick altitude changes.
- While not an active volcano, Uhuru Peak is situated on a volcano that could see another eruption one day.
- For the majority of hikers who can’t complete the trek to Uhuru Peak, the hike isn’t the challenge; altitude sickness is the most common barrier.
- There is a book located at Uhuru Peak, protected by a wooden box. The book is for visitors to record their thoughts when they reach the mountain’s peak.
- While the base of Kilimanjaro is only 205 miles (330 km) from the equator, Uhuru Peak is still an arctic ecosystem, which cannot sustain life for extended periods.
Making the trip to Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular trip because, while offering breathtaking views, a trek through 5 distinct climates and ecosystems, and a visit to the highest point in Africa, it requires no special equipment, rigs, or ropes on the majority of pathways. Rather than climbing a mountain, it is truly a 5 to 8-day hike through gorgeous scenery, African rainforest, and dry savanna; to the final arctic peak.
There are hundreds of choices for those seeking a Kilimanjaro adventure with guided tours that include meals and sleeping tents to help make the trip educational and comfortable. Visitors select the length of the tour they prefer and can pick their tour based on various factors. Ideally, visitors should consider the following when picking a tour:
- Amenities – porters, food, sleep accommodations
- Equipment included – touring companies should include oxygen, first aid, sturdy tents.
- Experience level of tour guides
- Overall success rate
- Safety – look for certifications in mountain rescue, CPR, etc.
With hundreds of different packages available, it can be daunting for a visitor to select the perfect tour to create an amazing Kilimanjaro experience. Still, by keeping safety, experience, and comfort in mind, visitors are bound to find a tour to suit their needs.
Preparing for the Hike to Uhuru
While hiking up Kilimanjaro doesn’t require any serious climbing skills, there are still many things that visitors should do in preparation for their journey. For the best chance of success in reaching the breathtaking Uhuru Peak, it is important to prepare thoroughly for the trip. These are some preparation ideas from experts:
- Select at least an 8-day tour – Climbing Kilimanjaro is an experience of a lifetime and while plenty have made the trip up and back in five days or less, eight days (or more) offers the best chance for success, especially when battling the changes in altitude, the most challenging aspect of the hike.
- Pack sensibly – While it is important only to take what is absolutely necessary, comfort is important. Clothes should be easily layered to meet the challenge of wildly fluctuating temperatures; air mattresses and comfortable sleeping bags will help to ensure proper rest. Most importantly, plan to bring plenty of water!
- Build up endurance – Prior to the trip, hikers should consider some simple endurance and strength training. Long daily walks with weighted packs will help simulate the day-to-day treks that hikers can expect on their tour. Cardio training is also key, as building up the heart and lungs will help with altitude changes.
- Get proper vaccinations and a check-up – It is vital for vacationers to get a full physical in preparation for tackling Kilimanjaro, as well as any needed vaccinations to avoid any surprise illness or other health catastrophe. Altitude changes can cause a variety of medical symptoms and discomfort, so being in good health before the trip is important.
- Research when to plan the hike – There are tours available all year long, but different times of year may suit different travelers. While weather and temperature vary widely from top to bottom, there are times of the year where overall temperatures are cooler or warmer, and visitors can expect more or less rainfall.
The Beauty of Uhuru Peak
For many, reaching the highest point in Africa provides more than just a beautiful view and a sense of accomplishment. In fact, it is often described as a spiritual experience, where travelers feel at one with nature and the universe.
With gorgeous views of snow-capped peaks, sunlight cutting through the clouds, and miles of natural beauty to be found in each direction, Uhuru Peak offers even the inexperienced hikers a remarkable opportunity to:
- Experience the beauty of nature in a truly unique and beautiful way
- Find strength they didn’t know they had
- See the world from a different perspective
With many tours designed to bring travelers to the peak just as the sun rises, the views are often overwhelming, with more than a few visitors describing being moved to tears by the experience.