Few experiences can compare to standing on top of Africa’s tallest mountains, gazing down at terra firma kilometres below. Climbing Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro is undoubtedly on many people’s bucket lists when visiting Africa.
You’ve come to the right place if you want to find out more about Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro. They both offer beautiful treks and adventure opportunities. Trekkers will always be drawn to Kilimanjaro because it is the continent’s highest peak. Mount Kenya, on the other hand, is an ideal choice for a traveller seeking an affordable and hassle-free wild East African experience.
Nearest Airport: Nairobi International Airport
Height: 5,199 metres
Duration: 5-6 days of trekking to reach the summit
Accommodation: Camping in tents or cabins on some routes
Best Time to Go: January–March / June–October
Mount Kenya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by Mount Kenya National Par. It provides hikers with breathtaking mountain scenery, including glaciers, lakes, mineral springs, and alpine forests, as well as wildlife viewing.
Mount Kenya sits at 5,199 metres and is Africa’s second highest peak. It is an extinct volcano that is thought to have risen to 6,500 metres during its active period. It is considered a more scenic trek than Kilimanjaro and boasts three prominent peaks. The highest peak is Batian (5199m), and the second highest peak is Nelion, which is only 11 meters lower. Both of these peaks are technical climbing peaks. Point Lenana, at 4985m, is Africa’s third highest peak and the second highest trekking peak.
Even though Mount Kenya is relatively easy to reach (about 160 kilometres north of Nairobi), it does not attract the large crowds that Kilimanjaro does. As a result, climbing Mount Kenya rather than Mount Kilimanjaro is a more peaceful and less expensive trekking experience.
The majority of the routes up Mount Kenya require tent camping. There are some exceptions, such as Chogoria, Naro Moru, Sirimon, the Peak Circuit Path, and Nelion, which have huts. These can range from simple structures with only a tin roof to cabins with fireplaces and running water.
Nearest Airport: Arusha International Airport
Height: 5,895 metres
Duration: 6-8 days of trekking to reach the summit
Accommodation: Camping in tents
Best Time to Go: December–March / June–October
Mount Kilimanjaro, also known as Kili, rises nearly six vertical kilometres (4 miles) from the surrounding plains of northern Tanzania. It is not only Africa’s highest mountain but also the world’s largest free-standing mountain. It’s one of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the traditional continents), so it’s a popular hiking destination and a must-do for most adventurous travellers.
Mount Kilimanjaro is about an hour’s drive from Arusha Airport and consists of three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo is the tallest of the three and home to Kili’s highest peak, Uhuru. The mountain is part of Kilimanjaro National Park, and approximately 20,000 visitors hike up its slopes each year. Kili’s hiking trails are busier than Mount Kenya’s, especially during the dry seasons of January to March and June to October.
Mount Kilimanjaro trekking does not require any technical climbing skills — all trails are only walking routes. However, hiking up the mountain is not for the faint of heart and a decent level of fitness is required. Except for the Marangu route, which offers huts for hikers, all routes up Mount Kilimanjaro require camping in tents.
Hikers ascending Mount Kilimanjaro will pass through various vegetation zones. The adventure begins in an emerald forest teeming with antelope, primates, buffalo, and leopards, followed by a heather-covered moorland dotted with massive lobelias. Following that, a surreal alpine forest gives way to an Arctic-like wonderland.
Mount Kilimanjaro has the distinction of being Africa’s highest peak, but Mount Kenya has just as much, if not more, to offer, including spectacular scenery and amazing climbing for those with a love for adventure.