- Climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, following a less-traveled route.
- Gaze at the stars from closer than ever during a night camping below the summit.
- Explore rainforests, heather moors, lava formations, and glaciers as you climb through five distinct temperate zones.
- Learn about the unique flora and fauna of the mountain with local guides.
Soaring above the rippling coffee plantations and low hills of northeastern Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341') is Africa’s highest peak. Follow the less-traveled Lemosho-Kosovo Route, hiking eight days through the spectacular landscapes of five temperate zones. On this once-in-a-lifetime trek, take in extraordinary views extending hundreds of miles and experience sunrise from the roof of Africa. Then opt to continue the adventure on a five-day safari in some of East Africa’s most legendary landscapes.
Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport, and drive into Arusha National Park to our private deluxe camp situated on the slopes of Mount Meru, a 14,980-foot volcano. The camp is at an elevation of about 6,200 feet, which will help our acclimatization.
Gather for an orientation, check your equipment, and set out on a warm-up hike along the lush slopes of Mount Meru, the fifth-highest peak in Africa. Keep your eye out for the distinctive black-and-white colobus monkey of the region, as well as bushbuck, duiker, buffalo, giraffe, rare birds, and if we’re lucky, elephant and leopard. (Altitude: 6,200', 1-2 hours hiking, 2 miles)
A short drive brings us to the edge of Kilimanjaro’s montane forests, where our trek begins. The trail winds up through mossy jungle where colobus monkeys dangle from branches. Walking alongside local naturalists, we’ll learn about the plants and animals that inhabit this ecosystem. Our camp will be set up when we arrive, with refreshments ready for us in the dining tent. (Altitude: 9,000', 3-6 hours hiking)
Each day begins with morning tea and hot water delivered to your tent by our guides. After breakfast, our hike continues through the forest before crossing into the sub-alpine hagenia zone. We’ll take our time, soaking in the spectacular scenery while acclimating to the altitude. (Altitude: 11,300', 6-8 hours hiking)
Trek across the Shira Plateau, the remains of an ancient volcanic crater, and then follow the trail up the western slope of the Kibo Massif. Here in the upper heath zone, the snowy summit looms above our camp, glowing in the late-afternoon light. (Altitude: 13,900', 4-6 hours hiking)
Continue along the massif today, hiking slowly into the alpine zone to the base of Lava Tower, a volcanic plug that juts 300 feet into the air. Cross the troughs of long-dried rivers and skirt surreal lava sculptures as we make a breathtaking descent into the Barranco Valley. In this protected area, rare plant species such as giant groundsel trees are able to grow at high altitude. (Ascent: 13,000’, 5 hours hiking)
Set out on the steep ascent up the Barranco “breakfast” Wall, climbing out of the valley amid stunning views of exposed lava flows and cloud-topped peaks. Traverse under the icy tongues of glaciers before descending into the Karanga Valley for the night. (Altitude: 13,000’, 7 hours hiking)
Continue climbing through the alpine zone, taking in views of the mountain’s southern glaciers. Begin the ascent to Barafu Camp, perched on an exposed ridge amid an otherworldly landscape of rocky ridges and sharp escarpments. After a rest, we make our way to Kosovo Camp, gaining some valuable extra time for tomorrow’s hike to the summit. (Altitude: 15,600’, 5-6 hours hiking)
Rise in the middle of the night and head for the summit, wending between stark ridges toward the crater rim at Stella Point. Hike along the eroded remnants of the rim to the mountain’s summit, where we stop to marvel at the panoramic views as dawn breaks. Here, standing at the highest point of the African continent, savor the moment before starting the return trek. Wind past Kosovo and Barafu Camps into the forest to Mweka Camp, where a well-earned feast awaits. (Altitude: 10,500’, 11-13 hours hiking)
Hike down through the rainforest to the roadhead, a rapid descent of 4,500 feet. After lunch, drive to Arusha for an early celebratory dinner before transferring to the airport for your flight home. Or, choose to extend your adventure in Tanzania with an optional five-day wildlife safari. (3-4 hours hiking)
- Kilimanjaro Climb: Tanzania Wildlife Safari Extension
Post-trip, 5 Days
After conquering the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, set out on safari for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter Tanzania’s legendary wildlife. Search for the “big five” across the grasslands of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater; visit with Maasai villagers; and explore Olduvai Gorge, where Homo habilis was discovered on a National Geographic–sponsored expedition.
This morning, travel east to Lake Manyara National Park, a lush strip of land nestled between the Great Rift Valley and the waters of Lake Manyara. Famed for its tree-climbing lions, the park is also home to elephants, giraffes, and flamingos. Explore the park in search of iconic wildlife before venturing into the green foothills of the Ngorongoro Highlands. We make our way to Mysigio Camp, tucked into an acacia forest on traditional Maasai land within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. With a local Maasai chief as our guide, learn about this rich culture and its customs—and the concerns the chief has for the future of his people.
Spend a full day exploring the Ngorongoro Crater, a unique volcanic caldera which provides shelter to vibrant populations of large mammals, including African buffalo, wildebeests, and zebras. As we drive across the grasslands, keep your camera ready to capture close-up shots of leaping gazelles or the elusive serval. This afternoon, we'll be joined at camp by members of a local Maasai village to learn more about their traditions and way of life.
Descend from the Ngorongoro Highlands and head across the vast Serengeti, spotting wildlife as we pass watering holes and acacia groves. Stop at the museum on the lip of Olduvai Gorge, known as the birthplace of humankind. Here, famed archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey unearthed some of the earliest known hominid fossils on a National Geographic–funded excavation. Visit the site of the discovery before continuing across the rolling plains to our camp in the heart of the Serengeti wilderness.
Set out on morning and afternoon wildlife safaris, roaming the plains of the Serengeti in search of wildebeest herds. In the early part of the year, the wildebeests begin their great circular migration through the Serengeti and northward into Kenya, pursued along the way by watchful predators such as lions and leopards. We venture deep into the lush grasslands to witness this grand spectacle up close, cameras at the ready.
After breakfast, drive to Arusha, watching for wildlife as we journey out of the Serenegeti. Enjoy a final dinner together before transferring to the airport for your return flight.