Mount Kilimanjaro History

They always say that knowledge is power, so why not learn about the history of Mount Kilimanjaro? Who knows, it might just power you through to the top!

  • Kilimanjaro stretches to 19,341 feet at the summit, Uhuru Peak. That makes it the tallest mountain in Africa, as well as the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
  • Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, renamed the summit “Uhuru Peak” (“freedom” in Swahili) to commemorate the country’s independence in 1961
  • Kilimanjaro is actually made up of three dormant volcanos: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Uhuru is located on Kibo.

  • Just 25%-50% of trekkers manage to actually reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. Thomson’s overall summit success rate is 98%
  • Some of Tanzania’s 120+ different cultural groups have their own names for the mountain. In Maasai, it’s known as ol doinyo oibor, “the white mountain,” or ngaje ngai, “the house of God.” Learn more about Kili’s place in various cultures’ imaginations on our Myths of Kilimanjaro page

  • The first recorded summit occurred in 1889, when local guide Yohana Lauwo led German explorer Hans Meyer to the peak. Today, Lauwo’s grandson Pendaeli leads Thomson guests up the mountain as a head guide!
  • Kilimanjaro has been crowned by glaciers for over 10,000 years, but global warming means they’re disappearing little by little. Scientists think they could be gone as soon as 2060.

  • Five distinct climate zones mean temperatures on the mountain can vary by as much as 100 degrees between the summit and the hot and humid rainforests below
  • Many of the species that call Kilimanjaro home can’t be found anywhere else. Especially in the rainforest regions, species are often either still poorly known, or have yet to be classified.


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