Why You Should Visit Kilimanjaro National Park

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Kilimanjaro National Park is one of the most visited places in Moshi, Tanzania. Home to Mount Kilimanjaro, this national park brings in thousands of visitors every year to climb the highest mountain in Africa. 

While climbing is the main activity in the national park, there is still plenty to do in the park if you don’t plan to climb. Things you won’t want to miss out on!

Kilimanjaro National Park is located inside the large region of Moshi. Once you’re done exploring the park, make sure to check out all the best things to do in Moshi.

There are some amazing waterfalls to visit and a hot spring. And there are also plenty of restaurants to choose from with local and western food. 

Ready to start planning your trip to Kilimanjaro National Park? Check out all the best things to do in the area!

kilimanjaro national park, view of kilimanjaro and elks in the park

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Kilimanjaro National Park 

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As the highest point in Africa and one of the highest peaks in the world, it’s a special place. 

A UNESCO World Heritage designation protects Mount Kilimanjaro and the surrounding plains. It also protects all the animals and the endangered species that live in the park. 

Visiting the park is a great opportunity to see Mount Kilimanjaro up close, see some of the most beautiful animals in the world, and experience Tanzanian culture! More than 30,000 do this climb annually, and it’s definitely worthy of your bucket list.

umbwe gate sign, hiking kilimanjaro, climbing mount kilimanjaro, kilimanjaro hike, mount kilimanjaro hike

Top Things to do in Kilimanjaro National Park

When visiting Kilimanjaro National Park, the top activity is, of course, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. If you aren’t planning to climb the mountain, there are a few other activities you can do inside the park. And there are plenty of things to do in the nearby region, Moshi. 

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro 

One of the top reasons people visit Kilimanjaro National Park is to make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro! You will need to plan for this ahead of time and book through a reliable tour operator to make sure you are safe while climbing. 

There are several different routes you can take to the top of the mountain, and they will be a five-to-nine-day climb. So, it’s an investment to prepare for and do this hike, but it’s so worth it!

Training is needed to climb the mountain, as well as making sure you have all the right gear for yourself and your porter. Read my full guide on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for more information!

Check out this Kilimanjaro day hike option from Arusha. You won’t get to the top, but you can take in the experience with less effort.

shira camp when climbing mount kilimanjaro, kilimanjaro location, kilimanjaro hike

Bird Watching While Climbing 

While climbing the mountain, sightseeing and bird watching is inevitable. With over 750 species of birds, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the top places for bird sightings in the park. 

If birding is one of the top reasons you’re climbing the mountain, you want to ask the operator which route is best. Some offer more opportunities to see birds than others. 

Animal Sighting With a Park Ranger

Most people opt to do their animal viewing tours before climbing the mountain. This activity can also be done without climbing. You do have to go with a company and park ranger, so you will not be able to roam around the park by yourself. 

Kilimanjaro National Park is home to some of the largest elephants in the world as well as hyenas, bushbabies, and duiker. If you’re lucky, you will also see leopards and baboons. 

Primate Trekking 

Primate trekking is a protected activity in most countries of East Africa. This means you need a special permit and highly trained tour guides to take you on this journey. 

It can take several weeks to secure the permit. So, I recommend you talk to your tour operator before landing in Tanzania so they can file the paperwork and pay the designated fees. Otherwise, you may find you’re delayed with this activity.

You will also go through a short training course to make sure you know what to do when you see the primates. Touching the primates is not allowed in any circumstances, and they only allow you to take photos from a certain distance. 

The primates will come close to you, though, as they love to snatch food and other belongings! It’s an exhilarating thing to do in Kilimanjaro National Park.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see blue monkeys, baboons, and black-faced monkeys. 

primates in kilimanjaro national park

Visit Chala Crater Lake 

Visiting Chala Crater Lake is another activity you can do without climbing the mountain. However, you will need to do some light hiking to get here as it’s located inside one of the crater rims of the mountain. 

The Chala Crater Lake is beautiful with turquoise and emerald green water. You can take tours around the lake and even camp if your tour operator has a camping permit. 

chala crater lake, kilimanjaro national park

How to Get to Kilimanjaro National Park

If you aren’t already in Tanzania, you will need to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). The airport is in Moshi, a popular tourist region in Tanzania. 

Many travelers come from nearby Arusha, only an hour away from Moshi by bus or private car. If you’re in Dar es Salaam or the Zanzibar islands, I would recommend flying into JRO as the drive can be 8 hours or longer from the other side of the country. 

The region of Moshi is huge, so you will still be about an hour and a half away from the national park from the airport. I recommend hiring a private car or asking your tour operator to pick you up from the airport. Public transportation is tricky in Tanzania if you aren’t used to it. 

How to Get Around Kilimanjaro National Park

If you’re climbing the mountain, primate trekking, or animal spotting, your tour operator will drive you around the park. In most cases, you cannot enter the park without a tour operator or a park ranger driving you. 

I would suggest renting a car to get around Moshi. The buses and public transportation are often unreliable and can get very crowded. 

When to Visit Kilimanjaro National Park

You can climb the mountain any time of the year, but some months are better than others. 

It’s best to climb during the dry months, from December to March and June through September. If you go during the wet season, though, you will experience fewer crowds. 

Climbing during the wet months is often more difficult, so that’s a consideration. You might need more training if that’s when you decide to go. 

For the warmest weather, go in January or February. The top of the mountain is still cold, though, so make sure you’re prepared!

kilimanjaro national park sign

How Much Time to Spend in Kilimanjaro National Park

The amount of time you choose to spend in Kilimanjaro National Park will depend on your activities. Climbing the mountain usually takes most people six-to-seven days. Primate trekking and animal spotting will usually take 2-3 days. 

Plan to give yourself at least a week to explore Moshi. Then, add on a few extra days to your itinerary if you plan to take any day trips from Moshi. 

Where to Stay in Kilimanjaro National Park

Lodging options inside the park are limited to camping, or there is one budget lodge. If you want to camp, you will need to work with the tour operator you book with. Camping spots are pretty isolated, and the park authorities won’t let you pitch a tent without a permit and a tour operator. You can book a room in the lodge without a tour operator. 

There is only one lodge that’s actually inside the park, Babylon Lodge. It’s right at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro and has breathtaking views of the mountain and park. There are many great options located outside the park, some even right outside the gates. 

Babylon Lodge: Choose from several different room types, including single, double, or a room with two twin beds. The free hot breakfast is amazing with western and traditional Swahili options. The kitchen operates all day, and you can have lunch or dinner for an extra price. You can also book tours and climbs with them for an easy stay in the park. 

Budget: Kilino Park Hotel Machame Gate is right outside the Machame entrance of the park. You can wake up in the morning and take a short walk through a banana plantation to get to the front gates of the park. The rooms are pretty basic, so don’t expect anything fancy. The food is amazing, though. Many people come to the hotel just to eat. 

Mid-range: Kaliwa Lodge is about a 14-minute drive from the park. The rooms are comfortable and come equipped with mosquito nets and hot water showers. Enjoy the free Wi-Fi to stay in touch with your family. The hotel also has a traditional Swahili restaurant and a bar and lounge. 

Luxury: Pink Flamingo is a cozy and relaxed boutique hotel in Moshi located 13 miles from the park. They have a traditional restaurant on-site and an amazing outdoor swimming pool. The rooms and bathrooms are chic and colorful, with Tanzanian artwork in every room. Make sure to spend time relaxing in the hotel garden!

aeriel view of moshi town

Where to Eat in Kilimanjaro National Park 

There aren’t any places to eat in Kilimanjaro National Park as the lodge only offers food to guests. Don’t worry, as your tour operator will always provide you with meals while you’re visiting the park. 

Lunch is usually fruit and sandwiches and some meat. Dinner is usually traditional Swahili food (rice, meat with sauce, vegetables) that someone will cook for you. 

When you’re not climbing, you can find some amazing restaurants near the park: 

  • El Rancho Kilimanjaro Restaurant has the best Indian food in Moshi. It’s also a great vegetarian and vegan option. You’ll find a great mix of locals and tourists dining here. Make sure to try one of the curries or the goat barbecue. 
  • Maisha Khalisi is a must when you are in Moshi. You’ll want to eat lunch here on a clear day as it has the most stunning view of Kilimanjaro Mountain. They also have nightly bonfires and events, so I recommend going once during the day and once during the evening. This restaurant has amazing fresh goat meat, chips mayai (french fries in an omelet), and kachumbali (salad with a special sauce). 
  • Kuonana African Restaurant is a little further away from the park, but it’s worth the drive. They do an amazing fusion of European and African cuisine. The cocktail and wine list are extensive, with choices from all over the world. Make sure to go for the daily happy hours! 

Top Things to do Near Kilimanjaro National Park in Moshi

Not all of the action in this area is in Kilimanjaro National Park! Be sure to reserve some time in nearby Moshi as there’s a lot to do there as well.

Kikuletwa Hot Springs 

Kikuletwa Hot Springs is kind of in the middle of nowhere, but the drive is worth it. Most tour companies have designated trips here, but you can also rent a car and drive her on your own. 

The hot springs have warm blue water all year round. They also have a rope swing and tubes you can rent if you aren’t a comfortable swimmer. 

The small restaurant has some of the best goat meat, so make sure to order some! It’s a specialty in this area and worth trying, even if you’ve never had goat before. They also sell cold beer and sodas. 

kikuletwa hot springs
Kikuletwa hot springs, Photo Credit: Natalie Castle

Materuni Waterfalls 

Seeing Materuni Waterfalls is a must in Moshi. It’s on the slopes of the Mount Kilimanjaro mountain reserve, so you will need to do some light hiking and climbing. 

Make sure to bring waterproof shoes with good traction! The hike is about 30 minutes and it’s a lot of fun. 

The waterfall is not actually in Kilimanjaro National Park, though. So, you can drive your own rental car to the falls or ask your tour operator to take you. 

materuni waterfalls
Materuni falls, Photo Credit: Natalie Castle

Take a Tour of Maasai Culture

Maasai people and culture can be found all over Tanzania. However, you’ll find the largest population is in Moshi. 

They still live very traditional African lifestyles and make their living by herding and grazing cattle. Most of Moshi is very developed, so experiencing the traditional Maasai way of life is an amazing opportunity. 

The best way to take a real tour of Maasai Culture is to ask your hotel or hostel for someone that can take you. This will make sure it’s an authentic and real experience. Unfortunately, some of the scheduled tours are all for show and just to make money. 

And, don’t be afraid to talk with the locals to immerse yourself in their culture. The security guard of my hostel took me to a Maasai wedding in his hometown, and it was amazing. They let me wear their traditional dress and take part in the dancing and celebrating. 

masaai wedding
Massaii people, Photo Credit: Natalie Castle

Take a Day Trip to Arusha 

Arusha is about an hour’s drive from the edge of Moshi but will take about 2 hours if you are coming from the park. Arusha is one of the largest expat,  towns in Tanzania, so there is plenty to do and see. 

Make sure to check out my favorite restaurant and bar, The Hub! I would also suggest grabbing dinner at Gran Melia Hotel and taking in the beautiful view of Mount Meru from the rooftop bar. 

mount meru in arusha at gran melia
Photo Credit: Natalie Castle

Ready to Explore Kilimanjaro National Park? 

If you’re visiting Tanzania, exploring Kilimanjaro National Park should be at the top of your bucket list. Even if you don’t plan to climb the mountain, there is plenty to do and see inside the park, as well as in Moshi!

Are you planning a trip to Kilimanjaro National Park and Moshi? What activities do you have planned?

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