Nestled on the lower slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro, 40km northeast of Moshi amid dense stands of banana and coffee plants, is the lively, leafy market town of Marangu. It has an agreeable highland ambience, a cool climate and a good selection of hotels, all of which organise treks. While you’ll sometimes get slightly better budget deals in Moshi, Marangu makes a convenient launch pad for Kili climbs using the Marangu or Rongai routes, and it’s an enjoyable stop in its own right. Apart from anything else, there's a real sense of being up in the foothills here, which adds to the pre-Kili excitement and aids psychological preparation.
Marangu is also the heartland of the Chagga people, and there are many possibilities for walks and cultural activities. Marangu means ‘place of water’, and the surrounding area is laced with small streams and waterfalls (most with a small entry charge for visitors).