Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes
Different Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes approach the mountain from different sides. Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes vary considerably in length, difficulty, traffic levels and other aspects. There are seven established Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. The Marangu Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Route, Machame Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Route, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain. The Lemosho Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Route, Shira Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Route and Northern Circuit routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north. We have illustrations depicting three-dimensional view of Kilimanjaro’s climbing routes and a close up of the approaches to the summit. Choosing the right Kilimanjaro route for your climb is an important decision.
Many trekkers arrive at Mount Kilimanjaro dreaming of a grand wilderness adventure on the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. At the very least, they expect some peace and quiet to contemplate the toughest physical challenge they might ever face. Finding a circus instead of solitude can be mighty disappointing. While Africa’s contribution to the seven summits ranks high on the to-do list of serious mountaineers, scaling the 5,895-metre (19,341 ft) dormant volcano requires no technical skill. Climbers with a moderate level of fitness, positive attitude, and a body that adapts reasonably well to altitude have a good chance of success.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes
Each Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes has its own pros and cons. Some are great for scenery, but not so great for acclimatization. Others offer high summit success rates but are also quite busy at certain times of the year. Once you’ve decided to embrace the adventure of climbing Kilimanjaro, your next step is to identify the right route for you to climb. There are many factors to consider, including your physical strength, hiking skills, landscape preferences, price and the length of your trek.
The Crown of Africa is relatively easy to climb for both seasoned mountaineers and amateurs. For untrained legs, there is the Marangu Route, known as the Coca-Cola Route. This is because the Marangu is the only route with comfortable huts where food and water are provided. The mountain goats choose the Umbwe Route. This route is known for its gravity and requires an iron will. The most popular route is the Machame, better known as the Whisky Route. This trek lasts 6 or 7 days and is known for its breathtaking views. When it comes to climate zones, it doesn’t matter which route you choose. The Marangu, Machame, Rongai, Lemosho and Northern Circuit all migrate through various climate zones to the snow.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a dream to many trekkers as it offers a complete non-technical hike. But we highly advise to get prepare yourself well for the climbing. Acquiring such a great elevation the mountain throws a great challenge. During your climb Lava Tower will be the hardest part of the climb. The mountain offers a great view and the crater rim on the Shira Plateau is the most attractive point. Considered as the jewel of Kilimanjaro the carter area is visited by only those who reach to 18,600 ft height.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Summaries
Which is the best Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes?
We get that question asked a lot. And rightly so! There are many routes that lead to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Each of them has its own pros and cons and should therefore be thoroughly researched in order to make an informed and educated choice.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Lemosho Route
• The Lemosho is the most beautiful Kilimanjaro route
Lemosho is a relatively new route and it was designed to absorb some of the busier paths on the other two main routes of Machame and Marangu. The extra day and the slightly easier gradient through the forest makes it a slightly better option for acclimatisation. The first two days journeys through the Lemosho Glades, which is the rainforest that encircles the mountain at this altitude between 2400 and 3500 metres where you might see Colobus monkey, and plenty of birds on the giant camphorwood trees. The forest thins out and the path climbs onto the vast Shira Plateau which was created during the last eruption an estimated 50,000 years ago. The route then skirts the southern flanks of the mountain, with campsites at Barranco and Karanga Valley both at the same altitude which assist with acclimatisation. Then the path moves up to the final camp at Barafu (“ice” in Swahili) at 4600 metres which is the springboard for the big eight hour push up to the summit through the night.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Machame Route
• The Machame is the most popular Kilimanjaro route
Machame gives climbers the thrill of a mountain challenge and currently accounts for about 50% of all visitors. It is a camping route and suited to people with plenty of hiking and camping experience, The seven day version is what we recommend and has a very high success rate of about 85%; the most common reasons for descending are tiredness, stomach upset from local food bought in Moshi, and altitude sickness. This route is physically tough, requiring good fitness and determination especially on the summit night which begins at midnight with a summit at about 8am. It’s entirely possible for beginners to complete the challenge with fitness training and the help of qualified guides.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Marangu Route
• The Marangu route only offers hut accommodation
However the ascent and descent are done on the same pathway which can mean the route gets busy and the huts can get quite full. However it’s a very useful trail for families and groups looking for the comfort and convenience of a hut, and avoiding having to use the mountain tents. It’s a useful route to do in the rainy season if only to avoid having wet clothes inside a tent. It’s an easier route with no real difficulties on the path but it doesn’t share the distinctive difference in scenery that you see on the other tracks, The early days on the huge plateau covers open ground and scrub all the way until the final hut below the summit massif. The summit day itself is just the same level of difficulty though, with the same amount of elevation to cover to reach the crater rim at Gilman’s Point and then Uhuru Peak.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Rongai Route
• The Rongai is the only Kilimanjaro route that approaches from the North
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Shira Route
• The Shira route approaches from the Western side of Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes- Northern Circuit
• The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest Kilimanjaro route
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes – Umbwe Route
• The Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route
Below we have highlighted some of the key features on each of the Kilimanjaro Routes.
Our Recommended Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Southern Circuit
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Machame route is highly recommended for scenic value and has a medium to high success rate, especially if you choose the seven-day itinerary. The six-day options are not recommended for first-time trekkers. It is a good Kilimanjaro route for acclimatization as it has a climb high, sleep low opportunity for trekkers on day three. Here trekkers climb from Shira Camp 2 to Lava Tower at 4,600 meters, where they have lunch and then hike back down to Barranco Camp (3,900 meters) to sleep
Like all Kilimanjaro routes, the Machame is a challenging trek with stunning scenery through four diverse climatic zones. There is a good opportunity to split pre-summit day climb by adding an extra rest day at Karanga Camp (only available to seven day trekkers) to leave hikers well rested before summiting. The route has however got very popular over the past few years which means it can get busy, especially at Barranco where climbers join up with trekkers from the Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe routes. The Machame route only offers fully catered camping
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Lemosho Route
The Lemosho is a beautiful route that departs from the West side of Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to its route profile the Lemosho can be completed on a seven or eight-day itinerary and offers lots of opportunities to properly acclimatize. Because of its versatile route profile, it is a highly recommended Kilimanjaro route that has relatively high summit success rates. It is also recommended as the starting point is relatively remote and hence provides trekkers with a rather untouched and wild start to their Kilimanjaro adventure.
Spotting large wildlife, like antelope, buffalo and even elephant is unusual but not impossible. The route also provides unparalleled and spectacular views of the dramatic gorges that characterize the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Lemosho offers trekkers the experience of hiking across the Shira Plateau – one of the largest high altitude plateaus in the world. Trekkers on the Lemosho typically converge with Machame route on day 3 at Barranco camp and use the Barafu camp route to the summit; however, it is now quite common for Lemosho trekkers to veer north before Lava Tower to join the Northern Circuit which circles the north side of Mount Kilimanjaro and follows an assault passage via Gilman’s Point. The Lemosho route can also be used by trekkers planning to climb the Western Breach to the summit. Like the Machame Route, the Lemosho is fully catered camping only
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Marangu Route which is The Only Kilimanjaro Route with Hut Accommodation.
The Marangu route was Nicknamed the ‘Coca-Cola’ route as Coke used to be bought along the way in tea huts. The route is often selected by unprepared, inexperienced climbers as a result of the reputation for being the “easiest” route, attributing to the lower success rate. It is also the shortest Kilimanjaro route with a relatively poor acclimatization profile, which is a major contributor to the low success rates on the Marangu.
The six-day Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes itinerary does give trekkers an opportunity to climb high, sleep low; however, the elevation is moderate and not as effective as other climb high, sleep low opportunities that are present on other Kilimanjaro routes. Out of all the Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes, the Marangu route is the only one with dormitory style accommodation in huts for the whole duration of the climb. The huts come with mattresses and basic amenities, making them a popular choice for budget operators who don’t have the right equipment to tackle the other Kilimanjaro routes. The Marangu offers beautiful views from the Saddle but can be considered less scenic than other Kilimanjaro routes due to ascent and descent on same trail.
The Only Northern Kilimanjaro Route
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Rongai Route
The Rongai Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes is the only northern start point to Kilimanjaro, beginning on the North East side of Kilimanjaro National Park. The Rongai Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes offers a true wilderness experience on the early stages of the climb, and like the Lemosho route it is possible to see large wildlife like buffalo, antelope and elephant. The Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Northern slopes tend to be dryer than the southern slopes which makes the Rongai a great Kilimanjaro Route for trekking during the wet season. However, because the Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes northern slopes are dryer they can also be considered less scenic. That being said, a northern approach is often characterized by clear views of Kilimanjaro – something that is not that common from the southern side.
The Rongai Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes is also a flatter route for the first few days which makes for easy trekking. The route is usually completed on a seven-day itinerary but has limited climb high, sleep low opportunities which means that acclimatization opportunities are not as good as on other Kilimanjaro routes. Typically, the Rongai route uses the passage from School Hut up past Hans Meyer Cave and Gilman’s Point to Uhuru Peak. The route descends via the Marangu route, hence the route has fully catered camping until the last night on the mountain – beers at Horombo Hut anyone?
The Longest and Quietest Kilimanjaro Route
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Northern Circuit
The Northern Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Circuit is the longest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, and has one of the highest summit success rates as the route offers lots of climb high, sleep low opportunities, and time to acclimatize. The route departs from same start point as Lemosho but then joins the Northern Circuit near Lava Tower, before traversing the north slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The summit assault is via Gilman’s Point. The route can be completed on an eight or nine-day itinerary. If you are looking for a quiet and wild Kilimanjaro experience, then this route is for you.
It has the same starting point as the Lemosho Route but deviates north before the Lava Tower, circumnavigating round the north section of the mountain and summitting Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s Point (Marangu and Rongai routes also summit via this point). On this trail you will get an opportunity to journey through the quiet and rarely visited northern slopes, which really give a heightened sense of adventure and remoteness on this mountain which attracts so many hikers every year.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Umbwe Route
The Umbwe Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes has a short and steep beginning profile up to Barranco camp where trekkers join climbers from the Lemosho, Shira and Machame route. Some Umbwe route trekkers don’t join the southern circuit at Barranco but instead continue north, up to Lava Tower and then onto the Western Breach. The Umbwe Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes has poor acclimatization opportunities due to its rapid ascent and therefore success rates can be low on this Kilimanjaro route. Fully catered camping only.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Western Breach
The Western Breach Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Route is the most technically difficult approach to Mount Kilimanjaro, but perhaps the most rewarding! The approach to the Western Breach usually starts on the Umbwe Route and then continues north and up from Lava Tower. The Western Breach was closed due to fatal rockfall in 2006, but reopened in 2007 with a new and safer route configuration. Nonetheless. Only advised for experienced trekkers – it is recommended that all Western Breach climbers use helmets and it is not uncommon to need point crampons during the wet season and sub-surface ice can be an issue. Success rates are typically moderate to high as the route is usually only tackled by experienced high altitude trekkers.