Kilimanjaro routes – choosing a Mount Kilimanjaro trekking route
Choosing a Kilimanjaro route, which will satisfy your personal requirements as well as contribute towards your eventual summit success, is important. Factors which should be carefully considered includes:
- A Kilimanjaro routes comparison in terms of a of an authentic wilderness experience
- Kilimanjaro routes distances and trekking costs for each route
- The Kilimanjaro routes success rates and best possible summit prospects
- The possibility of additional days for a safer extended acclimatisation on each trekking route
Below follows a brief summarised comparison of all the current Kilimanjaro routes. For more detailed information regarding each of these Mount Kilimanjaro routes, including routes distances and route success rates, please refer to our detailed and comprehensive routes descriptions under the main link bar above.
The Marangu Route
Also known as the “Coca Cola route” – the Marangu route is one of the most popular routes leading to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Many hikers believe that the Marangu route is the easiest route to Uhuru peak, since it is the only route which can be hiked in 5 days (making it the cheapest option). It is also the only route offering accommodation on the mountain, in A-frame huts.
It is unfortunately a well-known fact, that the 5 day Marangu route has one of the lowest summit success rates of all the routes up mountain. If you choose the Marangu route, we strongly recommend hiking the route over 6 days, to increase your chance to reach the summit successfully. This is the only route, which provides comfortable communal sleeping huts, equipped with beds and mattresses at every overnight site. Mineral water, soft drinks, beer and chocolates are also sold at most sites. The Marangu route utilises the same route for the ascend and descend.
The Machame Route
The Machame route is our most popular and successful route leading to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Hikers sleep in tents which are carried up the mountain by porters. The Machame route is a very scenic and beautiful route, which can be completed in 6 days, however we strongly recommend hiking the route in 7 days, allowing for more time to acclimatise. The key to the success of the Machame route is its topography, allowing hikers to climb high and sleep low, helping towards better acclimatisation. There are however two drawbacks on this route:
Firstly hikers will need to pass an area just before the Shira ridge and hike the Barranco Wall, both of which are physically demanding and also present a potential problem for hikers with a fear of heights.
The second problem relates to the route’s high success rate, compounded by the fact that other routes join the Machame route from day 3 onwards – higher numbers of hikers can be therefore be encountered on this route.
The route utilises the Mweka route as a descend route.
The Umbwe Route
The Umbwe route is known for its caves. The first night you actually sleep at the Umbwe Cave Camp with two more caves that can be visited en route the following day. The Umbwe route is one of the shortest routes to the Southern Glaciers and the Western Breach. It is probably one of the most scenic, non-technical routes on Kilimanjaro. There are however higher risks involved when attempting to summit via the Western Breach / Arrow Glacier and overnight at the Arrow Glacier camp, which include:
Safety on the Western Breach – nobody can guarantee your absolute safety, as the area is unstable and rock falls may occur at any time.
During a normal summit of Kilimanjaro we will sleep at Barafu camp (4 600m) or Kibo Hut (4 650m) before attempting the summit. By sleeping at Arrow Glacier camp (4 850m) the risks for severe altitude sickness are considerably higher.
Most of our Umbwe route hikes are currently re-routed, to join with the Machame route from night 2 on the mountain. On special request we can assist with Umbwe route hikes attempting to summit using the Western Breach / Arrow Glacier path and overnight at the Arrow Glacier camp (and the Crater camp). Please note this can only be arranged through our higher quality Superior Packages and a supplementary rate will apply.
The Shira Route
The Shira Plateau is one of the most scenic and most fascinating areas on Kilimanjaro. Depending on the weather conditions you can drive by 4 wheel drive vehicles, to within a 1/2 hours walk of Shira Hut (4000m). Even this drive is very spectacular indeed and offers some magnificent views of Mt Meru and the Great Rift Valley in general. Game is often sighted and the road features some striking vegetation changes ranging from forest, grassland, heath to moorland. The fast ascend by vehicle to about 4000m will require additional acclimatisation, after which it will be possible to ascend Uhuru Peak either via the Western Breach or via the Barafu hut.
The Shira route is only offered to hikers who are already acclimatized to 4 000m, by hiking either Mt Meru or Mt Kenya a few days before attempting Kilimanjaro. Depending on the weather conditions you can drive by 4 wheel drive vehicle, to within a ½ hours walk of Shira Hut (3 850m).
This drive is very spectacular and offers some magnificent views of Mt Meru and the Great Rift Valley in general. Game is often sighted and the road features some striking vegetation changes ranging from forest, grassland, heath to moorland.
The fast ascend by vehicle to about 4000m will require additional acclimatisation, after which it will be possible to ascend Uhuru Peak either via the Western Breach or via the Barafu hut.
The Lemosho Route
The Lemosho Route is a very beautiful and unspoilt route and sightings of wild game in the forest section is possible. The Lemosho route is one of the quieter routes up Kilimanjaro, this advantage however disappears when the route combines with the Machame route on the 3rd day of the hike.
For those seeking a quiet route away from the crowds, the route is a superior option to the Rongai route. Unlike the Rongai the Lemosho route has the same excellent pro-acclimatization features of the Machame route, which it joins just before reaching Lava Tower.
We do not recommend hiking the Lemosho route during the rainy season as the start point of the Lemosho Route is particularly inaccessible during the wet season. Climbers should be prepared to walk the final 2-5 kilometers of the road following heavy rains. The journey time to reach the start point is quite long and joined to the possibility of not reaching the end of the road by vehicle head torches may well be needed to reach Forest Camp on day 1.
The route descents along the Mweka Route, a descent-only route.
The Rongai (Naro Moru) Route
The Rongai route ascents Kilimanjaro from the north-eastern side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya. This route retains a sense of unspoilt wilderness and offers a different perspective on Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the north.
The Rongai route’s premier advantage is that it is one of the quietest routes on the mountain. A disadvantage is the long travel time to the starting point of the route. The route also becomes busier when it connects with the Marangu route just before reaching Kibo hut.
The Rongai route descends along the Marangu route as well, however you still sleep in tents, and do not use the A-frame huts of the Marangu route.
The Mweka Route
This route may only be use as a descending route for all the western routes.
The Northern Circuit
The Northern circuit is the area that connects the northern side of Kilimanjaro with the western side. The area is pristine with great views and very few hikers. On special request, can we arrange to include the Northern circuit in your hike, as follows:
- Start the hike on the Rongai route and instead of heading east towards Mawenzi peak, head west towards the Shira plateau where you connect with the Machame route, attempt the summit from the Barafu camp and descend via the Marangu route.
- Start the hike on the Lemosho route and on day 3 instead of heading east towards Lava tower, head north where you will connect with the Rongai route, attempt the summit from the Kibo hut and descend via Mweka route.
Please take note that you will need to arrange a longer 8 to 9 day hike to include the Northern circuit to your hike and it can only be arranged through our higher quality Superior Package.
Western Breach / Arrow Glacier
An alternative final ascend route which can be taken from all of the western routes, sleeping at magnificent Arrow Glacier on your summit night. The Western Breach poses a very difficult walk up steep scree with some rock scrambling required occasionally. Snow cover makes scree easier but an ice axe is then required.
It is also possible to sleep an extra night inside the Kibo Crater! This option can only be arranged on special request through our higher quality Superior Package option.
Please however refer to the higher risks involved to the Western Breach, as described above under the Umbwe route.
No Technical climbs or adventure activities such as paragliding, cycling or skiing are allowed on Mount Kilimanjaro.