Climbing KilimanjaroClimbing Kilimanjaro is very special for many reasons: “The Roof of Africa” is best known as the highest mountain in Africa. However, it also is both the largest and tallest freestanding mountain in the world and the very top is the closest place on the entire earth to the sun! This is due to its location– only 200 miles or 5 degrees below the Equator. But what truly separates “Kilimanjaro” from the “Big Seven,” the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, is its popularity with climbers.

climbing kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro Route

Climbing Kilimanjaro you can climb Mount Kilimanjaro through different approved routes ranging from Marangu route, Umbwe route, Machame route, Rongai route Ande  Lemosho route.

 Climbing Kilimanjaro – Machame

  • Climbing Kilimanjaro Nicknamed the “Whiskey” route because the route is popularized as somewhat difficult and more expensive than Marangu route. On an overall comparison of the routes to scale Kilimanjaro, this is one of the best routes to take, both in terms of acclimatization and cost. In certain sections, this route is steeper than the Marangu and Rongai routes and physically more demanding but is easier overall.
  • Great for acclimatization with lots of walk high, sleep low opportunities
  • Challenging trek with stunning scenery through 5 diverse climatic zones
  • Good opportunity to split pre-summit day climb to leave climbers rested before summiting
  • Very popular trail
  • Fully catered camping only
  • it takes 6–7 days for climbing.

Marangu

  • Nicknamed the “Coca-Cola” route because the route is popularized as easy and cheap.
  • Often selected by unprepared, inexperienced climbers because of its reputation for being the “easiest” route,
  • The shortest and cheapest route
  • Dormitory style accommodation in huts
  • Less scenic due to ascent and descent on the same route
  • it takes 5–6 days for climbing

Shira / Lemosho

  • High summit success rate. Good for acclimatization, especially on the longer itineraries
  • Remote and spectacular, dramatic gorges and views of West Kilimanjaro
  • Converges with Machame on day 4 at Barranco
  • Shira offers a higher start point compared to Lemosho and poorer acclimatization
  • Fully catered camping only

The Lemosho route approaches Kilimanjaro from the west. Rather than simply intersecting Shira Plateau (like Machame), Lemosho crosses it from Shira Ridge to Shira 2 Camp, on a pleasant hike. Climbers encounter low traffic until the route joins the Machame route. Afterward, Lemosho follows the same route through Lava Tower, Barranco, and Barafu, known as the southern circuit. There are several options to complete the trek over 6, 7, or 8 days based on your experience.

Rongai

  • Only the northern approach to Kilimanjaro
  • Offers a true wilderness experience on the early stages of the climb
  • Very tough final summit night from the north
  • Fewer acclimatization opportunities
  • Less scenic and flat than other routes

Also known as the Nalemuru route. Although the scenery is not as varied as the western routes, Rongai makes up for this by passing through true wilderness areas for days before joining the Marangu route at Kibo camp. Rongai is a moderately difficult route and is highly recommended, especially for those with less backpacking experience. There are different options to complete the climb in 5, 6, or 7 days.

Umbwe

  • Steep, short route with a lower success rate
  • Poor acclimatization because of rapid ascent
  • Very remote and quiet
  • Fully catered camping only

Of all the routes, Umbwe is by far the most scenic albeit steeper route up the mountain. The Rongai is the easiest camping route and the Marangu is also easy, but accommodation is in huts. As a result, this route tends to be very busy and ascent and descent routes are the same. Although the Rongai route is a flatter walk, it offers fewer opportunities for acclimatization. The Machame and Lemosho route both allow better opportunities to “walk high and sleep low”, which is critical to avoiding altitude sickness.

Northern Circuit

  • The longest route up Kilimanjaro – good for acclimatization
  • The only route to traverse all of the Northern Slopes on a circumnavigation of the mountain
  • Beautiful scenery from the western approach
  • Fully catered camping only

The Northern Circuit is the newest route up Kilimanjaro and also the longest. The Northern Circuit takes a minimum of 8 days to complete but most operators offer the 9-day option. Because of its length, the Northern Circuit has the highest summit success rate. The route follows the same as the Lemosho Route for the first two days and then veers off to circle around the quieter northern slopes to the east side of the mountain. There a number of route variations, but generally the Northern Circuit approaches the summit via Gilman’s Point before descending on the same route as the Machame and Lemosho.

Trekking routes

Forest along the Marangu climbing route.

Kilimanjaro has a number of official climbing routes. These are:

  • Northern Circuit
  • Machame
  • Marangu
  • Rongai
  • Londorossi Lemosho
  • Umbwe
  • Shira
  • Mweka (descent only)