The Best Routes to Climb Kilimanjaro - AdventureTripr

The Best Routes to Climb Kilimanjaro

Marjorie Geling · May 12, 2022
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Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of Africa's most famous tourist destinations. The summit is also one of the most difficult attractions to attain as Africa's highest peak and one of the fabled Seven Summits. It stands at 5895 meters, or 19340 feet, yet despite its imposing stature, conquering it is quite possible provided you have a reasonable level of fitness and commitment. Climbing Kilimanjaro requires both physical and mental strength, but many climbers claim that the experience and sense of accomplishment at the peak makes the arduous trek well worth it.

There are seven main Kilimanjaro routes available for climbing Africa's highest mountain. To pick the ideal Kilimanjaro route for you, consider the landscape, difficulty, foot traffic, and altitude acclimatization qualities of the route. We've compiled this guide to the top Kili routes so you can make the most of your time on the mountain.


1. Machame

Distance: 62 km / 38 miles

Duration: 6-7 days

Difficulty: Strenuous

Machame, also known as the "Whisky Route," is the most popular Kilimanjaro route. Machame boasts a high success rate, and provides spectacular views throughout the walk with landscapes ranging from rainforests to moorlands and barren deserts. However, because it is the most popular path, it is impossible to avoid other climbers, particularly during peak season. Despite being more difficult, it has a better success rate than Marangu because many inexperienced and unprepared climbers pick the Marangu route and then return when they learn it's more difficult than they anticipated. 


2. Marangu

Distance: 72 km / 45 miles

Duration: 5-6 days

Difficulty: Moderate

Marangu is the most direct way to summit Kilimanjaro and is appropriate for hikers who want to stay on well-defined trails. The biggest difference between this route and others is the presence of huts, which eliminates the necessity for camping. As a result, it is frequently referred to as the "Coca Cola" trail, as Coca Cola is offered in several huts along the route.

Because of the availability of huts, the Marangu route is ideal during the rainy season. It is also the cheapest option because there aren't as many porters needed to deliver camping goods, and the starting site is near to Moshi, lowering transportation costs. Although it is also a crowded route due to its less strenuous climb, its popularity is diminishing since many people find the Marangu path to be too congested and limited in scenic diversity.


3. Lemosho

Distance: 70 km / 43 miles

Duration: 7-8 days

Difficulty: Strenuous

Lemosho is an upgraded version of the Machame route. The first two days of the journey allow you to soak in the African wilderness as you walk through gorgeous rainforests. When it comes to wild landscapes in the early stages, no other path compares to Lemosho. After a couple of days of trekking through low altitude rainforests, the Lemosho path connects with the Machame trail all the way up and back down the mountain.

The Lemosho route is considered one of the most scenic Kilimanjaro routes because of its varied scenery and terrain. It’s a bit more remote and lesser-known than Marangu or Machame, so it’s not usually as crowded. Because of its remote nature and lengthier route, Lemosho takes a few extra days to trek.

4. Rongai

Distance: 73 km / 45 miles

Duration: 6-7 days

Difficulty: Moderate

The Rongai route is distinct from the others since it is the only one that reaches the summit from the north. You will begin your journey near the Kenyan border and travel through wilderness areas before joining the Marangu route at Kibo Camp, which is located at the base of the peak. The descent thereafter is via the Marangu route, completing a north-south climb of Kilimanjaro.

Because the north side receives less precipitation due to being in the rain shadow, this trail is great for the rainy season because it is more sheltered. It is a considerably quieter path than the others, owing to the extra time it takes to reach the gate at the beginning.


5. Umbwe

Distance: 53 km / 33 miles

Duration: 5-6 days

Difficulty: Very strenuous

The Umbwe route is the most direct route up the mountain, ascending steeply through woodland to Barranco Camp on the mountain's south flank. This steep ascent makes acclimatization more difficult, particularly for trekkers traveling from sea level. The walk is primarily forested, with a hard ascent up a narrow valley from the roadhead to the Barranco Camp.


6. Shira

Distance: 56 km / 35 miles

Duration: 7-8 days

Difficulty: Strenuous

This is the only route on Kilimanjaro that involves driving in rather than walking through the rainforest. This is also one of the reasons that less than 1% of climbers use this route. The Shira route, which approaches Kilimanjaro from the west, is a tough one. Furthermore, it is not considered an acclimatization-friendly route because there is a significant altitude climb on the first night, making it less safe. However, this route is scenically stunning and provides breathtaking views of the mountain. After a few days of isolated climbing, it connects with the Machame route, when traffic picks up significantly.


7. The Northern Circuit

Distance: 98 km / 61 miles

Duration: 9-10 days

Difficulty: Strenuous

The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest route, both in terms of the number of days spent on the mountain and the distance traveled. It starts in the west, like the Lemosho route, and then heads north from Buffalo Camp in a clockwise roundabout direction, hence the name "Northern Circuit." This 9-10 day itinerary provides the easiest acclimatization opportunity and has a high success rate. Plus, at various vantage points throughout the way, climbers get beautiful views of the mountain, and there is less traffic because it is still a new route. Using this route, however, is more expensive due to the higher number of days spent on the mountain.


There you have it: the seven best routes to Kilimanjaro. If you are thinking of traveling to Tanzania to climb this glorious mountain, check out our Kili adventures here!


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