Kilimanjaro photos 114

Which route should I take to climb Kilimanjaro?

There are more or less six established ascent routes – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, and Umbwe. The Lemosho and Shira routes start from the west side of the mountain, while Machame and Umbwe routes approach the mountain from the south. The Marangu route starts from the southeast and lastly, the remote Rongai route commences from the north close to the Kenyan border.

In determining which route to select, consider the route’s difficulty, the number of days (longer is better to allow your body to acclimatize), and your preferences when it comes to traffic on the trail and scenery.

RouteMinimum Number of Days to Climb*Difficulty LevelTrail Traffic

*We strongly suggest adding an acclimatization 1-day to the minimum number.

Can you tell me a little bit about each route?

Also referred to as the “Coca-Cola” route, it is often considered the easiest route on Kilimanjaro given its gradual incline and short duration, but misleading due to the high failure rate to the summit. The ascent and descent routes are on the same path and it is the second most popular route after Machame so the traffic on the trail is high. The Marangu route is considered the least scenic of the six routes.

Marangu is the only route that offers dormitory-style accommodations in small basic huts. Climbers are supplied with bunks beds, mattresses and pillows, but climbers are required to provide their own sleeping bags. The huts have communal dining areas and basic washrooms.

Often referred to as the “Whiskey” route, Machame is the most popular route on the mountain and the trail is busy during the high season. Machame route is very scenic and the trail takes climbers through the montane forest, the moorlands of Shira Plateau, the barren and rocky landscape around Lava Tower, into Barranco Valley with its unique and indigenous vegetation. 


Machame Route: 7 Days / 6 Nights

Day 1: Machame Gate (1800 m) to Machame Hut (3050m) (Approx:5-6 hrs walk)
You set off from the Machame Gate (1800m) around 11:00, climbing through a rainforest with giant ferns and moss-covered trees, to the first campsite. The Machame camp, like all campsites on this route, is a public campsite open to all registered climbers. Basic facilities include pit toilets and ground pump water. Dinner and Overnight is at Machame Hut Campsite.

Day 2: Machame Hut (3050m) to Shira Hut (3800m) (Approx. 5 hrs walk)
After an early breakfast and tea, you head on a steep and twisting path into sparser terrain. At the en route lunch stop, you are treated to fantastic views of the eroded peaks of Shira thrusting the moorland ridges into the wispy cloudline. At the top of the Shira ridge the highest point for the day is reached (3840m), before you take a slight descent to Shira camp. Shira Cave Campsite offers fantastic views in every direction; the soft light of the sunset reveals Shira’s peaks and plateau, Mt. Meru in the distance floating in a golden sea of clouds,  and shimmering reflections off Kibo’s ice fields. Dinner and overnight at Shira Hut Campsite.

Day 3: Shira Hut (3800m) To Barranco Hut (3955m) Via Lava Tower (4610m)(Approx.: 6 hrs walk )
After breakfast at  Shira Camp, you start the day climb walking directly towards Kibo up a broad rocky ridge. The barren looking Shira plateau stretches out to your left and the snow-capped summit looks noticeably closer. Vegetation disappears as you climb over 4000m into the desert zone. The highest point of the day is reached at Lava Tower, a 50m high mound of solidified lava sticking up from the rolling ridges around the summit cone. From the tower you take a gentle descent to the Barranco Hut Campsite. Dinner and overnight at Barranco Hut.

Day 4: Barranco Hut (3955m) to Karranga Valley (3950m) (Approx.: 3 hrs walk)
The day’s first and main obstacle is the imposing looking lava face of the great Barranco Wall. After a short walk across the valley floor, the craggy, sheer-looking wall looms overhead. 30 minutes on easier, but still steep, slopes and you finally reach the top of the wall at an altitude of 4180m, your highest point for today. The reward is your best and closest view of Kibo’s glaciers. To the left, perched on top the sheer cliff of the western breach, the diamond glacier ‘drips’ over the cliff with enormous icicle tendrils reaching down to the Balletto Glacier on the shelf below. To the right, the Heim, Kerstien and Decken glaciers slump over their uneven rock bed. After traversing a series of valleys, you arrive at Karranga Valley, a barren landscape with a few hardy plants sheltered in gaps under and between rocks. You descend to a flat area towards the head of the valley above a cascading stream, where your camp is again set up for you when you arrive. After a welcome lunch, you can lounge around in the sun resting, reading and taking in the scenery as your body acclimates. Dinner and overnight: Karranga Valley Campsite. *(Those wishing to complete Machame in 6 days will travel straight on to the Barafu Camp this day.)

Day 5: Karranga Valley (3950m) to Barafu Hut (4610m) (Approx.: 3 hrs walk)
The morning’s short hike will take you out of the valleys and up a steep boulder strewn path to Barafu Ridge. You arrive at Barafu Hut Camp around 1200 after 3 hrs walking. The leisurely day at camp will give you time to acclimate and your body time to rest for the final push early tomorrow. The cloud shawl around Kibo and Mawenzi peaks usually clears by mid-afternoon, revealing spectacular views in all directions. An early dinner is prepared at 1700 and then you will go to bed to get some sleep before your wakeup call at 2300. Wake up arrives with tea. Dinner and Rest: Barafu Hut Campsite.

Barafu Hut (4610m) to Mweka Hut (3100m) Via UHURU Peak (5895m) (Approx.: 12 hrs walk)
The Summit climb starts at midnight, under a ceiling of stars. The first goal is Stella Point at 5794m, about a 6 hour hike. The pace will be slow and measured, with short breaks about every hour to help with acclimatization and cut off before the below-freezing cold creeps in.  In the darkness you will pass Rebman Glacier and Mawebzi Peak. At Stella Peak you will be rewarded with awesome view of the extinct volcanoe’s huge crater with the ash pit rising up in the center. As the sun rises over an endless sea of clouds, its light reaching in all directions around you and broken only by the smaller peak of Mt. Meru in the distance, you begin the final hour ascent around the gently sloped crater rim towards Uhuru Peak. 

Upon reaching the highest point of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, at 5,895 meters, you can finally say that you are on the “Roof of Africa”. You breathe in with satisfaction, sign the elite summit log, capture the feat with some pictures, and soon begin your descent, as the cold and high altitude take their toll. The whole eastern sky is lit by a golden, fiery glow. The horizon is visible so far in either direction that the curve of the earth can be clearly seen.  Physical relief comes as high altitude discomfort is soon dispelled by the quick 2 to 3 hour descent to Barafu and the air is warmed by the exposed sun. There you are rewarded with a short nap and a hearty lunch, before you continue your descent to Mweka Hut Campsite (3100m), approximately 3 hours. This comfortable altitude around the cloud line will allow you to get some much deserved rest. Dinner and Overnight: Mweka Hut Campsite.

Day 07: Mweka Hut (3100m) to Mweka Gate (1800m) (Approx.: 4 hrs walk)
On your final morning, after an early breakfast,  you start to descend from the camp. Discretional tipping of your guide, cook, and porters is customary at this time. You descend through the rain forest. After you reach the gate, you will go to the park office to sign out and receive your summit certificates. A car will be waiting to take you to your hotel.

Climbers will experience breathtaking views from the top of Barranco Wall and a good glimpse Kibo’s Southern Icefield from Karanga Valley. The Machame route descends using the Mweka route.

Machame is considered a more difficult route than Marangu with longer climbing days and steeper trails and climbers sleep in tents at designed campsites for the duration of the climb.


The Lemosho route, similar to Machame, takes climbers through breathtaking scenery and ever-changing landscapes, and due to its low traffic and high summit rate, it is a good choice for those climbers with hiking and camping experience and time to do a longer climb.

Lemosho route also winds through lush montane forest on day 1 before ascending to endless vistas of the moorlands and the Shira Plateau on day 2. Typically on day 3 or 4 (depending on the number of days you choose) Lemosho meets up with the popular Machame route near Lava Tower. As with Machame, the Lemosho route descends using the Mweka route.

The minimum number of days required for this route is seven days, although eight days is recommended to best enjoy the scenic trail at a leisurely pace.

Lemosho Route: 8 Days / 7 Nights

Day 1:
After breakfast transfer from your hotel to National Park Forest edge. From here walk through the undisturbed forest to Mti Mkubwa camp site for dinner and overnight. By luck you will be able to see colubus monkeys and signs of elephants.

Day 2:
Take your time to walk through the forest sporting some of the plentiful game and birdlife. You will pass through the montane forest and hagenia zone. Dinner and overnight at Shira camp.

Day 3:
The hike today is across Shira plateau up the western slope of Kibo massif. Overnight at Fisher campsite.

Day 4:
After breakfast hike up Lava Tower – The first introduction to the alpine zone. The only plant life being the hardest of grasses and Lichen. Here you will be able to have a spectacular view of final ascent route up the Western breach.

Day 5:
With the Western breach ascent route in view, spend a few hours climbing to the base of the route where you will make a camp near Arrow Glacier. An afternoon hike further up the route before relaxing in camp will help you acclimatize and improve your performance the next day.

Day 6:
Wind your way up the Western Breach non-technical climbing route about six hours to the crater rim. Explore the inner crater and ash pit before pitching the camp at the crater floor.

 Start your ascent to the summit early enough in the morning to put on the Summit by 10 am. After Uhuru peak descends via Barafu Hut and on down to Mweka Hut camp for dinner and overnight.

Day 8:
It takes about 3 to 4 hours to make the descent to the road head. After your lunch bid bye to your porters and transfer to Arusha for dinner and overnight.


The remote Rongai route starts near the Kenyan border and has low traffic compared to the Marangu and Machame routes. Rongai is also a good choice for climbers in the rainy season as the northern side of the mountain receives less rain than the other routes starting from the west and south.

Rongai route winds through remote and wilderness areas with very few climbers before meeting up with the popular Marangu route at Kibo camp. Rongai route descends down the Marangu.

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