mount kilimanjaro routes

Mount Kilimanjaro Routes: A Comprehensive Guide to Climbing Routes on Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro routes offer adventurers a variety of paths to reach the highest peak in Africa, standing majestically at 5,895 meters above sea level. Its snow-capped summit, Uhuru Peak, draws thousands every year, each seeking the thrill of standing on the roof of Africa. The journey to the summit is as diverse as the climbers themselves, with several routes offering unique experiences. Each route has its own character, challenges, and rewards. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the primary climbing routes on Mount Kilimanjaro: Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Umbwe, and the Northern Circuit.

Marangu Route

The Marangu Route, often referred to as the “Coca-Cola Route,” is one of the oldest and most popular routes on Kilimanjaro. It is considered the easiest path due to its gradual slope and direct path. This route is the only one offering hut accommodations, providing a bit more comfort for trekkers.


  • Accommodation: Hut accommodations at Mandara, Horombo, and Kibo Huts, making it appealing for those who prefer not to camp.
  • Path: A straightforward path that allows for a steady, gradual climb, reducing the physical strain on trekkers.
  • Vegetation Zones: Trekkers experience a variety of ecosystems, starting from lush rainforest to alpine desert.


  • Crowds: Being one of the most popular routes, it can get crowded, especially during peak season.
  • Acclimatization: The rapid ascent can pose challenges for acclimatization, leading to a lower success rate compared to longer routes.

Machame Route

The Machame Route, known as the “Whiskey Route,” is favored by more adventurous trekkers. It is longer and more challenging than Marangu but offers stunning scenery and diverse landscapes.


  • Scenery: Renowned for its breathtaking views, the route traverses through rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert, culminating in a spectacular summit night.
  • Acclimatization: The “climb high, sleep low” profile of this route enhances acclimatization, increasing the chances of reaching the summit.
  • Popularity: Despite being more challenging, it is highly popular due to its scenic beauty.


  • Physical Demand: The route is physically more demanding due to steeper trails and longer days.
  • Camping: Trekkers must camp, which requires more preparation and gear.

Lemosho Route

The Lemosho Route is known for its panoramic vistas and lower crowds. It starts from the western side of Kilimanjaro, offering a longer and more gradual ascent, which is excellent for acclimatization.


  • Scenic Beauty: Arguably the most beautiful route, with views of diverse landscapes and wildlife encounters.
  • Less Crowded: The initial days are quieter, with fewer trekkers, allowing for a more peaceful experience.
  • Acclimatization: The longer duration and gradual ascent make it one of the best routes for acclimatization.


  • Duration: It requires more days, making it a longer journey.
  • Cost: Due to its length and remote starting point, it can be more expensive.
Lemosho Route

Rongai Route

The Rongai Route approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, near the Kenyan border. It is the only route that starts from this side and is known for its gentle, unspoiled wilderness.


  • Quiet Path: It’s one of the least crowded routes, offering a more solitary trekking experience.
  • Gentle Ascent: The climb is gradual, providing good acclimatization opportunities.
  • Weather: It’s generally drier on this side of the mountain, which can be beneficial.


  • Scenery: While beautiful, it is considered less scenic compared to routes like Machame and Lemosho.
  • Camping: Requires camping, with no hut accommodations available.
rongai route

Umbwe Route

The Umbwe Route is the shortest and steepest route, offering a direct path to the southern glaciers. It is the least used due to its challenging terrain and steepness.


  • Direct Path: Provides a fast, direct route to the higher camps.
  • Challenge: Ideal for experienced climbers looking for a more demanding trek.


  • Steepness: The steep, relentless ascent makes it one of the toughest routes.
  • Acclimatization: Rapid altitude gain can lead to acclimatization issues, resulting in a lower success rate.
6 days Umbwe Route


  • Scenery: Stunning views of the northern wilderness, often missed on other routes.
  • Acclimatization: The longest route allows for excellent acclimatization, leading to the highest success rates.
  • Solitude: Offers a quiet and less crowded experience, with unique perspectives of Kilimanjaro.


  • Duration: The extended duration requires more time and resources.
  • Cost: As the longest route, it can be more expensive due to the number of days on the mountain.
northern circuit

Northern Circuit Route

The Northern Circuit Route is the newest and longest route on Kilimanjaro. It offers a comprehensive trek around the northern slopes of the mountain, starting from the west and joining the summit path from the east.

Choosing the Right Route

Factors to Consider

Choosing the right route depends on various factors, including physical fitness, experience, time available, and personal preferences. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

  1. Fitness Level: Some routes, like Umbwe, are more physically demanding and suitable for experienced climbers. Others, like Marangu, offer a more gradual ascent.

  2. Acclimatization: Longer routes like Lemosho and the Northern Circuit provide better acclimatization opportunities, crucial for reaching the summit.

  3. Time Available: If you have limited time, shorter routes like Marangu and Umbwe might be more appealing. If you can afford more days, longer routes offer a richer experience.

  4. Scenery Preferences: If you value scenic diversity, routes like Machame and Lemosho offer breathtaking landscapes. If solitude is important, consider Rongai or the Northern Circuit.

  5. Budget: Longer routes tend to be more expensive due to the increased number of days on the mountain. Consider your budget when selecting a route.

Preparing for the Trek

Physical Training

Regardless of the route chosen, preparing physically is essential. Cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and hiking experience are critical components of your preparation. Focus on building endurance through activities like running, cycling, and long hikes.

Gear and Equipment

Quality gear is vital for a successful climb. Invest in good hiking boots, warm clothing, and a reliable sleeping bag. Layering is key to managing the varying temperatures on the mountain. Don’t forget essentials like a headlamp, trekking poles, and a first-aid kit.


Acclimatization is the process of gradually adjusting to higher altitudes. Plan your trek to include acclimatization days, especially on routes with rapid altitude gains. Hydrate well, eat properly, and listen to your body to avoid altitude sickness.

Mental Preparation

Climbing Kilimanjaro is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. Prepare yourself for the rigors of the trek, the altitude, and the unpredictable weather. Stay positive, take one step at a time, and focus on the journey as well as the destination.

What to Expect on the Mountain

Weather Conditions

Kilimanjaro’s weather varies greatly depending on the altitude and season. Expect to encounter diverse climates, from tropical rainforests at the base to arctic conditions at the summit. Be prepared for sudden weather changes and plan your gear accordingly.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is a common challenge on Kilimanjaro. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. To mitigate these effects, ascend slowly, stay hydrated, and take acclimatization days seriously. If symptoms worsen, descend immediately.

Wildlife and Flora

Kilimanjaro is home to diverse wildlife and flora, especially in the lower regions. You might encounter animals such as colobus monkeys, elephants, and a variety of birds. The changing vegetation zones, from rainforests to alpine deserts, add to the trek’s visual appeal.

Local Culture

Trekking Kilimanjaro offers an opportunity to engage with local cultures. The Chagga and Maasai people, among others, inhabit the regions around the mountain. Learning about their traditions and lifestyles can enrich your climbing experience.

The Summit Experience

The Final Push

The final ascent to Uhuru Peak usually begins around midnight. Climbers navigate through the dark, cold night, relying on headlamps to light the path. The climb is physically and mentally demanding, with freezing temperatures and steep terrain.

Reaching Uhuru Peak

Reaching Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa, is an exhilarating and emotional moment. The sense of accomplishment, combined with the breathtaking views of the sunrise over the African plains, makes the challenging journey worthwhile.

Descending the Mountain

After summiting, the descent begins. Though easier on the cardiovascular system, descending can be tough on the knees and joints. Trekkers often feel a mix of relief and exhaustion as they make their way down to lower altitudes.

Post-Climb Reflections

Physical Impact

Climbing Kilimanjaro can leave you physically exhausted but also fitter and more resilient. It’s essential to take time to rest and recover after the trek, giving your body a chance to heal from the strain of the climb.

Mental and Emotional Takeaways

The journey to the summit is as much about personal growth as it is about physical achievement. Many climbers find the experience transformative, gaining new perspectives on life, resilience, and perseverance.

Sharing Your Experience

Sharing your Kilimanjaro experience with others can be rewarding. Whether through blog posts, social media, or personal stories, recounting your journey can inspire others to undertake their own adventures.

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