Which Route Should I Use to Climb Kilimanjaro

Which Route Should I Use to Climb Kilimanjaro

There are seven established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro from different sides and they vary considerably in length, difficulty, traffic levels and other aspects. Several of these trails meet after a few days climbing and as a result, there are only three routes from the base of Kibo – the main peak to the Kilimanjaro crater rim. The seven established routes are – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Sihira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe.

Each route has its own pros and cons, some are great for scenery, but not so great for acclimatisation while others offer a high summit success rate but are also busy at certain times of the year. Let’s learn the various advantages and disadvantages of the routes below –

Kilimanjaro Route Min. Days Rec. Days Difficulty Scenery Traffic Rating
Northern Circuit 9 9 high excellent very low ****
Lemosho Route 6 8 high excellent medium ****
Rongai Route 6 7 medium very good low ****
Machame Route 6 7 high excellent high ***
Shira Route 6 7 high excellent medium **
Marangu Route 5 6 medium good high **
Umbwe Route 5 7 very high very good very low **

Marangu Route:

Marangu is the oldest and the most well-established route to Mount Kilimanjaro. It is one of the easiest routes where you can use the same trail to ascend and descend. The route begins in the south-east and approaches Uhuru peak via Gilman’s Point. Marangu is also the only route which offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodation. For many years Marangu used to be the most popular Kilimanjaro route but due to the ascent and decent being done on the same route, it has the least scenic variety of all the route.

Duration: 5+ days| Acclimatization day can be added.*

Pros:

  • Low cost
  • Hut Accommodation
  • No camping equipment needed
  • Easy route

Cons:

  • Low success rate
  • Very Crowded
  • Camping is not allowed
  • Same way up and down. 

Machame Route:

Machame route is now one of the most popular and scenic routes on Kilimanjaro which offers a route from the south heading east, traversing underneath Kilimanjaro’s southern ice field before summiting. The Machame route is difficult, with terrain more suited for travellers with some hiking or backpacking experience. This route is considered good for acclimatization as it has climb high, sleep low opportunity for trekkers on day three. Due to the scenic value, the route, however, has gotten very popular over the past few years and can get busy in peak seasons.

Duration: 6-7 days| Acclimatization day can be added*

Pros:

  • Relatively low cost
  • Very Scenic
  • Higher success rate than Marangu.

Cons:

  • Higher level of difficulty
  • Very Crowded

Lemosho Route:

Lemosho, one of the newest route on Mount Kilimanjaro is considered the most beautiful route on Kilimanjaro. Starting from the west it crosses from Shira Ridge to Shira camp following the route through Lava Tower, Barranco and Barafu, known as the southern circuit. Lemosho offers a great balance of low traffic, scenic views and a high summit success rate. It also provides spectacular views of the dramatic gorges that characterise the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Duration: 7-8 days| Acclimatization day can be added*

Pros:

  • Very Scenic (most beautiful)*
  • Very fewer climbers during the first few days.
  • Provides plenty of time for acclimatization

Cons:

  • Higher level of difficulty
  • High Cost
  • Very Crowded in the last few days as the trail meets Machame and Shira route climbers.

Shira Route:

Shira route was the original route which was improved to make Lemosho. It approaches Kilimanjaro from the west and is nearly identical to Lemosho. Following the Shira route, the climbers begin their hike from 11,800 feet after being transported to the Shira Gate by a vehicle and spend their first night at the same elevation at Simba Camp. Due to the elevation of 11,800 feet, the climbers often experience some altitude related symptoms.

Duration: 6-8 days| Acclimatization day can be added*

Pros:

•    Very Scenic

•    Very fewer climbers during the first few days.

Cons:

•    Higher level of difficulty

•    High Cost

•    Very Crowded in the last few days as the trail meets climbers from Machame trail.

Northern Circuit Route:

The Northern Circuit Route is one of the most exciting routes on Kilimanjaro which approaches Kilimanjaro from the west and traverses the mountain around the quite, rarely visited northern slopes. This route is one of the longest routes in terms of time and distance travelled. The Northern Circuit Route has the highest success rate as it provides ample time for acclimatization. Due to the high success rate and a very low number of visitors along with incredibly varied scenery, the Northern Circuit route is one of the best routes on Kilimanjaro.

Duration: 8-9 days| Acclimatization day can be added*

Pros:

•    Highest success rate 

•    Ample time for acclimatization

•    Very scenic

Cons:

•    Longest route in terms of time and distance travelled

Rongai Route:

Close to the Kenyan border, the Rongai route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. The Rongai Route offers a true wilderness experience in the early stages of the climb, and it is possible to see large wildlife like buffalo, antelope and elephants. Rongai is a great route for trekking during the wet season as the northern slopes tend to be drier than the southern slopes. The trek is also flatter for the first few days which makes for easy trekking.

Duration: 5-6 days| Acclimatization day can be added*

Pros:

•    The Easiest Kilimanjaro route

•    One of the quietest routes on Kilimanjaro

•    Best chances of Good Weather

•    You get to see both sides of Kilimanjaro as you ascent and descent from the opposite sides

Cons:

•    Considered less scenic

•    Highest Cost

Umbwe Route:

The Umbwe route is the shortest and the most direct route to Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a steep route which is considered to be the most challenging way up the mountain. Recommended only for very strong and confident hikers, Umbwe route offers a quick ascent and also has the lowest of success rates.

Duration: 5-6 days

This route is only suitable for people with mountain climbing experience and who are already well adapted to the altitude. Kili Quests do not recommend this route to less experienced or new trekkers.

Crater Camp:

Crater Camp is a little-used campsite next to one of Kilimanjaro’s last remaining glaciers, Furtwangler Glacier. Situated just shy of the summit, it is called Crater Camp because it is a short distance from the source of Kilimanjaro herself, Reusch Crater (19,140ft). Crater Camp gives climbers an opportunity to climb to the crater rim and get up close to the glaciers. It is also used by climbers to rest before or preferably after a summit attempt.

Western Breach:

The Western Breach route is the most technically difficult approach to Mount Kilimanjaro starting from the Umbwe Route and continuing north and up from Lava Tower. Although difficult, it is considered the most rewarding and a beautiful trek approaching Uhuru Peak from the west. Due to challenging terrain, the route is usually only tackled by experiences high altitude trekkers. The Western Breach climbers are also advised to wear helmets along with point crampons during the wet season. The route was closed in January 2006 by Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAP) following a rock fall accident that claimed the lives of three climbers. Although the Western Breach was re-opened in December 2007, Kili Quests’ operators no longer utilize the route due to safety concerns for clients and staff.

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