The snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro on the equator in the tropical savannahs of Tanzania is one of the most recognised images of Africa. Many tourists on a safari vacation in Tanzania will capture beautiful images of the peak along with their wildlife photographs. For others, it is the challenge of conquering the highest peak in Africa which is the allure.
Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is situated in Kilimanjaro National Park in northern Tanzania. It is the tallest freestanding mountain on Earth at 5,895m or 19,341 feet. It is the tallest in Africa and the 5th highest peak on Earth. It is a dormant volcano and has three volcanic cones, Shiram, Kibo (which is where the peak Uhuru is) and Mawenzi.
Many trekkers attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in 4 – 5 days which makes it one of the fastest ascents in the world and we would recommend taking a 7 – 10-day option to allow acclimatisation which will mean a greater chance of reaching the summit at Uhuru. This is due to altitude sickness and fitness levels.
Seven routes are used to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. The most common routes used include the Machame, Shira, Lemosho and Marangu Routes which all depart and make use of the southern circuit. The Rongai Route starts from the northeast and approaches Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s point. The Marangu Route is the only route that has hut accommodation along the whole route and the same route is used for both ascent and descent.
The Rongai Route starts in the north-east and passes through the Saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi Peak to approach the summit via Gilman’s Point. The new Northern Circuit is the most challenging route and this is only recommended for highly experienced climbers.
Our recommended routes for climbing Kilimanjaro.
The Machame Route is one of the most popular routes to ascend Kilimanjaro. It is very scenic and has a good success rate especially when the 7-day itinerary is taken. It is a good route for acclimatising as climbers climb from Shira Camp to Lava Tower and back down to Barranco Camp to sleep.
The route is challenging and passes through four diverse zones from forest to alpine tundra. The route offers fully catered camping and is popular so can become busy especially near the summit as trekkers from Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe routes join the trail.
The Marangu Route is often considered to be the easiest route and chosen by climbers who are less prepared which means that many do not make the summit. It was called the Coca-Cola route as the beverage used to be sold along the way. This reputation is deceptive. It is one of the shortest routes to the summit which gives little time for acclimatisation.
A minimum of 6 days on this route is recommended to acclimatise. It is the only route with dormitory-style accommodation in huts the whole route. The huts are equipped with mattresses and basic amenities.
The beautiful Lemosho Route approaches the summit from the West of Kilimanjaro. Climbers need 7 or 8 days to complete this route and allow for acclimatisation. The starting point is more remote than other routes, so the early stages of the route are less crowded with hikers. The route offers stunning views of the characteristic gorges of the western side of Kilimanjaro.
Hikers cross the Shira plateau, one of the highest such plateaus in the World. The route converges with the Machame Route at Barranco Camp, or climbers can head north and join the northern circuit via Gilman’s Point. The Lemosho route only offers fully catered camping..
The Rongai Route is the only route which starts on the north-eastern side of Kilimanjaro National Park. The start of the route offers opportunities to see wildlife like Buffalo, antelope and Elephants. This route is often drier which means that it is a better option during the wet season. However, as they are drier, they are often considered to be less scenic but often offers clear views of Kilimanjaro which is not as common from the southern approach.
The Rongai route starts out flatter which makes the first few days easier. The route has limited opportunities for climb high and sleep low which means less chance to acclimatise compared to other routes. The route descends by the Marangu Route and is fully catered camping until the last night on the mountain.
Northern Circuit (Kilimanjaro)
The longest route to ascend Kilimanjaro is the Northern Circuit which takes 8 – 9 days and has a very high summit success rate as there are many opportunities to climb high and sleep low, allowing climbers to acclimatise. The departure is the same as the Lemosho route but joins the northern circuit and summits via Gilman’s Point. This is the quietest route to ascend Kilimanjaro.
We do not recommend the Shira, Umbwe and Western Breach Routes as they offer poor chances to acclimatise or are technical climbs better suited to professional climbers.
Access: How to get to Mount Kilimanjaro
The closest airport to Moshi is Kilimanjaro International Airport (referred to as KIA locally, but JRO is the official abbreviation.), 45km (28 miles) from Moshi (more or less halfway between Moshi and Arusha) and 90km (56 miles) from Marangu. There are several international flights daily. Other flights are via Dar es Salaam to either Kilimanjaro International Airport or Arusha Airport. Moshi is well connected by road, but there are fewer options available from Marangu. Nziza Hospitality will arrange all the transfers for guests..
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