Kilimanjaro climbing routes and information

So you probably have a lot of questions, like "When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro" "Which route should I choose?" How difficult is Kilimanjaro? " "How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro "What are the routes on Kilimanjaro and how do I choose one? "

Stunning Kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro is an event in your life that will live with you for ever. It is a journey of the soul through some of the most beautiful scenery. Kilimanjaro does not require any technical expertise, but does require lots of determination. So if you are committed, landing on this page is a good place to start. Just 3 degrees south of the equator in Tanzania, Africa, and shrouded in mystery, the name Kilimanjaro has varying interpretations, from "Mountain of Greatness" to "Mountain of Caravans." There is a word in Swahili, ' kilima' which means top of the hill and an additional claim is that it comes from the word "kilemakyaro" which, in the Chagga language, means "impossible journey". Some argue that the word ' njaro' refers to a demon of the cold. But whatever the meaning, the image of Mount Kilimanjaro is that of a large looming mountain, situated on the equator, yet covered in ice.

Kilimanjaro trekking routes: There are seven established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro - Machame, Marangu, Lemosho, Umbwe, Shira, Northern Circuit  or Rongai, each one offering their own unique scenery and sights en-route, and each varying in difficulty. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain. The Lemosho, Shira and Northern Circuit routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north. The Mweka Route, is used as a descent route. On average, it takes 6 days to climb Kilimanjaro but extra days should be added on to your trek acclimatise to the high altitude.

detailed post on the routes

Machame Route or Whisky Route

  •  6 - 7 days trekking
  • 40 minutes drive to Machame Gate
  • Scenic but steep
  • Good acclimatisation
  • Starts in forest and joins Lemosho and Shira
  • Summit along Barafu Hut and Stella Point
  • Tents at night
  • Descend along Mweka
 learn more

Lemosho Route

  •  7 to 8 days 
  • 3 hour drive to Park Gate 
  • Scenic, quiet, longer approach 
  • Good acclimatisation 
  • Starts in forest and joins Machame and Shira routes 
  • Summit through Barafu Hut and Stella Point 
  • Sleep in Tents 
  • Descend via Mweka Route                         
 learn more

Northern Route, Grand Traverse or 360 Route

  • 8-9 days hiking 
  • 4 Hour drive to Shira Gate 
  • Few people
  • Less scenic but longer approach 
  • Start higher but route is good for acclimatisation 
  • Route joins Rongai and Marangu Routes 
  • Summit through Kibo Hut and Gilman's Point 
  • Sleep in Tents 
  • Descend via Marangu Route
 learn more

Umbwe Steepest Route

  • 5-7 days trekking 
  • 40 Minute drive to Umbwe Gate 
  • Very Quiet 
  • Very steep and fast approach 
  • Poor chances for acclimatisation 
  • Route joins Shira, Lemosho and Machame 
  • Summit via Kibo Hut and Gilman's Point 
  • Sleep in Tents 
  • Descend via Mweka Route                         
 learn more

Rongai Route, Outward Bound or Loitokok Route

  • 6 - 7 days trekking 
  • 4 hours of driving to Park Gate 
  • Very quiet 
  • Need an extra day for acclimatisation 
  • Starts near Kenyan Border 
  • Route joins Marangu 
  • Summit via Kibo Hut and Gilman's Point 
  • Sleep in Tents 
  • Descend via Marangu Route
 learn more

Marangu Route or Coca Cola Route

  • 5 - 6 days trekking 
  • 30 minutes road to Marangu Gate 
  • Busy route 
  • Less scenic - same ascent and descent 
  • Need an extra day to acclimatise 
  • Route joins Northern Circuit and Rongai Route 
  • Summit via Kibo Hut and Gilman's Point 
  • Sleep in Huts 
  • Descend via Marangu Route                         
 learn more

Kilimanjaro short treks or day hikes

These treks are designed for people with less time available or who do not want to go for summit. They range from 1 to 4 days on the mountain                         

 learn more

Mount Meru Acclimatisation Trek

 learn more

Mt Meru is a great pre-acclimatisation trek before Kilimanjaro or a stand alone trek on its own. These treks are 3-4 days

Kilimanjaro Frequently Asked Questions

 Is Kilimanjaro a technical climb?

No. Kilimanjaro is a trekking peak in that you essentially hike or trek to summit. No technical expertise is required, nor use of rope etc. There are sections on the mountain which require a scramble up rocky areas, dependant  on which trekking path you follow.                    

 How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

The shortest number of days required to climb to Uhuru Peak is on a 5 day Marangu route, totally 7 by the time you have added on arrival and departure days. However, it is not advisable to do it over 5 as the ascent is very quick and  the overall success rate, low. It is better to do the trek over a minimum of 6 or 7 days to increase your chances of success.

 Where do we get water from at camps?

There are several streams on the  trail and porters will collect water from them. The cook  then boils this water for you to fill you water bottles      for your days hike. You can also use purifier tablets in  stream water or add it to your boiled water however it  can also have an effect on the diamox and make you feel  nauseous. The higher you climb the less water there is. On the Machame trail, for example, the last water point is at the Karanga Valley, the lunch-stop before Barafu; on Marangu, it’s just before the Saddle. For this reason it is essential that you carry enough bottles for at least two litres.

 How fit do I need to be for Climbing Kilimanjaro?

Although Kilimanjaro is classified as a ' trek,' it has a very fast altitude gain.   Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro requires physical fitness training and stamina and most importantly, mental fitness  training. Your legs will get you up the first 4-5 days but for  your summit night, mental  strength will get you to the top - (assuming of course that you are not affected by altitude, sickness or pure fatigue). A good exercise and training program is essential. The climb should not be undertaken lightly, after all, why spend the money if you are not willing to prepare yourself physically as well

Do I need to undergo specific medical tests? 

This really depends on the operator you travel through. The parks Kilimanjaro Park authorities do not ask for any medical information on the climbers when permits are purchased. Some operators request the clients complete a medical  form, others do not. We require that all of our clients complete a medical form and based on the answers, we may request a letter from your medical practitioner. People suffering with conditions such as severe asthma e.g. should not climb. Regardless, anyone attempting the climb, or any climb for that matter, should ensure that they are medically fit, and convey any medical conditions to the operator they book with.

How will the altitude affect me on Kilimanjaro?

This is one of the most often asked questions - "how will I cope with the altitude". To be honest, this is an ' unknown' factor as no-one can predict how your body will cope at altitude. People who have been to altitude many times in the past without problems, may on one climb suddenly develop problems. There are many factors that play a role. The only way to help combat this, is to take all of the necessary precautions, and walk slowly,  pole pole. Choosing a path like Machame where you get to follow the principle of "climb high, sleep low" is also advisable.                    

 What gear do I need on Kilimanjaro?

There are certain essentials that are needed for most climbs and Kilimanjaro is no different.  The best way to draw up your list is from the base up, i.e. thermal underwear, then hands and feet (gloves, socks etc). Then boots which must be waterproof with good ankle support, trekking pants, trekking tops, short and long sleeve, thermal jacket, outer shell jacket which likewise is windproof and water proof, hat, scarf, beanie, balaclava. Then consider  sleeping, i.e. sleeping bag, mat etc. Most companies supply sleeping mats so check before you buy one. Then, the last items to add are personal items like toiletries, camera, medicines, water bottle, backpack, camera etc.                        

Most companies will supply you with a comprehensive list for your trek, as do we. If you arrive to Kilimanjaro and are missing items, you can normally rent most gear. Do not, however, reply on buying your gear on arrival.                     

 What if I have to turn back?

Unfortunately this is something every trekker has to consider.  Anything from a stomach bug to altitude sickness can quickly stop a trekker in their tracks. If you are ill and need to turn back or even too tired to continue,  a porter will walk off the mountain with you and your gear. If you are too sick to walk, then part of your fee includes evacuation by teams already on the mountain and employed by the Parks authorities.                    

 Do I need climbing insurance?

Yes you do. We (Nomadic Adventures) do not allow anyone to climb with us unless they have adequate travel insurance. Adequate, means you must be covered for                        

1) trekking or hiking - this may sound strange, but many insurance list that as an exclusion.                          

2) altitude up to 6,000 meters. Most travel insurance providers do not include this under their standard option and often limit it to 3500m or less.

3) Sprains strains and physiotherapy - yes, many insurers exclude this, though ironically, this is what you will most likely need cover for.

4) personal accident - this is the horrible part of insurance. Yes, you need to be covered in the case of death. We are often told by clients - "if anything happens to me, just leave me there." Bodies need to be brought home or laid to rest overseas, and this can run into  thousands of dollars, creating a huge burden on family members.                              

We will assist in helping you provide good cover.   If you need cover or simply a quote, follow the  details herewith:. Once you have done your initial quote, you will need to upgrade your cover to include altitudes up to 6000m.  Towards the bottom of the page you will see a section called, Options: Upgrade your cover.   Click the link called 'View Adventure Sports Benefits'. A blue pop up screen will open. Look for the level of cover required for 'trekking to 6,000 meters' or 'hiking to 6,000 meters'. Depending on your country it is usually a level 1 or 2. Note: we are not insurance experts and it's your responsibility to ensure you have correct and adequate cover. If you live in South Africa, we have other cover options

Read More 
 What are the routes on Kilimanjaro and how do I choose one?

There are 7 summit routes; namely, Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Of all, Machame is by far the most scenic albeit steeper path up the mountain. The Rongai is the easiest camping route and the Marangu is also easier but accommodation is in huts. As a result,  it tends to be very busy and ascent and descent are the same. Both of the latter have lower prospects to acclimatise by the climb high sleep low principle unless one adds on extra days. The Northern Circuit, approaches Kibo  volcano from the west, crossing the caldera of Shira Volcano before turning north to follow the trail through Moir Valley and around the northern side of Kilimanjaro.   For a quick overview we have a quick reference panel on the right of the screen. For a detailed look, click onto  Kilimanjaro Trekking Routes.

 How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?

The Kilimanjaro National Park fees are something that nobody can escape and are a large portion of your climb cost.. For a six day/five night camping trek you pay about $800 in fees alone!  So on average a climb will cost you between $1450 and   $2800 depending on the number of days, number of people and the route that you take. There are some operators  who will quote you $1000 for a trek - ask yourself, what  are they skimping on and who is going to suffer as a  result. You? Your safety? The porters?

Books and other resources

There are so many good books written on Kilimanjaro. Some of the ones we suggest are:-                        

1) Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa' s Highest Mountain by Henry Stedman                          

 2) The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway is a short story about a writer who is on safari in Tanzania

3) Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa by Audrey Salkeld. 

 A link to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park  website 

Kilimanjaro National Park -UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Acute mountain sickness:    MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia 

 Those who have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro know that the porters are the heart and soul of your trek. Without their hard work and strength we would not be able to fully experience the magnificence of Kilimanjaro. A link to the  Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project

What If I Don’t Have Anyone To Climb With Me?

We arrange treks from just 1 person on their own with a guide and porters to large groups. If you climb alone you will still get to meet other people on the mountain if you are sociable.