MACHAME KILIMANJARO route and information

So you probably have a lot of questions, like "Is the Macahme quiet? How difficult is the route along Machame," "When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro" "Which route should I choose?"  "Do I need insurance on Mount Kilimanjaro "What are the routes on Kilimanjaro and how do I choose one? "

Machame scenic Route

Machame Route Kilimanjaro is the most scenic route to climb Kilimanjaro. It is also called the 'Whisky route.' The route goes through forests of violets and red-hot pokers as you climb through Machame forest paths of moss and lichens which hang on trees, into a scrubland with lobelia and daisy bushes. From there it takes you to a volcanic desert, decorated with large deposits of volcanic rock and grey dust.  

Mount Kilimanjaro has several different habitats. Glacial ice pours off the summit, stretching ice fingers down to a height of 4800m. Here you have breath taking views of Lava Tower, Arrow Glacier and the western breach.

The Machame Route is approximately 62 km/ 37 miles from gate to gate and well suited to physically fit people with some hiking experience, It is steeper than many other routes but offers good acclimatisation. It is rated as one of Kilimanjaro’s better routes and thus is recommended. 

Machame approaches Kilimanjaro from the south after a 40 minute drive from Moshi. The route leads through a lush forest before starting the climb up Shira Ridge towards Shira Plateau. Then above Shira Camp it joins Lemosho and Shira routes near Lava Tower. Then it traverses Lava Tower bypassing the old Arrow Glacier route to Barranco Camp descending in altitude under Mt Kilimanjaro's Southern Ice Fields. Then continuing along the southern circuit the Machame route climbs up Barranco Wall then through the Karanga Valley up to Barafu Hut. 

Descent is via Mweka route 

Did you say Barranco wall? Many people shudder at the thought of it The Barranco wall is along the Machame Route, Shira Route, Lemosho Route and Umbwe Route. Is it a “wall” – well no it is not, in the sense that a wall is pretty much vertical which Barranco is not. It consists of a rocky path that zig zags up the rock section of the mountain. Yes it is steep, let us not deny that fact, but do-able? Definitely!

lemosho route profile
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best time to climb

Being equatorial,  Tanzania has two wet seasons.

The first is the long rains from March to May, and then a short rainy season in November. The daytime temperatures tend to range around 32 to 38 degrees C in the forest, to anything from -2 to 6 degrees at the summit. Nights tend to range from 10 degrees down to well below freezing. Summit temperatures can drop below -20C. 

Distances trekked per day vary, between 6km’s on day two, to close on 30km’s on the day of your summit, dependent on which route you take.

The warmest months with the clearest trekking days on Kilimanjaro,  are from mid to late December, January, February, September and October. The rains often come in April and the start of May with the possibility of some snow.  June through to August are superb trekking months, though evening temperatures tend to be colder. The wettest months on Kilimanjaro are November and early December, where snowfalls are likely. Note, that as this is a mountain it is not impossible to get sporadic snow or rainfall at odd times throughout the year, although the snow normally only falls above 4800m.

Emergency Evacuation

As part of your Kilimanjaro Park Fee, emergency evacuation services are included. This means that you will be carried down to the base of the mountain as quickly as possible, on a mountain stretcher.  In many cases, a foot evacuation is quicker than waiting for insurance cover to arrange the logistics for a helicopter.

There are helicopter evacuation points on all of the major routes at specific locations, namely Horombo, Barranco, Barafu, Kosovo, Stella, Millennium and Shira. All points are within less than five hours from the crater by stretcher and SAR emergency medical service can be deployed within 5 minutes from Kilimanjaro or Meru, regardless of the season. Of course, nothing is free and deployment of this service is contingent on you already have an insurance covers for evacuations to 6,000 meters above sea level. 

Kilimanjaro TOILETS

So lets start with the worst problem of all; human waste. It is something we all need to do at some point of the day and there are purpose built toilets at each camp and at some places along the route. If you are on Marangu you will find nice flush toilets but for the rest of the mountain they are long drops. Lower down the mountain in the forest zone and at the first camps, the toilets smell due to low altitude and warm weather during the day. The effect of this is that many people elect to go outside the toilet in the surrounding area, resulting in unwanted piles of human waste and toilet paper littering the area. The situation at Crater camp at 5700m is even more dire, where they are no custom toilets meaning that the only places to go are in and around crater camp itself. Due to the sub zero temperatures, nothing freezes. Between camps, there are few, if any toilet facilities. 

For the reasons mentioned above, regardless of how dire the conditions are in the toilet we ask that climbers make use of them.  They are there for good reason. Take vicks and rub it under your nose if you must.  If not, hire a toilet tent where the waste can be properly disposed of. And if you really do need to go between camps, find yourself a “loo with a view” a good 20m off the trail and away from any streams, dig and hole and bury your deposit.


Everything that is carried up the mountain that is not consumed must be brought back down again. At every camp, the gear that the porters carry must be weighed on leaving each camp and again on arriving to the next one.  KINAPA enforces strict regulations to keep Kilimanjaro clean. Licenses are easily revoked or heavy fines imposed if it is found that a guide is leaving litter on the mountain. So in theory, all you have to do is give your little paper bag to the kitchen team to be carried off the mountain or better still, leave it in a bag in your duffel and dispose of it when home. Why paper bag? Simple, plastic is a global curse and as of 1 June, Tanzania has banned the use of plastic bags. Anyone arriving into Tanzania will have to “surrender” plastic bags in their possession before entering the country. En route to summit, sucking on glucose sweet helps with thirst and a dry mouth but sadly, most of those sweet wrappers find there way to the scree paths. If you have the energy to dig out a sweet and open it, then you have the energy to put the wrapper back in your pocket. The same applies to hand warmers and dead camera batteries.

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The cost of a medical evacuation from the mountain is expensive, which is why adequate travel insurance  is required on all climbs booked through us. 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 cover 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.” It is not that simple. 

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Kilimanjaro Machame 5 Day Overview

Day Start Altitude Finish Altitude Duration Distance Habitat
Day 1 Machame Gate 1830m Machame Camp 2835m 5-7hrs 18km Forest
Day 2 Machame Camp 2835m Shira Camp 3800 5-6hours 9km Moorland
Day 3 Shira Camp 3800 Lava Tower 4600m 3-4hrs 7km Alpine
Lava Tower 4600m Baranco Camp 3985m 2-3hrs 3km Moorland
Day 4 Baranco Camp 3985 Karanga Camp 3995 4-5hrs 5km Alpine
Karanga Camp 3995m Barafu Hut 4680m 2-3hrs 4km Alpine
Day 5 Barafu Hut 4680m Uhuru Peak 5895m 6-9hrs 7km Scree/snow
Uhuru Peak 58985m Mweka Camp 1980m 7-8hrs 13km Alpine to Forest
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machame route ITINERARY

Day-1: Meet at Kilimanjaro International Airport and transfer to hotel.

Machame kilimanjaro trek map

Day-2: Machame Gate (1830m) - Machame Camp (2835m)
Elevation: 1830 metres to 2835 metres
Distance: 18km
Trekking: 5 to 7 hours
Environment: Montane forest

Today after a brief stop in Moshi we drive to Kilimanjaro park entrance at Machame, near the Machame village. Here we complete formalities for trekking permits and then start trekking through the forest. Rain is possible in Machame Forest.

Day-3: Machame Camp (2835m) to Shira Camp 2 (3840m)

Elevation: 2835 metres - 3850 metres
Distance: 9km
5 to 6 hours
Environment: Moorland

You leave Machame camp and climb quite steeply for about an hour. The route then follows a more gentle gradient toward the base Shira Plateau which is actually a the remains of a caldera, or collapsed volcanic crater. Then you traverse up the rocky outcrop before trekking in an easterly direction, to Shira Camp, Shira being one of the three volcanoes of the Kilimanjaro massif.

Day-4: Shira Camp 2 (3840m) to Lava Tower (4640m) - Barranco Huts (3985m)

Elevation: 3840 metres - 3985metres
Distance: 12km
Trek: 6 to 7 hours
Environment: Moorland

Shira camp can be quite cold early morning as you hike away from views of Mt Meru into an arid desert type environment full of lava rock. The route is a steady gentle climb toward Lava Tower. It is not uncommon to start feeling the effects of altitude on Machame Route or any other route with shortness of breath around 4200m. At Lava Tower you break for lunch before descending almost 680m in altitude to Barranco Camp at the base of Barranco Wall. Today you follow the principle of climb high, sleep low.

kilimanjaro summit machame

Day-5: Baranco Huts (3985m) to Barafu (4550m)
Elevation: 3985  metres - 4680metres
Distance: 13km
Trek: 7 to 9 hours
Environment: Alpine Desert 

This morning you start the slow climb up the well known Barranco Wall, bringing you out below Heim Glacier. After taking in incredible views you trek along the route to Karanga Valley which takes you through three ridges and valleys, before coming out at Karanga Camp. This however is not your camp, and you climb another 2-3 hours to a rocky narrow camp, at Barafu. Today is a very long day, but above you, 1345m up is the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Day-6: Barafu (4550m)- Uhuru Peak (5895m)-Mweka (3100m)

Elevation: 4600metres to 5895 metres to 3100 metres
Highest: 5895 metres (Summit)
Distance: 30kilometres (7kilometres ascent, 13 kilometres descent)
Trek: 13-16 hours (6 to 8 hours ascent, 7-8 hours descent)
Environment: Stone scree / ice-capped summit

Rising before midnight, you start your climb in a North westerly direction. The route will take you to Stella Point (5685) on Kibo crater rim. It can take anything from 5 - 6 hours and is physically challenging. After a short rest at Stella before trekking to Kilimanjaro summit, another altitude gain of 200m, taking anywhere from 1-2 hours. After basket in a moment of glory at the summit of Kilimanjaro, you hike down to Barafu and then down towards Mweka hut (3100m).

Day-7: Mweka camp (3100m)- Mweka (1980m)

Elevation: 3100 metres to 1800 metres
Distance: 8 kilometres
Trek time: 3 to 4 hours
Environment: Montane forest

This morning is a short 3-hour scenic hike to Mweka. Those climbers who made Stella (5685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates for your Machame Route climb on Kilimanjaro.

Day-8: Depart

Today you are transferred to Kilimanjaro airport for your flight home.

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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

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 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.