All the information you need to choose the ideal route for your Kilimanjaro adventure!

Choosing the ideal route for your Kilimanjaro adventure is crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience. With eight main routes available, each offers unique benefits such as smoother acclimatization, stunning scenery, hut accommodations, or quieter trekking. By understanding the pros and cons of each route, you can select the one that best suits your preferences and goals.

Mount Kilimanjaro routes

With eight primary routes to choose from when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, each offers a unique experience and set of benefits. The main routes include Lemosho (Shira route), Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Northern Circuit, Umbwe, Kilema, and Western Breach. Additionally, various itineraries are available for most routes, such as the 6, 7, and 8-day options for the Lemosho route, which offer different acclimatization profiles. Selecting the appropriate route and itinerary is essential for your success, so we will outline the advantages and disadvantages of each option to help you make an informed decision.

8 Kilimanjaro climbing routes

  • Umbwe Route (66 hikers) is one of the shortest and least crowded routes in the initial days. The 6-day variation is designed for experienced high-altitude trekkers, while the new 7-day itinerary is suitable for fit beginners. Although the first two days on Umbwe are quite challenging, the subsequent trek becomes more manageable.
  • Lemosho Route (15,675 hikers) is the most scenic path with an excellent acclimatization profile. Though it was relatively quiet a decade ago, it is now gaining a lot of popularity. The 6 and 7-day Lemosho itineraries, sometimes referred to as the Shira route, start from a high-altitude drop-off. You’ll be transported to an elevation of 3,407 m/11,177 ft by an off-road vehicle, beginning the hike from this point. This helps to jump-start acclimatization by spending more nights on the mountain.
  • Marangu Route (14,794 hikers), dubbed the “Coca-Cola route,” is another highly popular Kilimanjaro route, and the only route providing overnight stays in huts. The huts offer dormitory-style accommodation. The Marangu route starts southeast of Mt Kilimanjaro at Marangu Gate, ascends the summit, and returns back via the same trail.
  • Rongai Route (1,397 hikers), the only route starting from the northern slope, offers an off-the-beaten-path experience and is ideal for climbing Kilimanjaro during the rainy seasons. Passing by Mawenzi, one of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic cones, it ensures a unique perspective, with the return journey through Marangu offering views of both sides of the mountain. The Rongai is a great choice if you want to avoid the Barranco Wall.
  • Northern Circuit Route, the longest Kilimanjaro route, allows climbers to enjoy a quiet trek and witness the mountain from all sides. This trail, sharing the trailhead with the Lemosho route, receives only 5% of Lemosho’s traffic. It’s recommended for those seeking extended trekking experiences in remote wilderness with minimal crowds and a gradual slope.
  • Kilema Route is the exclusive mountain bike trek on Kilimanjaro, running parallel to the Marangu route and converging with it at the Horomobo Huts Camp. Few people know about it, but we are happy to organize specialized expeditions for true mountain biking enthusiasts.
  • Western Breach (a few hundred hikers)- this rarely used path is a shortcut to Kilimanjaro’s summit that few operators know how to navigate. The reason is simple: there is a real danger of rockfalls.

Popular questions about Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is in northern Tanzania, East Africa. It is just three degrees south of the equator. While some of the most iconic panoramic shots of Mt. Kilimanjaro have been captured from the Kenyan side, all trailheads lie in Tanzania. Therefore, tourists can only climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The closest airport is Kilimanjaro International Airport.

Mount Kilimanjaro stands at a towering 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.

As the "Roof of Africa," Mount Kilimanjaro is located in northeastern Tanzania, just a few degrees south of the equator. Its diverse ecosystems span five distinct climate zones, including rainforest, alpine desert, and glacial summit, attracting over 40,000 visitors each year. The mountain's accessibility and non-technical climbing requirements make it an appealing destination for climbers of various fitness levels and a popular first summit for those embarking on the Seven Summits challenge.

The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is typically during the dry season, which occurs from December to mid-March and mid-June to the end of October. This period offers favorable weather conditions, clear skies, and minimal precipitation, enhancing your chances of reaching the summit. However, keep in mind that these months can also be the busiest on the mountain due to the favorable climbing conditions.

No, you cannot climb Mount Kilimanjaro without a guide. The Kilimanjaro National Park Authority requires that all climbers hire a licensed guide for safety reasons and to adhere to park regulations. Attempting to climb the mountain without a guide can lead to hefty fines or even being turned away at the entrance gate. It's essential to choose a reputable tour company and an experienced guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

The duration of a Kilimanjaro climb depends on the route you choose, with most treks lasting between five and ten days. Typically, the longer routes that ascend gradually have the highest success rates, as they allow climbers to acclimate to the altitude changes more effectively. A typical climb requires around three to eight hours of hiking each day, except for the summit day, which can take more than 16 hours.

Expert Opinion

The primary distinction between the Umbwe and Machame routes lies in the first two days of the climb. With an average incline of 21.5%, the Umbwe route poses a slightly more challenging ascent compared to Machame’s 17% incline. As a trade-off for the increased difficulty, hikers on the Umbwe route will enjoy a quieter, less crowded experience during the initial stages of the climb.

Roger Kaimukilwa

Kilimanjaro Expedition Coordinator | Tanzania

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