Kilimanjaro Routes

Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Route for Your Kilimanjaro Adventure!

Discover the 8 Main Kilimanjaro Routes: Benefits, Scenery, and Accommodations

There are 8 main routes leading up the highest mountain in Africa – Kilimanjaro. Each Kilimanjaro route offers unique benefits, from smoother acclimatization and breathtaking scenery to hut accommodations and quieter trekking experiences. In this guide, we will help you choose the ideal route for your trip.

Best Kilimanjaro Routes for Beginners | Shiri Adventures

Mount Kilimanjaro routes

The eight main routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro, known as the “roof of Africa,” are Lemosho (Shira route), Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Northern Circuit, Umbwe, Kilema, and Western Breach.

Each route has different itineraries. For example, the Lemosho route offers 6, 7, and 8-day variations, each with a unique acclimatization profile. While shorter itineraries may seem convenient, longer ones often result in higher success rates due to better acclimatization.

If you’re planning a Kilimanjaro climb and unsure which route or itinerary to choose, this guide will help you understand the unique advantages and disadvantages of each option.

8 Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes

Ever wondered how busy Kilimanjaro’s trails get? Shiri Adventures’ research revealed the overall hiker traffic intel for all popular routes in Jan-Sep 2023. This data is likely to be 98%+ accurate. We’ve added the numbers for each route, including variations, to the list below.

Here is a list of available Kilimanjaro routes along with our insights:

Choosing the Best Path for Your Climb

  • Lemosho Route (15,675 hikers)

The Lemosho Route is renowned for its stunning scenery and excellent acclimatization profile. Originally a quieter path, it has gained popularity over the years. The 6 and 7-day Lemosho itineraries, sometimes called the Shira route, begin at a high-altitude drop-off point (3,407 m/11,177 ft), accessed by an off-road vehicle. This early elevation jump-starts acclimatization by allowing more nights on the mountain.

  • Machame Route (16,111 hikers)

Known as the “Whiskey Route,” Machame is the most popular path on Kilimanjaro. It offers breathtaking views and robust acclimatization. Starting at Machame Gate on the southern slope, the route begins in a tropical forest and traverses various climatic zones, ending in the Arctic desert zone at the summit. The trailhead is only 20 minutes from our climbing base at Aishi Machame Hotel.

  • Marangu Route (14,794 hikers)

The “Coca-Cola route” is another highly frequented Kilimanjaro path and the only one providing overnight stays in huts with dormitory-style accommodation. The Marangu route starts at Marangu Gate on the southeast of the mountain and ascends to the summit, returning via the same trail.

  • Rongai Route (1,397 hikers)

Rongai is the only route starting from the northern slope, offering an off-the-beaten-path experience ideal for climbing during the rainy seasons. It passes Mawenzi, one of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic cones, and provides unique perspectives. The return journey through Marangu offers views of both sides of the mountain, and this route is a great choice if you want to avoid the Barranco Wall.

  • Northern Circuit Route

The Northern Circuit is the longest Kilimanjaro route, allowing climbers to enjoy a quiet trek and witness the mountain from all sides. Sharing the trailhead with the Lemosho route, it 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.

  • Umbwe Route (66 hikers)

Umbwe is one of the shortest and least crowded routes initially. The 6-day variation is designed for experienced high-altitude trekkers, while the new 7-day itinerary is suitable for fit beginners. The first two days are quite challenging, but the subsequent trek becomes more manageable.

  • Kilema Route

Kilema is the exclusive mountain bike trek on Kilimanjaro, running parallel to the Marangu route and converging with it at the Horomobo Huts Camp. Though not widely known, 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, known for the real danger of rockfalls, making it less navigated and only attempted by a few operators who know the route well.

  • Route Intersections

Kilimanjaro’s routes are interconnected. For example, Rongai and Northern Circuit meet at School Hut Camp. Lemosho, Machame, and Umbwe converge at Barranco Camp and continue as one route to the summit via the Barranco Wall.

Choosing the right route depends on your preferences, experience, and acclimatization needs. Each path offers unique challenges and rewards, making Kilimanjaro a versatile adventure destination.


Expert Opinion on Umbwe vs. Machame Routes

The main difference between the Umbwe and Machame routes lies in the first two days of the trek. Here’s a closer look:

Umbwe Route:

  • Average incline: 21.5% in the first two days
  • More challenging start
  • Less crowded

Machame Route:

  • Average incline: 17% in the first two days
  • Slightly easier start
  • More popular, hence more crowded

While Umbwe is more challenging initially, the advantage is fewer crowds during the first two days.

Get PDF Kilimanjaro Packing List

This free packing list for Kilimanjaro describes the gear required for a Kilimanjaro hike, along with our expert recommendations.

Kilimanjaro Routes

Kilimanjaro Sample

Machame Route

The Machame hiking trail is the second most popular on Kilimanjaro. It starts in the tropical rainforest on the southern slope. Beginners should choose the seven-day option for a better acclimatization profile. Many of the our climbs go via the Machame Route

Kilimanjaro Sample

Lemosho Route

The Lemosho Route is a scenic and less crowded trail for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Starting on the western side, it passes through rainforest, heath, and moorland before reaching the alpine desert and the summit. This longer route allows better acclimatization, increasing summit success rates, and typically takes 7 to 8 days to complete. It offers stunning views and a diverse range of landscapes, making it a popular choice for climbers seeking a more immersive experience.

Kilimanjaro Sample

Marangu Route

The Marangu Route, known as the "Coca-Cola Route," is a popular and comfortable path to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It features hut accommodations and typically takes 5 to 6 days. Starting on the southeastern side, it passes through rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert before reaching the summit. Despite being considered easier, the rapid ascent can challenge acclimatization.

Kilimanjaro Sample

Umbwe Route

The Umbwe Route is a steep and challenging path to Mount Kilimanjaro's summit. Starting on the southern side, it passes through rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert, taking 6 to 7 days. It's less crowded and best for experienced climbers due to its rapid altitude gain and limited acclimatization time.

Kilimanjaro Sample

Northern Cicuit Route

The Northern Circuit Route is the longest route to Mount Kilimanjaro's summit, taking 9 to 10 days. It starts on the western side, offers great acclimatization, and passes through rainforest, heath, and alpine desert. Known for its scenic views and high success rate, it provides a remote and tranquil climbing experience.

Kilimanjaro Sample

Rongai Route

The Rongai Route is a less crowded path to Mount Kilimanjaro's summit, starting from the northern side near the Kenyan border. It takes 6 to 7 days, offering diverse landscapes including rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert. Known for its gradual ascent and scenic views, it provides a quieter and more remote climbing experience.

What are the best Kilimanjaro routes?

Choosing the best route to climb Kilimanjaro depends on several factors, including your experience, fitness level, and what you hope to achieve. Here's a breakdown of some of the most popular routes along with their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

What is the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

If you’re looking for a quick answer, the Lemosho route is the favorite among both the Altezza Team and our clients. Here’s why:

Lemosho Route

  • Pros: Great acclimatization profile, stunning scenic views, highest success rate over the past 10 years.
  • Cons: Gained popularity recently, making it one of the top 3 busiest routes.

For those seeking a more private experience, we recommend the 7-day Rongai route itinerary. Although it’s not as scenic and lacks the impressive fauna like Dendrosenecio kilimanjari, it is significantly less crowded.

Rongai Route

  • Pros: More private experience, less crowded (over 10 times less than popular routes).
  • Cons: Less scenic, missing some unique fauna.
Acclimatization on Kilimanjaro

What is the Easiest Route to Climb Kilimanjaro?

The primary challenge on Mount Kilimanjaro is the altitude, not the steepness or length of the daily hikes. Therefore, routes with the best acclimatization profiles can be considered the easiest. Among these, the Lemosho 7-8 day route, the Rongai 7-day route, the Machame 7-day route, and the Northern Circuit are top contenders.

Lemosho Route (7-day itinerary):

  • Advantages:
    • Starting Elevation: Begins at 3,500 meters, reducing the initial altitude gain.
    • Short Initial Hikes: Prevents overexertion, allowing your body to acclimatize.
    • Consistent High Altitude: All overnight stays are at 3,500 meters or above, facilitating acclimatization.
    • Shortest Summit Route: From Barafu Camp to the summit, saving approximately an hour of travel time.
  • Summary: With these features, the Lemosho 7-day itinerary is often regarded as the most accessible route on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Rongai Route (7-day itinerary):

  • Advantages:
    • Less Crowded: Offers a more private experience.
    • Gentle Ascent: The climb is gradual, reducing altitude sickness risk.
  • Summary: Ideal for those seeking a quieter trek with good acclimatization.

Machame Route (7-day itinerary):

  • Advantages:
    • Scenic Views: Known as the “Whiskey Route” for its breathtaking vistas.
    • Great Acclimatization: The “climb high, sleep low” strategy is effective for altitude adaptation.
  • Summary: Combines stunning scenery with a robust acclimatization profile.

Northern Circuit:

  • Advantages:
    • Extended Trek: Offers more days on the mountain, enhancing acclimatization.
    • Quiet Path: Less frequented, providing a serene trekking experience.
  • Summary: Best for hikers ready for longer daily treks and a thorough acclimatization process.

Customization Options:

  • Extra Acclimatization Day: If needed, an extra day can be added to any of the itineraries for additional rest and acclimatization.

Choosing the right route depends on your fitness level, trekking experience, and preference for crowd size. However, the Lemosho, Rongai, and Machame routes are generally easier for beginners and offer a higher chance of summiting successfully.

Which Kilimanjaro Route Has the Highest Summit Success Rate?

According to Shiri Adventures’ statistics, the 7 and 8-day Lemosho routes boast the highest summit success rate at about 98%. The vast majority of climbers who embark on these Lemosho itineraries make it to the top.

 

Why Does Lemosho Have the Highest Success Rate?

  • Great Acclimatization Profile: The Lemosho route offers gradual altitude gain, allowing climbers to adapt more effectively.
  • “Climb High, Sleep Low” Opportunities: Multiple chances to follow this strategy help prevent altitude sickness.
  • Extended Time on the Mountain: 7 to 8 days on the route give climbers ample time to adjust to the altitude.

While Lemosho stands out, most Kilimanjaro itineraries that last 7 days or longer also have high summit success rates due to similar acclimatization benefits.

 

Important Note on Success Rates:

Summit success rates can vary significantly between operators. Here’s why:

  • Budget Tour Companies: They may have amateur guides and poor equipment, which can undermine your chances of reaching Uhuru Peak. Despite often claiming high success rates, the reality is usually much lower.
  • Reputable Operators: A quality operator will ensure you have experienced guides, proper equipment, and excellent support. They are committed to maximizing your chances of a successful and enjoyable summit.

At Shiri Adventures, we pride ourselves on our commitment to excellence, offering a proven summit success rate of up to 98% on routes like the 7 and 8-day Lemosho itineraries.

Which Kilimanjaro Route Has the Least Crowds?

The Rongai and Northern Circuit routes are renowned for having the least crowds. Additionally, the first days on the Umbwe route offer serene landscapes without the hustle and bustle of large hiking groups.

 

Tips to Avoid Crowds:

  • Avoid Peak Seasons: The busiest times on Kilimanjaro are from July to September and January to February.
  • Opt for Shoulder Seasons: The best times to climb to avoid crowds while still enjoying good weather are just before or after the high seasons. Ideal periods include:
    • Early March
    • Early June
    • Late October

During these times, the weather conditions remain favorable, but the number of climbers on the trails is significantly reduced.

What is the Safest Kilimanjaro Route?

The safest routes on Kilimanjaro are those with excellent acclimatization profiles. These routes allow your body to adjust gradually to the altitude, minimizing the risk of altitude sickness. Popular safe routes include the 7 or 8-day Lemosho, Rongai, and Northern Circuit routes due to their well-designed itineraries that promote gradual ascent.

 

Key Factors for Safety:

  1. Professional Guides: Your safety greatly depends on the expertise of your guides. At Shiri Adventures, our guides have extensive experience, Wilderness First Responder training, and carry comprehensive medical kits along with oxygen tanks.
  2. Health Checks: Our guides conduct two health checks daily to monitor and address any symptoms of altitude sickness promptly.
  3. Emergency Preparedness: We have more oxygen systems than any other operator and are well-equipped to organize efficient first aid and evacuation if necessary.

 

Dangerous Routes:

  • Western Breach: This route is considered hazardous due to the risk of rockfalls, which have unfortunately claimed lives. For instance, in October 2023, the Shiri Adventures team discovered the body of a climber who had attempted this route with a different operator. We strongly advise against attempting the Western Breach unless you are exceptionally experienced and prepared for its risks.

 

For a safe and successful Kilimanjaro climb, choosing a reputable operator with experienced guides and well-planned itineraries is essential. At Shiri Adventures, your safety is our top priority.

Which Kilimanjaro Routes Should Beginners Avoid?

For beginners, it’s crucial to select a Kilimanjaro route that offers good acclimatization to maximize the chances of reaching the summit safely and comfortably. However, budget tour operators often promote the 5-day Marangu route and the 6-day Machame route because they require fewer climbing crew members and supplies, and park fees are lower. While these routes may be cheaper, they come with significant challenges:

Routes to Avoid:

  1. 5-Day Marangu Route: This itinerary skips essential acclimatization days, making it harder for climbers to adjust to the altitude.
  2. 6-Day Machame Route: Similar to the Marangu route, this itinerary does not include a critical rest day for acclimatization.

Key Issues:

  • Insufficient Acclimatization: Both routes require hikers to ascend to higher elevations without adequate time to rest and acclimatize, increasing the risk of altitude sickness.
  • Higher Risk of Failure: The lack of acclimatization days means a lower success rate for reaching the summit, particularly for those new to high-altitude trekking.

 

Better Alternatives:

For beginners, consider routes with longer itineraries that include rest days for acclimatization:

  • 7 or 8-Day Lemosho Route
  • 7-Day Rongai Route
  • Northern Circuit Route

These routes provide gradual ascent profiles, which are crucial for acclimatization and increasing your chances of a successful and enjoyable climb.

For more detailed information, watch our short video below.

How to Choose the Perfect Route for Your Kilimanjaro Expedition

Imagine what you want your Kilimanjaro climb to be. Are you a photographer seeking the perfect shot and the most scenic route? An experienced climber looking for a new challenge? Or a parent with teenage children wanting a smooth route with excellent acclimatization?

No matter your goals, we’ve got you covered! Our Shiri Adventures team has created eight questions to guide your choice. Consider these questions below, taking notes or crossing out routes that don’t meet your expectations.

By the end, you’ll likely decide on one or two routes perfectly suited to your dream Kilimanjaro adventure. Let’s begin!

 

1. What is Your Fitness Level?

  • Some routes, like Umbwe, are more physically demanding, while others, like Marangu, are less strenuous.

 

2. How Much Time Do You Have?

  • Shorter itineraries like the 5-day Marangu might be appealing if you’re on a tight schedule, but longer routes such as the 8-day Lemosho provide better acclimatization and higher success rates.

 

3. What Type of Scenery Do You Prefer?

  • For stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems, the Lemosho and Machame routes are top choices.

 

4. Are You Looking for a Quieter Trail?

  • If you prefer solitude, consider the Northern Circuit or Rongai routes, which are less crowded.

 

5. What is Your Budget?

  • While budget routes like the Marangu may save money, investing in longer routes with better acclimatization profiles often increases your chances of reaching the summit.

 

6. Do You Prefer Hut Accommodations or Camping?

  • The Marangu route offers hut accommodations, while most other routes require camping.

 

7. Are You Climbing During the Rainy Season?

  • The Rongai route is an excellent choice during the rainy seasons as it is drier compared to others.

 

8. Are You an Experienced Climber Looking for a Challenge?

  • For seasoned climbers seeking a challenge, the Western Breach offers a more demanding and less-traveled path.

 

Making Your Decision:

Consider your answers to these questions. Match your preferences to the routes’ unique features. This will help you identify the best Kilimanjaro route for your expedition, ensuring a memorable and successful climb.

Embark on your journey with confidence, knowing you’ve chosen the perfect path to the summit!

Marangu Route

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has provided valuable insights into Mount Kilimanjaro routes and helped you choose the perfect one for your dream expedition!

Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to our Kilimanjaro experts for personalized advice. You can also explore our YouTube channel, TripAdvisor page, and Shiri Adventures blog, where you’ll find dozens of articles covering everything related to Kilimanjaro.

Embark on your journey with confidence, and may your Kilimanjaro adventure be filled with awe-inspiring moments and unforgettable experiences!

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