Mountain Routes

Which is the best route for me?

Seven established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro give many options for you. The climbing routes- Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe-each have advantages and disadvantages. Although we call it “climbing” Mt. Kilimanjaro, there is no mountain climbing involved. These routes are simple, straight-forward hiking routes, only taking on difficulty due to a combination of steepness and altitude.

SEE OUR SPECIALS ON CERTAIN ROUTES

While the southern Mweka route is only used for descent, the Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south. The Lemosho, Shira and Northern Circuit routes approach from the west, and the Rongai route approaches from the north. The following map shows the routes in a basic layout.

Route selection needs to be based on your goals and a reasonable assessment of your chances of summitting. Your goals might include experiencing specific scenery, a specific hiking difficulty, and how many others are travelling along the same path as you. A reasonable assessment of your chances of summitting comes from your knowledge of your ability to acclimatize to altitude and the acclimatization aspects of a specific route. You need to ask yourself some questions to begin to assess your own acclimatization ability.

  1. Do you know if you have problems at altitude?
  2. Have you felt ill from being at higher altitude before [3050 m (10,000 ft) or higher]?
  3. Have you been above 3050 m and gone through a successful acclimatization before?

 If you answered question 3 with “yes” your chances of summitting are probably quite good. If you answered “yes” to questions 1 or 2, then you may have problems acclimatizing and want to increase your chances as much as possible, so you will want a route that maximizes acclimatization. Routes that “go high, camp lower” are better for acclimatizing, and routes that take longer at higher altitudes to get to your summit base camp are also better. The Lemosho and Machame routes are better for this. The Rongai route is better for those people who know they have little to no problem at altitude. 

One option is to bag two mountains in one trip. Mt Meru, near Mt Kilimanjaro peaks at about 4900 m, similar to the summit base camps on Kilimanjaro. Hiking up Meru is good acclimatization for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro right after. 

Stats on Route Traffic

Machame (45%), Marangu (40%), Lemosho (8%), Rongai (5%), Shira (1%), Northern Circuit (0%), Umbwe (0%). We prefer the best Kilimanjaro routes – those with the best success rates, excellent scenery, and low traffic.

Best Acclimatization Routes (More Days):

Lemosho Southern Circuit                Lemosho Northern Circuit              Machame

Most Scenic Routes: 

Lemosho Northern Circuit                Lemosho Southern Circuit              Machame               Rongai

Least to Medium Traffic Routes:

Lemosho Northern Circuit                Rongai                                                  Lemosho Southern Circuit

More to Less Difficult Hiking:

Lemosho Northern Circuit                Lemosho Southern Circuit               Machame              Rongai

You can find more detail on the routes we normally take by clicking on the tabs below. You will be able to link to details itineraries from the tabs as well. Further below, you will find short descriptions of the other popular routes on Mt Kilimanjaro.

DETAILED LEMOSHO ITINERARY

The Lemosho route is considered to be the most scenic route on Mount Kilimanjaro.   It is one of the newest routes and has fewer hikers than many of the others. It starts on the West side of the mountain, near the Kenyan border, so it requires a longer journey to reach the gate.  It has the unique feature of showing Kilimanjaro from different angles as you make your gradual ascent. This route provides better hiker acclimatization than other routes, due to the gradual terrain and the “hike high, sleep low” route itinerary.  This itinerary provides hikers with a higher rate of success in reaching the summit. This route is the favourite among many guides, and is well worth the extra time and money spent. The main route takes a southern path around the summit, but there is a northern route option. The northern route sees even less people. The northern route can be slightly more difficult, however, the views are stunning.

Our guides will monitor you daily for signs of altitude related sickness, using a pulse oximeter to assess your level of blood oxygen saturation, and use a stethoscope to listen for any unusual lung soundsOf the many hikers that journey up Kilimanjaro each year, a few experience potentially serious altitude issues. Our guides are trained to identify these, and will transport you down if necessaryOur team take your well-being seriously, and carry an emergency Oxygen canister, and 2 – way communication systems. Many hikers assist their acclimatization by taking Diamox, obtained from their travel clinic before travelling to Tanzania.

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Lemosho Route and Lemosho Northern Circuit Route

Nights: Hotel 2, Tents 7
Kilimanjaro Bliss: 8 days hiking
Recommended days on trek: 8 days
Minimum trekking days required: 7days
Difficulty: Intermediate
Scenery: Superb
Traffic: Medium
Stating point: West, Londorrosi gate
Distance: 70km
Acclimatization: Excellent

Northern Circuit Route

The exciting, new Northern Circuit route follows the Lemosho trail at the start, approaching Kilimanjaro from the west. It veers north at the start of the Southern Circuit section, taking a course around the mountain along the rarely visited northern slopes. The Northern Circuit spends more days around the 13,000 ft (3963 m) level, increasing acclimatization. This route also has some of the most incredible and varied scenery on the mountain.

DETAILED RONGAI ITINERARY

The Rongai Route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border. It offers spectacular views of the Massai lands reaching beyond Tanzania into Kenya.  It is drier than other routes, making it a good option for those climbing during the wet season.  It is also a good route for those looking for a shorter, more remote route with fewer trekkers.  The Rongai route joins the Marangu route for the summit assent and descent via Marangu, southeast of the mountain.   While being a potentially shorter and “easier” route, the Rongai, like the Marangu, is a continuous, gradual ascent. The shorter route with less days can make acclimatization more challenging than routes where the trail ascends and descends between camps. The “hike up high, and sleep lower” on other routes helps improve acclimatization to altitude.  To improve acclimatization, summit success, and safety, on the Rongai route 7- 8 days are recommended.  While we offer a 6 day hike we recommend that you consider our 7-day hike. 

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Rongai 7-day Route

Nights: Hotel: 2 (optional add-on); Tents: 6
Kilimanjaro Bliss: 7 days hiking
Minimum days on trek: 6
Recommended days on trek: 7 – 8 days
Difficulty: Beginners
Scenery: Very Good
Traffic: Low – Medium
Stating point: North
Distance: 73km
Acclimatization: Low to medium
Recommendation by Kilimanjaro Bliss: 8 days

Rongai 8-day Route

Nights: Hotel: 2 (optional add-on); Tents: 7
Kilimanjaro Bliss: 8 days hiking
Minimum days on trek: 6
Recommended days on trek: 7 – 8 days
Difficulty: Beginners
Scenery: Very Good
Traffic: Low – Medium
Stating point: North
Distance: 73km
Acclimatization: Medium
Recommendation by Kilimanjaro Bliss: 8 days

 

DETAILED MACHAME ITINERARY

The Machame route, or “Whiskey” route, has become the most popular route on the mountain. The Machame route is a popular route choice for those looking for a shorter hike than Lemosho, who do not mind the higher volume of hikers, but still want a very scenic experience. This route provides hikers with excellent acclimatisation, by as the short 7 day hike, this popular route called the whiskey route.

Our guides will monitor you daily for signs of altitude related sickness, using a pulse oximeter to assess your level of blood oxygen saturation, and using a stethoscope to listen for any unusually lung sounds.  Of the many hikers that journey up Kilimanjaro each year a few experience potentially serious altitude issues. Our guides are trained to identify these, and will transport you down if necessaryOur team take your well-being seriously, and carry an emergency Oxygen canister, and 2 – way communication systems. Many hikers assist their acclimatization by taking Diamox, obtained from their travel clinic before travelling to Tanzania.

BOOK NOW

Nights: Hotel 2, Tent 6
Kilimanjaro Bliss: 7 days hiking
Recommended days on trek: 8 days
Minimum days on trek: 7 days
Difficulty
: Intermediate
Scenery: Superb
Traffic: High
Starting point: South West
Distance: 62km
Acclimatization: Excellent

DETAILED MT MERU ITINERARY

Standing adjacent to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Meru at 4566m, is the fifth highest mountain on the African continent and the second highest in Tanzania.  Its location makes it a fantastic vantage point for shooting stunning photographs of Kilimanjaro, and wildlife with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop.

Mt. Meru is both an excellent mountain to hike, as either an acclimatisation hike in preparation for hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, or as a stand-alone option for those with less time available, or those on a smaller budget.  It should not however, be considered as an easier option, for it is equally, if not more, challenging in some aspects.  While most of this hike is relatively easy going, with steep trail in places, the night ascent to the summit from Saddle Hut, contains a few short, exposed sections. These now have a chain rope to provide some security on this exposed section. A good head for heights and sure footedness are necessary for this final ascent to Mt. Meru Summit. Those wishing to hike on Mt. Meru as part of an acclimatization hike for Mt. Kilimanjaro, but not wishing to make the full summit ascent, due to the exposed sections, will find equal enjoyment in the ascent to ‘Little Mt. Meru’ The total hike is 46 km and can be hiked in 3 days, but is usually hiked over a period of 4 days.

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Nights: Hotel: 2; Huts: 3
Recommended days on trek: 4 – 5 days
Kilimanjaro Bliss: 4 day tours
Minimum days on trek: 3
Difficulty: Intermediate
Scenery: Very Good
Traffic: Low – Medium
Stating point: Arusha
Distance: 46km

Geological History
Mt. Meru is a stratovolcano, which up until its last eruption in 1910, was very active.  Approximately 8,000 years ago, Mt. Meru was higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro. At that time, the entire eastern flank of Mt. Meru was blown away by a massive volcanic blast, significantly larger than Mt. St. Helens.  This left Meru with a huge caldera on it eastern side, from which lava erupted and flowed, forming many lava cones.  These give the mountain the distinctive appearance and character that it has today.  Officially, Mt. Meru, is still considered an active volcano, last erupting with a small eruption in 1910, but has shown no sign of life recently.

Flora and Wildlife

The ascent up Mt Meru passes through many different vegetation zones.  The dry forest of the lower region gives way to a dense mountain rainforest, which then turns into a scrubland. As the flora changes the wildlife does so too, making this a diverse and impressive hiking experience. Due to the presence of big game and leopards, it is obligatory that every tour be accompanied by an armed park ranger. The experience of walking past giraffe, elephants, and buffalo as they feed off the drier scrubland plants in the lower zones, and then entering the rainforest with monkeys feeding and swinging in the trees, makes this tour as much a walking safari as a mountain ascent. In the rainforest, you will be treated to the sight of giant plantain leaves, the smelling sweet Jasmine, as it blooms, along with many other sensory treats. Towards the top of the mountain, the vegetation consists of heath and moorland.  After Rhino Point the vegetation is replaced by volcanic rock of shades of brown and red, creating a stunning baron alpine desert.

Geocaching

Those hikers who also like to Geocache, you will find an Earth-cache at the summit, and Geocaches hidden around Arusha National Park, leading you to some of the most scenic locations.  Our guides are Geocache friendly, and will happily stop while you hunt.

Marangu (“Coca Cola”) Route 

The Marangu route, or “Coca-Cola” route, as it is known, is the oldest, most well established route. Because of its gradual slope, it is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain, but the minimum 5-day walk reduces the probability of successfully summitting. This can be helped by taking extra days on this route with side trips. This route is popular because it offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodations, however, these huts are not well ventilated and you share the room with many people, which often reduces the amount of restful sleep, which in turn, reduces the probability of summitting. The scenic-ness of this route, along with the high traffic, make it a route we avoid.

Shira Route

The Shira route approaches Kilimanjaro from the west, similar to the Lemosho route.  The Shira route starts at the Shira Gate, near the Londorossi Gate, but at a higher altitude, near the Shira Ridge. The first day on the Shira Route, climbers hike from 11,800 feet (3,600 m), spending their first night at the Simba Camp. The route then merges with Lemosho Route and follows the southern circuit. The high altitude start can present problems, producing symptoms of altitude sickness early on.

Umbwe Route

The Umbwe route is a short, steep, direct route, that is considered to be very difficult, the most challenging climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. This route does not provide well for altitude acclimatization, and is not recommended. The traffic on this route is very low because of the difficulty and low chances of summitting. Kilimanjaro Bliss strongly discourages this route, although we could plan a custom tour along this route with strong hikers with multiple experiences at high altitude.

Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route

9-Days
US$3160
US$ 2,686
00
until October 15, 2018
  • 15% off
  • All Lemosho tours until end date
  • Trusted Canadian/Tanzanian Company
Special

Kilimanjaro Rongai Route

8-Days
US$3120
US$ 2,652
00
until October 15, 2018
  • 15% off
  • All 8-day Rongai tours until end date
  • Expert Mountain Guides
Special

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