Many people dream of climbing Kilimanjaro.
And there are several routes to take you to the top of the mountain, Uhuru Peak.
But which is the right route for you?
You can currently choose from five of the routes at TourCompass: Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Shira and Lemosho. In addition to these are the Northern Circuit and Umbwe routes.
Each route has its advantages and disadvantages. You should therefore choose the route that suits you best.
The different routes vary in terms of their:
What’s more, several of the routes merge on the last part of the ascension, and the vegetation you see along the way varies.
Read more below about the five routes we offer.
Please note that the camps and exact routes may vary slightly from operator to operator.
The route sets out from the south-western side of Kilimanjaro at Machame Gate, descending via the Mweka route.
According to some, the Machame route is the most scenic of all the routes, which has also added to its popularity.
Machame is less technically difficult than tough. At times, the route crosses fairly steep terrain where you have to trek up and down, requiring a great deal of stamina. The Machame route is therefore best suited to those looking for a more challenging trek. The hardness of the route has also earned it the nickname, the Whisky route.
The popularity of Machame makes it a busy route compared to Rongai, Lemosho and Shira. So if you’d like a less peopled route, you should choose one of them.
Machame has a relatively high success rate due to its good acclimatisation options along the way as you “climb high and sleep low”. The Machame route takes six days.
The route starts on the south-eastern side of Kilimanjaro at Marangu Gate.
Marangu has been nicknamed the Coca Cola route because it is possible to buy drinks and snacks in the cabins en route to the top. The name is a striking contrast to the somewhat harder Machame route, nicknamed the Whisky route.
Unlike all the other routes, you sleep on simple mattresses in primitive cabins rather than in tents. This may be an advantage if you prefer a little more comfort or if you are trekking during the rainy season.
Marangu is a beautiful route, but less varied than the other routes as the ascent and descent take place via the same route. So, you see only one side of the mountain.
The Marangu Route is popular, which means that it is busy in certain periods. Its popularity may be due to the fact that the route covers less challenging terrain than other routes.
The Marangu route is the most direct route to the top and a gradual and steady ascent. However, the mistaken assumption that the route is “easy” causes many people to suffer from altitude sickness because they come unprepared. On Marangu, you are not generally able to “climb high, sleep low”, which means that it is harder to acclimatise, and the success rate on the route is therefore lower.
The recommended minimum length is five days, making it the shortest route to Kilimanjaro. Due the route’s poor acclimatisation profile, we have incorporated an acclimatisation day to increase your chances of reaching the top. So, the trek with TourCompass takes a total of six days.
Its northerly position means that the route is sheltered from rain, making Rongai an ideal choice during the rainy season. However, the lower rainfall means that some people find the route less scenic, and you don’t experience the rainforest on the ascent as you do on the other routes.
On the other hand, you have a far better view of Kilimanjaro from the north than from the south. And you get to experience the area around Mawenzi Peak, which is one of the most scenic areas on the whole mountain.
Rongai is one of Kilimanjaro’s easier routes as, like Marangu, it is a slow, gradual climb without steep ascents. Rongai is also less busy and more remote than the more popular routes. And when Rongai eventually merges with Marangu at Kibo Huts, it may feel like more of a “private” trek to Kibo Huts.
The recommended minimum length is 6 days. The route does not generally offer the chance to “climb high, sleep low”, so we have incorporated an acclimatisation day. As a result, the route takes a total of 7 days to increase the success rate and acclimatisation.
Rongai is typically more expensive than Machame and Marangu due to the extra transport from Moshi to the north side of the mountain.
Lemosho is also one of the newest routes. It was originally made as an improved version of the Shira route, but differs in that it is longer and the first night is spent lower than Shira, making it more acclimatisation-friendly.
As with the Shira and Rongai routes, you have to drive quite a way before reaching the starting point. This, along with the fact that Lemosho is a longer route, means that the route is the most expensive of the five routes.
In return, you get a route with a good balance of beautiful scenery and limited traffic.
The route starts west of Kilimanjaro at Lemosho Glades, and is a far less busy route than Machame and Marangu, for example.
Lemosho is a relatively difficult route. On the other hand, the good acclimatisation options under way make for a high success rate. It is recommended that you spend a minimum of seven days on the Lemosho route. At Africsafari.co.uk the trek takes eight days.
Like Lemosho, the route sets out from the western side of Kilimanjaro. On Shira, however, you drive to the starting point, Shira Gate, and you can expect a tougher and more demanding start than all of the other routes. Your first night is, for example, spent at 3,840 AMSL. At this height, there is a risk of altitude sickness, making it extra important to listen to your body.
The Shira route is a beautiful route with less traffic than on popular routes like Machame and Marangu.
Those who choose Shira over Lemosho typically have less time and less money to spend on the tour. What’s more, you will need to have the courage and desire to tackle the hard start of the Shira route.
Below, you can see a comparison of the routes.
Please note that the route descriptions are based on the number of days included in the tours we offer, i.e. both Marangu and Rongai include an extra day for acclimatisation. It is also possible to purchase acclimatisation days on the other routes, which improves acclimatisation and the success rate.
|Days on trek
|Level of difficulty
|4/5 out of 5
|2 out of 5
|3/4 out of 5
|5 out of 5
|4 out of 5
*Acclimatisation and the success rate increase with the purchase of an acclimatisation day
** We’ve included an acclimatisation day on the Marangu and Rongai routes, hence making the success rate and acclimatisation higher than it normally would be.
If you want to be sure of choosing the right route for you, we recommend that you contact our travel consultants.
You can also take a look at our ultimate guide to Kilimanjaro, which will answer any questions you may have.
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