Are you climbing Kilimanjaro but don't know which route to pick?
KILIMANJARO BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURES will explain the differences between the routes and
help you decide which is the best for you.
As the popularity of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro continues to increase, potential climbers are often uncertain
as to which route to take. There are seven major routes used to climb Kilimanjaro. Each route has its own
advantages and disadvantages. When selecting the route, make sure it is the appropriate route for your
desires, physical ability, aptitude and comfort level.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING THE KILIMANJARO ROUTE;
To choose the best Kilimanjaro route for you, there are plenty of variables to be mindful of.
WHO: Who is climbing? The whole group's abilities must be factored into choosing a route. Are there novices in your group? Are there people who have never been to high altitudes? Pick a route that best fits everyone.
WHAT: What limitations surround your climb? Are you bound by a budget? Or the number of days on your trip? There are cheaper and more expensive routes, and shorter and longer itineraries. Get an idea of how much money and how many days people are willing to spend on the mountain.
HOW: How do you see your trek? Do you want the most challenging route or a less strenuous one? Kilimanjaro can bring out a lot of discomfort and suffering. Some people don't want to be pushed too hard. These answers will affect which route is for you.
WHERE: Where do you want to begin your climb? The routes start from all sides of the mountain. Where you begin affects cost, scenery and scenic variety. For instance, the western routes are more scenic because they cover more of the mountain.
WHY: Why are you climbing? Is it very important to summit? Then choose a route with a high success rate. Do you want to take the best photos? Then pick a scenic route. Do you just want to be there? Then choose a quick, inexpensive route.
WHEN: When are you climbing? If you are climbing during the dry season, great. But if you are climbing during the rainy season or the shoulder seasons, then the route you select can play into the climb's difficulty. Climbs around holidays and full moons are especially crowded.
KILIMANJARO ROUTES OVERVIEW;
Below are brief descriptions of the climbing routes on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Cost: $ = low, $$ = mid, $$$ = high, $$$$ = very high
Difficulty: ^ = low, ^^ = mid, ^^^ = high, ^^^^ = very highh
Marangu ("Coca Cola") Route; Known as the "Coca-Cola"route, the Marangu route is a classic trek on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is the oldest, most well established route. Many favor the Marangu route because it is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain, given its gradual slope. It is also the only route which offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodation. The minimum days required for this route is five, although the probability of successfully reaching the top in that time period is not very high. Spending an extra acclimatization day on the mountain is highly recommended when climbing Kilimanjaro using the Marangu route. However, despite its immense popularity, we avoid leading climbs on the Marangu route. The route has the least scenic variety of all the routes because the ascent and descent are done on the same path and it is the most crowded route for that reason. Marangu is favoured mostly during the rainy season, where the hut accommodations are preferred over wet ground, or for those who only have five days to climb Kilimanjaro.
Popular tourist route, approaches from southeast, easy, gentle gradients, beautiful rain forest section and moorlands, comfortable but basic hut shelter, poor acclimatization profile, descent on same trail.
Known as the "Whiskey" route, the Machame route is now the most popular route on the mountain. Compared with Marangu, the days on Machame are longer and the walks are steeper. The Machame route is considered a difficult route, and is better suited for more adventurous folks and those with some hiking or backpacking experience. The route begins from the south, then heads east, traversing underneath Kilimanjaro's southern ice field before summiting. The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although seven days is recommended. The Machame route is scenically beautiful and varied. However, due to the heavy crowds, it loses some of its splendor. It is very famous route, scenic and it has beautiful panoramic views with all the endemic and amazing plants that can only be found on Mount Kilimanjaro and no where else in the world. Most of our clients choose the Machame route.
Most popular route, approaches from south, very scenic route with southern traverse, difficult route but very good for acclimatization, camping.
The Lemosho route is one of the newer routes on Mount Kilimanjaro. The route begins in the west and rather than simply intersecting Shira Plateau (like Machame), Lemosho crosses it from Shira Ridge to Shira Camp. Climbers encounter low traffic until the route joins the Machame route. Afterwards, Lemosho follows the same route through Lava Tower, Barranco and Barafu, known as the southern circuit. The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although eight days is ideal. Lemosho is considered the most beautiful route on Kilimanjaro and boasts panoramic vistas on various sides of the mountain. It is our favourite route because it offers a great balance of low traffic, scenic views and a high summit success rate. Thus, Lemosho comes highly recommended.
Long access drive to trailhead, approaches from west, remote, less frequented, beautiful heath section, very scenic with southern traverse, camping, difficult route but excellent for acclimatization, camping.
The Shira route is another path that approaches Kilimanjaro from the west, and it is nearly identical to the Lemosho route. In fact, Shira was the original route and Lemosho is the improved variation. While Lemosho starts at Londorossi Gate and treks through the rain forest to Shira 1 Camp, the Shira route bypasses this walk by using a vehicle to transport climbers to Shira Gate, located near the Shira Ridge. On the first day on the mountain, climbers begin their hike from 11,800 feet (3,600 m) and spend their first night at the same elevation at Simba Camp. Then, the route merges with Lemosho and follows the southern circuit route. Although Shira is a varied and beautiful route, Lemosho is recommended over Shira due to the high altitude of Shira's starting point. It is possible that climbers will experience altitude related symptoms on the first day due to failed acclimatization. Climbers using Shira should be confident of their ability to acclimatize.
Almost same as Lemosho, approaches from west, long access drive to trailhead, trail starts at 11,800 ft, remote, less frequented, beautiful heath section, very scenic with southern traverse, camping, difficult route but excellent for acclimatization if ok at 11,800 ft, camping.
The Rongai route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border. Though gaining popularity amongst climbers, Rongai has low traffic. It is the preferred route for those looking for an alternative to the crowded Marangu route, for those who would like a more remote hike, and for those who are climbing during the rainy season (the north side receives less precipitation). The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, and seven days are recommended. Although the scenery is not as varied as the western routes, Rongai makes up for this by passing through true wilderness areas for days before joining the Marangu route at Kibo camp. This route descends down the Marangu route. Rongai is a moderately difficult route, and is highly recommended, especially for those with less backpacking experience.
Long access drive to trailhead, approaches from north, remote, less frequented, easy, gentle gradients, beautiful alpine desert section, good alternative to Marangu, camping, fair acclimatization profile, camping.
The Umbwe route is a short, steep and direct route. It is considered to be very difficult and is the most challenging way up Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the quick ascent, Umbwe does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization. Although the traffic on this route is very low, the chances of success are also very low.The route is offered at a minimum of six days, though seven days is recommended when attempting this route. The Umbwe route should only be attempted by those who are very strong hikers and are confident in their ability to acclimatize. However, overall, the Umbwe route is not recommended and we discourage its usage for our clients.
Least used trail, approaches from south, shortest and steepest route, spectacular ridge, scenic with southern traverse, difficult route with poor acclimatization profile, pre-acclimatization is recommended, camping.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE ROUTES:
The routes have starting points located on multiple sides of the mountain.
The routes vary distance and accordingly so do the completion times.
There are relatively easy trails, difficult routes, and even dangerous ones.
Certain routes are favorable for altitude acclimatisation due to their route profile.
There are routes that are better when climbing during the rainy season.
One route offers hut accommodations while the rest are camping routes.
Machame is the most popular route on the mountain, with an estimated 45% of all climbers using this route. Next is the Marangu route, with an estimated 40% of all climbers opting for this route. Lemosho and Rongai see far less use, but are the preferred routes for the more reputable (expensive) Kilimanjaro outfitters, and are thus growing in popularity. Shira, Umbwe and Northern Circuit barely have any foot traffic.
Picking the wrong route can mean a unnecessarily difficult trek, a failed summit, or becoming ill and/or injured. So it is important to compare the different elements that makes each route unique.
Please note the images shown on this page are of general images on the Mountain and not necessarily of the Route described.
REMEMBER: PICK THE KILIMANJARO ROUTE THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU!