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6 Most Popular Routes for Climbing Kilimanjaro

Adelle Belle

Author: Adelle Belle - 30 January 2024

Last Update: 29 December 2023

Part of the Mount Kilimanjaro Holiday Vacation & African Safari Collection

Kilimanjaro proudly claims its title as the tallest mountain on the continent, soaring above the African landscape for 5895 meters. It is a captivating destination in Tanzania, East Africa, and an ultimate goal for daring adventurers. However, Mount Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb but rather a hike mountain despite its imposing height.

It presents a challenge that’s accessible to everyone. Actually, more than 30,000 people attempt the climb each year, showcasing a diverse mix of individuals. Whether you are a seasoned backpacker or novice, Kilimanjaro welcomes all.

All you have to do is to select the most suitable Kilimanjaro’s Route. There are several available options, and this article will cover the most popular ones.

Sign at Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Sign at Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Choose your route

There are several routes to reach the summit, each offering a unique experience in terms of scenery, difficulty, and acclimatization. Learn more about each of them to find the preferred one.

Machame route

Distance – 61 km

Hike time – 6-7 days

Also known as the Whiskey Route, this is the most scenic trail. It comes across the mountain’s southern side, showcasing the breathtaking landscapes of Barranco and Karanga valleys, and concludes with an exit through the Mweka Gate in the Kilimanjaro National Park.

Climbers traverse through rainforest, heath, moorland, and alpine desert before reaching the summit. This route will be perfect for hikers seeking a more challenging climb with breathtaking views.

Lemosho Route

Distance – 67 km

Hike time – 7-8 days

It starts from the western slope of the mountain, opening stunning views of Kilimanjaro’s western side. The route leads you through breathtaking mountain landscapes, traversing past three majestic volcanoes – the Shira Volcano, Kibo and Mawenzi Volcano.

There are also many campsites here, surrounded by an abundance of stunning natural beauty spots. It is one of the best options for scenery and acclimatization.

Sign on the northern circuit route of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Sign on the northern circuit route of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Northern Circuit

Distance – 88 km

Hike time – 8-9 days

It is the newest approved route up the mountain. The path is known for its solitude and less crowded trails. It is considered one of the easier routes, and its gentle slopes offer good acclimatization. However, it takes nine days. Northern Circuit takes you through the quieter and more secluded northern slopes of the majestic peak.

This extended climb not only allows for optimal acclimatization but also opens up panoramic views of the diverse landscapes. This trail is less crowded, making it a great choice for those who prefer a quieter trek with a higher chance of reaching the summit.

Rongai Route

Distance – 74 km

Hike time – 6-7 days

This variant begins from the north side of the mountain. This trail, notably drier than its southern counterparts, becomes a favored choice during the wet season. While it may not boast the same scenic views as some alternatives, the camp nestled beneath Mawenzi Peak is one of the most picturesque on the entire mountain!

The journey entails a steady and gradual ascent initially, with well-spaced camps along the way. Typically requiring seven days, this option has a high success rate.

Climber admires the view from Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Climber admires the view from Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Umbwe Route

Distance – 48 km

Hike time – 5-7 days

The Umbwe route is known for its steep inclines, but, at the same time, it is the most direct ascent. Despite the difficulty, the route encounters the Machame trail at Barranco camp after two days, aligning with the Machame path for the rest of the journey to the summit.

While it is the shortest route, keep in mind that its steepness contributes to a lower success rate. Being the most challenging among all other routes, this path offers limited opportunities for acclimatization and is best for those with enough mountain climbing experience.

Marangu Route

Distance – 70 km

Hike time – 5-6 days

It is often called the tourist route or Coca-Cola Route because it’s quite popular, and Coca-Cola used to be for sale in all the huts along the way. It’s considered one of the easiest ways up the mountain, with a gentle and gradual slope for most of the journey.

However, be ready for a steeper climb on the last night. The Marangu route is unique among Kilimanjaro’s paths as it follows the same trail both up and down. Remember that this makes it generally more crowded than other alternatives.

To make your hiking adventure really memorable, consider Crater Camp. It is not a standalone route but rather a thrilling extension that can be added to any Kilimanjaro trek. It entails spending a night in the crater’s bowl, bringing a remarkable experience to the most adventurous climbers. 

No matter what route you choose, thorough preparation is key before you start on this adventure. Adequate training, the right gear and experienced guides and porters are essential for a successful climb. It is a serious challenge that should not be underestimated.

Approach the journey cautiously and ensure you are well-equipped and supported for a safe and enjoyable hike experience.


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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | 6 Most Popular Routes for Climbing Kilimanjaro | Last Updated: 30 January 2024