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Travel Advice How Long Does It Take to Climb Kilimanjaro?

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How Long Does It Take to Climb Kilimanjaro and Descend to the Finishing Point?

Set within the beautiful Kilimanjaro National Park in northeastern Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro, ‘Kili’ or just Kilimanjaro, is the tallest and most iconic mountain in Africa and tallest freestanding mountain in the world at 5,895 metres above sea level. Kilimanjaro tops the bucket list of many trekkers attempting to tick off one of the world’s most impressive summits and it’s clear to see why.

Adventurers looking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro frequently ask how long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro? To put it simply, there are 7 different established Kilimanjaro routes and depending on which route you choose; it takes between 5-9 days to reach Kilimanjaro summit and descend to the finishing point. The more days spent on the mountain, the more likely you will reach the summit as you will become more acclimatised to the altitude and will be less fatigued.

Requiring no technical mountaineering skills or equipment, Kilimanjaro has greeted many first-time altitude trekkers daring the ascent to the summit. This is not to say that Kilimanjaro is an easy feat, but a tough challenge for many. Whether you’re climbing Kilimanjaro for personal fulfilment or for a charitable cause, you’ll need to spend some time contemplating how long you want to spend on the mountain and the best route to climb Kilimanjaro for you.

There are several factors affecting how long it takes to climb Kilimanjaro including the route, how well your body acclimatises to the altitude, your physical and mental stamina and the time of year you visit. Here, we have compiled a breakdown of how long it takes to climb Kilimanjaro on each of the 7 Kilimanjaro routes, factors affecting the time you will spend on the mountain as well as some quick facts about some of the fastest summits of the majestic mountain.

If you only take one thing away from this blog, let it be that slow and steady wins the race!

Kandoo guides and climbers on Kilimanjaro

Factors Affecting How Long It Takes to Climb Kilimanjaro

The main reasons why trekkers fail to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro include altitude related illness, the time of year the trek is attempted, fitness level and mindset of the individual. All the Kilimanjaro routes led by Kandoo Adventures account for these factors and take measures to ensure that we maintain our impressive summit success rate of over 90%. Our other blogs ‘The Best Time to Climb Kilimanjaro’ and Kilimanjaro Training Plan’ are packed full of useful tips and tricks from the experts at Kandoo Adventures to allow you the best possible chance of success on your Kilimanjaro trek.

Altitude sickness is indiscriminate – it can affect anyone and everyone, even the most experienced trekkers and mountaineers. Altitude sickness is when your body doesn’t have time to adjust to reduced oxygen availability when you’re at a high altitude. Your age and gender have no bearing on whether you’ll suffer from altitude sickness or how severe your symptoms may be. So, if you’re planning to climb Kilimanjaro, you’ll need to plan for the possibility of altitude sickness.

It’s fair to say that you may experience some of the common minor symptoms of altitude sickness when you make your ascent of Kilimanjaro such as headaches which can be treated with painkillers and by maintaining your water intake. The drug Acetazolamide (Diamox) is also widely considered to be effective in managing altitude sickness as a whole. It’s when these symptoms become more moderate to severe that your chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro are threatened.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid altitude sickness completely without going into altitude, but you can prevent and manage it by taking the ascent slow to allow your body time to acclimatise to higher altitudes, rewarding yourself with regular breaks and staying hydrated. Getting yourself fit before attempting the trek is also a good step towards preventing altitude sickness as your body will be able to better cope with the reduced oxygen and changes in air pressure.


Although Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is open all year round, conditions differ throughout the year which may affect the time you spend on Kilimanjaro and your chance of summit success, so you may want to spend some time considering the best time of year to climb Kilimanjaro. Fortunately, the weather on Kilimanjaro is fairly predictable, with distinct dry seasons and rainy seasons.

We recommend climbing Kilimanjaro during the warmest and driest time of year, from June to October and December to March because these periods offer you the best chance of successfully reaching the summit. Although these months will be noticeably busier than others, you will most likely receive dry weather with clear skies, which make for great views and ideal trekking conditions.

For a complete breakdown of the Kilimanjaro climbing seasons, when is safest to visit and when not to chance your luck, check out our blog on the best time to climb Kilimanjaro.


Your fitness level may also impact the amount of time it takes to climb Kilimanjaro as the fitter you are, the easier and more enjoyable you will find the trek. With that being said, anyone with a decent level of fitness has a great chance of successfully summitting Kilimanjaro. As a rough guide, if you are happy hill walking for 6-7 hours at ascent then you should be able to climb Kilimanjaro. Even better, you can prepare your body for the trek by getting out on long hill walks for 2-3 consecutive days.

Having a good level of fitness will make the climb a lot easier and having a solid training plan will allow you to prepare better for the climb and allow you to enjoy yourself when you’re on the mountain. You will be required to carry a 30-40 litre daypack up the mountain and should account for this in your training. No matter your level of fitness and trekking experience, it is still advised that you take the ascent slow to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude.


Mental stamina is just as important as physical stamina when it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro. Even if you’re extremely physically fit, you’ll need to be mentally prepared for the challenge. The slow grind to the summit, walking up to 6-7 hours per day for 6-9 days, depending on the Kilimanjaro route you choose, can wear you down. Maintaining a positive attitude and digging deep to push through is incredibly important and a valuable skill to have when tackling Kilimanjaro.

Hikers at Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Summit Success Rate

The more days you spend climbing Kilimanjaro, the greater your odds of summitting. This is because your body needs plenty of time to acclimatise to the altitude. So, take your time! In terms of the route with the highest summit success rate, the best route to climb Kilimanjaro is the Machame route. The high success rate is likely due to the amount of time that is dedicated to acclimatisation on the route which is particularly beneficial for people who have not trekked much at high altitudes.

How Long Does It Take to Climb Kilimanjaro on Each Route?

Kilimanjaro Machame Route

The Machame Route, Kilimanjaro, is one of the most popular Kilimanjaro routes on the mountain. It features steep ups and downs, but hikers of this route are rewarded for their efforts with the sheer diversity and natural beauty of the terrain along the journey. The Machame Route can be completed in a minimum of 6 days for trekkers with experience at altitude, but it is recommended to dedicate an extra day for acclimatisation, meaning that the trek should be completed in a total of 7 days.

Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route

The Lemosho Route is one of the most scenic Kilimanjaro routes, beginning with a trek through verdant rainforest and guiding trekkers through the vast open moorland of the Shira Plateau. Like the Shira Route, Lemosho starts on the western slopes of the mountain but much further down meaning you are less likely to experience altitude-related issues on the first day. While Lemosho, has been known to be completed in 6 days, we recommend opting for a longer 8 to 10 day expedition.

Kilimanjaro Marangu Route

Attracting more climbers than the other routes combined, the Marangu Route is easily the most popular of the Kilimanjaro routes. Often billed as one of the easier Kilimanjaro routes the Marangu Route offers a gradual and direct path to the summit but suffers one of the lowest success rates because too many trekkers try to complete it in only 5 days. The longer 6-day variation of the route reduces the risk of altitude-related issues and increases the chance of summiting successfully.

Kilimanjaro Rongai Route

Considered as one of the easier Kilimanjaro routes, the Rongai Route is achievable in 6 to 8 days, allowing climbers a better chance to adapt to the altitude and the best chance of summit success. The Rongai Route is the only Kilimanjaro route that approaches the mountain from a northerly direction meaning the ascent is less prone to wet weather, is less crowded and offers spectacular scenery along the way, although a slightly more expensive journey is required to begin the trail.

Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit

The Northern Circuit is much more remote than the other Kilimanjaro routes and has the benefit of less traffic from other trekkers. The northern side of Kilimanjaro is not short of spectacular scenery and potential to spot native wildlife, offering a fantastic combination of all the best elements of the other routes on Kilimanjaro. Achievable in 9 days for those who have not trekked much at high altitudes, the Northern Circuit has one of the mountains highest summit success rates.

Kilimanjaro Shira Route

The lesser used Shira Route was the original route of the improved and more favourable Lemosho Route. The Shira Route, Kilimanjaro, begins near the Shira Ridge and suffers from a low success rate because of its high starting point, causing trekkers to experience altitude related symptoms. The route can be completed in a minimum of 6 days by those with experience of trekking at altitude but an additional day or two is recommended.

Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route

The Umbwe Route is one of the shortest of the 7 established Kilimanjaro routes and one of the most challenging with poor acclimatisation opportunities. This steep and exposed route on Kilimanjaro suffers from a low summit success rate due to its fast ascent to high altitude and should not be taken unless you have a lot of experience trekking at altitude. It is typically completed in 6 to 7 days.

Rongai Route, Kilimanjaro

Quickest Times to Summit Kilimanjaro

  • In August 2014, the Swiss climber Karl Egloff is the current record holder as the fastest ascent and descent up Kilimanjaro having completed the Umbwe route in 6 hours and 42 minutes.
  • Kristina School Madsen holds the title of the fastest woman to climb Kilimanjaro, reaching the summit in 6 hours and 53 minutes.

To put this into perspective, most trekkers take around 7 days to complete the ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro on one of Kilimanjaro’s established routes. These elite athletes will have undergone intense training and pre-acclimatisation to achieve these mind-blowing records.

So, there you have it, slow and steady wins the race… always! To answer the question ‘how long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro’, it is completely dependent on the route you choose, your fitness level, mentality, the time of year you visit and how long you allow yourself to acclimatise to the altitude. To reiterate, the more days you spend on Kilimanjaro, the more likely you are to reach the summit as you will become more acclimatised to the altitude and will be less fatigued. We hope you found this helpful your decision making on which once-in-a-lifetime Kilimanjaro route to take on.