There are eight routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro that are authorised by the National Park - these are Machame, Western Breach and Umbwe approaching the mountain from the south, Lemosho, Shira and Northern Circuit approaching from the West, Marangu approaching from the east and Rongai approaching from the north.
Of these, we operate a regular schedule of open groups on the four routes with the best success rates. These are the Machame, Lemosho, Northern Circuit and Rongai routes. A map showing an overview of these routes together with a summary of each of these routes is below.
All the climbing routes are available as private climbs and we also operate climbs that sleep overnight in Crater Camp as an extension to the Machame, Lemosho or Northern Circuit route for private trips.
If you have just 9 days and want to have the best chance of going home and saying "I climbed Kilimanjaro" the Machame route is the one for you. Starting to the south-west of Kilimanjaro it circuits south before climbing to Uhuru Peak via Stella Point. With excellent acclimatisation and varied and interesting scenery every day it is a great choice for the novice climber.
Approaching from the west, the Lemosho route is one of our highly recommended routes. The first three days of the ascent are quiet and relatively untravelled, then on day four it joins the busy Machame route. A wonderful route in terms of scenery, it offers unequalled views over the majestic Shira plateau. The success rate for this route is comparable to the Machame route.
The Northern Circuit route is the newest officially approved route up Mount Kilimanjaro, and one of the few ways to see its quieter, more remote northern slope. This is an extended, nine day climb which offers excellent acclimatisation time and provides views of the rugged and highly varied countryside on all sides of the great mountain.
The Marangu route is the oldest and most well-established route on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is also the only route that has hut accommodation and uses the same ascent and descent trail. The route is often touted as one of the easier hiking trails to the summit. However, according to KINAPA it suffers from the lowest success rate (42%) as too many trekkers try to do it in only 5 days and fail because of poor acclimatisation. For this reason we only offer this route on a 6-day itinerary.
The Rongai route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the north east, near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Its main attraction is that it is very quiet and traverses virtually untouched wilderness. Ascent is via the scree path to Gilman’s Point with a traverse round the rim to Uhuru Peak. Descent is along the Marangu route.
Crater Camp is not a route in itself but a challenging option you can add onto any of our climbs over 7 days. Crater Camp itself is located right in the heart of Kilimanjaro's crater and you can almost guarantee that come sunset you will be the only people on the mountain. A real 'get away from the crowds' option for the expert Kandooer.
Choosing a route is probably the hardest decision to make when you are planning to climb Kilimanjaro and that isn't helped by the fact that there is so much conflicting advice available on the internet. Ultimately the choice of route will be personal and we don't pretend to own the oracle on this but our advice is based on climbing all the routes ourselves recently.
Please do remember that when you look at the choice of climbing routes nearly every person in the world who is looking to climb Kilimanjaro starts off looking for a really quiet route, that isn't too expensive, that has a great success rate and has great scenery. This holy grail of routes sadly does not exist: all the routes with great scenery are busier, as are all the routes with a high success rate, so whichever route you choose it will always be a compromise of these factors.
Bearing that in mind this is our quick guide to choosing the best route for you to climb Kilimanjaro:
For the best chance of success, good scenery and a reasonable budget check out the Machame route
For great scenery, a quieter start and a more relaxed daily schedule, the 10 day Lemosho route is a great choice
If money is no problem and you have 11 days the Northern Circuit is a sensational, beautiful route and very quiet
And if you are a hard core hiker looking for the ultimate Kilimanjaro adventure think about Crater Camp: definitely one for those experienced at altitude.
If you bear in mind that there is no single "best route to climb Kilimanjaro" these are the factors you should take into account
What is the experience of your group? You need to carefully assess the fitness and experience of everyone in your group, as a route that would be fine for experienced mountaineers will not be suitable for novices. Nothing will put a damper on your summit success more effectively than having friends with you who didn't make it
Are you limited by the number of days you can take? Ideally you need at least 7 days to climb and with travel days this means a 9 day trip. If you haven't got this time, some routes can be climbed in 6 days but the success rate is much lower
Is your budget a restriction? Partly because of the number of days and partly because of the access issues on some routes there is considerable variation in costs. Don't though be tempted to reduce the chance of success to save money: the most expensive trip to climb Kilimanjaro is one where you don't summit and have to descend with altitude sickness.
How challenging do you want to make the climb? For most climbers getting to the summit is a big enough challenge but we do operate Kilimanjaro routes that are even more challenging, like the Crater Camp options. Think carefully about just how tough you want to make your climb.
How important is the scenery? With routes starting from different locations the views and scenery are very different and in the rain shadow to the north of Kilimanjaro the climate is distinctly different.
What is the motivation for climbing? Of course everyone wants to summit but if you are climbing in a group for charity or doing the climb as a team-building event then reaching the summit should be the highest priority and this should determine your route.
When do you want to do your climb? Because your choice of route is always a compromise between how attractive a route is and how busy it will be the time of year can be a major factor. Even the most popular routes are quiet in the two rainy seasons.
If you are unsure which route to climb Kilimanjaro will be best for you, ring and talk to one of our Kilimanjaro specialists.