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Which is the best route to Climb Kilimanjaro?

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.

Climb Kiliamanjaro routes

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  machame route image

Machame Route

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.

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9 days

  The Kili flyers Barranco wall with Kandoo

Lemosho Route

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.

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10 days

  Disabled soldier climbing Kilimanjaro

Rongai Route

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.

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9 days

  northern circuit header

Northern Circuit

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.

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11 days

  marangu route

Marangu Route

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.

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8 days

  Crater camp Kilimanjaro

Crater Camp

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.

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10 days

  Armand Leners Mt Meru summit

Mount Meru

Mount Meru is often overlooked due to its proximity to Kilimanjaro, but it has plenty to offer those looking for a challenging climb. A dormant volcano that last erupted in 1910, it is Tanzania's second highest mountain at 4562 metres (14,979 ft) and can be climbed in 3-4 days.

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5 days

Summary of our view on the best Kilimanjaro routes

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. 

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 to climb Kilimanjaro:

  • For a really good chance of success, good scenery and a reasonable budget check out the Machame route over 7 days

  • For great scenery, a quieter start and a more relaxed daily schedule,  the 8 day Lemosho route is a great choice

  • If money is no problem and you have 9 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.

Other factors to consider in choosing your route

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.

More about the Machame route

The Machame route is one of the routes we recommend most highly to climb Kilimanjaro as it offers great acclimatisation, allowing the climber to "walk high, sleep low", and as a result enjoys one of the highest summit success rate of all the routes to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. It goes by the nickname of "The Whisky Route" although it should go without saying no whisky is available! 

The Machame route approaches from the southwest of the mountain, and as you climb you pass through all Kilimanjaro's five diverse climatic zones with stunning views to the west across the Shira Plateau where it joins the Lemosho/Shira route on day 3. From this point it continues on to the magnificent Lava Tower, followed by the Great Barranco Wall and Kilimanjaro's Southern Icefield.

There is a short scramble up what is called the Great Barranco Wall: this can cause some concern to newer trekkers but is not difficult at all even though when you are at Barranco camp you look across and wonder how you will ever get up it.  When you arrive at the wall though there is a really good path and although you may need your hands in a few places there is nothing dangerous. Thousands of porters climb this route every year carrying big packs on their heads so for the trekker it is very straightforward. 

After Barranco, you traverse round to Karanga camp before starting  north to base camp at Barafu. A short night's sleep then has you starting the final push to the summit. The first stage of the descent takes you back to Barafu for a late breakfast and from there you descent to Mweka camp for your last night.

Owing to its high success rate the Machame route is now the busiest route on the mountain. To mitigate this and avoid the worst of the traffic we try and start quite early so you will have the path to yourselves.  In order to ensure we get a good camping spot we also send part of the crew ahead to reserve a good position and to make sure that when you get into camp  your tent will be ready and snacks and drinks will be underway.

Although you can climb Kilimanjaro over 6 days via the Machame route we recommend taking 7 days. The reason for this is that it offers much better acclimatisation and allows the pre-summit day to be split into two which means that you have two shorter days trekking prior to your summit ascent. This really helps and has proved a great success and a more enjoyable way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

More about the Lemosho route

The Lemosho route to climb Kilimanjaro offers a high summit success rate as its longer approach to the summit helps to improve acclimatisation. The first couple of days are generally quieter but it then joins up at Shira camp with the popular Machame route.

KINAPA only recently introduced the Lemosho route as an improved version of the original Shira route. The Lemosho route offers better acclimatisation as it starts lower than the original Shira route which started at 3600m. The high altitude start on the Shira route is not recommended as climbers may experience symptoms of altitude sickness on their first day. The Lemosho and Shira routes merge after day 1.

Starting from Londorossi Gate at 2360m on the far west of Kilimanjaro, the Lemosho trail traverses through rainforest, where wild game may be seen, continuing up to Shira Ridge, Kilimanjaro's third summit. From here you will ascend and cross the expansive Shira Plateau with fantastic views of Shira Cathedral. The Lemosho route starts at 2360m on the far west of Kilimanjaro. It then joins the Machame route at Shira camp on day 3.

The descent on both Lemosho and Shira routes is, like on the Machame route, by the Mweka trail so you never have to back track.

Most climbers who are fit and well-acclimatised take 7 days to climb Kilimanjaro by the Lemosho route. However, for those who have not trekked at altitude before it is wise to add an additional day to make it an 8 day trek. This then allows the pre-summit day to be split into two shorter days trekking prior to the summit ascent to improve the chances of summiting.

More about the Rongai route

The only northern approach route to Kilimanjaro, the Rongai route starts from very close to the Kenyan border so there is a relatively long transfer to the start. Because of this, and for a number of other reasons, the Rongai route is generally quiet, offers the closest to a wilderness experience and for those looking to get away from the crowds on Kilimanjaro's popular routes it is therefore a good choice

The trek in is through a remote and barren landscape where the rainforest has sadly been lost to agriculture. In addition, like the Marangu route, the Rongai route suffers from a low summit success rate as the topography does not naturally allow the climber to "walk high, sleep low".

There is a variation of the Rongai route that offers better acclimatisation: the "Rongai Route Variation". This starts with the traditional route but then traverses to the east to meet up with the Machame route at Barafu. We do not offer this route, although it is promoted heavily by some operators, as we feel it is too arduous and dangerous for our porter team with severe exposed ridge crossings.

The biggest attraction of the Rongai route is that it is quiet and because it is quiet you have a much better chance of seeing wildlife than on the Machame route. If though you really want to see wildlife we would recommend the Lemosho route.

The Rongai route use the scree summiting path from Kibo hut to Gilman’s point and descends via the Marangu route. One other thing to bear in mind is that when you reach the crater rim at Gilman’s point you still have two hours walking to the summit.

More about the Northern Circuit

The newly introduced Northern Circuit route deserves its billing as the "grand traverse" of Kilimanjaro from west to east and if you have the time it is our favourite route.  It is by far the most quiet and remote route taking you on a circumnavigation of Kilimanjaro far away from the crowds. It offers a very high summit success rate due to its longer walk in which helps to improve acclimatisation. 

The Northern Circuit route starts at 2360m on the far west of Kilimanjaro. It traverses through rainforest, following the start of the Lemosho path as far as  Shira Ridge, Kilimanjaro's third summit. From here the route ascends further on the Lemosho route across the Shira Plateau underneath Shira Cathedral.  It then turns north and works around the remote northern slopes of Kilimanjaro overlooking Kenya and the famous Amboseli National Park. 

As it  circles clockwise around the mountain you travel from Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp to School Hut, before summiting from the east on the same trail as the Rongai route. Unlike the Rongai route, the descent is via the Mweka route.

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