The Northern Circuit is not just the newest official route to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, it is also the longest and most beautiful. And remember the longer the route, the higher the chance of overall success.
This extended climb begins with a drive from Moshi to the Londorossi Gate, where you start. From there the Northern Circuit follows the Lemosho route for the first few days, moving through the lush rainforest below the mountain itself, then ascending the Shira Ridge to cross the high Shira Plateau. When you come near Lava Tower you leave the Lemosho route and turn north to follow the Northern Circuit proper.
This detour allows the trek to circle around to Kilimanjaro’s northern slopes, crossing them to the east. The northern side of Kilimanjaro is more remote, and so has the benefits of offering less traffic from other climbers, and much more untouched, untrammelled surroundings. The result is a unique climbing experience and a truly fantastic trek.
There are a few options as to the best route to the summit, depending on the season and local conditions at the time. All routes though converge again at Gilman’s Point to approach the summit itself. Descent is via the Mweka route, where you will likely see other trekkers who went up on either the Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe or Machame routes.
If you have the time and the cost does not deter you then the full Northern Circuit route is a fantastic route and certainly one of the most enjoyable ways to climb Kilimanjaro. You circle most of the mountain at nearly 4000 metres, allowing unequalled 360 degree views of this majestic and highly diverse region. It is the longest route by which to climb the mountain, and provides unequalled acclimatisation opportunities. This also makes it one of the safest and most successful routes.
On day one, you'll fly in to Kilimanjaro Airport. We'll send a driver to meet you and take you and your luggage to your hotel in Moshi. Explore the town a bit, but make sure you're ready for tomorrow!
After a hearty breakfast we'll take you to the Park Gate at Londorossi. You can get registered with the Park whilst the Kandoo crew assemble all of the baggage, gear and supplies we'll take with us.
The route passes through lush rainforest before arriving at Mti Mkuba Camp ('Big Tree' Camp) which is at an altitude of 2895 metres.
Day three, and our second day on the mountain, will see us travel over the massive Shira Plateau, the eroded remains of the third and most ancient of Kilimanjaro's volcanic vents.
We will then make our way to Shira 1 Camp. Bundle up, as the nights are substantially colder at this altitude.
Today, we will take a short hike to the summit of awe-inspiring Shira Cathedral, one of the most amazing natural landmarks on Kilimanjaro.
Then it is onwards to Shira 2 Camp, where we can see Mount Meru, 80km away in Arusha National Park.
Just after Shira 2 Camp the Lemosho Route joins the Machame Route, and we will follow it for a short time. Expect to see other trekkers there. We will soon leave the main trail to get to the Moir Hut Camp, beneath the scenic Lent Hills.
We will take a short but steep hike from Moir Valley to the top of the Lent Hills.Not only is the view worth the effort, proper acclimatisation requires you to 'walk high, sleep low'.
Afterwards we will rejoin the trail and cross several valleys on Kilimanjaro's north side before reaching Pofu Camp.
Leaving Pofu Camp, we'll continue to circle around the mountain's north side, with magnificent views of Kenya the whole way.
We'll cross more valleys, turning eastwards as the vegetation begins to thin with the drier conditions on this part of Kilimanjaro.
A long and steady ascent takes us to The Saddle, and a landscape that can only be referred to as 'lunar', with the peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo rising on either side.
We'll reach School Hut and make camp in the early afternoon, giving us a chance to rest and prepare for the summit tomorrow.
Day nine starts early, around 1 am. We'll ascend to the rim of Kilimanjaro's crater at Gilman's Point, where we will get to see the sun rise over Mawenzi Peak. After a short break, we'll follow the crater rim to Uhuru Peak itself.
The descent will take us back to Barafu Hut, where we will have lunch, then on to Mweka Camp. This last stretch will be over loose gravel, so trekking poles will be quite useful. We'll have your last dinner on the mountain at Mweka Camp, and get some well-earned sleep.
This will be our last day on the mountain itself. Keep in mind that this leg of the trek is often fairly muddy. It will either be quite warm, raining, or both, so keep both light clothing and waterproof gear to hand. We'll make our way through the forest to Mweka Park Gate where you will receive an official certificate commemorating your climb.
We'll pick you up from your hotel in Moshi and take you to the airport.
You've climbed Kilimanjaro! Now all that you have to do is brag about it!
Q1HOW DIFFICULT IS THE NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE?
The Northern Circuit has a low difficulty level. Although it is the longest route, the longer itinerary means that it has the best acclimatization profile which makes the trek less difficult. You will be trekking for long periods of time though so a good level of fitness is recommended.
Q2WHAT IS THE DISTANCE OF THE NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE?
The trekking distance for the Northern Circuit is 97km or 60 miles.
Q3WHAT IS THE NORTHERN CIRCUIT SUMMIT SUCCESS RATE?
The Northern Circuit is the longest route up Kilimanjaro which gives the best chance for acclimatization. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all operators is 90%. However, Kandoo have a summit success rate of over 95% for the Northern Circuit!
Q4WHAT IS THE SCENERY LIKE ON THE NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE?
The Northern Circuit is one of the most scenic routes as it traverses the northern slopes of the mountain in relative solitude before ascending up the east slope. The trail passes through rainforest and moorlands before ascending to the higher reaches where there are numerous northern vistas to behold.