Mount Kilimanjaro – Routes Overview

May 16, 2023

Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience that draws adventurous travelers from all over the world.

As the highest peak in Africa, Kilimanjaro boasts breathtaking views and an unforgettable trekking experience. The climb up the mountain requires careful planning and preparation, and selecting the right route is a crucial step. In this article, we’ll explore the different routes to Kilimanjaro and provide a guide to help you choose the best option for your Kilimanjaro trekking adventure.

Route Overview

Kilimanjaro has several routes to choose from, each offering unique experiences and challenges. The seven main routes are:

  1. Marangu Route
  2. Machame Route
  3. Lemosho Route
  4. Rongai Route
  5. Northern Circuit Route
  6. Umbwe Route
  7. Shira Route

Each route has different advantages and disadvantages, including trekking distance, acclimatization opportunities, terrain difficulty, and scenery. Here’s a breakdown of each route to help you make an informed decision while you planning your Kilimanjaro trip:

  1. Marangu Route

The Marangu Route, also known as the “Coca-Cola Route,” is the most popular route to the summit of Kilimanjaro. The route starts at Marangu Gate, located on the eastern side of the mountain, and follows a gradual slope through the rainforest. It is the only route that offers sleeping huts for accommodation, making it a popular choice for budget trekkers.


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Pros:

  • Gradual slope and well-defined trail
  • Sleeping huts provide shelter from rain and cold
  • Cheaper than other routes

Cons:

  • Less scenic than other routes
  • Crowded with many trekkers
  • Poor acclimatization opportunities
  1. Machame Route

The Machame Route, also known as the “Whiskey Route,” is one of the most popular and challenging routes to Kilimanjaro. The route starts at Machame Gate, located on the southern side of the mountain, and passes through dense rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert. It is a scenic route with stunning views of the Shira Plateau and the Barranco Wall.

Pros:

  • Scenic with stunning views
  • Good acclimatization opportunities
  • Less crowded than Marangu Route

Cons:

  • Challenging with steep sections and rocky terrain
  • Higher trekking distance than other routes
  • Campsites can be crowded during peak season
  1. Lemosho Route

The Lemosho Route is a relatively new route that offers a longer and more gradual ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro. The route starts on the western side of the mountain, and it is known for its scenic beauty and wildlife sightings. The Lemosho Route joins the Machame Route on the second day of the trek.

Pros:

  • Scenic with diverse terrain and wildlife sightings
  • Good acclimatization opportunities
  • Less crowded than other routes

Cons:

  • Longer trekking distance than other routes
  • More expensive than other routes
  • Can be challenging with steep sections and rocky terrain
  1. Rongai Route

The Rongai Route is the only route that starts on the northern side of Kilimanjaro. The route offers a more remote and less-traveled trekking experience, with stunning views of the Kenyan savannah. The Rongai Route joins the Marangu Route at Kibo Huts, and trekkers descend via the Marangu Route.

Pros:

  • Scenic with diverse terrain and wildlife sightings
  • Good acclimatization opportunities
  • Less crowded than other routes

Cons:

  • Less scenic than other routes
  • Higher trekking distance than other routes
  • Can be challenging with steep sections and rocky terrain

5. Northern Circuit Route

The Northern Circuit Route is the newest and longest route to Kilimanjaro. The route offers an extended trekking experience, with stunning views of the mountain’s northern slopes. The Northern Circuit Route is known for its excellent acclimatization opportunities, making it one of the safest and most scenic routes to Kilimanjaro.

Pros:

  • Scenic with diverse terrain and wildlife sightings
  • Excellent acclimatization opportunities
  • Less crowded than other routes

Cons:

  • Longer trekking distance than other routes
  • More expensive than other routes
  • Can be challenging with steep sections and rocky terrain
  1. Umbwe Route

The Umbwe Route is the shortest and steepest route to Kilimanjaro. The route starts on the southern side of the mountain, and it is known for its challenging climb and beautiful views of the surrounding rainforest. The Umbwe Route is not recommended for inexperienced climbers due to its steep ascent.

Pros:

  • Scenic with stunning views of the rainforest
  • Less crowded than other routes

Cons:

  • Challenging with steep sections and rocky terrain
  • Poor acclimatization opportunities
  • Not recommended for inexperienced climbers
  1. Shira Route

The Shira Route is a scenic and less-traveled route to Kilimanjaro. The route starts on the western side of the mountain and offers stunning views of the Shira Plateau. The Shira Route joins the Lemosho Route on the second day of the trek.

Pros:

  • Scenic with diverse terrain and wildlife sightings
  • Good acclimatization opportunities
  • Less crowded than other routes

Cons:

  • Longer trekking distance than other routes
  • More expensive than other routes
  • Can be challenging with steep sections and rocky terrain

Route Comparison Table

To help you compare the different routes to Kilimanjaro, we’ve put together a table highlighting the key features of each route:

Conclusion

Choosing the right route for your Kilimanjaro trekking adventure is crucial to ensuring a safe and enjoyable climb. Each route has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider factors such as trekking distance, acclimatization opportunities, and terrain difficulty. The Marangu Route is an excellent choice for budget trekkers, while the Machame Route offers stunning views and good acclimatization opportunities. The Lemosho Route and Northern Circuit Route are great options for those seeking a longer and more gradual trekking experience, while the Rongai Route and Shira Route offer unique perspectives of the mountain.

Regardless of which route you choose, trekking Mount Kilimanjaro is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. With careful planning and preparation, you can reach the summit of Africa’s highest peak and enjoy the breathtaking views that await you.

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