When taking on the Mount Kili adventure, it’s crucial to know the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for a successful summit climb.
There’s nothing like standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world, as the sunrise breaks over the landscape.
It’s a truly breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime trek that attracts more than 35,000 people a year to Tanzania. But did you know only two-thirds make it to the summit? The rest are forced to turn around due to altitude sickness and other health problems.
So how can you improve your chances of making it to the top? By choosing the best Kilimanjaro route for your level of fitness. If you choose the wrong route, you may never make it to the summit.
There is more than one way to Uhuru Peak, and your choice can either improve your chances or put you at a great disadvantage.
To help you figure out which is the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, we’ve put together the ultimate guide on the seven Kilimanjaro routes.
Below, you’ll find a complete breakdown of what to expect and the pros and cons to help you make the most of your time on the mountain.
Which is the best route to climb mount Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular and challenging mountain climbs. It is also a bucket list item for many people who have never climbed a mountain before. The question that comes up often, as you are planning your trip, is which route should you take to climb? There are two primary routes to choose from when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – the Machame route and the Marangu route.
However, there are a number of other routes available. Let us break this down further.
1. Northern circuit route
Distance: 88km / 8 – 9 Days
Want to boost your chances of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro and avoiding altitude sickness? The Northern Circuit is your best bet as it is not a difficult route.
The newest Kilimanjaro route is a firm favorite with trekking enthusiasts and has one of the highest success rates.
Over eight or nine days, you’ll completely circumnavigate Kilimanjaro. The route gives you plenty of time to acclimatize and take in the spectacular vistas of Rongai and Shira.
Not enough to tempt you? The Northern Circuit is also one of the direct routes up Kilimajaro. You’ll get to avoid the crowds and experience the mountain’s remote wilderness in peace.
The trek follows the Lemosho trail initially, but instead of following a southern traverse like the other west-approaching routes, you’ll go up the rarely visited northern slopes.
With a high success rate, beautiful scenery, and hardly any crowds, the Northern Circuit is one of the best routes on Kilimanjaro.
- High success rate
- Scenic variety
- Less crowded routes
- Beautiful views
- Longest Kilimanjaro route to the summit
9 days north circuit route itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||NORTH CIRCUIT ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS<||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa||7,742 ft to 9,498 ft||6 km/4 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rain Forest|
|DAY 2||Mti Mkubwa to Shira 1 Camp||9,498 ft to 11,500 ft||8 km/5 miles||5 – 6 hours||Heath|
|DAY 3||Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp||11,500 ft to 12,500 ft||7 km/4 miles||3 – 4 hours||Heath|
|DAY 4||Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower Lava Tower to Moir Hut||12,500 ft to 15,190 ft 15,190 ft to 13,580 ft||7 km/4 miles 7 km/4 miles||3 – 4 hours 2 – 3 hours||Alpine Desert Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp||13,580 ft to 13,200 ft||12 km/7 miles||5 – 7 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 6||Buffalo Camp to Third Cave||13,200 ft to 12,700 ft||8 km/5 miles||5 – 7 hours||Heath|
|DAY 7||Third Cave to School Hut||12,700 ft to 15,600 ft||5 km/3 miles||4 – 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 8||School Hut to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp||15,600 ft to 19,341 ft 19,341 ft to 10,065||6 km/4 miles 12 km/7 miles||6 – 8 hours 4 – 6 hours||Arctic|
|DAY 9||Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate||10,065 ft to 5,380 ft||10 km/6 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rain Forest|
2. Lemosho route
Distance: 67km / 7 – 8 Days
Lemosho is a beautiful route up Kilimanjaro. Starting from the West, you’ll trek past a remote rainforest, go through the Lemosho Glades and see panoramic vistas of the mountain before joining up with the Machame Route.
From there, you’ll follow the southern circuit and walk past the Lava Tower, Barranco Wall, and Barafu. The only downside? It’s one of the more expensive Kilimanjaro routes. Usually a longer trek of seven or eight days and more remote, it does come with a higher price tag.
But if you don’t mind a longer itinerary and want a higher success rate with showstopping natural beauty, Lemosho is worth every penny.
- Beautiful scenery
- Plenty of time for acclimatization
- High success rate
- Fully catered camping
- Spectacular views
- Expensive route
- Low traffic until you join up with the Machame route
8 days Lemosho itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||LEMOSHO ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa||7,743 ft to 9,498 ft||6 km/4 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rainforest|
|DAY 2||Mti Mkubwa to Shira 1 Camp||9,498 ft to 11,499 ft||8 km/5 miles||5 – 6 hour||Heath|
|DAY 3||Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp||9,498 ft to 11,499 feet||11 km/7 miles||5 – 7 hours||Heath|
|DAY 4||Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower Lava Tower to Barranco Camp||12,480 ft to 15,190 ft 15,190 ft to 12,959 ft||7 km/4 miles 3 km/2 miles||4 – 5 hours 2 – 3 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp||12,959 ft to 13,231 ft||5 km/3 miles||4 to 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 6||Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp||13,232 ft to 14,948 ft||4 km/2 miles||4 – 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 7||Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp||14,948 ft to 19,341 ft 19,341 ft to 10,171 ft||5 km/3 miles 12 km/7 miles||7 – 8 hours 4 – 6 hours||Ice Camp Rainforest|
|DAY 8||Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate||10,171 ft to 5,381 ft||10 km/6 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rainforest|
3. Shira route
Distance: 58km / 6 – 7 Days
The Shira route approaches from the west and is almost identical to Lemosho.
However, its difference lies in its starting point. Instead of spending the first stage of the climb walking through the rainforest zone, you skip it.
You can either walk on a four-wheel drive to the Shira 1 camp or drive up as far as possible.
While this sounds like excellent news, it does put your body at risk. You are catapulting yourself to a height of 3,500 meters / 11,500 feet without proper acclimatization.
The result? You could experience altitude sickness on the first day while camping at 11,500 feet.
If you know your body will react positively to the high altitude starting point, you can expect a route that avoids the crowded campsites and trails until it re-joins the Machame route.
While Shira’s success rates aren’t as high as other routes, you can boost your chances by spending a night at Karanga Valley.
- Fewer people on the route
- Avoids more crowded campsites and trails
- A high altitude starting point increases the chances of altitude sickness on the first day
- More expensive than the Machame Route
7 days Shira route itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||SHIRA ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Shira Gate to Simba Camp||11,800 ft to 11,800 ft||4 km/2 miles||1 hour||Heath|
|DAY 2||Simba Camp to Shira 2 Camp||11,800 ft to 12,500 ft||6 km/4 miles||2 hours||Heath|
|DAY 3||Shira 2 Camp Going to Lava Tower|
Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
|12,500 ft to 15,190 ft|
15,190 ft to 13,044 ft
|7 km/4 miles|
3 km/2 miles
|4 – 5 hours|
2 – 3 hours
|DAY 4||Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp||13,044 ft to 13,106 ft||5 km/3 miles||4 – 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp||13,106 ft to 15,331 ft||4 km/2 miles||4 – 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 6||Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak|
Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
|15,331 ft to 19,341 ft|
19,341 ft to 10,065 ft
|5 km/3 miles|
12 km/7 miles
|7 – 8 hours|
4 – 6 hours
|DAY 7||Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate||10,065 ft to 5,380 ft||10 km/6 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rain Forest|
4. Machame route ("whiskey" route)
Distance: 61km / 6 – 7 Days
Looking for an adventurous challenge? Machame, aka the “Whiskey Route,” is the perfect choice for experienced hikers who want dramatic scenery and don’t mind a strenuous climb.
The route begins from the south and traverses past the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower, and underneath Kilimanjaro’s southern ice field before reaching Uhuru Peak. On your way back down, you’ll descend on the Mweka route, giving you unmatched variety and taking you through four diverse climate zones.
In between crossing a succession of valleys and ridges, you’ll come across the Barranco Wall.
What’s that? A steep, 1h 30min climb.
In short, it’s not for the faint of heart or trekkers who can’t handle strenuous climbs and long days on the trail.
If you’re up for the challenge, Machame has a 60% success rate (if you do the seven-day version) and is one of the most scenic Mount Kilimanjaro routes.
It’s for these reasons, Machame has become one of the most popular Kilimanjaro routes. While that means you can find good deals from budget operators, the disadvantage is you won’t be alone.
Machame is notorious for its busy trails and campsites, which can take away from some of the splendor.
- It’s one of the cheaper Mount Kilimanjaro routes
- Scenic route
- Higher success rate than Marangu
- Popular route
- The trail is busy with heavy crowds
- A challenging route
- You’ll need to take on Barranco Wall
7 days Machame route itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||MACHAME ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Machame Gate to Machame Camp||5,381 ft to 9,751 ft||11 km/7 miles||5 – 6 hours||Rain Forest|
|DAY 2||Machame Camp to Shira 2 Camp||9,751 ft to 12,480 ft||5 km/3 miles||4 – 6 hours||Heath|
|DAY 3||Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower Lava Tower to Barranco Camp||12,480 ft to 15,190 ft 15,190 to 12,959 ft||7 km/4 miles 3 km/2 miles||4 – 5 hours 2 -3 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 4||Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp||12,960 ft to 13,232 ft||6 km/3 miles||4 – 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp||13,232 ft to 14,948 ft||4 km/2 miles||4 – 5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 6||Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp||14,948 ft to 19,341 ft 19,341 to 10,171 ft||5 km/3 miles 12 km/7 miles||7 – 8 hours 4 -6 hours||Ice Camp Rainforest|
|DAY 7||Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate||10,171 ft to 5,381 ft||10 km/6 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rainforest|
5. Rongai route
Distance: 74km / 6 – 7 Days
The Rongai route is the only one approaching Kilimanjaro from the north, giving you the chance to see both sides of the mountain. While this does mean your climb may not be as scenic as the other routes, it still packs a punch.
- The northern side is drier: If you’re climbing outside of the peak Kilimanjaro months, Rongai is going to help you avoid most of the downpours.
- The high success rate: For climbers who are fit and can acclimatize quickly, you can ascend within 6-7 days and have an 80% chance of reaching Uhuru Peak.
- The wildlife: Rongai is one of the few Kilimanjaro routes where you can still catch glimpses of the wildlife.
- It’s quieter: Rongai is an excellent alternative to the busier Machame route and will take you away from the crowds.
- The camps are better: Not only does Rongai have one of the most scenic camps beneath Mawenzi Peak, but the camps are better staggered compared to Marangu. On your last day before the summit, you only need to climb a few hundred meters.
So what’s the downside with such an incredible route? While Rongai does have a reputation for being one of the easiest Kilimanjaro routes, it’s not for everyone.
With such a quick ascent to the summit, the route will test your mental and physical limits. You’ll need a high level of fitness and know your body can quickly acclimatize.
- A high success rate of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro
- Fewer crowds and a remote hike
- The northern side is drier, making it the best choice for the rainy season
- High chance of seeing wildlife on the climb
- Home to one of the most beautiful camps on the mountain
- The low demand for this route and the extra transport costs make it more expensive
- Need a high level of fitness and the ability to acclimatize quickly
6 days Rongai route itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||RONGAI ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Rongai Gate to Simba Camp||6,398 ft to 8,596 ft||8 km/5 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rain Forest|
|DAY 2||Simba Camp to Second Cave Second Cave to Kikelewa Camp||8,596 ft to 11,319 ft 11,319 ft to 11,811 ft||6 km/4 miles 6 km/4 miles||3 – 4 hours 3 – 4 hours||Heath|
|DAY 3||Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn||11,811 ft to 14,108 ft||5 km/3 miles||4-5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 4||Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp||14,108 ft to 15,420 ft||8 km/5 miles||5 – 6 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Kibo Camp to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Horombo Camp||15,420 ft to 19,341 ft 19,341 ft to 12,205 ft||6 km/4 miles 16km/ 10 miles||7 – 8 hours 4 – 5 hours||Arctic Heath|
|DAY 6||Horombo Camp to Marangu Gate||12,205 ft to 6,463 ft||20 km/12 miles||5 – 7 hours||Rain Forest|
6. Marangu route (“Coca-Cola” route)
Distance: 70km / 5 – 6 Days
What is the easiest Mount Kilimanjaro route? The Marangu Route, aka the “Tourist Route” or the “Coca Cola Route.”
…Or is it?
Despite being the oldest, most established Kilimanjaro route and a reputation for an easy climb to the summit, Marangu has one of the lowest success rates.
Why is that?
It’s because the Marangu route is done within five days. That’s not enough time to acclimatize and avoid altitude sickness. Plus, on your last day before the summit, you will cover 1000 meters of altitude difference, and that’s not enough time to recover before you set out at midnight to climb another 1200 meters.
Many unprepared hikers (aka the “tourists”) sign up for Marangu and struggle to acclimatize in time for Uhuru Peak.
The Marangu Route is the only route on Kilimanjaro that uses the same path up and down. This makes it one of the busiest climbing routes on Kilimanjaro.
All that said, don’t completely write Marangu off your list yet. Despite the heavy traffic and low success rate, it’s the only route with hut accommodation, making the climb relatively cheap.
You don’t need to rent camping equipment or pay extra for porters.
If camping for 5-days in the wilderness sounds like your personal hell, or you’re planning to trek Kilimanjaro in the wetter seasons, Marangu is the best fit for you.
Opt in for an additional acclimatization day and don’t go with the cheapest operator to boost your chances of a successful summit. Remember, your gear, food, and experienced guides all play a huge part in getting you to the top and cost money.
- Hut accommodation (camping is not allowed)
- It follows one of the easiest routes up Kilimanjaro
- Cheapest Kilimanjaro route
- Low summit success rate
- One of the most crowded routes
- It’s the only route that uses the same path going up and down
6 days Marangu itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||MARANGU ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut||6,398 ft to 8,858 ft||8 km/5 miles||4 – 5 hours||Rain Forest|
|DAY 2||Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut||8,858 ft to 12,205 ft||12 km/7 miles||6 – 8 hours||Heath|
|DAY 3||Horombo to Zebra Rock Zebra Rock To Horombo||12,205 ft to 13,451 ft 13,451 ft to 12,205 ft||2 km/1.2 miles 2 km/1.2 miles||1-2 hours 1-2 hours||Heath|
|DAY 4||Horombo Hut To Kibo Hut||12,205 ft to 15,430 ft||10 km/6 miles||6 – 8 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut||15,420 ft to 19,341 ft 19,341 to 12,205 ft||6 km/4 miles 16km/ 10 miles||6 – 8 hours 4 – 5 hours||Ice Camp Alpine Desert|
|DAY 6||Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate||12,205 ft to 6,463 ft||20 km/12 miles||5 – 7 hours||Rain Forest|
7. Umbwe route
Distance: 48km / 5 – 7 Days
Umbwe is the most difficult Kilimanjaro route. It’s a direct path to the summit with a rapid ascent, steep inclines (where you’ll use tree roots to hold on), and an exposed route.
In short, if you’re unfit, inexperienced, and afraid of heights, this is not the route for you.
To put things into perspective, Umbwe joins the Machame route near Barranco Camp on the second night. On the other routes, you only reach Barranco on the third or fourth night.
Umbwe doesn’t give you much time to acclimatize with such a quick, steep climb, resulting in poor success rates.
If you have your heart set on this route, add extra days to your trip to improve your chances of reaching Uhuru.
Don’t attempt this if you have little experience climbing mountains and are not mentally and physically prepared for a challenging climb.
- One of the shortest routes
- Quiet and low traffic route
- Cheaper than some of the other routes
- Low success rate
- Little time for acclimatisation
- One of the steepest routes
- Not a good choice if you’re afraid of heights
6 days Umbwe itinerary
|NUMBER OF DAYS||UMBWE ROUTE||ELEVATION||DISTANCE||HIKING HOURS||HABITAT|
|DAY 1||Umbwe Gate to Umbwe Camp||5,249 ft to 9,514 ft||11 km/7 miles||5 – 7 hours||Heath|
|DAY 2||Umbwe Camp to Barranco Camp||9,514 ft to 13,044 ft||6 km/4 miles||4 – 5 hours||Heath|
|DAY 3||Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp||13,044 ft to 13,106 ft||5 km/3 miles||4-5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 4||Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp||13,106 ft to 15,331 ft||4 km/2 miles||4-5 hours||Alpine Desert|
|DAY 5||Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp||15,331 ft to 19,341 ft 19,341 ft to 10,065 ft||5 km/3 miles 12 km/7 miles||7 – 8 hours 4 – 6 hours||Arctic Rain Forest|
|DAY 6||Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate||10,065 ft to 5,380 ft||10 km/6 miles||3 – 4 hours||Rain Forest|
Mount Kilimanjaro routes FAQ
- Which Kilimanjaro route has the highest success rate? The Northern Circuit has a 95% success rate. Approaching from the south of Kilimanjaro, it’s the newest and longest route, taking climbers on average 8 to 9 days to summit.
- What is the most scenic Mount Kilimanjaro route? Machame and Lemosho are the most scenic Kilimanjaro routes. You’ll trek past the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower, the Barranco Wall, giving you variety in scenery that is hard to beat.
- Which is the most challenging Mount Kilimanjaro route? Umbwe is considered the most difficult Mount Kilimanjaro route. It’s a direct, steep, and tough trail and should not be attempted unless you have experience climbing mountains.
- What is the best month to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? The best months to climb Kilimanjaro are January to early March and June through October. You’ll have clear skies, good weather, and comfortable hiking conditions.
Book your mount Kilimanjaro trekking adventure
Ready to go on the trekking adventure of a lifetime? Book your Mount Kilimanjaro tour with Easy Travel.
Our experts can help you choose the best Kilimanjaro route and ensure you go up the mountain with qualified guides and porters.
Speak to our team today, and let’s start planning your trip to Tanzania.
The best months to climb Kilimanjaro are January to early March and June through October. You’ll have clear skies, good weather, and comfortable hiking conditions.