With its snow-capped peak, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest freestanding mountain in the world at 5,895m or 19,341 feet. Every year many people take on the challenge of trying to trek to its peak at Uhuru. There are several different routes which guests can take to attempt to summit the mountain. Some treks can be done in five days, but we recommend taking the longer seven-day trek as this gives time to acclimatise and gives better chances of summiting without getting altitude sickness.
Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and has three volcanic cones, Shira and Kibo (which is where the peak Uhuru is) and Mawenzi. There are various trekking routes offered form anything from four to seven or even ten days to reach the summit. In general, taking seven days is recommended, as this allows time to acclimatise to the altitude and prevent altitude sickness.
Seven routes are used to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. The most common routes used include the Machame, Shira, Lemosho and Marangu Routes which use the southern circuit. The Rongai Route starts from the northeast and approaches Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s point. The Marangu Route is the only route that has hut accommodation along the whole route. The same route is used for both ascent and descent.
The Machame Route is probably the second most popular route to ascend Kilimanjaro. It is very scenic and has a good success rate especially when the 7-day itinerary is taken. It is a good route for acclimatising as climbers climb from Shira Camp to Lava Tower and back down to Barranco Camp to sleep.
The route is challenging and passes through four diverse ecological zones from forest to alpine tundra. The route offers fully catered camping and is popular so can become busy especially near the summit as trekkers from Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe routes join the trail.
The Marangu Route is often considered to be the easiest route to try and summit Mount Kilimanjaro. It is often chosen by climbers who are less prepared which means that many do not make the summit. It was called the Coca-Cola route as the beverage used to be sold along the way. This reputation is deceptive. It is one of the shortest routes to the summit which gives little time for acclimatisation.
A minimum of 6 days on this route is recommended to acclimatise. It is the only route with dormitory-style accommodation in huts the whole route. The huts are equipped with mattresses and basic amenities.
The beautiful Lemosho Route approaches the summit from the West of Kilimanjaro. Climbers need 7 or 8 days to complete this route and allow for acclimatisation. The starting point is more remote than other routes, so the early stages of the route are less crowded with hikers. The route offers stunning views of the characteristic gorges of the western side of Kilimanjaro.
Hikers cross the Shira plateau, one of the highest such plateaus in the World. The route converges with the Machame Route at Barranco Camp, or climbers can head north and join the northern circuit via Gilman’s Point. The Lemosho route only offers fully catered camping.
The Rongai Route is the only route which starts on the north-eastern side of Kilimanjaro National Park. The start of the route offers opportunities to see wildlife like Buffalo, antelope and Elephants. This route is often drier which means that it is a better option during the wet season. However, as they are drier, they are often considered to be less scenic but often offers clear views of Kilimanjaro which is not as common from the southern approach.