How to Choose the Right Route to Climb Kilimanjaro

How to Choose the Right Route to Climb Kilimanjaro

Which route on Kilimanjaro is the most beautiful, easiest, safest and which route offers the best chance to summit successfully? Here you will find all the details to decide which route is right for your Kilimanjaro climb!

Overnight in tents or in huts?

The majority of all routes on Kilimanjaro are camping routes where people sleep and eat in tents. Only on the Marangu Route are overnight stays in the huts of the national park administration. The number of porters required on this route are also the fewest because camping equipment must no longer be carried.

Which route offers the best altitude acclimatization on Kilimanjaro?

The big challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro is the altitude. At 5895 meters, the summit (Uhuru Peak) is far above our usual heights for all of us. Good acclimatization to the altitude is therefore essential to avoid altitude sickness. This is the only way to reach the summit and, above all, to end the journey in good health.

In general, the longer you allow yourself to climb, the more acclimatized you are and the better your chances of reaching the roof of Africa. But you also have to consider that every day at high altitude, every overnight stay in a tent, the unfamiliar diet or bad weather sap the strength from any climber.

The body acclimates best by going up and down ("go high - sleep low") and by moderately increasing the sleeping height from one camp to the next. In particular, the routes along the Southern Circuit, such as the Machame Route and the Lemosho Route, offer good altitude acclimatization. For the same reasons, the remote Northern Circuit route also offers very good acclimatization, although at 8-9 days long it is either too long or too expensive for many.

Ideally, altitude acclimatization is achieved by climbing an acclimatization peak such as Mt. Meru (4600m) or Mount Kenya (4985m) prior to climbing Kilimanjaro. In these cases, Kilimanjaro can be climbed in a shorter time, for example along the Machame route in 6 days.

If an acclimatization tour on Mount Meru is not possible in terms of time or finances or desire, an additional day on Kilimanjaro is highly recommended. For example the Machame route in 7 days or the (slightly longer) Lemosho route in 8 days. Even better would be the 9 day Northern Circuit, which is also less crowded.

It is true that a good level of fitness and stamina facilitates acclimatization to altitude. High altitude experience on 5000 and 6000 meter high mountains is also an advantage (but never a guarantee) for success at high altitude. In any case, please trust our experienced mountain guides and follow their advice to drink a lot and above all "pole pole" - ascent slowly, especially on the first days of the climb.

Which route on Kilimanjaro is the most beautiful?

This question is probably the most difficult to answer. One hikes through all vegetation levels of equatorial Africa on the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro. From the rain forest to heath forests to the sparsely-vegetated lava desert to the glaciated summit regions.

The "Southern Circuit", i.e. the southern circumnavigation of the Kilimanjaro massif via Machame and Lemosho routes offers a lot of variety. 

From a wide belt of rainforest with lush fauna and flora, you can reach the promising Shira plateau via the heath forest. From here you can enjoy fantastic views of Kibo, the main peak of Kilimanjaro, the neighboring volcano Mount Meru and the surrounding savannah. Via the Barranco valley, rich in vegetation, with waterfalls and many senecia and lobelia and the almost insurmountable Barranco wall, you can reach the east side of Kilimanjaro in order to climb the summit from there. The descent leads along the Mweka route again through the lush rainforest.

In contrast, the north side of Kilimanjaro offers a much narrower rainforest belt and you move in the bare lava landscape for a longer time. But also here you will find a lot of vegetation and beautiful rock formations. Climbing the north side of Kili, the Rongai Route descends the south side along the Marangu Route, so you can also enjoy the lush rainforest here.

All routes offer many different landscapes, climate zones and views due to the different ascents and descents. Only on the Marangu Route does one hike up the same way as down.

Which is the least crowded route on Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro is one of the most climbed mountains in the world. Any ascent is therefore bound to have other tourists.

The routes with the most visitors are on the south side of the massif. The most popular here are the Marangu Route ("Coca-Cola Route") and the Machame Route ("Whiskey Route").

The Lemosho Route is the comparatively less busy southern circuit route, at least for the first few days of the tour.

The Rongai Route and the little-known Northern Circuit on the north side of Kilimanjaro are generally less frequented and more isolated.

But even on the popular routes you are often alone. Firstly, the terrain is extremely vast and since the descent is via alternative routes, there is no oncoming traffic except on Marangu route. 

Only in the camps with the many tents do you realize how many mountaineers are on the way. But the camps are usually very large and spacious.

Of course, the travel time also plays an important role for the number of mountaineers. Here you will find all information about the best travel time for a Kilimanjaro climb.

Which is the cheapest route?

The cheapest route up Kilimanjaro is the Marangu route. The Marangu route is the shortest route (5 or 6 days) and as overnight stays are in huts. So number of porters are fewer than on other routes.

One can say the longer the tour, the higher the price. The national park fees are charged per day, the guides and porter teams receive their wages per trekking day and accordingly more food has to be carried along.

Another cost factor is the transport costs to the starting point of the tour. Because of this, routes starting from the west (Lemosho Route) or north side (Rongai Route) are slightly more expensive than the easily accessible southern Machame and Marangu routes. 
For the technically difficult Western Breach Route and the very remote Northern Circuit, special equipment is required (e.g. chemical toilets), which also makes the ascent somewhat more expensive.

In our opinion, the Machame Route offers the best value for money. The costs for a 7-day ascent are average, the altitude acclimatization is good and the variety of landscapes makes this route particularly beautiful. It is not for nothing that this route is one of the most popular.

The popularity of Machame also led to an over-crowded trail that was impacted by the huge number of footfalls. As a result the 8-day Lemosho route has being increasingly popular over the past years.

Our insider tip on Kilimanjaro

The Northern Circuit route offers a special experience on Kilimanjaro. With this ascent you circumnavigate the Kilimanjaro massif on its very remote and lonely north side.

The route starts in the west of Kilimanjaro with a view of Mt. Meru and leads over the barren north side to the Kilimanjaro saddle with fantastic views of Mawenzi, the second highest peak in the massif. You reach the crater at Gilmans Point and hike up to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the African continent.

The descent is via the Mweka route on the south side of the massif.

The route is currently the loneliest, sometimes there are only 2-3 (small) groups in one camp. The days on the north side of Kibo are optimally used for altitude acclimatization. You really get a lot for the slightly higher price!

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