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Kilimanjaro Climbing Route – Which is best Kilimanjaro climbing Route

The common question when planning for a Kilimanjaro hike, What Route should I choose when climbing Kilimanjaro? Or which is the best Kilimanjaro climbing route?

If you are trying to find out which Kilimanjaro climbing route to choose for your trek; fear not, this page will help you make the right choice.

Each Kilimanjaro climbing route has its own pros and cons. Some are great for scenery, but not so great for acclimatization. Others offer high summit success rates but are also quite busy at certain times of the year.

Let us jump in and look at the various Kilimanjaro routes to the summit.

Kilimanjaro Climb Routes

There are six main Kilimanjaro routes that one can use to trek the highest mountain in Africa. The seventh Kilimanjaro route, Mweka, is used for decent only.

  • Lemosho Route
  • Machame Route
  • Marangu Route
  • Mweka Route (descent only)
  • Rongai Route
  • Shira Route
  • Umbwe Route

In addition to these routes, trekkers can also take the Northern Circuit or the Western Breach.

Kilimanjaro Route Summaries

Best Kilimanjaro climbing Route

The best Mt Kilimanjaro route on the southern circuit is the Machame or Lemosho route.

Here’s a brief overview of each Kilimanjaro Climbing Route

Machame Route

The Machame route is highly recommended for scenic value and has a high success rate, especially if you choose the 7-day itinerary.

The six-day options is not recommended for first-time trekkers

It is a great Kilimanjaro route for acclimatization as it has a climb high, sleep low opportunity for trekkers on day 3. Here trekkers climb from Shira Camp 2 to Lava Tower at 4,600 meters, where they have lunch and then hike back down to Barranco Camp (3,900 meters) to sleep

Like all Kilimanjaro routes, the Machame is a challenging trek with stunning scenery through four diverse climatic zones

There is a good opportunity to split pre-summit day climb by adding an extra rest day at Karanga Camp (only available to seven day trekkers) to leave hikers well rested before summiting.

The route has however got very popular over the past few years which means it can get busy, especially at Barranco where climbers join up with trekkers from the Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe routes.

The Machame route only offers fully catered camping.

Lemosho Route

The Lemosho is a beautiful route that departs from the West side of Mount Kilimanjaro

Due to its route profile the Lemosho can be completed on a seven or eight day itinerary and offers lots of opportunities to properly acclimatize. Because of it’s versatile route profile it is one of the best Kilimanjaro routes and has high summit success rates

It is also recommended as the starting point is relatively remote and hence provides trekkers with a rather untouched and wild start to their Kilimanjaro adventure. Spotting large wildlife, like antelope, buffalo and even elephant is unusual but not impossible

The route also provides unparalleled and spectacular views of the dramatic gorges that characterize the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro

The Lemosho offers trekkers the experience of hiking across the Shira Plateau – one of the largest high altitude plateaus in the world

Trekkers on the Lemosho typically converge with Machame route on day 3 at Barranco camp and use the Barafu camp route to the summit; however, it is now quite common for Lemosho trekkers to veer north before Lava Tower to join the Northern Circuit (see details below) which circles the north side of Mount Kilimanjaro and follows the summit passage via Gilman’s Point.

The Lemosho route can also be used by trekkers planning to climb the Western Breach to the summit

Like the Machame Route, the Lemosho is fully catered camping only

Northern Circuit

  • The Northern Circuit is the longest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, and has one of the highest summit success rates as the route offers lots of climb high, sleep low opportunities, and time to acclimatise
  • The route departs from same start point as Lemosho but then joins the Northern Circuit near Lava Tower, before traversing the north slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • The summit passage is via Gilman’s Point
  • The route can be completed on an eight or nine day itinerary
  • If you are looking for a quiet and wild Kilimanjaro experience, then this route is for you.

Rongai Route

  • The Rongai route is the only northern start point to Kilimanjaro, beginning on the North East side of Kilimanjaro National Park
  • The Rongai offers a true wilderness experience on the early stages of the climb, and like the Lemosho route it is possible to see large wildlife like buffalo, antelope and elephant
  • The Northern slopes tend to be dryer than the southern slopes which makes the Rongai a great Kilimanjaro Route for trekking during the wet season.
  • However, because the northern slopes are dryer they can also be considered less scenic. That being said, a northern approach is often characterized by clear views of Kilimanjaro – something that is not that common from the southern side
  • The Rongai is also a flatter route for the first few days which makes for easy trekking. The route is usually completed on a seven day itinerary but has limited climb high, sleep low opportunities which means that acclimatisation opportunities are not as good as on other Kilimanjaro routes
  • Typically the Rongai route uses the passage from School Hut up past Hans Meyer Cave and Gilman’s Point to Uhuru Peak
  • The route descends via the Marangu route, hence the route has fully catered camping until the last night on the mountain – beers at Horombo Hut anyone?

Easiest route up Kilimanjaro

There is no easy route up Mount Kilimanjaro, but the Marangu Route (i.e. Coca-Cola Route) has a reputation for being the easiest Kilimanjaro route.

Marangu Route

  • The Marangu route was Nicknamed the ‘Coca-Cola’ route as Coke used to be bought along the way in tea huts
  • The route is often selected by unprepared, inexperienced climbers as a result of the reputation for being the “easiest” Kilimanjaro route, attributing to the lower success rate
  • It is also the shortest Kilimanjaro route with a relatively poor acclimatization profile, which is a major contributor to the low success rates on the Marangu.
  • The six day itinerary does give trekkers an opportunity to climb high, sleep low; however the elevation is moderate and not as effective as other climb high, sleep low opportunities that are present on other Kilimanjaro routes
  • Out of all the Kilimanjaro routes, the Marangu route is the only one with dormitory style accommodation in huts for the whole duration of the climb. The huts come with mattresses and basic amenities, making them a popular choice for budget tour operators who don’t have the right equipment to tackle the other Kilimanjaro routes
  • The Marangu offers beautiful views from the Saddle but can be considered less scenic than other Kilimanjaro routes due to ascent and descent on same trail

Less recommended Routes on Kilimanjaro

Shira Route

  • Same as Lemosho, except Shira route offers higher start point and therefore poorer acclimatisation
  • It is a route that we wouldn’t recommend because of it’s high start point

Umbwe Route

  • The Umbwe Route has a short and steep beginning profile up to Barranco camp where trekkers join climbers from the Lemosho, Shira and Machame route
  • Some Umbwe route trekkers don’t join the southern circuit at Barranco but instead continue north, up to Lava Tower and then onto the Western Breach
  • The Umbwe has poor acclimatization opportunities due to its rapid ascent and therefore success rates can be low on this Kilimanjaro route
  • Fully catered camping only

Western Breach

  • The Western Breach is the most technically difficult approach to Mount Kilimanjaro, but perhaps the most rewarding!
  • The approach to the Western Breach usually starts on the Umbwe Route and then continues north and up from Lava Tower
  • The Western Breach was closed due to fatal rockfall in 2006, but reopened in 2007 with a new and safer route configuration. Nonetheless, many tour operators don’t offer the Western Breach on their route roster
  • Only advised for experienced trekkers – it is recommended that all Western Breach climbers use helmets and it is not uncommon to need point crampons during the wet season and sub-surface ice can be an issue
  • Success rates are typically moderate to high as the route is usually only tackled by experienced high altitude trekkers

Kilimanjaro Summit Routes (Passages)

As alluded to above, there are three summit passages on Kilimanjaro.

Stella Point

The first is via the southern slopes of Kibo, up to Stella Point and then west around the crater rim to Uhuru Peak. This approach is used by trekkers on the Lemosho, Shira, Machame and Umbwe Routes. It is the easiest summit passage as it only take one hour from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak.

Gilman’s Point

The second passage approaches from the Eastern side of Kibo, up to Gilman’s Point and then west around the crater rim to Uhuru Peak. Trekkers on the Rongai and Marangu Route, and Northern Circuit use this passage to the summit. It takes around two hours from Gilman’s Point to the summit proper, making this a harder passage.

Crater Camp (Western Breach)

Thirdly, trekkers can use the more technically challenging approach to the summit via the Western Breach. Trekkers who use the Western Breach usually approach from the Umbwe Route up to Lava Tower, before taking a steep ascent past Arrow’s Glacier and up the Western Breach to Crater Camp and Uhuru Peak. The Western Breach can also be approached using the Machame, Shira and Lemosho Route.

Kilimanjaro Trail Routes FAQ

What is the best Kilimanjaro route?

The best Kilimanjaro route is the 8-day Lemosho or the 7-day Machame. Both routes offer good acclimatisation opportunities, and therefore have low incidence of altitude sickness. Summit success rates on these routes are high, and both are very scenic.

What is the easiest Kilimanjaro route?

The Marangu route is often touted as the easiest route on Kilimanjaro. This is because it’s the shortest in length and the only route with hut accommodation. But the short time on the mountain does mean that many people who climb Kilimanjaro via the Marangu experience altitude sickness and don’t reach the summit. If you choose the Marangu route make sure to go for the 6-day option (not the 5-day trek)

Which Kilimanjaro route has the highest summit success rates?

The Northern Circuit has the highest summit success rates as it is the longest route and offers lots of time to acclimatise. The 8-day Lemosho and 7-day Machame also have high summit success rates.

Why Braventure Africa

Braventure Africa has years of experience and an incredible success rate in leading hikers and climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro and an impeccable safety record and customer satisfaction in wildlife safaris. Hence it is one of the Best Safari company in Tanzania and Best Kilimanjaro Tour Operator

Whatever your journey, Braventure Africa will always ensure that we:-

  • Provide a high standard of service
  • Are professional yet friendly
  • Deliver what we say we will deliver
  • Are flexible and plan according to your needs
  • Are responsible tour operators
  • Do all we can to give you the best Tanzanian Journey!

Choose Braventure Africa for your Tanzania holiday tour; We promise to offer unforgettable journey of your lifetime. We are Best Tanzania Safari Company and travel expert .