There are seven potential Kilimanjaro routes; some harder than others. We have not included the Northern Circuit in this summary as it follows the same route as the newer Lemosho route. The Lemosho route gives a much better acclimatisation process, so if you wanted to trek from the western side, we would advise the Lemosho route over the Northern circuit.
If you have any questions about the different routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – whether you’re looking for the success rates by route or which option offers the best acclimatisation profile, here is a brief summary of the 6 options:
1. Marangu Route – 5-6 Days (69.4km)
The Marangu route is highly popular, and if I’m honest it’s mostly because you don’t have to camp!
The sleeping huts seduce many, but the reality is that Marangu is not one of the easier routes. So do your own research before deciding.
The other thing to bear in mind is that you go down the same way you came up on the Marangu route. If you’d rather see different scenery on your descent, you’d be advised to choose a different one. Although to be honest, once you have reached the top, you normally just want to get to a shower!
Personally I have also had great success rates on the Marangu route and feel the walking is easier, you just have less time to acclimatise. If you are going to climb the Marangu make sure you include the extra acclimatisation day within your trek.
2. Machame Route – 6-7 Days (60km)
Machame is pretty much as popular as Marangu and during peak season it’s pretty busy.
It’s a beautiful way to scale the mountain, and one of the benefits is that when you approach the Summit, you’ve got the option to get to the top via Stella Point, but you can also attempt Western Breach if you want a bit more of a challenge.
3. Shira Route – 6-7 Days (72km)
The Shira route is one of the two routes that approach the Summit from the West, and as such it’s usually slightly longer than Marangu or Machame.
When you embark on the Shira route, you’ll spend the first day crossing the Plateau. There are several different ways of doing this, some taking more time than others.
Depending on the route you choose, you’ve got the option of stopping in to see sights like the Shira Cathedral (an amazing peak moulded from lava) as well as camping away from the main trail.
Once you get a certain way along the Shira trail it merges with Machame, so you’ll end up scaling the Summit the same way.
4. Lemosho Route – 6-7 Days (70km)
The Lemosho route also approaches the Summit from the West. While it takes slightly longer, it’s a very popular choice, with a good success rate.
Like the Shira, the Lemosho crosses the Plateau. Following that you’ll wend your away through a long stretch of forest, and eventually meets up with the Machame.
5. Rongai Route – 6-7 Days (96.5km)
The Rongai route comes at the Summit from the North.
It’s steep and hard, which also makes it the least popular.
If Rongai is your route of choice then remember to account for an ‘acclimisation’ day. Here you’ll trek without ascending in order to acclimatise to the altitude.
If it’s African animals in their natural habitat that you’re after than Rongai is the route for you. The scenery on this route truly is stunning.
The way down takes you on the same route as the Marangu. This way you’ll get to see the other side of the mountain having scaled the peak.
6. Umbwe Route – 5-7 Days (51km)
The Umbwe approaches the Summit from the South, and you’ll kick off with a couple of days of difficult trekking. Most people who know all the routes would regard the Umbwe as the most challenging.
Similarly, to the Rongai, you’ll need to factor in an acclimitisation day on the Umbwe route.