Kilimanjaro Routes Overview

Below are brief descriptions of the climbing routes on Mount Kilimanjaro, the distance roundtrip and the number of days.

  • Cost: $ = low, $$ = mid, $$$ = high, $$$$ = very high
  • Difficulty: ^ = low, ^^ = mid, ^^^ = high, ^^^^ = very high
Route Description
Distance
Days
Marangu Popular tourist route, approaches from southeast, easy, gentle gradients, beautiful rain forest section and moorlands, comfortable but basic hut shelter, poor acclimatization profile, descent on same trail. $/^
72 km
5-6
Machame Most popular route, approaches from south, very scenic route with southern traverse, difficult route but very good for acclimatization, camping. $$/^^
62 km
6-7
Rongai Long access drive to trailhead, approaches from north, remote, less frequented, easy, gentle gradients, beautiful alpine desert section, good alternative to Marangu, camping, fair acclimatization profile, camping. $$/^
73 km
6-7
Lemosho Long access drive to trailhead, approaches from west, remote, less frequented, beautiful heath section, very scenic with southern traverse, camping, difficult route but excellent for acclimatization, camping. $$$/^^^
70 km
7-8
Shira Almost same as Lemosho, approaches from west, long access drive to trailhead, trail starts at 11,800 ft, remote, less frequented, beautiful heath section, very scenic with southern traverse, camping, difficult route but excellent for acclimatization if ok at 11,800 ft, camping. $$$/^^^
56 km
7-8
Northern Circuit Newest route, very few climbers, approaches from west, very scenic with northern traverse, nearly 360 degree traverse, best route for acclimatization profile, longest route, camping. $$$$/^^^
98 km
9
Umbwe Least used trail, approaches from south, shortest and steepest route, spectacular ridge, scenic with southern traverse, difficult route with poor acclimatization profile, pre-acclimatization is recommended, camping. $$/^^^^
53 km
5-6

Among the differences between these routes:

  • The routes have starting points located on multiple sides of the mountain.
  • The routes vary distance and accordingly so do the completion times.
  • There are relatively easy trails, difficult routes, and even dangerous ones.
  • Certain routes are favorable for altitude acclimatisation due to their route profile.
  • There are routes that are better when climbing during the rainy season.
  • One route offers hut accommodations while the rest are camping routes.

The map below shows the routes and the corresponding statistics:

Machame is the most popular route on the mountain, with an estimated 45% of all climbers using this route. Next is the Marangu route, with an estimated 40% of all climbers opting for this route. Lemosho and Rongai see far less use, but are the preferred routes for the more reputable (expensive) Kilimanjaro outfitters, and are thus growing in popularity. Shira, Umbwe and Northern Circuit barely have any foot traffic.

Picking the wrong route can mean a unnecessarily difficult trek, a failed summit, or getting sick and/or injured. So it is necessary to compare the different elements that makes each route unique.

Remember: pick the kilimanjaro route that is right for you!

.