Travel Guide: Choosing the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

There are six different routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Selecting the best path for your upcoming hike to Kilimanjaro might be a tough choice. Especially because this can be your only trip to Tanzania in this lifetime. Keeping this in mind, we have prepared a detailed description of each of the routes to Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro.

RouteDifficultyTrafficSuccess RateRecommendation
Lemosho – 8 DaysHighLow90%Highly Recommended
Marangu Route – 8 DaysModerateHigh95%Not Recommended
Northern Circuit – 10 DaysHighLow90%Highly Recommended
Machame Route – 8 daysHighHigh95%Good To Explore
Rongai RouteModerateLow95%Okay To Explore

All routes to Mount Kilimanjaro have different starting point, but every trail eventually converge as you reach closer to the Uhuru Peak.

Various Routes to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Various Routes to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

1. Lemosho Route

– recommended trail for Kilimanjaro Climb

Distance: 42 miles/ 68km

Kilimanjaro Climbing via Lemosho Route is one of the newest trails. This path has been derived from the Kilimanjaro Shira route. Lemosho starts from the west at Londorossi Gate and treks through the rain forest to Shira 1 Camp, while in Shira route trekkers take a bus to Shira Gate, bypassing this walk. The trail then crosses Shira Ridge to Shira Camp and finally merges with the Machame route near Lava Tower. Lemosho circuit can be effective to avoid crowds from the Machame route for the initial phase of the climb.

After starting from Londorossi Gate, you will spend your first night at Big Tree Camp gaining less altitude. So, the Lemosho route offers better acclimatization. The descent is made from the Mweka route.

Mount Kilimanjaro Climb via Lemosho Route
Mount Kilimanjaro Climb via Lemosho Route

On the first two days, you will be walking through the remote rainforest with spectacular views of mystifying Georges and have a chance of seeing the exotic wildlife. The Lemosho route, with its panoramic views, is considered one of the most beautiful trails as well.

Before you decide: Lemosho can be demanding due to the nature of the terrain and the short duration of the tour. With less traffic, beautiful views, and higher success rates, Lemosho route is highly recommended by Himalayan Glacier.

2. Marangu Route

– the easiest path to Kilimanjaro

Distance: 38 miles / 61 km

The Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb via the Marangu route, popularly known as the Coca-Cola route, is the oldest and considered the easiest path for Kilimanjaro hike. It is trendy among trekkers and also gets the name ‘Tourist Route’.

This course approaches the mountain from the southeast, with a direct path and gradual slope. There are permanent sleeping huts available at campsites and travelers are supplied with a mattress and pillow. Owing to the ease of travel and comfort, the path is well established.

Kilimanjaro hike via Marangu Route
Kilimanjaro hike via Marangu Route

Before you decide: Marangu route has a less scenic path because ascent and descent are done via the same trail. So this is also the most crowded route.

Due to high traffic and less diversity of scenery, we normally do not recommend this route. However, Marangu Circuit can be your choice if you are traveling in the rainy season to avoid crowds during Mount Kilimanjaro Climb. Sleeping in huts can help you avoid wet ground at least during the night.

3. Northern Circuit

– one of the best and the newest official route to Mount Kili

Distance: 60 miles / 97 km

The Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route is the newest official route to summit Uhuru Peak. Offering almost 360 degrees of scenic vistas, the path ventures into the remote northern slopes.

The Northern Circuits initially follows the Lemosho Route but deviates north before the Lava Tower, into the quiet and rarely visited northern parts of the mountain. Finally, it approaches Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s Point. The length of the tour offers better acclimatization.

Hiking via Northern Circuit to Uhuru Peak
Hiking via Northern Circuit to Uhuru Peak

The trail is relatively difficult and is best for regular trekkers and adventure seekers. The remote path means fewer travelers and exotic views.

Before you decide: Hiking via Northern Circuit route takes more days than other routes due to hard climb in the remote trail.

4. Machame Route

– the most popular trail amongst all Kilimanjaro Routes

Distance: 38 miles / 61 km

The Kilimanjaro hike via Machame Route is the most popular trail amongst the trekkers. The trail is often referred to as the ‘Whiskey Route’. Machame circuit also falls as one of the difficult routes and is suitable for adventurous people with some backpacking experience.

The Machame route is not technically hard but it is more strenuous. It requires climbing steeper ridges while crossing many valleys. So the walks are longer as compared to other routes.

Hike to Mount Kilimanjaro top via Machame Route
Hike to Mount Kilimanjaro top via Machame Route

The trip starts at Machame Gate, on the southern side, and follows through rain forests to the Shira Plateau. Many of the trails to Uhuru peak converges at this Plateau. The Machame circuit then traverses to Southern Ice Fields maintaining a scenic view throughout. The summit is done from Barafu Point.

Before you decide: Popular for its wonderful trails, the Machame circuit attracts a huge crowd every year which might dampen your experience. The course is relatively difficult as well.

5. Rongai Route

– the least crowded route to summit Uhuru Peak

Distance: 45 miles / 72 km

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route is one of the few paths to Uhuru Peak recommended to travelers with less trekking or backpacking experience. Rongai Circuit starts from the northern side maintaining a view of the wonderful plains of Kenya for the initial part of the trip.

The route passes from the unexploited wilderness but the scene is not varied. However, the descent is made from the Marangu trail so the travelers get to see both sides of the mountain.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via Rongai Route
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via Rongai Route

The camps are well-positioned in this course. On the day before the summit, you only trek for a couple of hours and gain less altitude. This allows you an entire afternoon to rest and acclimatize. Due to better acclimatization and a low number of trekkers, you can use the Rongai route as an alternative to the Marangu route.

The mountain receives low precipitation to the northern side. The Rongai Circuit can also be your optimal choice if you plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro during the rainy season.

Before you decide: Rongai route, as compared to other trails, does not provide diversity in habitats and scenery during the summit. The descent is made from the Marangu route so you are likely to encounter crowds during your descent.

6. Umbwe Route

shortest and the most challenging path to Mount Kilimanjaro

Distance: 32 miles/ 51 km

The Kilimanjaro hike via Umbwe Route is the most difficult trail to ascent the Uhuru Peak. The path is a short and direct climb uphill. The route passes through the forests and a steep trail that ascends directly up a narrow valley to the Barranco Camp.

Since the path is very steep, it requires the trekkers to gain a lot of altitude in a short amount of time. Umbwe circuit does not provide adequate time for acclimatization. This route is only recommended for regular adventure travelers.

Hiking to Kilimanjaro via Umbwe Route
Hiking to Kilimanjaro top via Umbwe Route

This route is ideally used by native guides, porters, and medical team to deliver supplies to Barranco Camp or to rescue sick travelers and get them to lower altitude quickly.

Before you decide: Challenging path means very low traffic. So, if you do have previous experience of mountain climbing or backpacking, this path will offer you the zeal of climbing Kilimanjaro. Do keep in mind that the route has a comparatively low success rate.

Word of advice

-for choosing the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

You will need to consider your:

  • Physical and mental conditions
  • Previous trekking experiences
  • Travel schedule
  • Travel budget

…and pick the route that best suits your need.

Each circuit has its advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right route can be a baffling task for you. Apart from selecting the best route, there are various things you need to consider before your journey to Mount Kilimanjaro, such as deciding on the duration of the climb, getting medication, and vaccinations.

So, if you feel like your travel itinerary is getting out of hand, you can always contact Himalayan Glacier Adventure Travel Specialists, who can help plan a tailored-made trip for you.

Himalayan Glacier Adventure and Travel Company
About the author

A leading adventure & tour operator in the Himalayas since 1992, Himalayan Glacier Adventure & Travel Company® is the #1 guiding adventure travel company on Mount Everest Base Camp and beyond with 98% success rate. Continuing its decades-old legacy, Himalayan Glacier is a little different from other adventure & tour operators. Each of our holidays is truly a tailor-made package which we design for all ages, groups, families & solo travelers. We have veteran mountaineering leaders who have been into this industry for several decades. So, we offer you complete choice and freedom to explore the real pleasure of traveling.

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