Based on our analysis and expert opinion from locals and IH trek leaders who have led many Kilimanjaro expeditions, Machame route is definitely recommended as the best option with a highest success rate. It’s a budget friendly route as the expenses incurred is less in comparison to all other routes including Lemosho.
7 Routes lead to the summit of Kilimanjaro
The summit of Kilimanjaro is called the Uhuru peak. And you can take seven different routes to reach here.
Two routes start from the northern side of the mountain, two start from the western side and the remaining three come from the southern side.
Each route has its distinct characteristic based on how it helps trekkers acclimatise, the views, success rate and crowd on the trail. Choosing the right route involves jotting down your expectations with respect to all these parameters.
To get a clearer picture, let’s take a closer look at all the routes:
1. Machame Route
We believe this is the best route for the Kilimanjaro trek. It is allows ample time for acclimatization and can be covered in six days.
The route starts at the Machame gate and traverses through lush, fertile rain forests. Flora and fauna across this route cannot be missed. The route moves towards the Shira plateau and you will see the tall trees being replaced by short shrubs. The route is approximately 62 km with an elevation gain of 16,000 feet.
Nearing the Stella Point on Machame Route. Photo by Huzeifa Morbiwalla
Trekkers with minimum experience in high-altitude trekking do opt for this route as it definitely has a good acclimatization profile.
2. Northern Circuit Route
This route is the longest route and is from the northern side of the mountain. It requires around 9 – 12 days to reach the summit through this route. The route takes the ascent towards Lemosho on the western side moving up to the Shira plateau and moving in the north direction that joins the Rongai route. This provides a complete 360-degree view of Kilimanjaro for trekkers.
As it’s a long route, it is not frequented by many trekkers. However, trekkers who wish to explore the mountain at length before reaching the summit could opt for this route.
3. Lemosho Route
This is a route that is quite popular with the trekkers as it provides ample time for acclimatization and can be covered within 8-10 days. This route starts from the western side of the mountain.
The views are spectacular with lush, fertile rain forests through the initial part of the journey to the summit and has proper campsites throughout the route.
Lemosho route is frequented by trekkers who have experience in trekking and hiking and have decent physical fitness.
4. Shira Route
From the western side of the mountain, this route is almost identical to Lemosho but it starts at a higher altitude of 3600m straight and then takes the same route upto Shira plateau and moves towards Barafu.
While it takes a similar amount of time to traverse through this route as Lemosho, the high-altitude start is sometimes not considered ideal as it gives less time for trekkers to acclimatize. Therefore, this route is not frequented by trekkers with no/negligible experience of high-altitude trekking.
5. Rongai Route
This route has a flatter terrain than other routes and does not provide an opportunity for trekkers to climb high and sleep low. It is definitely one of the few routes where you can start seeing wildlife from day one.
This route is one of the quietest in terms of busyness and is opted by trekkers who have experience in high altitude trekking.
6. Marangu route
This is the only route that offers dormitory-style huts to sleep overnight. It is the oldest route but is not considered as the best route as it is less scenic and does not provide much opportunity to acclimatize.
7. Umbwe Route
This is the shortest route but definitely the hardest route as the ascent is extremely steep and requires direct climb.This route approaches the summit from the South direction. This route is recommended only for trekkers who are confident to be able to acclimatize quickly.
The trek to Kilimanjaro attracts trekkers from all over the world. This popularity nudged trekkers to explore various routes to the summit. And today, there's a route for every kind of trekker, provided you are clear what you expect from the trek. Do go through these routes and tell us which one do you think would suit you best?