Explore Kilimanjaro’s 7 Climbing Routes

Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, peaking at an impressive 5895 meters high. Located in Tanzania, East Africa, its snow-capped summit is visible for miles. Climbers, trekkers, and adventurers come from around the globe to check their bucket list and fulfill their goal of summiting the dormant volcano.

There are many routes to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but which one is best for you?  With seven unique routes to choose from, you have the luxury of picking the right route for you based on your desires, experience and knowledge.

This article will help you determine the right Kilimanjaro route for you, considering the following route features:

  • Acclimation time and ease
  • Difficulty
  • Traffic
  • Accommodations while on the route
  • Time to summit
  • Safety
  • Success rate

Taking on Kilimanjaro is an enormous challenge and one of the most substantial goals you’re likely to ever undertake. Let’s help you get there!

An Overview of Kilimanjaro’s 7 Routes 

Marangu Route – The Tourist Route

Distance: 70km / 5 – 6 Days
Difficulty: Medium
Scenery: Good
Traffic: High
Success rate: Low

The Marangu Route is the oldest, most established route to the top of the mountain. It’s known as the Tourist Route or the Coca-Cola Route due to its popularity and the fact that Coca-Cola used to be sold in all the huts along the way. This is one of the most accessible routes up the mountain. It follows a steady, gradual slope until the last day of trekking when the incline significantly increases.

The route has a low success rate because the five-day climb doesn’t allow for sufficient acclimatization. Also, the Marangu Route tends to attract unprepared and untrained tourists, resulting in many people having to turn around before reaching the top of Kilimanjaro, known as Uhuru Peak.

The Marangu Route is the only route on the mountain that uses the same path up and down, so expect it to be busier than other options. This route is the only route with dormitory-style huts along the way, as camping is not permitted.

If you would rather sleep in a hut instead of a tent, then this may be the right option for you!

Machame Route – The Popular Route

Distance: 61km / 6 – 7 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Stunning
Traffic: High
Success rate: High

The Machame Route is one of the more scenic routes to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This route is also known as the Whiskey Route because it’s a more strenuous climb than the Marangu (Coca-Cola) Route. Although the climb is more complex, it has a much higher success rate than the Marangu Route.

There are six-day and seven-day itinerary options, with the preferred option being the seven-day route, allowing for an extra day of altitude acclimating with its climb-high and sleep-low conditions.

The route has some steep sections and involves numerous ups and downs, including taking on the challenge of the Barranco Wall. However, with the proper preparation, the Machame Route is achievable, and the stunning scenery along the way only heightens the experience.

Expect to trek through four diverse climate zones and enjoy sights such as the Shira Plateau and the Lava Tower. It is also the route that we take to the roof of Africa!

Lemosho Route – The Most Scenic (But Most Expensive) Route

Distance: 67km / 7 – 8 Days
Difficulty: High
Scenery: Stunning
Traffic: Medium
Success rate: Second highest of all routes

The Lemosho Route departs from the west side of the mountain, offering plenty of spectacular views of the dramatic gorges of the western side of Kilimanjaro. The route starts by taking you through the remote rainforest before joining the Machame Route.

Lemosho is a popular climb because of its panoramic views, low traffic, and high success rate.

This route can be completed in either seven or eight days, with plenty of time for acclimatization. Because this route is remote and lasts longer than the other routes, expect to pay more for this option.

While this is considered one of the easier climbs, a high level of physical fitness is recommended.

Shira Route – The Poor Acclimatization Route

Distance: 58km / 6 – 7 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Stunning
Traffic: Medium
Success rate: High

The Shira Route begins on the western side of Kilimanjaro but with a higher start point than Lemosho. The first day of the route follows a four-wheel-drive path and can therefore either be trekked or driven. However, driving will reduce the amount of time your body has to acclimate, as you will be starting the trek at a height of over 3,500 meters!

The Shira Route can be completed in six or seven days, and you should be confident in your hiking ability. There are fewer people on the route than on the Machame Trail, and it is another of the more expensive options.

If you’re not a more advanced trekker or if you’re prone to altitude sickness, this route isn’t for you.

Rongai Route – The Easiest Route

Distance: 74km / 6 – 7 Days

Difficulty: Medium
Scenery: Great
Traffic: Low
Success rate: High

The Rongai Route is the only route starting north of the mountain, near the Kenyan border. This route is much drier than the southern slopes and is therefore preferred during the wet season. The route is less scenic than other options; however, the camp beneath Mawenzi Peak is one of the most sensational on the mountain.

The hike has a steady, gradual climb to start with, and the camps are well staggered out. The itinerary is usually seven days long, with a high success rate of reaching Uhuru Peak, although it’s moderately difficult.

Be prepared to pass through remote areas with abundant wildlife!

Umbwe Route – The Most Difficult Route

Distance: 48km / 5 – 7 Days

Difficulty: Very high
Scenery: Great
Traffic: Low
Success rate: Low

The Umbwe Route involves a rapid ascent to Barranco Camp, reaching the camp on the second night rather than the third or fourth as per alternative routes. The route is very steep and exposed and not suitable for people who are scared of heights or for untrained climbers, as this climb is steep and constant.

This is the most demanding of all seven routes, with poor acclimating opportunities because of its rapid ascent, and shouldn’t be taken on unless you have experience in mountain climbing. The demands of the Umbwe Route make traffic low, with the scenery a big plus.

Northern Circuit – The Longest Route

Distance: 88km / 8 – 9 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Great
Traffic: Low
Success rate: Highest of all routes

This is the longest route to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, with one of the highest success rates. The trek takes either eight or nine days, with plenty of climb-high, sleep-low opportunities, which is excellent for acclimating to the altitude as you go.

The trek starts west of the mountain and follows the Lemosho Route for the first two days. The route then veers north near Lava Tower and traverses around the mountain to the summit.

With little traffic and a more private, quiet traverse, you’ll experience the longest climb of all routes on the Northern Circuit but you’ll love every second due to its incredible scenery throughout.

Is Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro For You?

If you are ready to take on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zara Tours has award-winning guides, creates an amazing experience, and will provide the best options for you. We’ve helped people of all ages and levels of climbing experience summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Our guides are trained and eager to help you acclimate, and our safety methods are proven and advanced. With your determination and our guidance, we’re confident in your success!

For more details on our itineraries, check out our Kilimanjaro climbing packages.

What’s the Best Kilimanjaro Route For You?

Explore Kilimanjaro’s 7 Climbing Routes

Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, peaking at an impressive 5895 meters high. Located in Tanzania, East Africa, its snow-capped summit is visible for miles. Climbers, trekkers, and adventurers come from around the globe to check their bucket list and fulfill their goal of summiting the dormant volcano.

There are many routes to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but which one is best for you?  With seven unique routes to choose from, you have the luxury of picking the right route for you based on your desires, experience and knowledge.

This article will help you determine the right Kilimanjaro route for you, considering the following route features:

  • Acclimation time and ease
  • Difficulty
  • Traffic
  • Accommodations while on the route
  • Time to summit
  • Safety
  • Success rate

Taking on Kilimanjaro is an enormous challenge and one of the most substantial goals you’re likely to ever undertake. Let’s help you get there!

An Overview of Kilimanjaro’s 7 Routes

Marangu Route – The Tourist Route

Distance: 70km / 5 – 6 Days
Difficulty: Medium
Scenery: Good
Traffic: High
Success rate: Low

The Marangu Route is the oldest, most established route to the top of the mountain. It’s known as the Tourist Route or the Coca-Cola Route due to its popularity and the fact that Coca-Cola used to be sold in all the huts along the way. This is one of the most accessible routes up the mountain. It follows a steady, gradual slope until the last day of trekking when the incline significantly increases.

The route has a low success rate because the five-day climb doesn’t allow for sufficient acclimatization. Also, the Marangu Route tends to attract unprepared and untrained tourists, resulting in many people having to turn around before reaching the top of Kilimanjaro, known as Uhuru Peak.

The Marangu Route is the only route on the mountain that uses the same path up and down, so expect it to be busier than other options. This route is the only route with dormitory-style huts along the way, as camping is not permitted.

If you would rather sleep in a hut instead of a tent, then this may be the right option for you!

Machame Route – The Popular Route

Distance: 61km / 6 – 7 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Stunning
Traffic: High
Success rate: High

The Machame Route is one of the more scenic routes to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This route is also known as the Whiskey Route because it’s a more strenuous climb than the Marangu (Coca-Cola) Route. Although the climb is more complex, it has a much higher success rate than the Marangu Route.

There are six-day and seven-day itinerary options, with the preferred option being the seven-day route, allowing for an extra day of altitude acclimating with its climb-high and sleep-low conditions.

The route has some steep sections and involves numerous ups and downs, including taking on the challenge of the Barranco Wall. However, with the proper preparation, the Machame Route is achievable, and the stunning scenery along the way only heightens the experience.

Expect to trek through four diverse climate zones and enjoy sights such as the Shira Plateau and the Lava Tower. It is also the route that we take to the roof of Africa!

Lemosho Route – The Most Scenic (But Most Expensive) Route

Distance: 67km / 7 – 8 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Stunning
Traffic: Medium
Success rate: Second highest of all routes

The Lemosho Route departs from the west side of the mountain, offering plenty of spectacular views of the dramatic gorges of the western side of Kilimanjaro. The route starts by taking you through the remote rainforest before joining the Machame Route.

Lemosho is a popular climb because of its panoramic views, low traffic, and high success rate.

This route can be completed in either seven or eight days, with plenty of time for acclimatization. Because this route is remote and lasts longer than the other routes, expect to pay more for this option.

While this is considered one of the easier climbs, a high level of physical fitness is recommended.

Shira Route – The Poor Acclimatization Route

Distance: 58km / 6 – 7 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Stunning
Traffic: Medium
Success rate: High

The Shira Route begins on the western side of Kilimanjaro but with a higher start point than Lemosho. The first day of the route follows a four-wheel-drive path and can therefore either be trekked or driven. However, driving will reduce the amount of time your body has to acclimate, as you will be starting the trek at a height of over 3,500 meters!

The Shira Route can be completed in six or seven days, and you should be confident in your hiking ability. There are fewer people on the route than on the Machame Trail, and it is another of the more expensive options.

If you’re not a more advanced trekker or if you’re prone to altitude sickness, this route isn’t for you.

Rongai Route – The Easiest Route

Distance: 74km / 6 – 7 Days

Difficulty: Medium
Scenery: Great
Traffic: Low
Success rate: High

The Rongai Route is the only route starting north of the mountain, near the Kenyan border. This route is much drier than the southern slopes and is therefore preferred during the wet season. The route is less scenic than other options; however, the camp beneath Mawenzi Peak is one of the most sensational on the mountain.

The hike has a steady, gradual climb to start with, and the camps are well staggered out. The itinerary is usually seven days long, with a high success rate of reaching Uhuru Peak, although it’s moderately difficult.

Be prepared to pass through remote areas with abundant wildlife!

Umbwe Route – The Most Difficult Route

Distance: 48km / 5 – 7 Days

Difficulty: Very high
Scenery: Great
Traffic: Low
Success rate: Low

The Umbwe Route involves a rapid ascent to Barranco Camp, reaching the camp on the second night rather than the third or fourth as per alternative routes. The route is very steep and exposed and not suitable for people who are scared of heights or for untrained climbers, as this climb is steep and constant.

This is the most demanding of all seven routes, with poor acclimating opportunities because of its rapid ascent, and shouldn’t be taken on unless you have experience in mountain climbing. The demands of the Umbwe Route make traffic low, with the scenery a big plus.

Northern Circuit – The Longest Route

Distance: 88km / 8 – 9 Days

Difficulty: High
Scenery: Great
Traffic: Low
Success rate: Highest of all routes

This is the longest route to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, with one of the highest success rates. The trek takes either eight or nine days, with plenty of climb-high, sleep-low opportunities, which is excellent for acclimating to the altitude as you go.

The trek starts west of the mountain and follows the Lemosho Route for the first two days. The route then veers north near Lava Tower and traverses around the mountain to the summit.

With little traffic and a more private, quiet traverse, you’ll experience the longest climb of all routes on the Northern Circuit but you’ll love every second due to its incredible scenery throughout.

Is Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro For You?

If you are ready to take on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zara Tours has award-winning guides, creates an amazing experience, and will provide the best options for you. We’ve helped people of all ages and levels of climbing experience summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Our guides are trained and eager to help you acclimate, and our safety methods are proven and advanced. With your determination and our guidance, we’re confident in your success!

For more details on our itineraries, check out our Kilimanjaro climbing packages.