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MOUNTAIN TREKKING IN TANZANIA

Kilimanjaro Routes

Kilimanjaro Routes

Kilimanjaro routes are trails you will use as you ascend and descend the highest mountain in Africa. There are 8 official Kilimanjaro routes. However, one route is only used for descending and for delivering supplies. This one route is called the Mweka route.

The other 7 routes are used for ascending Kilimanjaro, and they are:

  1. Machame route
  2. Lemosho route
  3. Marangu route
  4. Shira route
  5.    Rongai route
  6.  Umbwe route
  7.  Northern circuit route

The difference between Kilimanjaro routes and Kilimanjaro itineraries

Routes are established by Kilimanjaro National Park and they include the starting and ending gates with well define trails. Whereas Kilimanjaro itineraries are custom-made schedules of how to approach the trek using established Kilimanjaro routes. Kilimanjaro itineraries, therefore, include a number of days to be spent on the mountain, and day-by-day activities during the trek. This is why one Kilimanjaro route can have multiple itineraries. For example, the Machame route can be approached using a 6 days itinerary, 7 days itinerary, 8 days itinerary, or even more days.

 Summary of Kilimanjaro routes

Different routes and itineraries give different experiences as they have different geographical features and attractions. The following table shows approximations of distances in kilometers covered on each route, minimum days to trek, and recommended trekking days.

 

Route

Kilometers to be covered

Minimum trekking days

Recommended trekking days

1

Shira

61

6

7

2

Lemosho

74

7

8

3

Machame

67

6

7

4

Marangu

59

5

6

5

Rongai

65

6

7

6

Umbwe

56

5

6

7

Northern Circuit

89

8

9

The following summary shows the location of each Kilimanjaro route’s starting point

 

Route

Where is the starting gate

Hours from Arusha

Hours from Moshi

1

Shira

West

3

2

2

Lemosho

West

3

2

3

Machame

South

2.5

30 minutes

4

Marangu

South East

3 to 4

1.5

5

Rongai

North East

Up to 5

3

6

Umbwe

South

3

1.5

7

Northern Circuit

West

3

2

Highlights of Kilimanjaro routes

Shira route

You will have a view of the Kibo peak on day 1. You will also see Amboseli national park.

The view of Mount Meru will be yours on day 2 (if the sky is clear).

You may be lucky to spot wild animals such as buffalo, elands, and antelopes.

You will have a good view of Shira peak and Shira plateau.

You will start climbing at 3400 meters which may be challenging if you are not experienced with high altitudes.

You will hike through the famous elephant’s spine which is a wide ridge with unbelievable views to the plains below Kilimanjaro famous spine of elephant

You will climb another famous feature called the Barranco wall, a 257 meters cliff that needs no technical skills to scramble your way past it.

 

Lemosho route

You will start your trek through a beautiful thick forest.

You may see wild animals such as elephants (very rare), black and white monkeys called colobus monkeys, birds, blue monkeys.

You will hike through the famous elephant’s spine which is a wide ridge with unbelievable views to the plains below Kilimanjaro famous spine of elephant

You will climb another famous feature called the Barranco wall. This is a 257 meters cliff that needs no technical skills to scramble your way past it.

You will start having the view of Kibo peak on day 2 (if the sky is clear).

Fairly steep and considered difficult.

Machame route

You will start your trek through a beautiful thick forest.

You may see wild animals such as elephants (very rare), black and white monkeys called colobus monkeys, birds, blue monkeys.

You will start having the view of Kibo peak on day 1 (if the sky is clear).

Fairly steep and considered difficult hence in comparison with the Marangu route, it is nicknamed the Whiskey route (bitter) while the Marangu route is called the Coca Cola route (sweet) as it is considered a fairly easy route.

You will hike through the famous elephant’s spine which is a wide ridge with unbelievable views to the plains below Kilimanjaro famous spine of elephant

You will climb another famous feature called the Barranco Wall, a several 257 meters cliff that needs no technical skills to scramble your way past it.

Marangu route

You will start your trek through a beautiful tropical forest.

You may see wild animals such as elephants (very rare), black and white monkeys called colobus monkeys, birds, blue monkeys.

You will start having the view of Kibo peak on day 1 (if the sky is clear).

Gradual slope and considered easy hence in comparison with Machame route, it is nicknamed Coca Cola route (sweet) while the Machame route is called Whiskey route (bitter) as it is considered a difficult route because of its fairly steep slope.

You will have views of Lake Jipe, lake Chala.

You may visit the Maundi crater nearby the Mandara huts campsite.

You will have great views of Mawenzi peak.

You will sleep in huts. Marangu is the only Kilimanjaro route with huts.

You will use the same trails from the gate to Uhuru peak, and back to Marangu gate.

Rongai route

You will encounter a small forest on day 1 of your trek.

You will have a good view of part of Kenya

You will have a view of Amboseli national park, Lake Jipe, and Lake Chala

On day 2 of the trek, if the sky is clear, you will start seeing the beautiful view of Mawenzi peak.

If you are lucky, you may spot wild animals such as buffalos and elands.

Umbwe route

You will encounter a beautiful thick forest.

You may see wild animals such as elephants (very rare), black and white monkeys called colobus monkeys, birds, blue monkeys.

Great views of Kibo peak.

Very steep and challenging, recommended only for experienced trekkers or people who are used to high altitude because this route has a fast ascent to high altitude hence provides a very small chance of acclimatization.

You will climb another famous feature called the Barranco Wall, a 257 meters cliff that needs no technical skills to scramble your way past it.

 

Northern Circuit route

It is the longest of all the 7 Kilimanjaro routes.

You will start this trek at the same gate used by trekkers who take the Lemosho route, which is the Lemosho gate.

You will start your trek through a beautiful thick forest.

You may see wild animals such as elephants (very rare), black and white monkeys called colobus monkeys, birds, blue monkeys.

Witness Shira plateau and great views from Kilimanjaro.

This route has the lowest number of trekkers.

The northern circuit route is highly recommended because it offers more days on the mountain hence more acclimatization time. The northern circuit also provides beautiful scenery as you hike your way up Mount Kilimanjaro.

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