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Which is the best route to climb Kilimanjaro?

Which is the best route to climb Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, standing an impressive 5,895 meters high, and its snow-capped peaks can be seen for miles. Located in Tanzania, East Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is on the bucket list of many and the ultimate goal of many adventurers! Tackling Kilimanjaro is a huge challenge – and one of the greatest achievements you’ll likely ever achieve. But what is the best route to climb Kilimanjaro?

There are seven routes to climb the world’s highest free-standing mountain, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice of route depends on the mountain experience, the experience you want to experience during the trip, acclimatization considerations, and the price.

Here is a brief overview of the seven routes;


Marangu Route – The Tourist Route

The Marangu Route is known as the “tourist route” or “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 easiest routes up the mountain, following a steady, gradual slope until the last night – when the incline significantly increases.

The route has a low success rate, due to the fact that the five-day climb doesn’t allow for sufficient acclimatization. Also, the Marangu Route attracts lots of tourists who are unprepared and untrained, resulting in many people having to turn around before reaching Uhuru Peak.

The Marangu route is also the only route on the mountain that uses the same path up and down – so expect it to be busier than other options. However, this is the only route with dormitory-style huts along the way, and camping is not permitted. So, if you can’t bear the thought of camping for a week, then this option is for you!

  • Distance: 70km 
  • Duration allowed: 5 – 6 Days

Machame Route – The Popular Route

The Machame Route is one of the more scenic routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro. It is also known as the “Whiskey Route” – as it’s tougher than the Marangu (Coca Cola) Route. Even though the climb is more difficult, 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 acclimatisation. The route has some steep sections and involves numerous ups and downs – including taking on the Barranco Wall! But with the right preparation The Machame Route is definitely achievable. 

The scenery along the way is stunning, as you trek through four diverse climate zones and enjoy sights such as the Shira Plateau and the Lava Tower. This route is fantastic for acclimatization, as you are able to climb high and sleep low. It is also the route that we take to the roof of Africa!  For more details on our itinerary check out our Kilimanjaro Trekking Challenge.

  • Distance: 61km 
  • Duration allowed: 6 – 7 Days

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

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.

This route can be completed in either seven or eight days, with plenty of time for acclimatization – and a high success rate! One of the only downsides of this option is that, due to the length and remoteness, it tends to be a more expensive option.

  • Distance: 67km 
  • Duration allowed: 7 – 8 Days

Shira Route – The “Poor Acclimatization” Route

The Shira Route also 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 acclimatise – as you will be starting the trek at a height of over 3,500m!

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, however, it is more expensive.

  • Distance: 58km 
  • Duration allowed: 6 – 7 Days

Rongai Route – The Easiest Route

The Rongai Route is the only route starting north of the mountain. 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 Mawenxi Peak is one of the most scenic on the mountain!

The hike has a steady, gradual climb to start with and the camps are well staggered out. The itinerary is normally seven days long, with a high success rate of reaching Uhuru Peak.

  • Distance: 74km 
  • Duration allowed: 6 – 7 Days

Umbwe Route – The Most Difficult Route

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.

This is the most demanding of all seven routes, with poor acclimatization opportunities, and shouldn’t be taken on unless you have experience in mountain climbing.

  • Distance: 48km 
  • Duration allowed: 6 – 7 Days

Northern Circuit – The Longest Route

This is the longest route to the top of 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 great for acclimatisation.

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.

  • Distance: 88km 
  • Duration allowed: 8 – 9 Days