Kilimanjaro National Park Authority has seven official routes for Mount Kilimanjaro. This guide outlines our favorite four routes in detail to help climbers choose which best fits their interests and fitness level. Every route differs in its specific draw, from scenic views to difficulty level and most importantly – acclimatization profiles.
Acclimatization to high altitude is different on each route due to the overnight camp locations, steepness of the trail and daily trekking distance. The summit is the final test for acclimatization: climbs that take six days or more have a distinctively higher success rate in reaching the summit than treks that cover 5 days or less. Acclimatization has a stronger influence on reaching Uhuru Peak than any other factor, including age or even fitness level. For example, a group of older trekkers on a seven-day Lemosho program (one of the best acclimatization profiles) has a more likely chance of summiting successfully than a team of young athletes on a five-day variation on the Marangu Route.
Due to the various acclimatization profiles of every route on Kilimanjaro, Altezza recommends Lemosho (7 and 8-day itineraries), or Machame (7-day) for beginners. Northern Circuit is also a fantastic trek with good acclimatization; trekkers interested in more information about this route please contact the Altezza office.
Hikers with more experience may consider other routes on Kilimanjaro, such as Machame and Rongai. However, we strongly suggest preparing with prior acclimatization for the highest chances of success. Climbers can spend a significant time at higher altitudes in their home country or summit Tanzania’s second-highest peak, Mount Meru, for prior acclimatization before attempting Kilimanjaro. Full information about climbing Kilimanjaro you can find here.
After acclimatization profile, the next biggest factor to consider for a Kilimanjaro route is often scenery. While it may seem trivial at first, this aspect has a huge influence on the full climbing experience: the overall trek, photographs, and day-to-day hikes on the mountain are all influenced by scenery. The first days of a Lemosho trek are spent climbing the famous Shira Plateau with its splendid panoramas. Machame route, on the other hand, starts in a dense rainforest with unique flora and fauna and ascends to an alpine climate, with trekkers climbing the Barranco Wall. Each route offers a unique viewpoint of the beauty of Africa to climbers, including a different approach to the final ascent.
This Kilimanjaro Route guide will help you choose the trek that is right for you.
Kilimanjaro Routes Map and Topography
The western slope of Kilimanjaro offers several trailheads; Lemosho, Shira and the Northern Circuit. The first two routes converge at Barranco Wall, which can have crowded overnight camps, where they meet with two other routes as they head south. Trekkers will stay at Barafu Camp before attempting the summit. However, the Northern Circuit avoids this and heads north at Lava Tower to the unique School Hut summit camp. This is the only route to offer a full 360-degree view of Mount Kilimanjaro. All of the Western Routes descend by the Mweka trail down the southern side of Kilimanjaro to allow climbers another view of Tanzania on the return.
Machame and Umbwe routes ascend via the southern side of Kilimanjaro and meet at Barranco Camp, which as previously mentioned, is usually crowded. They also overnight at Barafu Camp prior to the summit, and descend by Mweka, which means climbers return by the same southern side of the mountain, but along a different trail.
The only route we offer up the Northern side of Mount Kilimanjaro is Rongai, which is a less-utilized (and therefore more quiet) option. The Rongai route is singular for a great deal of the ascending trek, eventually merging with Marangu for descent.
Western Breach Route
The seldom-visited Western Breach Route is only for climbers with a great deal of experience, professional climbers and those with much prior acclimatization. The Western approach up Kilimanjaro is very difficult and a quick ascent, making it the preferred route for those attempting to break world records.