Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in Africa, is a must-do climb for mountaineers of all abilities. The summit of Kilimanjaro is tall, rising 8,000 feet above sea level. You’ll find this mountain on the Great Rift Valley in Africa, close to the border of Kenya and Tanzania.
The mountain is known for its extensive glaciers and snowcapped peaks. Every year, it attracts thousands of climbers who come to seek the summit. There are seven route options you can take to climb Kilimanjaro. Each of these Kilimanjaro routes offers its own way to experience this mountain.
This handy guide breaks down everything you need to know about the routes you can use to climb Kilimanjaro.
The Machame route is one of the most popular routes that climbers use to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. It provides a lot of scenic views, but requires the most climbing ability. This trek is best for those who have prior backpacking and hiking experience.
You’ll start from the south part of Kilimanjaro and work your way east. You’ll see impressive and varied scenery as you work your way up the mountain. When using this route, you’ll see four different climate zones.
Because you’ll be sleeping in lower areas after a day of hiking, it is the easiest route to acclimatize. This helps keep the success rate of this route high.
Using this route will take you about a week in total. Because this is the most popular route, you’ll encounter many people. The crowds can be a turn-off for some climbers.
The Lemosho route is another popular way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This newer route is shorter than the Machame route and less difficult to climb.
It takes approximately eight days to complete the Lemosho route. You’ll start in a rainforest in the west and make your way up the mountain from there.
The gradual nature of this route will give you time to acclimate to the altitude. This acclimatization means that many people successfully reach the summit using this route.
The remote area and the longer length make this trek one of the most doable and enjoyable routes on the mountain. Climbers can take their time enjoying the spectacular scenery before joining up with the Machame Route near the Barranco Wall.
Some people prefer to hike instead of climb, making the Shira route a great option. The Shira route is much shorter than the other routes and will take only a few days to complete.
You’ll start higher up on the mountain when you use this route. Many people get to the start of this route using a four-wheeler. Although you’ll get to the start faster, you will have less time to acclimate yourself.
If you choose this route, plan on it taking at least a week. You’ll need to be a proficient hiker if you go this way.
The Rongai route is one of the most unusual ways to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This is the only route to start on the north side of Kilimanjaro. You’ll get to see gorgeous wilderness at the start of your trek.
This route is drier than the routes that start on the mountain’s southern side. This makes it a popular option during the wetter months. There isn’t much traffic on this route, but it is gaining popularity.
You’ll need at least six days to use this route to make it to the top. The Rongai route is fairly difficult. If you have some backpacking experience, you should be successful.
One of the most challenging routes to take is the Umbwe route. This route will get you to the summit the fastest, but not without some challenges. You won’t have time to acclimatize because of how fast you’ll summit.
You’ll get to the second camp, Barranco Camp, two days faster than if you were using other routes. The route is steep and doesn’t offer protection from the elements. Don’t take this route if you are afraid of heights.
It would be best to leave yourself at least six days to hike this route. Only strong hikers with experience in higher altitudes should try this route.
NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE
The longest route on this list also has the best success in summiting. You’ll be trekking for nine days but will have lots of time to acclimatize.
You’ll start this route in the west and eventually turn north before reaching the highest point on the mountain. This route traverses the mountain and due to its remoteness it is one of the less crowded routes. Enjoy a night camping at the crater rim, which is truly a one of a kind, bucket list adventure.
This route is another popular one because it is easy to make it to the top. If you choose this route, you’ll find a slope that increases at a steady rate instead of all at once.
Many tourists choose this route because it is the shortest. However, the 5-6 days it takes to climb this route is often not enough to allow for sufficient acclimatization to the high altitude. As a result, climbers often succumb to symptoms of altitude sickness. The summit success rate of this route isn’t that high because of the many unprepared people who try to hike it. There are also many people on the trails, which may not be appealing to you.
A perk of this route is that there are huts you can stay in along the way. You can’t camp on this trail, so this is an excellent choice for people who don’t love sleeping in a tent.