Discover The Unexpected

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, is the highest freestanding mountain in the world and the tallest peak in Africa.

Popular Mt. Kilimanjaro Tours

Marangu Route

Description

Dubbed the “Coca-Cola” route, it is popular with inexperienced climbers who’d prefer to stay in huts than tents. This leads to a false belief that it is easier, when in fact, the short duration allows little time for acclimatisation, and a subsequent low summit success rate. To improve chances, it is recommended to tackle over 6 days.

Landscape

Starting on the southeast of Kilimanjaro, the trail progresses from forest to moors, before taking on a more alien, rugged appearance. The gradient is relatively gentle until the last day, when it gets very steep until the summit. Trekkers use the same path up and down the mountain, limiting the scenery.

Highlights

For some, the sheltered accommodation in huts with cold beverages on offer

Dificulty Level

Difficulty Level Relatively easy until summit day, with lowest success rate.

Distance

Distance 70 km over
5 - 6 Days

Machame Route

Description

Nicknamed the “Whiskey Route”, it is definitely a stiffer challenge than the Marangu Route. However, the extra day or two for acclimatisation to altitude and the ‘climb high, sleep low’ nature of the route makes all the difference and the higher summit success rate is testimony to this. There are some steep sections, but even the fierce-looking Barranco Wall is manageable with the right preparation.

Landscape

Starting in the southwest of the mountain the trek passes through forests, moors and 4 distinct climatic zones to reach the beautiful lunar landscape of the Shira Plateau and famed Lava Tower en route to the summit.

Highlights

Spectacular scenery.

Dificulty Level

Moderately Difficult with 85% success rate

Distance

61 km over 6 - 7 Days

Lemosho Route

Description

Both the most scenic and the most expensive route (due to the longer duration), the Lemosho Route begins west of Kilimanjaro, running parallel to the Shira Route. It then heads across the Shira Plateau and up the Barranco Wall before the challenging summit day to Uhuru Peak. The descent is via the Mweka Route on the south of the mountain.

Landscape

The trail begins with two days of forest trails before heading over moorlands to the Shira Plateau and the spectacular rock formations that follow. With views of distant Mount Meru, it is regarded as possibly the most breath-taking for its diverse scenery.

Highlights

Diverse scenery and high summit success rate, with relatively few people.

Dificulty Level

Moderate difficulty with 90% success rate.

Distance

67 km over 7 - 8 Days

Shira Route

Description

Despite similarities to the Lemosho Route for the latter part of the trek, it eliminates two days spent in the rainforest in favour of a direct steep climb up a 4x4 path, which means you can be driven to the official start at 3500m.  So, while it might be shorter, this means that there is inadequate time to get used to the altitude, and this in turn leads to a low success rate amongst climbers.  Even those that are acclimatised will need to be confident of their ability.

Landscape

Missing out entirely on the forest and moors at lower altitudes, much of the hike is spent on the starkly beautiful Shira Plateau (from which the route takes its name), before tackling the Barranco Wall and scree slopes en route to the summit.

Highlights

The views of the surrounding landscape below and Mount Meru in the distance. Less people than the Marangu and Machame Routes.

Dificulty Level

Difficult with 80% success rate

Distance

58 km over 6 - 7 Days

Rongai Route

Description

As the only route that starts on the northern side of the mountain, it is drier than all the other routes - and hence, preferred in the Wet Season. While it is less scenic as a result, the trail gradient is sufficiently gradual and the camps nicely spaced, meaning that there is ample time to acclimatise. As fewer people choose this route, it also feels wilder and trekkers may even see some wildlife. From day three, the terrain is gentle if rocky and the shortened stage on the day before summiting is a welcome opportunity to rest before setting off at midnight for the summit. The descent trail follows the Marangu Route to the southeast, taking up to 2 days.

Landscape

The trail begins in the farmlands before passing through the rainforest. This gives way to woodlands, moors and ultimately the alien landscape of the ‘Saddle’. The descent via Marangu entails moors and rainforest once the rocky upper slopes are left behind. Highlights: For most, the scenic location of the campsite in the shadow of the Mawenxi Peak is the most memorable day of the hike (besides the summit, of course).

Dificulty Level

Relatively easy with 85% success rate.

Distance

74 km over 6 - 7 Days

Umbwe Route

Description

The rapid ascent to Barranco Camp in two – as opposed to the usual 3-4 – days, gives trekkers little time to acclimatise to the sharp change in altitude. The trail is steep and exposed, and not for those with a fear of heights. From Barranco, it shares the Machame Route to the summit. Umbwe Route should only be attempted by highly experienced trekkers and using all 7 days.

Landscape

The first two days take trekkers through the rainforest before emerging onto that rock flanks of Kilimanjaro.

Highlights

It is quiet and remote. Reaching Uhuru Peak – only the most experienced climbers do.

Dificulty Level

Very difficult. Experienced climbers only – 70% success rate.

Distance

48 km over 5 - 7 Days

Northern Circuit

Description

Due to its length, the Northern Circuit, extra time for acclimatisation and ‘climb high, sleep low’ routing, trekkers on the Northern Circuit enjoy the highest success rate. The first two days follow the Lemosho Route before veering toward the Lava Tower and around the empty northern flanks of the mountain at around 4000m, until linking up with the Rongai Route which is followed to the summit at Uhuru Peak. The descent follows the Mweka Route, where the abundance of trekkers stands in stark contrast to the solitude at the start of the climb.

Landscape

The first two days pass through rainforest and moorlands before venturing onto the open slopes at altitude.

Highlights

The solitude for much of the route and spectacular views, particularly on the northern slope.

Dificulty Level

Relatively easy but long, with 95% success rate.

Distance

88 km over 8 - 9 Days

Frequently Asked Questions

Where, When, Who, and How Much?
Where is Mt Kilimanjaro and how do I get there?
Mt Kilimanjaro is situated in the east African country of Tanzania. Visitors arrive in the country either at Julius Nyerere International Airport near the capital, Dar es Salaam, or Kilimanjaro International Airport. From there, make your way to Moshi or Arusha, depending on the departure point for your chosen route. It is advisable to arrive a couple of days before your trek departs, so you will need to arrange accommodation if not included in your package.
Kilimanjaro can be climbed year-round, although inclement weather and uncomfortable conditions in the Wet Seasons (April-May and November – mid-December) mean that most people climb in the Dry Seasons, from January to mid-March and June to October. The optimal climbing conditions mean that this is the busiest time for expeditions. For those who are more experienced and prefer some solitude, a Wet Season climb can be a rewarding challenge. Expeditions can encounter extreme weather events at any time, so be prepared.
The minimum age limit to climb Kilimanjaro is 10 years old. A special exemption may be issued for younger persons at the sole discretion of the Parks Authority. The authorities do not impose restrictions on who may attempt to climb the mountain, and numerous individuals with special needs or disabilities have successfully summited. While not technical, the trek is strenuous and participants should consult their doctor if they have pre-existing conditions that may be affected by extreme exertion or altitude.
While it is possible to climb for as little as $1500, we strongly advise against this. Operators charging low prices generally have numerous ethical shortcomings, including the mistreatment of staff. Depending on the time of year and the route you choose, you should expect to pay upwards of $2000 per person, with some “luxury” options exceeding $6000. Note, that these rates generally do not include transport, pre- and post-trek accommodation, staff gratuities or other expenses.
Food and Accommodation
What overnight arrangements should I expect when climbing Mt Kilimanjaro?
Aside from the Marangu Route, all routes require sleeping in tents. Given the physical challenges, your tent is a sanctuary and an established nightly routine will refresh you. Have comfortable, warm clothes to change into and take measures to retain body heat and avoid getting yourself or your gear wet. Eat plenty to aid recovery and stamina. Visit the toilet before you go to sleep. Note that toilet facilities are basic at best.
Tents and equipment for meal preparation are provided with quality varying between operators. All luggage and camping gear is carried by porters This necessitates large support teams. Typically, two people share a tent and they also have a large mess tent, complete with tables and chairs where meals are prepared and served. We highly recommend that you bring your own tried and tested gear, such as an expedition-quality sleeping bag (rated to -18 deg. Celsius) and walking poles.
Good food is essential to maintain stamina on the trek. Most operators provide ample food, starting with a large breakfast of porridge and cooked items. Packed lunches are provided to be carried by participants The day’s walking ends with light snacks while dinner is prepared All dietary requirements/restrictions can be catered to, provided advanced notice is given at the time of booking your trek.
Preparation and Planning
How many days do I need to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?
Trekking packages vary in length from 5 to 9 days. It is important to note that experts suggest that the only effective way to prevent altitude sickness is to ascend gradually, allowing the body ample time to acclimatize to the effects of high altitude. Accordingly, the longer the duration, the better the chances of reaching the summit. The other depending factor is the route chosen, as some are longer than others. Experts suggest 6 days is the minimum one should aim for.
All people wishing to climb Kilimanjaro are required by law to retain the services of a registered and licensed professional guide. All climbers must register with the Parks Authority prior to departure and sign in at each camp. Your guide and support team are essential to ensure your safety and comfort during the expedition. They are there to assist with their expertise, porterage of equipment and belongings and ensure compliance with relevant protocols.
Summiting Kilimanjaro is challenging for most, so an experienced guide is essential in improving your chances and keeping you safe. Your guide should have an excellent knowledge of the terrain and changing conditions, particularly the weather. A good guide will regularly perform safety checks on equipment and will monitor the group for signs of fatigue or illness; adjusting the pace of the trek to that of the slowest/weakest participants. Your guide should also be a certified Wilderness First Responder (WRF).
Health and Safety Concerns
What physical preparation is necessary to climb Mt Kilimanjaro?

While climbing Kilimanjaro is not regarded as a technical climb, it is nevertheless an arduous expedition that should not be underestimated. Even for physically fit people, the main reason people fail to reach the summit is altitude sickness. It is advised that participants establish a progressive training program, beginning 12 weeks prior to the attempt. It is prudent to get a medical assessment beforehand, to identify potential underlying health risks.

Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness, is the primary health concern. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite and shortness of breath. Other extreme conditions are High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and Cerebral Edema. These conditions typically present above 2500m and are caused by ascending too quickly. Gastrointestinal complaints may also occur. We recommend that you consult your healthcare professional for advice, prevention and treatment options. Given the rugged environment, there is also an inherent risk of injuries typical of outdoor pursuits. Make sure your expedition team is well-equipped for all outcomes. For your own peace of mind and well-being, we encourage you to make every effort to select a reliable operator with qualified and experienced guides.
As with any significant travel-related expenditure, it is always advisable to take out travel insurance to protect yourself from loss in the case of trip cancellation, interruption, delays and unforeseeable expenses. Ensure that your insurance covers possible hospitalization and repatriation expenses.
Aside from a Yellow Fever vaccine which is mandatory, Tanzania does not have any requirements for non-Africans but you are advised to consult your local travel clinic for up-to-date guidance. Immunization against Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Tetanus is recommended. A Covid-19 vaccination certificate is not mandatory.
Other Helpful Information
Any guidelines regarding gratuities for the staff?
In Tanzania in general, wages are low – so a generous gratuity for good service is always appreciated. Bear in mind that there is a large support team, each member doing their bit to ensure you are well looked after throughout. We recommend US$20 per person per day for each mountain guide and US$10 per person for each porter. Please keep in mind the rigorous service and the experience and skills that combine to provide you with this unique experience.
As with all popular hiking routes, litter and environmental impacts are a big concern. Do what you can to assist in keeping the environment pristine. Adopt a “Leave no Trace” philosophy and do not discard any trash en route. Keep to the designated trails and campsites to prevent damage to the environment. Bring your own water bottle/hydration pack. Park officials monitor everything that goes onto and leaves the mountain by weight, so do your bit to assist your support team in avoiding penalties for non-compliance.
While space and weight are prime considerations, it is better to have something and not need it, than vice versa. Porters will assist in carrying the bulk of your belongings but you should limit yourself to essentials, ideally items that are tried and tested. Read our comprehensive Kilimanjaro Packing List.
The trek concludes at the base camp with a celebratory meal. Most trekkers book a night of comfort in good accommodation in Arusha, taking some time to recuperate by the pool or with a massage. Gosheni Safaris can further arrange wildlife safaris in Tanzania’s amazing national parks or beach holidays on the renowned spice island of Zanzibar. Speak to us to discuss the options.

Related Articles

Extend your African exploration with our related articles. Immerse yourself in captivating destinations and vibrant cultures for a fuller understanding.

Destinations

Experiences