Kilimanjaro being one of the most popular mountains in the world, roughly 50,000 trekkers every year try to reach the summit on different 7 Kilimanjaro routes
Mount Kilimanjaro summit success rate heavily depends upon what route is used, as routes vary considerably in terms of acclimatization profile and duration of climb
There are seven principal routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro which are:
Shira, Northern Circuit Rongai and Umbwe.
Mweka is used only for descent. Lemosho, Shira and Northern Circuit routes approach from the west. Marangu from the east and Rongai route approaches from the north and Umbwe and Machame approach from the south of the mountain. (This is by law)
Choosing the route:
Most of Clients are choosing their Kilimanjaro combining route based of the four factors.
How long and time spend on Mountain
The Best time to climb
Total cost of the climb
The beauty and scenery of the route
It is estimated that tourists climb Kilimanjaro using the routes in the following percentages:
Machame (45%), Marangu (40%), Lemosho (8%), Rongai (5%), Shira (1%), Northern Circuit (0%), Umbwe (0%).
In contrast, Ultimate Kilimanjaro® clients use Lemosho (77%), Northern (10%), Rongai (6%), Machame (6%) and Marangu (1%).
The reason for the difference in route popularity is that we favor the best Kilimanjaro routes – those with the most favorable combination of high success rates, excellent scenery, and low foot traffic
Kilimanjaro Route / min. days / rec. days / difficulty / scenery / traffic / rating
Northern Circuits / 9 / 9 / high / excellent / very low / ****
Lemosho / 6 / 8 / high / excellent / medium / ****
Rongai / 6 / 7 / medium / very good / low / ****
Machame / 6 / 7 / high / excellent / high / ***
Shira / 6 / 7 / high / excellent / medium / **
Marangu / 5 / 6 / medium / good / high / **
Umbwe / 5 / 7 / very high / very good / very low / **
Selecting a route is a tough choice for the most. To find the best Kilimanjaro route for you, considerations should be taken for the route’s scenery, difficult, foot traffic and its altitude acclimatization characteristics, as depicted in the table above overall ratings to each route
Which is the best route?
In our opinion, the best Kilimanjaro routes are the Lemosho, Machame and Northern Circuit routes. We like these routes because they’re beautiful and varied, and don’t require you to descend along the same path. They also enjoy high summit success rates, and of course we want our climbers to enjoy standing at the summit!
If we had to choose just one Kilimanjaro route, it would be a toss up between the Lemosho route and the Northern Circuit, because they’re less crowded than the Machame.
Which is the easiest Kilimanjaro route?
The Northern Circuit is the easiest Kilimanjaro route due to the following reason.
2. Northern Circuit is the easiest Kilimanjaro route is that it has you climb down a little in elevation on Days 5 and 6. This is an excellent way of helping your body to adjust to the high altitude. It’s in keeping with the ‘climb high sleep low’ strategy. This strategy is a big resaon why the Northern Circuit enjoys a very high summit success rate.
Which Kilimanjaro routes does Afrimine Tours recommend?
Put simply, in an ideal world, speed and cost should not be your primary consideration when choosing your route for Kilimanjaro. For example, the Marangu route offers the cheapest price, but that cost saving is often negated by the poor success rates, with less than 50% of those who attempt it making it to the top.
Our goal is not to send as many climbers to Kilimanjaro as possible. Instead, we want to have happy clients returning with memories to last a lifetime and a successful ‘seven summit’ under their belt. We therefore regularly promote and recommend three Kilimanjaro routes to our clients:
Northern Circuit route
Rongai route on rain season of April
These are, overall, the most scenic routes, whilst also being offering the greatest variety. In addition, all offer great opportunities to acclimatize.
More about Kilimanjaro route:
Marangu (“Coca Cola”) Route
Distance: 72 km
Duration: 5-6 days
Success rate: Low
Known as the “Coca-Cola” route, the Marangu Route is a classic trek on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is the oldest, most well established route. Many favor the Marangu Route because it is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain, given its gradual slope. It is also the only route which offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodations.
The minimum days required for this route is five, although the probability of successfully reaching the top in that time period is quite low. Spending an extra acclimatization day on the mountain is highly recommended when climbing Klimanjaro using the Marangu Route.
However, despite its immense popularity, we avoid leading climbs on the Marangu Route. The route has the least scenic variety of all the routes because the ascent and descent are done on the same path and it is the most crowded route for that reason. Marangu is favored only during the rainy season, where the hut accommodations are preferred over wet ground, or for those who only have five days to climb Kilimanjaro (which we do not recommend anyhow). Otherwise, the Marangu Route is a poor choice.
Machame (“Whiskey”) Route
Distance: 62 km
Duration: 6-8 days
Success rate: High
Known as the “Whiskey” route, the Machame Route is now the most popular route on the mountain. Compared with Marangu, the days on Machame are longer and the walks are steeper. The Machame Route is considered a difficult route, and is better suited for more adventurous folks and those with some hiking or backpacking experience.
The route begins from the south, then heads east, traversing underneath Kilimanjaro’s southern ice field before summiting. The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although seven days is recommended.
The Machame route is scenically beautiful and varied. However, due to the heavy crowds, it loses some of its spendor
Distance: 70 km
Duration: 7-8 days
Success rate: High
The Lemosho Route is one of the newer routes on Mount Kilimanjaro. The route begins in the west and rather than simply intersecting Shira Plateau (like Machame), Lemosho crosses it from Shira Ridge to Shira Camp. Climbers encounter low traffic until the route joins the Machame Route. Afterwards, Lemosho follows the same route through Lava Tower, Barranco and Barafu, known as the southern circuit.
The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although eight days is ideal.
‘I wanted to choose a more scenic route with a really good acclimatization options, but also one with a variety of terrain and scenery. I’m glad the Lemosho route satisfy my dream!’ — Joel
Lemosho is considered the most beautiful route on Kilimanjaro and grants panoramic vistas on various sides of the mountain. It is our favorite route because it offers a great balance of low traffic, scenic views and a high summit success rate. Thus, Lemosho comes highly recommended. Most of our clients use Lemosho.
Do I climb the Barranco Wall on the Lemosho route?
Yes, you climb the infamous Barranco Wall on the Lemosho route. But don’t let this concern you – the Barranco Wall is perfectly manageable. And for many it ends up being one of their favourite parts of the entire trek!
Is the Lemosho route an easy or hard route?
All routes leading up Kilimanjaro are hard routes, as Kilimanjaro is one tough cookie! That said, the Lemosho Route is a fairly manageable route, and we feel confident recommending it to first-time trekkers. This is because it’s not too steep, nor does it make you ascend the mountain too quickly, which can lead to altitude sickness. See a detailed description of the Lemosho Route itinerary.
Should I climb the 7- or 8-day Lemosho Route?
There are two possible Lemosho Route itineraries:
the seven-day route and the eight-day route. The latter provides an extra day during the ascent to give your body longer to acclimatise to the altitude. Both itineraries are shown in our Lemosho Route blog post.
Deciding between the two itineraries is a personal choice. On the one hand, an extra day of acclimatisation is a great thing as it decreases your chances of developing altitude sickness and so increases your chances of a successful summit. On the other hand, an extra day on the mountain involves committing a little more time and money.
Generally speaking we find the seven-day Lemosho Route tends to offer adequate acclimatisation time. That said, please feel free to chat with us about this so we can offer you some personalised advice.
What is the distance of the Lemosho route?
The total distance of the Lemosho route is 70 km (43 miles). It’s one of the middling routes, being neither long nor short in comparison to the others.
Distance: 56 km
Duration: 7-8 days
Success rate: High
The Shira Route is another path that approaches Kilimanjaro from the west, and it is nearly identical to the Lemosho Route. In fact, Shira was the original route and Lemosho is the improved variation. While Lemosho starts at Londorossi Gate and treks through the rain forest to Shira 1 Camp, the Shira route bypasses this walk by using a vehicle to transport climbers to Shira Gate, located near the Shira Ridge.
On the first day on the mountain, climbers begin their hike from 11,800 feet (3,600 m) and spend their first night at the same elevation at Simba Camp. Then, the route merges with Lemosho and follows the southern circuit route.
Although Shira is a varied and beautiful route, Lemosho is recommended over Shira due to the relatively high altitude of Shira’s starting point, which is accessed quickly by vehicle. It is possible that climbers will experience some altitude related symptoms on the first day while camping at 11,800 feet.
Northern Circuit Route
Distance: 98 km
Duration: 9-10 days
Success rate: High
The Northern Circuit Route is the newest, most exciting route on Kilimanjaro. The trek follows the Lemosho trail in the beginning, approaching Kilimanjaro from the west. However, instead of following the southern traverse like all the other west approaching routes, the Northern Circuit traverses the mountain around the quiet, rarely visited northern slopes.
The Northern Circuit Route is a nine day climb, which is the longest route in terms of time and distance travelled. The days spent at around 13,000 feet are great for acclimatization, resulting in the highest success rates for all routes on Mount Kilimanjaro.
With a high success rate, incredible varied scenery and a very low number of visitors, the Northern Circuit route is certainly one of the best routes on Kilimanjaro.
Distance: 73 km
Duration: 6-7 days
Success rate: Medium
The Rongai Route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border. Though gaining popularity amongst climbers, Rongai has low traffic. It is the preferred route for those looking for an alternative to the crowded Marangu Route, for those who would like a more remote hike, and for those who are climbing during the rainy season (the north side receives less precipitation).
The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, and seven days are recommended.
Although the scenery is not as varied as the western routes, Rongai makes up for this by passing through true wilderness areas for days before joining the Marangu Route at Kibo camp. This route descends down the Marangu Route. Rongai is a moderately difficult route, and is highly recommended, especially for those with less backpacking experience.
Distance: 53 km
Duration: 5-6 days
Success rate: Low
The Umbwe Route is a short, steep and direct route. It is considered to be very difficult and is the most challenging way up Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the quick ascent, Umbwe does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization. Although the traffic on this route is very low, the chances of success are also low.
The route is offered at a minimum of six days, though seven days is recommended when attempting this route.
The Umbwe Route should only be attempted by those who are very strong hikers and are confident in their ability to acclimatize. However, overall, the Umbwe Route is not recommended and we discourage its usage for our clients.