Climbing Kilimanjaro: Finding the Perfect Route

August 15, 2014 at 9:19 am Leave a comment

Jutting upward out of the clouds of Tanzania is Mt. Kilimanjaro, the earth’s largest freestanding mountain. Unlike mountains such as Everest, there is no special climbing gear or mountaineering expertise needed; however, climbing Kilimanjaro is no easy feat. Six regular routes traverse the diverse biosphere of this dormant volcanic mountain. Picking which route to take is the first step in preparing for an adventure of a life time.

Marangu Route

Length: 32 km/ 20 mi ascent; 64 km/ 40 mi total

Duration: 5-6 days

Also known as the “Coca Cola” or “Tourist” route, this is the easiest, shortest, and most popular route by Kilimanjaro adventurists. The Marangu is the only route that offers comfortable solar-powered sleeping huts at every camp. Because this route is very popular, plan on sharing the amenities with other climbing groups, many of which are from other countries.

Machame Route

Length: 62 km/38 mi ascent; 38 km/24 mi descent; 100 km/62 mi total

Duration: 6-7 days

Kilimanjaro’s more scenic route, the “whiskey” route, is a beautiful way for the more adventurous hiker to experience the southwest and south side of the mountain. The route is steep, so it is best suited for the hiker with more backpacking experience. The Machame will take you underneath Kilimanjaro’s southern ice field before summiting

Rongai Route

Length: 70 km/43 mi total (6 days); 77 km/48 mi total (7 days)

Duration: 6-7 days

The Rongai route is the only route that climbs Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border. It is considered one of Kilimanjaro’s easier routes and has fewer people trekking it. It is not quite as scenic as the western routes, but you do pass through true wilderness before meeting up with the Marangu route. The Rongai is best suited for those who have less backpacking experience.

Umbwe Route

Length: 43 km/27 mi ascent; 38 km/24 mi descent; 81 km/50 mi total

Duration: 6-7 days

Even though the Umbwe route was made famous when it was featured in the IMAX film Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa it is rarely used due to its steepness and tough spots. It is considered Kilimanjaro’s most difficult route and is better suited for the fit and strong hikers used to hiking in mountainous areas. It is a spectacular route that leads you through five climate zones. But its direct nature makes it hard to acclimatize. The Umbwe meets the Machame route, which you will follow to the summit.

Shira Route

Length: 60 km/37 mi ascent; 38 km/24 mi descent; 98 km/61 mi total

Duration: 6-7 days

Named after one of the Kilimanjaro’s extinct volcanoes, the Shira route takes trekkers across the grasslands of the Shira plateau. This route has very few people on it until it joins up with the Machame Route. It is recommended for the experienced climber used to quick acclimatization and the ability to walk in steep areas.

Lemosho Route

Length: 60 km/37 mi ascent; 38 km/24 mi descent; 98 km/61 mi total

Duration: 7-8 days

Lemosho is one of Kilimanjaro’s longer and less used routes coming from the west side of the mountain. It is identical to the Shira route and like the Shira route, it will take you across the scenic Shira Plateau until you meet up with the Machame route. This longer route is great for climbers concerned about acclimatizing. This route is usually favored over the Shira route.

Zara Tours is currently the top Kilimanjaro outfitter in Tanzania and one of the largest safari operators in all of Africa. We offer many trips, including several described above. For more information, please visit our website, or follow our blog to receive the latest news on mountaineering and Tanzania.

Experience the magic of Tanzania with Zara Tours.


Entry filed under: Climbing Kilimanjaro, Hiking Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro Trips. Tags: , .

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