Tanzania is home to one of the continent’s most magnificent sights – Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet (5,895 m), and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
Above the gently rolling hills and plateaus of northern Tanzania rises the snowy peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it’s slopes and glaciers shimmering above the rising clouds. Kilimanjaro is located near the town of Moshi and is in a protected area, carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without leaving a trace of their presence. The mountain’s ecosystems are as strikingly beautiful as they are varied and diverse. On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain is farmland, with coffee, banana, cassava, and maize crops grown for subsistence and cash sale. A few larger coffee farms still exist on the lower slopes, but much of the area outside the national park has been subdivided into small plots. Once inside the park, thick lowland forest covers the lower altitudes and breaks into alpine meadows once the air begins to thin. Near the peak, the landscape is harsh and barren, with rocks and ice being the predominant features above a breathtaking African view.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is a highlight for many visitors in Tanzania. Few mountains can claim the grandeur, the breathtaking views of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, and the Maasai Steppe, that belongs to Kilimanjaro. Hiking on the ‘rooftop of Africa’ — is the adventure of a lifetime, especially because, if paced well, everyone from seasoned trekkers to first-time enthusiasts can scale the snowy peak.
Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a highlight for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates, and their memories.
The ascent of Kilimanjaro can be done from six routes: Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe. Depending on the route you choose, the climb up Kilimanjaro can take between four to nine nights on the mountain. The two most popular route are the Marangu and Machame, however, we at Ayubu’s Tanzania Safari’s recommend the Lemosho route which gives your body the most time to acclimate to the changes in altitude and also has the highest success rate. While our expert guides and porters will accompany you on your climb, no technical climbing equipment is required on these routes.
Mount Kilimanjaro Route Descriptions:
Lemosho Route- The Lemosho route is the least crowded routes and the most fascinating on the mountain. The drive is very scenic as you pass through the captivation area, seeing the local farmers at work on their farms as you pass through a forest vegetation towards the parks gate. The route is unspoiled and beautiful as you make your way across the Shira Plateau while climbing to “Africa’s rooftop.” This route can be used to gain access to the Western Breach route or followed by the Kibo South Circuit to ascend by the easier Barafu Route. The Lemosho route has one of the highest success when it comes to summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. One of the best features of the route is the longer, slower ascent which gives the body time to acclimatize to the altitude gradually, greatly increasing the success rate.
The Western Breach allows you on the final night before the summit to sleep in the crater next to the Glaciers, giving you a stunning view westward towards Mount Meru and the setting African sun. Then in the morning the final ascent is less than 500 feet and can be undertaken after sunrise and a leisurely breakfast or just early enough to be at the summit during sunrise. While connecting with the Machame route is said to be an easier as you hike high and sleep low which is a great for acclimatization.
Lemosho 7 Day Route
Lemosho 8 Day Route
Lemosho 9 Day Route
Lemosho 8 Day Route via The Western Breach
Machame Route- The Machame Route is one of the most scenic routes and the 2nd most popular route to “Africa’s Roof.”. This route is less traveled and is much more strenuous throughout the trek. The start of this route involves a strenuous climb through rainforest, from 6,233 to 9,842 feet (1,900 to 3,000 m). The summit attempt day is a long day and usually involves about 14 hours of hiking.
This route has been nicknamed the “Whiskey” route because the route is popularized as somewhat difficult compared to the Marangu route. In certain sections this route is steeper than the Marangu and Rongai routes and physically more demanding. This is a great route for acclimatization with lots of high walks and sleep low opportunities.
Machame 6 Day Route
Machame 7 Day Route
Marangu route– The Marangu route is by far the most popular way to the summit. The ascent is more gradual and there are accommodations provided on the way of up in the form of mountain huts with all the basic necessities. Climbers are supplied with mattresses and pillows, but sleeping bags should be brought along. There are communal dining halls along with washrooms and toilets.
This route has been nicknamed the “Coca-Cola” route because it has been popularized as easy and cheap. This, however, is a misconception as this route is more difficult due to the ‘not as good acclimatization profile’ as other routes. It is often selected by unprepared, and inexperienced climbers because of its reputation for being the “easiest” route, attributing to a lower success rate. And is also a less scenic route due to ascent and descent on same route.
Marangu 6 Day Route
*NOTE: Due to the overpopulation and the unsanitary conditions on this route, Ayubu’s Tanzania Safari’s highly recommends AGAINST using the Marangu Route. This route offers very little, if any, time to acclimatize resulting in the lowest success rate of all the routes and highest rate of altitude sickness. Unfortunately, this route has been misused by many companies as well as clients and has sadly lost its beauty.
Rongai Route- The Rongai Route approaches the highest mountain in Africa from the north. This route is seldom used due to the fact that the trailhead is very remote and difficult to reach. This route begins just south of the Kenya-Tanzania border through farmland and forest to several other climate zones, adding interest to the trek. There are magnificent views over the Amboseli Plains and genuine possibilities for wildlife viewing.
Rongai 6 Day Route
Rongai 7 Day Route
Shira Route– 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.
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 skips the rainforest zone which means you catapult your body to a height of over 11,500 feet (3,500 m) enabling many climbers to experience some altitude related symptoms on the first day while camping at 11,800 feet (3,596 m).
Shira 7 Day Route
Umbwe Route- The Umbwe route, which is based in the south, is said to be the most scenic but also the most difficult one offered on Kilimanjaro. The first two days are extremely steep, muddy and generally strenuous making it only suitable for well-trained mountaineers. An acclimatization day is rarely offered, but can be added whereby giving you an extra day in the Karanga Valley.
This route is not a technical route, but it is a very direct, very steep, very tough, and in parts very exposed route. Parts of the trail on the first day are so steep, they can only be negotiated because the tree roots provide something like steps. The tree roots also serve as handle bars to pull yourself up where needed. The second day is also steep and uphill all the way. The exposed ridge is not for people uncomfortable at heights. This is the most difficult and demanding of all Kilimanjaro climb routes and should only be attempted by experienced mountain climbers.
Umbwe 6 Day Route
Umbwe 7 Day Route via The Western Breach
*Note: Glacial Recession has made it harder to ascend the Umbwe Route followed by the Heim Glacier. Just left of the glacier, the Breach Wall was considered the hardest route on Kilimanjaro featuring a 328 ft (100 m) high vertical icicle. Further left again, the Western Breach (Arrow Glacier) Route provides an easier scrambling route to the crater.
Park authorities and Ayubu’s Tanzania Safari’s require special arrangements and signed disclaimers to climb these routes. Although it is only a scramble, the Western Breach route falls into this category on account of rock falling dangers.