Kilimanjaro Route Selection

What is the Best Kilimanjaro Route?

There are seven established ascent routes to choose from. Each has its own distinct features and offers a unique experience. I will help you find the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Here are short descriptions of each route:

Newer Routes

  • Rongai Route: the only trail to approach from the North, on the Kenyan side of the mountain. 6 or 7 days.
  • Lemosho Route: an unspoiled and tranquil route that approaches from the West. 6, 7, or 8 days.
  • Umbwe Route: the most demanding route on Kilimanjaro due to the direct approach. 5 or 6 days.
  • Northern Circuit Route: is the newest route on Kilimanjaro. It begins on the Lemosho trail then traverses the rarely visited northern slopes. 9 days.

Classic Routes

  • Marangu Route: known as the Coca-Cola Route due to its mass appeal and accessibility. 5 or 6 days.
  • Machame Route: referred to as the Whiskey Route as it is considered to be one of the more difficult routes. 6 or 7 days.
  • Shira Route: one of the lesser used trails on Kilimanjaro after being superceded by Lemosho. 6, 7, or 8 days.

All of the ascent routes meet with a path circling Uhuru Peak, either the Northern Circuit or the Southern Circuit depending on which side of the mountain you are on. The Northern Circuit loops around from Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp to School Hut. The Southern Circuit loops around from Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp to Bafaru Hut.

There are three trails that lead up to the crater rim: the Western Breach Route, Barafu Route and the Kibo Hut Route. The route you took to get to this point will determine which of these three routes you will take to the summit. Shira, Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe use either the difficult Western Breach or the more common Barafu Route. Marangu and Rongai use the Kibo Hut approach.

How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?

Most people climb on the 6 day Machame Route or the 5 day Marangu route. Both are relatively inexpensive compared to other options. The main reason people climb Machame is that it is a short but scenic route. The main reason people climb Marangu is that it has hut shelters so you don’t have to camp. Between the two, the 6 day Machame Route is considered to be better than the 5 day Marangu Route for beauty and success.

However, the most popular Kilimanjaro routes are not necessarily the best. I do not recommend either of these routes! Summit statistics prove that these trails have low success rates due to their short trip lengths. You will want to spend more time on the mountain than 5 or 6 days.

Longer routes have the highest success rates.

It is important to choose a route that is both safe and gives you the greatest chance of reaching the summit. That usually means the longer routes. Acclimatization is the process of adapting to the thinning air as one gains altitude. The body needs time to do this, otherwise you can get altitude sickness.

If you have previous experience hiking at altitude, or are considering climbing the nearby Mount Meru right before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, you could choose a shorter route. However, if this is your first time trekking at high altitude, you should select a longer route – at least a seven days. This translates to a better chance at summiting as well as staying healthy in the process.

If you climb too quickly, it is very likely you will develop altitude sickness. Although you can continue to climb with mild cases, moderate and severe cases will force climbers to descend and possibly require further medical treatment. In severe cases, acute mountain sickness can be fatal. Being sick on Kilimanjaro is no fun. So avoid short climbs at all costs!

Climbers should plan on spending seven days (or more) on the mountain. The longer you stay on the mountain, the better your chances of reaching the top, and the lower your chances of becoming sick.

The route you ultimately decide to do should be based upon which route fits your ability.

The 7 day Machame Route and 8 day Lemosho Route are my personal choices. I consider these the best routes on Kilimanjaro. These routes have sufficient acclimatization and pretty views. I have climbed both of these myself and they were magnificent. You won’t be disappointed with these treks. 

My second picks are the 7 day Rongai Route and the 9 day Northern Circuit Route. I climbed the 7 day Rongai as well. It is edged by the 7 day Machame Route because I believe the Machame Route is a prettier path and has a better route profile for acclimatization. The 9 day Northern Circuit Route is beat by the 8 day Lemosho Route because I think it’s just too long for most people.

Avoid the other routes – they are poorly designed.

Best RoutesGood RoutesBad Routes
7 day Machame 7 day Rongai 6/7/8 day Shira
8 day Lemosho 9 day Northern Circuit 5/6 day Marangu
6/7 day Umbwe
6/7 day Lemosho
6 day Machame
6 day Rongai