Above the gently rolling hills and game lands of northern Tanzania rises the spectacular snow-capped summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, one of World’s must-see wonders of nature. With its slopes and glaciers shimmering above the rising clouds Mt. Kilimanjaro dominates the surrounding landscape and offers a unique opportunity for a non-technical trek to the rooftop of Africa.
Mt Kilimanjaro is 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.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highlight of most visitors’ experiences in Tanzania. There are no other mountains in the world that can claim the grandeur and offer such breathtaking views of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, Mount Meru and the Masaai Steppe.
Hiking, walking and trekking on the ‘rooftop of Africa’ – the highest point on the continent at 5895 metres – is an adventure of a lifetime, especially because, if paced well, everyone from seasoned trekkers to first-time enthusiasts can scale the snowy peak. A trek to the summit rewards climbers with ever-changing climatic environments from lush rainforest to heath and moorland, alpine desert and, finally, snow and ice. Several very scenic and varied routes lead to the summit with a choice of mountain hut or mainly camp accommodation.
ROUTES TO KILIMANJARO
You may climb the Mount by several routes, which have been established by the Tanzania National Parks Authority to avoid unauthorized hiking and preserve the pristine beauty of the wilderness for the generations to come. We recommend Lemosho and Rongai routes for novices, Northern Circuit and Machame for the beginners, and Marangu and Umbwe for climbers with prior hiking experience. Camping on all routes except Marangu (where the night stops are in huts).
The Northern Circuit is longer than the other trails on Kilimanjaro, taking a minimum of eight days to complete, with most tour operators offering a nine-day trek.
Daring experienced climbers seeking adventure and challenge will find just what they want on Umbwe. A short steep climb traversing all the climate zones – from tropical rainforest to eternal ice.
Featuring captivating scenic vistas, pristine wildlife, excellent acclimatization opportunities and low traffic of climbers, Lemosho is our personal first favorite for reaching the roof of Africa.
Marangu or “Coca-Cola” route is the most popular route on Kilimanjaro today. It is the only route where overnight stays are in huts. It makes Marangu a good option for hiking during the rainy season.
Rongai is the only route starting on the northern slope of Kilimanjaro. Though this part of the Mountain is rarely visited by hikers, it is not less interesting than the popular southern and western slopes.
The second most popular option among the climbers, Machame route, also known as “the Whiskey Route”, offers a wide variety of views, landscapes and experiences.
The extended version of Northern Circuit route includes two extra days to get proper acclimatization before overnighting at Crater Camp. Situated close to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro at the altitude of 5790 m, this is the highest overnight possible at the equator.
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TIPS TO CLIMBING KILIMANJARO
There are several routes to get the summit. Those seeking seclusion, scenic value and good acclimatization transition should consider Lemosho or Northern Traverse. A pocket friendly and picturesque Machame provides good acclimatization transition, though it is a bit crowded during the high season.
Due to a popular misconception of being the easiest, Marangu route is the most popular and cheapest option. It is the only route providing hut accommodation (all other routes are camping only), which are handy during the rainy season. Marangu, however, features poor acclimatization and scenic value, as the trail is used for ascent and descent.
Rongai is one of the least crowded and the only route approaching the Mount from the North. It is a physically challenging option and is ideal for those who value remoteness. This route is recommended during the rainy seasons (Northern side of the Mountain protects the climbers from precipitation).Umbwe route is the for the real adventurers. The steepest and shortest option, Umbwe is a challenging test of your endurance, stamina and determination. The route offers unique panoramic sceneries. The cost of that is, however, the weakest acclimatization transition.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a unique adventure because a person with average fitness level has high chances for reaching Uhuru Peak. The slopes of Kilimanjaro are the place where proper high-altitude acclimatization is more important than your endurance, stamina and strength.
However, we do encourage everyone, to take some workout. Not only will it help you to feel more comfortable on the trek (some hikes are 10-14 km long), but also some sport is always good for your health overall.
On Kilimanjaro you will be trekking through four different climate zones (rainforest, moorland, alpine meadows, and Arctic desert). At the lower altitude of tropical rainforest, the weather is mostly humid and hot, while in the summit zone it is snowy, windy and frosty. The temperature is usually high during the day, it can drop to the freezing point at night. You should be properly prepared for all of these conditions.
You will need to have three types of jackets for this trip:
- Fleece jacket as an insulation layer.
- Warm jacket / Down jacket
- Membrane Hard shell rain jacket (Gore-Tex or other)
You will need several types of trousers for this trip.
- Trekking pants
- Storm pants
- Warm trousers or ski pants
Hiking underwear and shirts
Depending on the route, a standard Kilimanjaro adventure takes from six to eight days. Longer trips are always better because of acclimatization transition. Seven days on Kilimanjaro usually sufficient for the overwhelming majority of hikers in average physical shape.
You can always add extra days to your itinerary for better acclimation.
Less oxygen in the air is what causes problems with sleep at high altitudes. In most cases, if your acclimatization transition is going well, you won’t have any issues with your sleep at night. In other words, following the golden rules of high-altitude acclimatization will make your sleep better.
Here is a recap of them:
– Hike slowly! Ideally, your pace should be two times slower than normal walking pace.
– Choose longer routes. 7-day climbs through Lemosho, Machame and Rongai are enough for most hikers.
– Do not ignore acclimatization hikes. Following the “go high, sleep low” principle will help your acclimatization.
– If, however, you have a headache at night or it is difficult to fall asleep, make sure to tell your guide and he will give you the necessary pills
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