Towering 5895 metres above the surrounding landscape, Kilimanjaro – or ‘Kili’ – is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. As one of the famed Seven Summits, setting out to climb Kilimanjaro has all the makings of a great bucket list adventure.
But did you know that there is more than one route to Uhuru Peak? Though summit day is the climax for most trekkers, there are so many other unforgettable highlights along the way – so selecting the best route for you is important!
We’ve put together a handy guide to the five best routes to Kili so that you can make the most of your time on the mountain.
1. The Rongai Route
A faster climb, the Rongai Route is for those who are short on time or would like to test their physical and mental limits. As it ascends much faster than other routes, Rongai requires a high level of fitness and an ability to acclimatise quickly. This route will see you climb Kilimanjaro from the northeast across stark rocky landscapes, enjoying spectacular views across the Kenya plains. You then go down the southern slopes to finish at Marangu.
If you’re looking for a challenging route, this is the way to go!
2. The Shira Route
The Shira Route approaches from the lush western side of the mountain, and allows extra time for acclimatisation. This route is very similar to the popular Lemosho route, but avoids the more crowded campsites and trails. Besides that, we usually arrive at camp in the early afternoon giving us extra time for acclimatisation walks above camp before returning down for dinner and an overnight stay. Via this way, we take a more gradual ascent than Rongai and trekkers on the Shira Route generally have a higher success rate of reaching the summit.
This is the best route for those who have a little more time and want to give themselves the best chance of reaching Uhuru Peak.
3. The Lemosho Route
The Lemosho Route follows a similar trail to the Shira Route and is another option for those who want a little more time to reach the summit. It is another perfect route for acclimatisation as we start a little lower at Lemosho Gate and have our first night at Big Tree camp.
4. The Northern Circuit
The remote Northern Circuit is the newest route on Kilimanjaro, and is popular with trekking enthusiasts who want to avoid the crowds and experience the remote wilderness. The Northern Circuit almost completely circumnavigates Kili, offering ample time for acclimatisation and combining the best vistas of Rongai and Shira.
If you’re looking for the most comprehensive Kilimanjaro experience without the crowds, the Northern Circuit is your best bet.
The Machame Route to climb Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous options and can therefore get quite busy. It is a pretty tough option to summit Uhuru Peak with long days walks and still including good acclimatisation opportunities. Our trip does break up the last part to Barafu Camp in two days, so that you can do your summit attempt well-rested.
Twin Peaks – Kilimanjaro & Mount Kenya
Kilimanjaro not enough of a challenge? Many trekkers choose to ‘warm up’ on Mount Kenya – the second highest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Second Summits. It’s possible to tackle both Mount Kenya’s Lenana summit (4985m) and Kilimanjaro via the Shira Route in a 15 day window, so for bonus points, why not do both?
BONUS! 3 Tips to Climb Kilimanjaro & Successfully Acclimatise
>> Drink Lots We recommend a fluid intake of 4-5 litres a day. This improves circulation and most other bodily functions. That’s why we include lots of soup, hot drinks and fresh fruit in our menu, plus you’ll need to drink 3 litres of water per day too!
>> Walk Slowly For good acclimatisation it is vital to place as little strain as possible on your body whilst it’s trying to adapt to the reducing oxygen supply. Your breathing rate whilst walking should be similar to when you’re walking down the street at home.
>> Walk High, Sleep Low A well-planned itinerary that includes afternoon walks to a higher level than where sleeping overnight. All the above itineraries for Kilimanjaro climbs have this, although some include more acclimatisation walks than others.