Climbing Kilimanjaro is an exhilarating adventure that captures the hearts of thrill-seekers worldwide. Standing at a whopping height of 19,341 feet (5,895 meters), Kilimanjaro is not only the highest peak in Africa but also the tallest free-standing mountain on the planet! This snow-capped volcano, located in Tanzania, offers a challenging and rewarding experience for the 30,000 climbers who attempt to reach the summit every year.
One of the main reasons why Kilimanjaro is on every traveler’s bucket-list is its accessibility. Unlike other towering peaks that require technical skills, Kilimanjaro can be conquered by pretty much anyone – as long as individuals have determination, a high level of fitness and acclimatize to the elevation gain properly. That’s right, you don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer to take on this beast! Of course, it’s no walk in the park either.
The routes take hikers through diverse terrains, from lush rainforests to barren alpine deserts. And did we mention the glaciers? Yes, Kilimanjaro boasts glaciers but they are sadly shrinking due to climate change – hence it’s urgent to see them before they go! The excitement of reaching Uhuru Peak, the mountain’s highest point, is perhaps the greatest part of all. The sense of accomplishment, and views below, leaves climbers awe-inspired.
Beyond the physical challenge and natural beauty, Kili offers a culture immersion like no other. The local guides and porters share their traditions, stories and songs – creating an authentic experience that adds an extra layer of wonder to your trip. And the safari opportunities nearby, which can be incorporated into a Tanzania holiday, are endless. So, if you plan on climbing Kilimanjaro in the future, continue reading to find out more.
7 Established Routes to the Summit
Climbing the Roof of Africa can be done via seven established routes, namely: Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Rongai, Northern Circuit, Umbwe and Shira. The Marangu Route, also known as the Coca-Cola Route, stands out as the only route that offers dormitory hut accommodations along the way. This makes it a popular choice for those who prefer a bit of comfort during their climb. It’s also considered to be the easiest Kilimanjaro trail.
The gradual slope makes it easy for non-mountaineers, however the five-day minimum (which should be six to get acclimatized to the elevation) makes it tough going. Other downsides to the Marangu Route are the fact that the summit success rate is low and it’s the least scenic option, as the ascent and descent follows the same path (which can get crowded). This route is mainly used during the rainy season when the huts can be utilized.
For those who want better odds of summiting, the Machame Route, fondly known as the Whiskey Route, is a fantastic choice. Machame is currently the most popular way of reaching the summit. While the terrain is steeper and time frame longer than Marangu, Machame has a higher summit success rate. The Whiskey Route is beautiful, with one part traversing underneath Kili’s southern ice field, and is perfect for adventurous travelers.
The new Lemosho Route stands out for providing an extended journey and the most spectacular views. This longer, more gradual ascent allows you to immerse in the breathtaking panoramas of Kilimanjaro. As you hike through the Shira Plateau, from Shira Ridge to Shira Camp, you revel in the tranquility and solitude on offer. Furthermore, the Lemosho Route tends to be less crowded than others and boasts a high summit success rate.
If you are looking for a special perspective, the six or seven day Rongai Route is the only path that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. As you venture through unspoiled wilderness areas, you will enjoy the feeling of seclusion with low traffic on the trail. Keep your eyes open for encounters with fascinating wildlife too. The Rongai Route provides a refreshing and distinct experience for climbers, and has a medium rate of summit success.
The Northern Circuit Route is unique in that it takes eight or nine days, and offers a high probability of summiting due to the slow acclimatization. Hikers sleep low at seldom-used camps and then walk high on remote slopes. The route circles around the northern slope of the mountain, to the east side of Kili, and is considered one of the most beautiful. A decent level of fitness is required since you will be trekking for long periods.
Last but not least, the final two are the Umbwe and Shira routes. Umbwe is the most difficult route – it’s a short, steep and direct climb without the necessary steps for acclimatization. Only strong hikers should attempt it. The Shira Route is another little used trail that begins near the Shira Ridge, a higher starting point than Lemosho. Climbers can experience altitude sickness on the first day and, therefore, it’s not highly recommended.
Best Tour Company for Climbing Kilimanjaro
Whichever route you choose, embarking on this adventure is something that requires solid planning and preparation. To help you reach the summit and have the climb of your dreams, we suggest booking with Tanzania Joy Tours. They can recommend a route to suit your abilities, time restraints and budget – usually the Machame, Lemosho or Northern Circuit routes – and have expert local guides ready to transport you to the top!
The reason the aforementioned routes are preferred is that they are both scenic and varied, with no descents down the same path. Additionally, these routes enjoy high summit success rates. After all, you can’t come to Kili and not summit! It’s just too good to miss. To narrow down your search even further, the Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes are the two favorites with Tanzania Joy Tours as they are less crowded than Machame.
The benefits of booking your Kilimanjaro climb with Tanzania Joy Tours are numerous. For starters, only knowledgeable guides and porters are used. These friendly locals know the Mountain of Light like the back of their hands and stick to the highest safety standards. Moreover, only state of the art equipment is used. Whether you wish to join a small group or organize a private climb with family and friends, Tanzania Joy Tours can help!
Group climbs are suitable for solos, couples or anyone who doesn’t mind sharing the journey with like-minded travelers from around the world. These small groups, with a maximum of 12 people, are scheduled during the months that have the best weather and include acclimatization days to guarantee a successful summit. The intimate size of just 12 climbers ensures everyone in the group gets the attention they need.
With over 250 5-star Tripadvisor reviews, you can trust Tanzania Joy Tours to deliver a Kilimanjaro climbing experience that exceeds your expectations. By getting in touch with their team well before your trek, you can get your questions answered and protect yourself from the common pitfalls that people make when attempting to climb Kilimanjaro for the first time. This is a serious undertaking and you need the right information.
Popular Kilimanjaro Itineraries with Tanzania Joy Tours
Lemosho Route Climbing – 7 or 8 Days
Six days is the minimum time to complete the Lemosho Route, but Tanzania Joy Tours have options to give you extra breathing room to help you acclimatize. The eight day climb is the best, as you significantly reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Highlights include navigating the Shira Plateau, passing by the Lava Tower, trekking from the Barranco Wall to the Karanga Valley, seeing glaciers and heading up Uhuru Peak!
Northern Circuit Route – 8 or 9 Days
The newest and longest route kicks off at the Londorossi Gate, and follows the Lemosho Route in the rainforest. It crosses the Shira Plateau and goes around the northern slopes east of the mountain. Once by the Lava Tower, you leave Lemosho and sync with the Northern Circuit. The only difference between the eight and nine days is that you skip a day of acclimatization. The hardest part is summiting via Gilman’s Point but it’s worth it!
Machame Route Climbing – 6 or 7 Days
Machame is the second most popular route and it’s easy to see why. The views are stunning, despite the larger crowds. On the six or seven day version with Tanzania Joy Tours, you will be sleeping in tents and soaking up the beauty of nature. Travelers can look forward to incredible vistas of the Shira Plateau, an optional scramble up Lava Tower, climbing up Great Barranco and heading underneath Kili’s southern ice field!