Standing at 5985m (19 636ft), Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Reaching the summit is no easy feat, and some have lost their lives trying. However, with adequate preparation and a good tour company, one can successfully make it to the summit. There are several factors to consider when planning to climb the mountain, with cost being the biggest determining factor. The cost can be broken down into several categories, namely; route, gear, tips, travel insurance and personal items. The route you take, however, determines how long you will be on the mountain, how much gear and personal items you require. Therefore, the first step in planning a trip to Kilimanjaro is knowing which route you will take. This post will discuss the different routes one can take up the mountain. It’s important to discuss the routes you wish to take with your Kilimanjaro agent as they can offer advice to help you make your final decision. What I will say is, do not make your decisions based purely on cost. While it might seem like a no brainer to take a shorter and cheaper route, it could drastically reduce your chances of reaching the summit. The higher up you go, the lower the levels of oxygen. And so your body needs time to adjust or acclimatise to the lower levels of oxygen. Failure to acclimatise properly will result in altitude sickness, which can prove to be fatal. But that’s a conversation for another post! So, let’s get into the different routes you can take.
1)The Marangu Route
Trekking time: 5-6 Days
Coca Cola Route
Dubbed as the Coca Cola route, Marangu is a very popular trail because it is deemed as “easy”. The route starts at 1905m, which you will discover as you read on about the other routes, is not that much higher. The reason therefore it is deemed as easier is because there are huts at each camp that one can sleep in, as opposed to sleeping in tents. I didn’t take this route myself, but having slept in tents for 6 nights, I can imagine that this makes a huge difference in your experience on the mountain. On this route, you ascend and descend on the same path as well, which is probably it’s only shortfall. the trek can be completed in 5 days, or 6 if you chose to take an extra day for acclimatisation.
2)The Machame Route
Trekking time: 6-7 days
Starting at 1811m, this route is the second most difficult route to get to the summit of Kilimanjaro. That being said, it is also the most scenic, and has now become one of the busiest on the mountain. The route up is different from the route down, so there is a lot of variety in scenery on this trail. Because this trail is longer than Marangu, it allows more time for acclimatisation, and therefore the success rates on Machame are higher than on Marangu.
3) The Lemosho Route
Trekking time : 7-8 days
This is supposedly one of the quieter routes on the mountain. It’s also the longest route to the top. So given the duration, it’s great for acclimatisation and therefore offers a higher success rate.
4) The Umbwe Route
Trekking time: 5-6 days
This is the most difficult route to the top of the mountain. It is the shortest in terms of distance, and therefore the steepest. I remember when I was researching for my trip, I read that this route is so steep, you can stand on the trail and kiss it at the same time! I don’t know what drink is stronger than whiskey, but whatever it is, that should be the nickname of this route.
5) The Rongai route
Trekking time: 6-7 days
It’s certainly not one of the more scenic routes on the mountain, but it has less traffic and for that reason, it could be attractive to some climbers. In the early days of the climb, there are chances of seeing wildlife, but even if one doesn’t, there is always the upside of having less traffic to look forward to!
6) The Northern Circuit
Trekking time: 9 days
While relatively new, this is the longest route in terms of distance travelled and number of days. Because of this, it has one of the highest success rates.
7) The Shira Route
Trekking time: 7- 8 days
The Shira route was the original route from which Lemosho was derived from. The two are therefore almost identical, but Lemosho has opportunities for better scenery.
The decision on which route therefore depends on how long you want to trek for, how much scenery you would like along the way and lastly, how much you want to push yourself.Speak to your Kilimanjaro agent about your preferences and they will help you make the final decision.