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Our guide to Kilimanjaro
Conquering Africa's highest free standing mountain sits top of the bucket list for many a trekker and mountaineer. And whilst the snow crested summit of Kilimanjaro has become a holy grail for hikers around the globe, reaching Uhuru Point takes preparation and determination in equal measure. There are a number of different routes which lead to the summit, varying in terms of difficulty and length, and it is vital that you pick the right one for you. Here, we guide you through how best to reach the top, one step at a time.
When to go
Kilimanjaro follows roughly the same weather as the rest of northern Tanzania, meaning November and December are the short rains, and the long rains last from March to May. The best times of year to tackle the mountain are between January and February, and from July to October, when all routes are open. Conditions are obviously harder to predict on the mountain than they are elsewhere in Tanzania, and the weather can vary hugely from the foothills to the summit, but during these periods temperatures tend to be reasonable, rainfall relatively low and conditions clear.
What to expect
At 5,896 metres above sea level, summiting Kili is a challenge even for experienced walkers. However, to touch the top of Africa, no previous climbing experience is required, only a good level of fitness and an enthusiasm for the mountains. Whichever route you decide to take, treks take a minimum of five days, allowing for vital acclimatisation, and can be easily paired with a safari adventure elsewhere in Tanzania.
Generally regarded as the easiest route, the Marangu route is the oldest and most popular route with tourists, and can experience heavy volumes of climbers, especially during peak season. Approaching from the southeast, climbers will make their way to the summit along a 34km route, before descending back along the very same path. This is the only route which offers accommodation in purpose-built huts rather than tents.
Approaching from the south-west, the Machame Route takes in a number of Kilimanjaro’s real highlights, including the Shira Plateau, Barranco Wall and Karanga Valley, before reaching the summit via Stella Point. It is rated by many as the most scenic route to Uhuru Peak. Sections of this route are steeper and more physically challenging than the Marangu route, and climbers should allow themselves an additional night for acclimatisation.
Running from west to east across the centre of the Shira Plateau, the Lemosho Route is our preferred route – it is a remote and less frequented route, perfect for those wanting to get off the beaten track. The route follows the principle of climbing high and sleeping low to help in acclimatisation and to maximise chances of reaching the summit. Climbers will pass through a variety of different vegetation and have the opportunity to spot animals too.
The Shira Route is a popular longer climb, and is scenically superb. It is very similar to the Lemosho Route, but with a much higher starting point at 3,500m, meaning additional time is needed for acclimatisation. As with the Lemosho Route, the highlight of this climb is the traversing of the Shira Plateau, where it is often possible to spot big game including elephant and buffalo.
The Umbwe Route is the least used trail. Those who know it argue that it’s the most beautiful route to reach the summit, but it is also much shorter and steeper than other routes, meaning it doesn’t allow as much time for acclimatisation. It is a difficult route which should only be considered by experienced climbers, and an itinerary should be crafted in order to allow for pre-acclimatisation.
The Rongai Route is considered to be one of the easiest routes up the mountain and is fast gaining popularity. Starting at Rongai, a small village close to the Kenyan border, this is the only route that approaches from the north side of the mountain. The climbing conditions are drier on the northern side of the mountain and although it is generally considered to be less scenically varied, there are some spectacular sweeping views over the Kenyan wilderness.
Ready to take on the challenge of Kilimanjaro?
Contact our specialists now on 020 3141 2810 to start planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip.