Kilimanjaro offers the chance to scale to the “roof of Africa.” The highest peak and most famous mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is a heavy challenge. The climb takes hikers through thick forests and alpine grasslands, desolate rock faces and brilliant white glaciers.
Below we offer itineraries for four routes, but we can also plan itineraries for other routes, such as Umbwe:
All routes except Marangu require camping in tents. Marangu has dorm-style cabins.
On this route, sleep in tents at night.
Day 1: MTI MKUBWA
Altitude: 6,562′ to 8,692′; Hike time: 3 hrs
Drive from Hotel to the Londorossi Park Gate located on the western side of Kilimanjaro. Arrive at the trailhead and start trek through the rain forest. In places, the vegetation is so untouched that it grows right across the narrow track. The flora and fauna are richer here than on the other, more popular routes. Your trek today will be along a little used track known as Chamber’s Route. Your rainforest camp at Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree) will be reached in 3-4 hrs.
Day 2: SHIRA ONE CAMP
Altitude: 8,692′ to 11,841′; Hike time: 5-6 hrs
After breakfast, hike across the remaining rainforest towards the giant moorland zone. Today is a full-day trek with an altitude gain of 2,000 ft. Stop for lunch at a beautiful valley just outside the Shira Crater at around 10,000 ft. After lunch, you cross into the Shira Caldera, a high altitude desert plateau that is rarely visited. Shira is the third of Kilimanjaro volcanic cones, and is filled with lava flow from Kibo Peak. The crater rim has been decimated by weather and volcanic action. Today you will get your first close views of Kibo—the dramatic summit of Kilimanjaro.
Day 3: SHIRA TWO CAMP
Altitude: 11,841′ to 12,628′; Hike time: 5-6 hrs
After breakfast, continue the hike east across the Shira Plateau past the Shira Cathedral towards Shira Two camp. Elevation gain is only 700 ft—allowing you to acclimatize slowly. The views of the plateau are nothing less than spectacular.
Day 4: BARRANCO HUT
Altitude: 12,628′ to 12,956′; Hike time: 5 hrs
Today is the last of the “easy days.” It is about a 7-hour superb hike. You pass the Lava Tower, around the southern flank of Kibo, and slowly descend into the spectacular Barranco Valley, interspersed with giant lobelia and senecia plants. After arriving at our most spectacular campsite, everyone stands in awe at the foot of Kibo Peak, looming high above, on our left. Our camp is only 465 ft higher than where you were last night, but during the day, you will have climbed to just over 14,000 ft. This is one of our most valuable days for acclimatization.
Day 5: KARANGA VALLEY
Altitude: 12,956′ to 13,743′; Hike time: 3.5 hrs
On the eastern side of the valley, across the stream is the Barranco Wall—a 950 ft barrier of volcanic rock. Although it is tall and looks steep, it is fairly easy to climb, and the views from the wall are nothing less than magnificent. The rest of the day is spent skirting the base of Kibo Peak over the left shoulder. Descend down into the Karanga Valley, where you rest up for the night before the tough climb up to Barafu Hut.
Day 6: BARAFU CAMP
Altitude: 13,743′ to 15,088′; Hike time: 3.5 hrs
Start the day with a steep hike out of the valley. It is a tough, but rewarding uphill to the rocky, craggy slopes at the camp. Barafu means “ice” in Swahili, and it is extremely cold at this altitude. So, go to bed early because you will be waking up at midnight for the final leg to Uhuru Peak.
Day 7: FINAL ASCENT – MWEKA CAMP
Altitude: 15,088′ to 19,340′ (summit) then down to 9,550′; Hiking time: 12-14 hrs
Dress warmly, as climbing starts around midnight, on the steepest and most demanding part of the mountain. The moon, if out, will provide enough light, and you will reach the crater rim by sunrise, after a 7-hour hike, and welcome a new dawn.
From the crater rim, the rugged Mawenzi Peak is a thrilling sight, with the Kibo saddle still in darkness beneath you, and the crater’s ice-walls looming ahead. Continue to Uhuru Peak (1-2 hrs), descend back to Barafu camp (4 hrs), and then down the Mweka route to Mweka camp (5 hrs). This is where you spend our last night on the mountain.
Day 8: MOSHI
Altitude: 9,550′ to 5,997′; Hiking time: 4 hrs
Finish your hike down to the trailhead. This takes about 3–3.5 hrs. After a welcome lunch, it is time to say “kwaheri” to the porters. Transfer back to your hotel or on to your safari.
On this route, sleep in tents at night.
Day 1: MACHAME CAMP
Altitude: 5,400 to 9,300′; Hiking time: 7.5 hrs
Early pick-up at hotel and drive to Machame gate where trekking formalities take about 30 minutes. From the gate, begin your trek following an easy track for the first hour through the dense forest. The path continues to follow the ridge, rising steadily with several steep sections. The gradient eases slightly as the forest merges into heather covered ground. You will reach Machame Hut in 6.2 miles.
Day 2: SHIRA CAMP
Altitude: 9,300′ to 12,300′; Hiking time: 7 hrs
From the Machame Hut you cross the stream onto its west bank and follow the path up the steep rocky ridge, crises-crossing a few times before reaching Shira Hut at the base of a semi-circular wall of rocks. You will have ascended 3,000 feet in 5-7 hours and about 3.72 miles of walking.
Day 3: BARRANCO CAMP (12,800′)
Altitude: 12,300′ to 12, 800′; Hiking time: 5 hrs
From Shira Hut, hike to Lava Tower (15,000 ft) and then proceed to Barranco via the Great Barranco Wall. This route offers panoramic views of Kibo through Karanga Valley as you hike high and sleep low, dropping back down to Barranco after lunch. Today’s hike will take most of the day.
Day 4: KARANGA VALLEY
Altitude: 12, 800′ to 14,800′; Hiking time: 4-5 hrs
From Barranco Hut you climb up through the edge of great Barranco; 95% of the day will be walking at an elevation of 13943 ft. You will break camp at Karanga Valley campsite.
Day 5: BARAFU CAMP
Altitude: 14,800′ to 15,092′; Hiking time: 3.5 hrs
Today involves gaining a little more elevation, acclimatizing and resting for the summit attempt the next morning. This day will take 4 to 6 hrs of walking.
Day 6: SUMMIT DAY – MWEKA CAMP
Altitude: 15,092 to 19,340′ (summit) then down to 10,170′; Hiking time: 12-14 hrs
Start trekking early before sunrise (1-2 a.m.), as the walk today will take 10-14 + hours. Doing so will avoid the mist that sets in later in the day; the scree and snow will still be safely frozen. The 3,600 ft ascent in just over 1.86 miles will take about 6-8 hours. After a brief stay at the summit, descend via the Barafu Route, roughly 8,200 ft in 7.44 miles in about 4-7 hrs to Mweka Camp.
Day 7: MWEKA GATE
Altitude: 10,170′ to 6,000′; Hiking time: 4 hrs
Today you descend about 4,592 ft through the forest on a jungle path for about 6.2 miles in 3-4 hours to reach Mweka Gate. Our representative will transfer you to your hotel or on to the safari.
On this route, sleep in cabins at night. Mandara Hut and Horombo Hut have running water.
Day 1: MANDARA HUT
Altitude: 5,905′ to 9,021′; Hiking time: 3-4 hrs
Our representative will pick you from your hotel to Marangu Gate where your permit for trekking will be issued. Gate formalities take about 30 minutes. Afterward, the chief guide will introduce you to your porters, and then the trek begins. The route starts at the National Park Marangu Gate at 5905 ft. Walk through the fascinating rain forest to the Mandara Hut.
Day 2: HOROMBO HUT
Altitude: 9,021′ to 12,400′; Hiking time: 5-6 hrs
After breakfast, ascend through rolling alpine meadows containing giant heather trees. Along this leisurely trail enjoy the flora and views of Mawenzi and Kibo peaks. A packed lunch is served on the way to Horombo Hut. Finally, dinner and overnight is taken at Horombo Hut.
Day 3: KIBO HUT
Altitude: 12,400′ to 15,420′; Hiking time: 5-6 hrs
After a good night’s rest continue past the cactus-like ground cover and the “last water” stream and move onto the lunar landscape on the saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi Kibo.
Day 4: SUMMIT DAY—HOROMBO HUT
Altitude: 15,420′ to 19,340′ (summit) then down to 12,285′; Hiking time: 14-16 hrs
The start for the summit is made in the early hours of the morning in order to reach Gillman Points – (18,635 ft) before dawn. From Gillman point one can witness the most spectacular and unforgettable sunrise. One hours walk away is the highest point in Africa, Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft. The descent is less tiring and the night is spent at Horombo Hut.
Day 5: MARANGU GATE
Altitude: 12,285′ to 5,850; Hiking time: 5-7 hrs
Another half day’s leisurely walk and you’re back at the park entrance where you will meet with a representative at the gate for a drive to your hotel and the next day program.
On this route, sleep in tents at night.
Day 1: RONGAI CAMP
Altitude: 6,396′ to 8,530′; Hiking time: 3 hrs
Register at the Marangu park gate and transfer by four-wheel car (approximately 2.5 hours) to the Rongai trailhead. Meet your climbing staff and begin hiking from the village of Nale Moru. The small winding path crosses maize fields before entering pine forest, and then climbs gently through a forest sheltering a variety of wildlife, including the Kilimanjaro colobus monkey. Our campsite is on the edge of the moorland zone with expansive views of the Kenyan plains.
Day 2: KIKELEWA CAVES
Altitude: 8,530′ to 11,320′; Hiking time: 6-7 hrs
Start off with a challenging ascent to the “Second Cave,” where you will then relax and have lunch with superb views of Kibo and the ice fields on the crater rim. After lunch, proceed towards the jagged peaks of Mawenzi, where you camp in a sheltered valley near Kikelewa Caves.
Day 3: MAWENZI TARN
Altitude: 11,320′ to 14,210′; Hiking time: 3-4 hrs
A short, but steep climb up grassy slopes offers superb views of this wilderness area. The vegetation zone ends shortly before you reach our next camp at Mawenzi Tarn, which is spectacularly situated beneath the towering spires of Mawenzi. Spend the afternoon acclimatizing and exploring the area.
Day 4: KIBO CAMPSITE
Altitude: 14,210′ to 15,580′; Hiking time: 4-5 hrs
You cross the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo to reach Kibo Campsite. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent.
Day 5: FINAL ASCENT—HOROMBO CAMP
Altitude: 15,580′ to 18,650′ (Gillman’s Point) to 19,340′ (summit) then down to 12,200′; Hiking time: 12-16 hrs
Begin the final, steepest and most difficult part of the ascent at 1 a.m. Hike slowly on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the crater rim at Gillman’s Point. Rest for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. For those who feel strong enough, continue (3 hrs roundtrip) to Uhuru Peak, passing close to spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs in the summit area. Descend to Kibo for lunch and a rest then continue down the Marangu route to Horombo Camp.
Day 6: DESCENT TO MARANGU
Altitude: 12,200′ to 6,250′; Hiking time: 5-6 hrs
Descend steadily through the moorland, past Mandara Hut and through a lush rain forest to the Marangu park gate. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Sign up for the Ujuzi Newsletter!
From top travel tips to innovative safaris and conservation movement, get INSPIRED to plan your next African safari!