How do I choose the Route?
Around 80% of climbers choose the Marangu (5-6 days) which is commonly referred to as the “tourist” or “Coca-Cola” route. The remaining 20% use the Machame, Umbwe, or Rongai route.
Each route has different characteristics which may or may not appeal to you.
Consider the difficulty, scenery and crowds when you select your route. Other factors that should be considered are your age, fitness level, medical conditions, backpacking and hiking experience, experience at high altitude, degree of motivation, and any other special considerations. Zara Tours recommends Northern Circuit, Lemosho, Machame and Rongai.
Please note that many of these routes meet at the mid-way point, as there are only three routes to the summit.
This long, little-used route parallels the lower part of the Shira Route. Zara Tours leads treks up the Lemosho Route. The Lemosho Route is an unspoiled, remote, little-used, and beautiful way up to the Shira Plateau. Above the plateau, you approach Kilimanjaro’s great western Breach, then follow the south circuit to reach the easier Barafu Route. This is one of the few routes where an armed ranger accompanies our groups, since there are still animals in the forest around the Lemosho Glades.
Zara Tours leads treks up the Machame, a beautiful route up Kilimanjaro that allows you to experience the southwest and south sides of the mountain, since you go up one way and down another. All your equipment and supplies are carried by porters and a cook prepares all your meals. Unlike the Machame Route where you sleep in huts, on the Machame you sleep in tents (tents are included), and the porters will pitch your tent for you. Meals are served in a dinner tent or on a blanket outside. This makes the Machame, which is referred to as the “Whiskey Route,” better suited to more adventurous hikers, and it also rewards you with better views than the Machame Route. From late afternoon sunsets at Shira, to the misty revelations of Kibo’s great Barranco Wall, the Machame Route offers the spunky hiker a continuous scenic slide show. The Machame Route is normally completed in 6 days, and this greatly helps your acclimatization. The Machame Route takes you high to Lava Tower (4,630 m/15,190 ft) on day 3 then brings you down for an overnight at Barranco Camp (3,950 m/12,960 ft). This intermediate ascent and descent is the secret to a successful acclimatization, and is the reason that this route has a high success rate.
Zara Tours guides treks up the Marangu Route, which is the easiest and shortest route to Kilimanjaro’s summit and is known as the “Coca Cola” or “tourist” route. This is the only route on Kilimanjaro with the comforts of solar-powered sleeping huts and comfortable beds at every camp. The huts are communal, and each bunk has a sponge mattress and pillow. There are 60 beds at both Mandara and Kibo Huts and 120 beds at Horombo Hut. Bathrooms and running water are available at the two lower huts. Basic men’s and ladies’ latrines are available at the last camp. All climbing groups, often from several countries around the world, share meals in dining huts providing a jovial and energetic atmosphere. Soft drinks, bottled water, and beer may be for sale at the huts. Bring small Tanzanian bills to purchase these items (prices increase with elevation). This route is usually done in 5 days, but you can do it in 6 days for better acclimatization. You can spend your extra day resting at Horombo or climbing to a basecamp below Kibo’s sub peak Mawenzi.
Zara Tours leads treks up the unique Rongai Route known to be more scenic than the Marangu Route, easier than the Machame Route, and the success rate on the Rongai is very high. Unlike the Marangu Route where you sleep in huts, on the Rongai you sleep in tents (tents are included), and the porters will pitch your tent for you. Meals are served in a dinner tent or on a blanket outside. The Rongai starts on the north side of the mountain just south of the Kenyan border, and is one of the least traveled routes. The Rongai joins the Marangu for the summit climb, then you descend the Marangu Route on the mountain’s southeast side, so you see Kilimanjaro from many view points. There are two versions of this trek – a direct 6-day itinerary, and a 7-day itinerary that takes a longer route. The more expedient 6-day itinerary is described below and the longer variation is described in the extra days section.
Zara Tours leads treks up the Shira route. The Shira Route traverses the large Shira Plateau to join the Machame Route. The Shira Plateau west of Kibo is the remains of Kilimanjaro’s first volcano. Mawenzi erupted second, and finally, supported by its neighbors, Kibo rose to its great height between Shira and Mawenzi. Older and more eroded than Mawenzi, the Shira Plateau’s ridges and moorland comprise one of Kilimanjaro’s most scenic areas. The drive to Shira offers magnificent views of the Great Rift Valley, Mount Meru, and Longido, and the plateau’s parasitic cones extend north of the road, rising from from plain to plateau. The vegetation changes along the route are striking. The plateau is grassland, heath, and moor, with senecios up to 10 meters high in valleys near the cone. You can see Elands on the plateau, and you may see signs of buffaloes, leopards, and other animals. The Shira Cone rises 200 meters above the plateau, and west of the cone is Shira Ridge, a steep rough rise reaching almost 400 meters above the plateau. The southern ridge of the Shira Plateau has two dramatic peaks called Cathedral and the Needle. The road to Shira is only accessible by 4-wheel-drive vehicles and can become impassable during wet periods. The Shira Route traverses the plateau to join the Machame Route.
This Umbwe is the most spectacular and direct way to reach Uhuru Peak. This route became famous when it was featured in the dramatic IMAX film Kilimanjaro – To the Roof of Africa. On the Umbwe, you pass through strange landscapes as you climb through five climate zones ranging from rainforest to the summit’s glaciers. The route follows a forested ridge to the moorlands, then traverses below the southern icefields to reach the Machame Route, which you follow to the summit. This steep, tough, and in places slightly exposed trek is suitable for a fit individual used to walking in mountain areas. Because of the route’s steepness, it is seldom used, and trekking poles are useful on the steep, slippery slopes in the rainforest. All your equipment and supplies are carried by porters and a cook prepares all your meals. Unlike the Marangu Route where you sleep in huts, on the Umbwe you sleep in tents (tents are included), and the porters will pitch your tent for you. Meals are served in a dinner tent or on a blanket outside. You can add an extra day to your itinerary to explore or relax along the route (best taken at the Barranco Camp)