There are seven established routes up to the summit of Kilimanjaro; each route is unique and an experience in itself. Each route also has advantages and disadvantages and you’re going to have to ask yourself:
- How fit am I?
- Do I want fantastic views?
- Do I want a crowd or time to myself?
- How much time should I take to acclimatise?
Acclimatisation to avoid altitude sickness is very important if you want to successfully conquer Mt Kilimanjaro instead of being carted down on a stretcher. Choosing a quicker (and cheaper) route is a false economy.
The seven routes are:
- Marangu: easier climb; can be fast (but don’t forget to acclimatise) so can be a cheaper option; dormitory-style overnights so no camping is needed; less busy because of the limited number of beds on the route. On the downside, it’s an out-and-back route so the scenery has less variety.
- Machame: popular, tougher climb; very beautiful route; good for acclimatisation so the success rate of reaching the summit is high; camping route for those of you who love camping. Downsides are that it can get busy in high season.
- Lemosho: a long route so good for acclimatisation; very picturesque; quieter route; beautiful views. Downside is that because it’s a longer route, it’s more expensive.
- Rongai: the wildest, quietest route; the only route that approaches from the north; drier and less wooded so ideal if you want to climb during the rainy season. Downside, you’ll need an extra day to acclimatise, which will add to the cost.
- Umbwe: great if you love a challenge as it’s the toughest and steepest route with little chance of acclimatisation, as it’s a quick route; suitable only for experienced high-altitude climbers; an exciting climb on ridges; fantastic views with the mountain to yourself. Downsides – only for the experienced.
- Western Breach: a tough climb; quiet route; beautiful hiking. Downsides – you’ll need an acclimatisation day, which adds to the cost.
- Northern Circuit: the newest route; very beautiful; it’s the longest route so best for acclimatisation; a 360 degree route takes you round the mountain for great views; being new, it’s less travelled. The downside is that it’s pricier because it’s a long route.