Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest mountain. It is a magnificent site, rising out of the surrounding plains, encircled in mountain forest, with its snowy peak 5,895m above sea level. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the great trekking challenges in the world. Though not requiring any specialist mountaineering skills, it is still a fairly arduous task, with oxygen levels at its peak only half those at sea level. The view from the top, with hundreds of miles of the plains of Tanzania and Kenya below you, make all the effort worthwhile though.
Marangu is the least strenuous route to the summit of Kili and is the most travelled, known as the 'Coca-Cola Route' due to its popularity. However it has the lowest success rate due to a short acclimatisation period and the fact that it is used by many inexperienced and unprepared climbers. It approaches Kili from the southeast and the 5 day trek takes you through forests, moorlands and high altitude desert scenery before reaching Uhuru from Kibo Hut via Gillman's Point. The ascension profile is gradual and steady and the trek covers some 35km. Accommodation is in comfortable communal huts, the only route where camping in tents is not required. The descent is along the same path, contributing to the crowded feel and limited scenery seen on this route.
Machame is the second most popular route on Kili, known as the 'Whiskey Route' as it's a more difficult climb and accommodation is in tents. The trek takes 6 or 7 days, approaching from the southwest and travelling through forests, moorland, the Shira plateau, past the Lava Tower and Great Barranco Wall before summiting via the Barafu route. The descent is via the Mweka route in the southeast, meaning Machame offers much more varied scenery than the Marangu route as well as a more challenging climb.
Rongai is the only route which approaches Kili from the north and offers a remote journey through unspoilt rainforest and wilderness, far from crowds of the more popular southern routes. It is the only route where it's possible to see wildlife in the first few days of trekking. The ascent to Uhuru follows the Marangu route via Kibo Hut with the descent, also using the Marangu route, offering a different perspective. Whilst not having as much varied scenery as Machame or the western routes, Rongai is one of the easier climbs and is ideal for those looking for a remote hiking experience.
Shira is one of two routes which approaches Kili from the west, crossing the stunning Shira Plateau before joining with the Machame route and the beautiful scenery of the southern circuit (the descent also follows the Mweka route to the southeast). Shira is one of the most difficult routes, as climbers are driven to the starting point at Shira 1 gate which lies at 3,500m, meaning the first night is at high altitude and acclimatisation is a challenge. Shira is suitable for experienced high altitude trekkers looking for a spectacular journey.
Lemosho is similar to the Shira route, approaching Kili from the west, but has an extra two days of trekking through the rainforest before reaching Shira 2 camp. This aids acclimatisation and gives Lemosho one of the highest success rates. Considered by many as the ultimate Kili route, Lemosho combines low traffic (before joining the Machame route) with stunning and varied scenery, including the rainforest, traversing the Shira Plateau and seeing the spectacular sights of the southern circuit.
Umbwe is the least travelled route and is considered the most difficult with the lowest success rates. Although a short route (approaching from the south between the Machame and Marangu routes), it is a constant, steep climb to the top which gives little opportunity to acclimatise. Umbwe is ideal for experienced trekkers looking a challenging climb on a secluded route.
Further Exploration for Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro - The trekking guide to Africa's highest mountain