Choosing the right Kilimanjaro route for your climb is an important decision.
There are seven Mount Kilimanjaro routes: six routes up Kilimanjaro and two down.
(Yes, that sounds like there are eight routes. But one of the ascent routes can also be used for descent, so there are in fact only seven routes.)
Several of these trails meet after a few days climbing and share the same path over the last days.
As a result there are only three dedicated routes from the base of Kibo—the main peak—to the Kilimanjaro crater rim.
(One of them, the Western Breach route, is a challenging and dangerous route and not used much. Which leaves only two.)
The routes to climb Kilimanjaro approach the mountain from different sides and they vary considerably in length, difficulty, traffic levels and other aspects.
Below you find an overview of those aspects for all seven Kilimanjaro routes.
Follow the links to find a detailed route description for each route or to see a picture guide of it.
(Here is a more detailed discussion of how those Kilimanjaro climbing routes compare regarding difficulty ratings, quality of wilderness experience, prices and success rates.)
For many years Marangu used to be the most popular Kilimanjaro route. It has now been delegated to number two by the Machame route (see below).
Duration: 5 days, acclimatization day can be added
The Machame route is one of the most scenic routes on Kilimanjaro. Once the budget operators discovered it, Machame quickly became the most popular Kilimanjaro route.
Duration: 6 or 7 days
The Rongai route is the easiest route up Kilimanjaro. It has a reputation as a remote wilderness trail. Rongai is the only route to approach Kilimanjaro from the north.
Duration: 5 or 6 days
The route over the Shira Plateau has several possible variations.
Duration: 6 - 8 days
Remote and beautiful, but long and expensive, this route also approaches Kilimanjaro across the Shira plateau.
Duration: 7 - 8 days
The steepest Kilimanjaro route. Steep with a big capital S.
Duration: 5 - 6 days.
This is not a climb route, it is only used for descent. You will follow it if climbing Kilimanjaro on the Machame, Shira, Lemosho or Umbwe route.
As restricted as all of this sounds, there are possible variations. Some of the routes have alternate paths for some sections, you can combine different sections of different routes, and treks can be extended to include a night in the crater itself. (Only recommended to very experienced and well acclimatized climbers. This camp is extremely high.)
Theoretically you could also walk right around the base of Kibo, something I'd love to do.
If you want to experience something different from the offered standard Kilimanjaro routes you need to find an agency willing to organize it for you, you need a special permit from KINAPA, and you need to be rich. (Which is why I haven't done any of that yet.)
Read a detailed discussion of how those Kilimanjaro climbing routes compare regarding difficulty ratings, quality of experience, prices and success rates.