Choosing the right Kilimanjaro route for your climb is an important decision.
There are seven Mount Kilimanjaro routes, six routes up Kilimanjaro, and one down.
(One of the ascent routes can also be used for descent, so there are two descent routes.)
Several of these trails meet after a few days climbing.
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.)
The routes to climb Kilimanjaro approach the mountain from different sides (map coming) and they vary considerably in length, difficulty, traffic levels and other aspects.
(Here is a detailed discussion of how those Kilimanjaro climbing routes compare regarding difficulty ratings, quality of experience, prices and success rates.)
Below you find an overview of all seven Kilimanjaro routes.
Follow the links to find a detailed route description for each or to see a picture guide of it.
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. Since the budget operators discovered it, Machame is also 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 route is not used much. The Umbwe route is only suitable for people with mountain climbing experience.
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 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.