The routes up Kilimanjaro

Ascending Kilimanjaro

There are six main paths leading up the slopes of Kilimanjaro. These are (running anti-clockwise, beginning with the north-westernmost trail)

  • The little-used Shira Route
  • Lemosho Route
  • Machame Route
  • Umbwe Route
  • Marangu Route
  • and, running from the north-east, the Rongai (aka Loitokitok) Route.

To see a map of the routes please click on the image below. (Please click on it once to bring up the map. Then click on the top right-hand corner to enlarge the map):

The Kilimanjaro Routes Map

Eventually, each of these six Kilimanjaro routes reach the foot of the main Kibo summit.  This is the snowy peak that you see in all the photos. From the foot of Kibo, three paths then take you up to Kibo’s crater rim. They are:

  • the Western Breach Route (also known as the Arrow Glacier Route)
  • The Barafu Route
  • A nameless third path which runs up from Kibo Huts to Gillman’s Point. We shall call this the Kibo Huts Route.

Which of these you will take to the summit depends upon which of the six paths you took to get this far.

The Shira, Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe routes can use either the difficult Arrow Glacier Route or the easier (but longer) Barafu Route.

The Marangu and Rongai trails use the Kibo Huts Route.

A description of each of the six main trails up Kilimanjaro can be found on this website. Please note that in the book we provide comprehensive, day-by-day descriptions of each of the Kilimanjaro routes up the mountain, including detailed sketch maps covering every stage of every path.

RouteDuration (ascent and descent combined)Distance (ascent only)*Descent RouteTotal distance (ascent & descent)*Western Breach option available?No. of people climbing each year**
Machame6-7 days40.16kmMweka (20.6km)60.76kmYes20,339
Marangu5-7 days36.75kmMarangu (36.75km)73.5kmNo12,289
Lemosho & Shira Routes (including Alternative Lemosho)6-9 days46.26kmMweka (20.6km)66.86kmYes9927
Rongai5-7 days37.65kmMarangu (36.75km)74.4kmNo4088
Umbwe6-8 days27.71kmMweka (20.6km)48.31kmYes589

* Figures assume the Barafu Route is taken to the summit rather than the Western Breach
** Latest figures available

Descending Kilimanjaro

The rules regarding which path you take to descend is as follows:

Those on the Machame, Umbwe, Lemosho or Shira routes must take as their descent route the Mweka trail

Those who ascended on the Marangu or Rongai/Loitokitok trails must descend by the Marangu Route.


I keep on hearing about the Northern and Southern Circuits – where are these routes?

Encircling the Kibo cone is a path known as either the Northern Circuit or the Southern Circuit depending on which side of the mountain you are. You can walk right around Kibo on this path. However, few climbers ever do. But all the paths either meet this circular path at some point and many follow it for a while.


Want to know more!

The following pages take each of the routes, individually, and go through a day-by-day description of them. And unlike other websites, they are written by somebody who has climbed everyone of them. At least twice. And often many more times. And as such, they aren’t written by someone who hasn’t climbed them at all. But who still feels entitled to call himself or herself an expert, because they can read and copy our work.

So if you want an authentic, first-hand account of the routes – read on! While for pictures of each of the routes, visit our pinterest page!

Marangu Route >>