It takes anywhere between 5 to 9 days to complete a Kilimanjaro trek, over a 53-72 kilometers (32-45 miles) hiking range. The longer your trek, the more acclimatization opportunities you’re likely to get during your Kilimanjaro hiking tour. That’s because your body’s working harder to breathe at altitude and, by trekking longer routes, you leave your body plenty of room to slowly adjust to low atmospheric oxygen levels during your hike. (1) This is why long routes on Mount Kilimanjaro have an insanely high Kilimanjaro success rate compared to shorter trails on the mountain. Controlling the rate of elevation gain each day is a highly effective means of preventing altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro.
One of the things I wish I knew before climbing Kilimanjaro is that long Kilimanjaro routes also lower the risk of fatigue during expeditions. That’s because long distances are broken down into short hiking intervals, where you’ll get plenty of room for physical recovery after hikes. Unless you are very fit, covering the same amount of ground in a shorter time frame can increase your chances of fatigue and injury. (2)
How Long Does It Take To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
- Northern Circuit route — the Northern Circuit route takes 9 days to complete and covers a hiking distance of 82km (50 mi). This remote route is the longest, easiest and best performing route on Mount Kilimanjaro, with very little reports of accidents. When you compare Kilimanjaro vs Everest Base Camp, the Northern Circuit and Lemosho routes are two trails on Mount Kilimanjaro that give Mount Everest’s base camp a real run for its money.
- Lemosho route — the Lemosho route, otherwise known as the new Shira Route, takes 7-8 days to complete and is the second longest, easiest and best performing route, after the Northern Circuit. That’s because Lemohso and Northern Circuit are essentially the same trail, aside from the last 2 days of hiking. What’s great about this route is the option to spend the night at Crater Camp after the summit.
- Rongai route — the Rongai route is the third easiest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, but does not perform as well due to its poor acclimatization landscapes. This route to the summit takes 7 days to complete. One of the highlights from this trail is the viewpoints of Mawenzi Peak from Mawenzi Tarn.
- Machame route — the Machame route, otherwise known as the Coca Cola Route, takes 6-7 days to complete and is fairly straightforward. The trail starts off at the Machame Gate and runs through Lava Tower, before coming to an end at Mweka Gate. This is the most popular route on the mountain, covering an overall distance of 62km (37 mi).
- Marangu route — the Marangu route is the shortest route on Mount, covering an overall distance of 72km (45 mi). The route has 5-6 day hiking variations that perform poorly overall.
- Umbwe route — Umbwe route covers a distance of 53km (32 mi) and takes 6 days to complete. This is the hardest route on Mount Kilimanjaro due to its unkempt trails and rough terrains.
Mount Kilimanjaro’s Hiking Distances
|5-Day Marangu Route||72 kilometers (45 miles)|
|6-Day Marangu Route||72 kilometers (45 miles)|
|6-Day Umbwe Route||53 kilometers (32 miles)|
|7-Day Rongai Route||81 kilometers (50 miles)|
|7-Day Machame Route||62 kilometers (37 miles)|
|7-Day Lemosho Route||71 kilometers (43 miles)|
|8-Day Lemosho Route||71 kilometers (43 miles)|
|9-Day Northern Circuit Route||82 kilometers (50 miles)|
1. Northern Circuit Trail — 82 kilometers (50 miles)
The Northern Circuit route requires at least 9 days to complete its 82-kilometer (50-mile) stretch from the Lemosho Gate down to Mweka Gate. The ascent up the mountain takes 8 days to reach the summit at Uhuru Peak and another 2 days to descend down to the Mweka trailhead. What you’ll find interesting is that the trail is an extension of the Lemosho route but, instead of pushing toward the summit of the 7th day, it loops north around Kibo Peak before approaching the summit from the east. (3) It’s short hiking intervals and gradual slopes make this trail the best-performing route on Mount Kilimanjaro.
2. Lemosho Route — 71 kilometers (43 miles)
The Lemohso route starts off at the Londorossi Gate and stretches 71-kilometer (43-mile) over a 7-8 day hiking period. (4) This is one of the most beautiful and best-performing routes on Mount Kilimanjaro, right after the Northern Circuit trail. Its gradual slopes make this route easy underfoot and very simple to adjust to higher altitudes. The route’s short climbing distances make Lemosho very easy to navigate with a group, especially along the Shira Plateau. You’re unlikely to undergo fatigue or fatigue-induced injuries, on this trail, because of the number of recovery opportunities available throughout the route.
3. Rongai Route — 81 kilometers (50 miles)
The Rongai route covers a distance of 81 kilometers (50 miles) over a 7-day hiking period. It is the only ascent route approaching Kilimanjaro from the northern breach, which makes it stand out during the rainy seasons, as it receives far less precipitation compared to any of the southern routes. (5) Rongai also offers unkempt wilderness, remote trails, gradual ascents and an above-average chance of encountering large wildlife during your expedition.
4. Machame Route — 62 kilometers (37 miles)
Machame takes 6-7 days to complete over a 62-kilometer (37-mile) distance. (6) This is the most popular route up Kilimanjaro, despite not having functional huts on the trail. Its hiking duration allows great acclimatization opportunities with plenty of room for physical recovery. Although the route includes a few tough sections, as seen on various Kilimanjaro maps, expect a gentler ascent and more scenic views than other shorter trails on the mountain. Between Lemosho vs Machame route, the Machame trail is more straightforward, on 7-day hiking variations, while Lemosho dwarfs the Machame route with its extended 8-day hiking program.
5. Marangu Route — 72 kilometers (45 miles)
The Marangu route has 5-day and 6-day hiking variations that cover a total of 72 kilometers (45 miles). This is the shortest possible way to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, which often comes at a cost. The route suffers a 42-56% success rate, mainly due to altitude sickness and fatigue near the summit. The Marangu route has poor acclimatization landscapes but is often attractive to many hikers who are on a small budget. Although the difficulty of climbing Kilimanjaro through this trail is very high, the upside to hiking the Marangu route is that you get to sleep in huts instead of tents. (7)
6. Umbwe Route — 53 kilometers (32 miles)
The Umbwe route is measured at 53 kilometers (32 miles) in length and is trekked within 6 days. The route offers absolute solitude but is considered to be the hardest route on Mt Kilimanjaro, due to its rough terrain and fast ascent. (8) The recorded fastest time to climb Kilimanjaro through this route stands at 6 hours. You should only consider this route if you’re an experienced mountaineer.