Compare How Long It Takes To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

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

Hiking Distances
5-Day Marangu Route72 kilometers (45 miles)
6-Day Marangu Route72 kilometers (45 miles)
6-Day Umbwe Route53 kilometers (32 miles)
7-Day Rongai Route81 kilometers (50 miles)
7-Day Machame Route62 kilometers (37 miles)
7-Day Lemosho Route71 kilometers (43 miles)
8-Day Lemosho Route71 kilometers (43 miles)
9-Day Northern Circuit Route82 kilometers (50 miles)
This table list and compares distances of 6 Kilimanjaro routes.

6 people hiking the lemosho route
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Although professional mountaineers and Kilimanjaro tour guides hold records of climbing Kilimanjaro in a day and, sometimes barefoot even, it’s not feasible for the average hiker. That’s because, in addition to altitude sickness, hikers face the risk of fatigue, unpredictable weather forecasts and serious physical injuries. These safety threats have led Tanzania‘s government to establish a set hiking duration of up to 9 days as a standing means to mitigate risks on the mountain. Alternatively, you’re looking at fun Kili day trips that end at Mandara Hut.

It takes a span of 4-8 days to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit and an extra day to descend to the mountain’s base from the top. In fact, this duration is set to prevent altitude sickness, fatigue and physical injuries. The more days spent hiking Kilimanjaro, the better your body can anticipate and adjust to lower atmospheric oxygen levels during your ultimate trekking adventure. This is why long routes, with low elevation gains, have the highest success rate on the mountain.

Mount Kilimanjaro’s base camps stretch over a 53-82 kilometer (32-50 mile) distance, depending on the route, base camp and number of days traveled. For example, the Umbwe route is the shortest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, but also the steepest trail on the mountain. It measures 53 kilometers (32 miles) long over a 6-day Kilimanjaro expedition. The Northern Circuit route, on the other hand, is the longest route on Kilimanjaro in terms of distance and the number of days traveled. The trail measures 82 kilometers (50 miles) long on a 9-day hiking span.

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.

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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.

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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.

Even though the Marangu route has the lowest hiking duration of 5 days, the trail offers poor acclimatization opportunities. Trails that feature great acclimatization landscapes, with short hiking lengths, are Machame, Rongai and Lemosho routes. These respective trails have a 6-day hiking variation and climb-high, sleep-low opportunities.

The 8-day Lemosho program and the 9-day Northern Circuit route provide the greatest chances of reaching Kilimanjaro’s summit. Aside from their climb-high and sleep-low opportunities, these trails are gradual and therefore leave plenty of room for acclimatization. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the Northern Circuit and Lemosho routes also have short hiking intervals, which allows enough recovery space during the trek.

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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.

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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)

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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.

Mountain climbing along the Western Breach is a quicker approach to the summit since the climbing route is steep, requiring basic technical skills and technical gear. This is not the case with alternative summit routes (Barafu Camp or Kibo Hut to Stella Point or Gillman’s Point), which are more gradual and therefore take a lot longer to get to the summit. In order to avoid accidents and poor weather conditions, schedule a trekking adventure between June to October and December to March. These are the region’s dry seasons and the best time to climb up the Western Breach.

Ideally, it’s best to set aside at least 3 months, leading up to the trek, for physical conditioning and altitude training. This way you get plenty of adjustment room to develop physical fitness without undergoing physical injuries or altitude sickness. However, climbers that have an active lifestyle could shorten the timeframe down to a 6-week training plan.

The tallest mountain in Africa, after Mount Kenya, is located approximately 51 kilometers from Kilimanjaro International Airport and about 462 kilometers from Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR). These are two major airports in mainland Tanzania that host international flights. Climbers that are already in Tanzania can fly directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport and head to Kilimanjaro National Park.

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Compare Summit Difficulty Rates According To 6 Kilimanjaro Hiking Routes
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