We recommend the 6-day Machame Route if you have pre-acclimatized to the high altitude and feel confident to complete your climb in 6 days. In such case, and if you don’t mind sharing your climb with many others, then the 6-day Machame Route will be your best choice. It boasts some of Kilimanjaro’s best scenery and has the best altitude profile (hike high, sleep low) of all 6-day routes. If you are not used to high altitudes, however, we recommend the 7-day Machame Route (or even 8-day Machame) as a better alternative with a higher summit success chance.
- Transfer to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate
- Moshi (831m) → Machame Gate (1,800m)
The start of your journey on the Machame Route begins from your hotel in Moshi (or Arusha) where you will be picked up early morning and driven straight to Machame Gate, situated on the south-western side of the Kilimanjaro National Park. The drive passes through the lively village of Machame, which is located on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro.
At the gate, you will be registering with the park authorities. Expect to linger around for approximately an hour to two while all equipment and supplies get distributed amongst your porters and weighed to ensure fair porter treatment practices. After all is settled and ready-to-go, it’s off to your first stop on the mountain: the Machame Camp.
- Lush rainforest alive with monkeys and birds
- Machame Gate (1,800m) → Machame Camp (2,835m)
The first hour of your climb will lead you on a wide 4×4 drive track into a lush montane rainforest, before the track narrows down into a footpath. You will walk through an authentic jungle with dense growth and up to 25 meter high trees. With increasing elevation, you will observe a change in vegetation as more flowers such as the Impatiens Kilimanjari will add some bright colors towards the later part of your climb. The sound of exotic birds will accompany you during your first climbing day. Your guide will help you spot the black-and-white Colobus Monkey and Blue Monkeys as they jump amidst the trees or play in the thick grass.
As clouds tend to hang in this part of the mountain, it is usually misty during the first hours of your climb – an area hence also known as Cloud Forest.
Please beware that this part of the mountain receives the most precipitation, leading to muddy and slippery paths. Even during dry seasons, showers are common in the afternoon. Please be prepared with proper hiking boots and rain gear from your very first day. Gaiters are also recommended to help protect your shoes and trousers from the mud.
On this first climbing day, you will have a picnic lunch once you reach a clearing near a stream about two to three hours into your climb. You will then continue your climb through much of the same jungle-like scenery until the forest starts to thin out only shortly before reaching Machame Camp. Your first camp on the mountain is situated just above the tree line in the heather zone. Clear skies permitting, you will enjoy your first views of glacier-capped Kibo cone.
- First views afar from above the tree-line
- Machame Camp (2,835m) → Shira Cave Camp (3,750m)
Today you will start to notice your surroundings changing. Having spent the previous day trekking through the montane rainforests, you start to enter a low-alpine zone as trees become taller vegetation, to grass, to eventually looking barren and mountain-like. Muddy trails turn into dusty ones. Weather permitting, blue skies open to the admired sights of the mountain, with Kibo and Mt. Meru in the distance.
The day is relatively short and little distance is covered as you approach the Shira Cave Camp, but the trail will be steeper as you climb from 2,800 meters to 3,800 meters; and you may begin to feel the effects.
The days can be hot, with temperatures during the day reaching over 40˚C and the nights become chilly dropping below 0˚C. While you may not have noticed the sun on the first day in the rainforest, the clouds can open up to strong UV rays, so be sure to apply sunscreen.
Once you reach your camp on the Shira plateau by early afternoon, you’ll be treated to views of Kibo, the Western Breach, Shira Cathedral and the Needle. Make sure to get your camera out for those perfect sunset shots.
- Acclimatizing to the thin air at Lava Tower
- Shira Cave Camp (3,750m) → Lava Tower (4,600m)
The morning climb brings you to the majestic Lava Tower, an ancient plug that was left by the active-volcanic days. Although the walk is not as steep as it has been in the previous days, it is nonetheless a long and strenuous one due to the high altitude. Your body will begin to notice the decrease in oxygen.
On this part of the journey, the landscape becomes more barren and even the heather disappears, only to be replaced by rocks and lava ridges. At the peak of your journey, you will have climbed 4,600 metres to the Lava Tower, also known as the Shark’s tooth. This covers an altitude distance of approximately 850 metres from Shira Cave Camp.
Your new surroundings at Lava Tower will consist of a high altitude desert, with no vegetation and pools of rocks, scree and dust as far as the eye can see. You’ll need a few warm layers on this part of the journey as it can be prone to cold winds, ice and mist.
Symptoms of altitude sickness are common here, but don’t worry because this is one of the reasons why you have come here: to allow for proper altitude acclimatization.
- Descending into the picturesque Barranco valley
- Lava Tower (4,600m) → Barranco Camp (3,900m)
After a break at Lava Tower to get the full benefit of your efforts and acclimatize to the thin air, you’ll being your descent into the beautiful Barranco valley. The valley was formed by a mudslide 100,000 years ago, and the climb down offers picturesque views of the Barranco Wall (which you will climb tomorrow). The descent into the valley will feel like a step backwards, after having worked hard all day to reach higher altitudes.
It is important to take it easy as you descend as parts of the journey can be a little slippery, with a lot of scree as you make your way down. For much of the journey, the alpine desert will seem to stretch into infinity until you get to the Great Barranco Valley. As you get nearer and nearer to Barranco Camp, the landscape gradually gets greener as you revisit the mystical Dendrosenecio forest.
Barranco Camp hosts views of Kibo, the Western Breach, and the beginning of the southern glaciers – a well deserved treat after the hard work you’ve done that day.
- Into thin air and alpine desert
- Barranco Camp (3,900m) → Barafu Camp (4,673m)
This part of the journey is a long one and involves a fair bit of climbing, so get ready to scramble. But as with all the challenging pathways up Kilimanjaro, the effort is rewarded with spectacular views and a lifetime of memories.
You will start your day by scaling the iconic Barranco Wall which is as challenging as it is beautiful. The Barranco Wall is very steep, and a fair bit of scrambling may be necessary. However, despite its famed difficulty, with regular breaks and an easygoing pace, you’ll be triumphant when you see the awe-inspiring views from the top.
Once you reach the highs of the wall, you will be greeted by the heart-melting sight of the Heim Glacier. Take a moment to stop and soak in the beautiful sights around you and the sense of achievement you will feel when you have conquered the wall.
Then it’s back down again as you descend into the narrow Karanga Valley. This windy and cold gully is also lush and green; a nice switch from the previously barren and rocky landscape. After descending through the valley, it’s a small ascend up to the Karanga Camp. At this point, you might have to say goodbye to other climbers who stay here overnight as the path from Barranco to Barfu is sometimes split into two days.
As you make your way up to the Barafu Camp, you’ll notice that the dusty black volcanic rocks and ashes gradually give way to the high alpine desert. Cold winds and icy temperatures are common here and you will definitely want to ensure you have your layers on.
On a clear day, the sunlight casts a golden glow over the summit, as a sombre and beautiful reminder of the journey ahead.
- Final summit push through the night and sunrise on top of Africa
- Barafu Camp (4,673m) → Uhuru Peak (5,895m)
Today is an early start for the moment you’ve been waiting for – summit day. You’ll be woken up around 11:30 to complete your final summit push from Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak by sunrise. After your breakfast, you will have all your gear ready for the day. Be sure to bring extra water (dehydration is painful at such high altitudes), headlamps, thick gloves, sunscreen and sunglasses for the summit (the sun is intense once up) and of course, your camera. Snacks are encouraged as well to maintain energy throughout the long day.
Once you’ve strapped on your boots, you will head out of Barafu Camp. These small cliffs will cause you to scramble around a bit, but you will soon reach the bottom of your next challenge: the climb to Stella Point. Stella Point rests at the top of Kibo, and to hike up to it will be hard work. A series of switchbacks through volcanic scree will test you. Be sure to find YOUR appropriate momentum, and focus on taking it one step at a time.
The air will become thinner, and altitude sickness may begin to hit you. Frigid temperatures and icy winds will require an iron determination to keep going. Each step will take all your focus and energy. Your final push to the top may seem endless and time seeming to work against you, but rest assured that it will come to an end. What satisfaction as you reach Stella Point at the top of Kibo! Congratulations! You’ve already conquered an impressive feat and will receive your climbing certificate for making it to this point. No matter what happens next, you can be proud that you’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!
From here, you only have approximately 150 meters of altitude to go for your final trek to Uhuru Peak. You can do it. It is important to prepare yourself for what might become the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trip, so rest and eat to gain energy for the final haul. The walk is a gentle incline, but the thin air will make it difficult to predict how you feel in this last stretch. Those who react well to the altitude may find it easier than others, with adrenaline rushing through their body. Some don’t react as well as others, and will find this to be the most challenging, despite the gentle incline. However, everyone will feel the pride that you’ve come that far as you make it to the summit.
The end is near, and you push yourself to the highest point. A stunning landscape overlooking the icefields and glaciers is waiting for you. Dawn is approaching as you push yourself to the highest point of Mt. Kilimanjaro and of Africa – Uhuru Peak. You’ve made it! Take some pictures, pat yourself on the back, hug your companions and enjoy the glistening pink and orange sunrise hues overlooking the ice fields and glaciers. The rolling clouds splash against the noble beauty of Kibo – it’s a sight you won’t soon forget.
- Half way down into thicker air
- Uhuru Peak (5,895m) → Mweka Camp (3,100m)
Make sure to take lots of photos and soak in the views as you won’t be staying up long at Uhuru Peak. Your guide will make sure to bring you back down to thicker air soon after you’ve reached the peak of your journey. While climbing thus far may have seemed to be the hardest part, you’re day has only just begun.
After making it all the way up to the summit of Uhuru Peak, you will still feel that lingering sense of euphoria that comes with such a magnificent achievement. Now the challenge is to make your way down to Mweka Camp, which sits at 3,100 metres – an an altitude drop of almost 2,800 metres. As you make your way down, you will find that the descent is tough on your knees, which will by now be feeling the impact of your climb up this formidable mountain. To ease the strain on your knees, make good use of your walking poles.
For the initial part of your journey down from Stella Point, you will encounter fields of sand and scree, which can be particularly challenging to navigate your way through. Gaiters are once again essential here, to prevent some of the glacial scree making its way into your boots! There are different ways you can tackle the scree. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can simply slide or ski down the scree slopes, which is a fun and quick way of conquering it! If you’re not comfortable with that, simply walk slowly down the scree, although this will add additional time onto your journey.
Your slope then turns into rocks before you reach Barafu Camp. Rest and eat to regain some energy. However, don’t rest too long. You still have over 3 hours to go. As you descend, you’ll notice that some of the plants and greenery starts to reappear and the surroundings are not as barren as it has been in recent days. You’ll pass by Millennium Camp which is located just above the tree line. Sometimes, you may camp here if the descent further down is just too challenging to handle – discuss this with your guide beforehand to see if it’s possible.
But Mweka Camp is only two hours further, located in the upper part of the rainforest zone, which brings with it a very welcome increase in oxygen and moisture in the air. You will be feeling tired and worn from the journey by the time you reach your camp for the night, but this is normal. Conquering Kilimanjaro is far from easy and you can take solace from the fact that you have completed a challenge that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Finally, you’ll be able to get some well earned rest and relaxation, and celebrate the completion of this important milestone of your journey.
- All the way back down through the forest
- Mweka Camp (3,100m) → Mweka Gate (1,640m)
The euphoria from yesterday’s achievement will linger today and give you a high that will last for some time to come. Conquering Mount Kilimanjaro is not easy and the challenge associated with climbing it is legendary. Today’s walk is a pleasant one and it will take you through the beautiful greenery of the rainforest as you steadily continue your downward descent. The atmosphere will resemble prehistoric times as you make your way through the 20 foot fern trees in the rainforest. You will venture through the moorlands and the montane rainforest, which bears similarities to the first stop on Kilimanjaro and you will once again greet the different bird species and monkeys that you encountered on your way up. At this point tiredness and bruised knees may drain your enthusiasm little, but you will still feel the pride in your accomplishments. The temperature will be a little warmer and more humid by this point, in contrast to the ice caps and the glaciers experienced over the last few days.
Soon even the jungle will gradually start to fade in favour of dirt tracks and the return of civilisation, which signals your arrival at Mweka Gate – the exit of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Once you have reached this point, your journey across Kilimanjaro will have concluded and you will be satisfied in the knowledge that you have reached the summit and finally conquered this tough but beautiful mountain.
Once you arrive at Mweka Gate and you have completed your walk, it will be time to bid farewell to your crew. It is customary to tip your guides, cook and porters for their assistance during your trip before you are transported back to your hotel. Please check the tipping procedure and tipping ranges recommended by your tour company before the start of your climb.
- Transfer to your hotel
- Mweka Gate (1,640m) → Moshi (831m)
After your exciting conclusion at Mweka Gate, you surely can’t wait to get back to your hotel for a well-deserved shower. The scenic drive back to Moshi (or Arusha) takes you through coffee and banana plantations, and is serene as you reflect on your adventure.
Arriving at your hotel, you’ve finished the magical journey, and it’s time to sift through photos, brag to your friends, and reminisce fondly on those life-long memories that you’ve just made.