Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route – Recommendation & Best Offers

The Northern Circuit is the longest route on Kilimanjaro. It starts in the west along the Lemosho Route, then circumvents the peak on the northern slopes, approaches the summit from the east and descends in the south. As such, it offers 360° degree views of the peak and afar.

Together with the Grand Traverse, the Northern Circuit is the only route that circumvents the peak on the northern slopes, providing the most authentic wilderness experience away from the crowds.

The route offers plenty of opportunity to acclimatize to the high altitude and therefore also has a very high summit success chance. Even though it is the longest route, it might as well be one of the easiest!

The Northern Circuit can be completed in 8 or 9 days, or up to 10 days including an overnight stay at Crater Camp. We recommend the 9-day Northern Circuit Itinerary over the 8-day Northern Circuit Itinerary for maximum acclimatization to the high altitude.

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More info about the Northern Circuit

Deciding Whether To Go
Comfort & Facilities
Where do I sleep on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Where you sleep on Mount Kilimanjaro depends on your hiking route and climbing package. On all but the Marangu route, you will sleep in tents at designated campsites. Your tour operator will typically organize your sleeping tent and mattress, whereby the quality of tents ranges from cheap locally produced via high-quality imported winter mountaineering tents (mid-range offers) to luxurious walk-in size tents with proper frame beds (VIP offers).

The Marangu Route offers shared hut accommodation with dormitory-style bunk beds. We'd rather recommend you a high-quality package on any other route if you prefer comfort and privacy.

Choosing Your Itinerary
Overview
What is the Northern Circuit route on Mount Kilimanjaro like?

The Northern Circuit is the longest route on Kilimanjaro. It starts in the west along the Lemosho Route, then circumvents the peak on the northern slopes, approaches the summit from the east and descends in the south. As such, it offers 360° degree views of the peak and afar.

Together with the Grand Traverse, the Northern Circuit is the only route that circumvents the peak on the northern slopes, providing the most authentic wilderness experience away from the crowds.

The route offers plenty of opportunity to acclimatize to the high altitude and therefore also has a very high summit success chance. Even though it is the longest route, it might as well be one of the easiest!

What are the key differences between the routes on Mount Kilimanjaro?

The hiking routes on Mount Kilimanjaro vary by length, duration, difficulty, scenery, altitude profile, accessibility, and (lack of) facilities. The better a route scores on all these criteria, the more popular it is. Popularity is great if you like to share your experience with many other climbers and make lots of new friends. It's also great if you're looking for an affordable climbing package. If solitude and wilderness is what you're looking for, then the most popular routes may not be your best choice.

Recommendation
Which is the best Kilimanjaro hiking route for altitude acclimatization?

The best routes for altitude acclimatization allow you to climb high during the day and sleep low at night. Climbing high during the daytime gets your body used to the high altitude. By sleeping at a lower elevation during the night, your body has enough time to take a break from the lack of oxygen associated with higher elevations. You should also ascend slowly over multiple days so that your body can acclimatize better.

7-day Machame, 8-day Lemosho, 8-day Grand Traverse and 9-day Northern Circuit (including acclimatization hike to Lava Tower) are all excellent routes for altitude acclimatization that allow you to hike high, sleep low and ascend slowly over multiple days.

Which Kilimanjaro route has the the highest summit success chance?

The Kilimanjaro routes with the highest summit success chance are those with the best altitude profile so that you can acclimatize to the thin air before attempting your final summit push. Climbing high during the day and sleeping low at night is ideal. Furthermore, it's important to ascend slowly over multiple days so that your body has more time to get used to the high altitude.

8-day Machame, 8-day Lemosho, 8-day Grand Traverse and 9-day Northern Circuit (including acclimatization hike to Lava Tower) are all excellent routes for altitude acclimatization that allow you to hike high, sleep low and ascend slowly over multiple days. With the right preparation and the right guide, these routes all have a summit success chance of close to 100%.

How do I go about choosing my best Kilimanjaro route?

To choose the best hiking route for your Kilimanjaro climb, it is important to assess your personal preferences and priorities:

  • Do you prefer the most stunning scenery or authentic wilderness away from the crowds?
  • Do you prefer a climb with least amount of walking and easy slopes, or are you looking for a bigger physical challenge?
  • Do you have time constraints, or are you OK to take a longer route of 8 days (or more) in order to maximize your summit success chance?
  • Do you have budget constraints, or do you prefer to pay a premium for a longer climb, a private tailor-made arrangement (as opposed to an open group climb), and/or a luxurious climb off-the-beaten track?

Please contact us for a tailor-made recommendation.

Which Kilimanjaro route do you most recommend?

For most climbers who prefer to scale the mountain when the weather is sunny and dry, and to maximize your summit success chance without having had prior high altitude experience, our most recommended routes are:

  • 8-day Lemosho Route: Best scenery and easy to join an open group climb, as long as you don't mind the crowds
  • 8-day Machame Route: Easiest route with best scenery, as long as you don't mind the crowds
  • 8-day Grand Traverse: Easiest route in authentic wilderness, as long as you don't mind missing some scenic highlights
  • 9-day Northern Circuit: A somewhat more difficult alternative to the Grand Traverse (similar to Lemosho), yet with more opportunity to acclimatize and more scenic variety compared to the Grand Traverse

Arguably, 8 or 9 days on the mountain may sound just a bit too long. If you prefer a group climb, you will also be somewhat limited in choice of affordable options for the above routes. So if either time or budget is a constraint, then we recommend:

  • 7-day Machame Route: Most popular route with great scenery and ideal profile for altitude acclimatization (similiar to Lemosho, just shorter)
  • 7-day Rongai Route: Authentic wilderness away from the crowds. However, the scenery and profile is not as good as the Machame Route.
Duration
How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro on the Northern Circuit?

The Northern Circuit can be completed in 8 or 9 days, or up to 10 days including an overnight stay at Crater Camp. We recommend the 9-day Northern Circuit Itinerary over the 8-day Northern Circuit Itinerary for maximum acclimatization to the high altitude.

Finding Your Best Offer
Guides & Operators
How many guides will there be for my group when climbing Kilimanjaro?

When climbing Kilimanjaro, you must have at most 2 climbers per guide, and at least 2 guides for groups of 2 climbers or more. This ensures that there will always be enough guides to assist climbers who require descent, while at the same time allowing all other climbers to continue their summit ascent safely.

The minimum guide-to-climber ratios are stipulated by Kilimanjaro National Park regulations and apply to all climbs booked via Fair Voyage. So for every group, there will always be one lead guide, and we have classified all other guides as assistant guides.

Please beware that guides and companies operating illegally on Kilimanjaro may not adhere to these minimum ratios, which can lead to dangerous life threatening situations. While it may be tempting to save costs by booking with a low-budget operator, your financial savings may come at the cost of your own safety.

Minimum ratio of Kilimanjaro climbers per guide for all climbs booked via Fair Voyage:
ClimbersGuides
1 climber1 guide
2 climbers2 guides
3 climbers2 guides
4 climbers2 guides
5 climbers3 guides
6 climbers3 guides
7 climbers4 guides
8 climbers4 guides
9 climbers5 guides
10 climbers5 guides
11 climbers6 guides
12 climbers6 guides
Open Group Tours
When joining a Kilimanjaro group climb, can I customize it to make it cheaper?

When joining an open group trek to climb Kilimanjaro, it is not possible to downgrade the package to make it cheaper. For example, you might not require emergency oxygen or a dining tent that are included in the climb package. However, the cost of these items is already factored into the price paid by other climbers. It wouldn't be fair to them if they would be required to pay more, and lead to friction in your climbing group. In case of emergency, of course your guide would use the emergency oxygen paid for by other climbers also for your safety benefit. Other climbers may be annoyed about you getting a free ride at their cost.

However, to the extent allowed by Kilimanjaro National Park regulations, it is always possible to downgrade and fully customize a private group climb. This may help you save a lot of costs if you are a group of at least 5 climbers booking together. If you are a solo or couple traveller, please note it would almost always be cheaper to join a higher-quality group climb, then organize your own lower-quality budget climb.

When joining a Kilimanjaro group climb, can I go my own pace?

When joining an open group to climb Kilimanjaro, please note that you will have to adjust your walking speed to that of others, which typically means the pace of the slowest person in your group. It is not uncommon for this to create some frustrations amongst group members. Faster climbers would prefer to go ahead and take less frequent breaks, while the slowest person may feel pressured to walk faster.

When booking a group trek, please expect that you will need to adjust to the pace and needs of the entire group. Furthermore, you will not be able to adjust your itinerary spontaneously (unless needed), such as shorten your climb by a day if you feel that you can go faster. While there will always be a sufficiently high guide to client ratio to assist with early descent if needed, groups will not split up to accommodate the preference of some climbers to walk faster than others.

If you prefer more flexibility during your climb to set your own pace and adjust your itinerary while climbing, please contact us for private climbing packages.

Accommodation
Where do I sleep on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Where you sleep on Mount Kilimanjaro depends on your hiking route and climbing package. On all but the Marangu route, you will sleep in tents at designated campsites. Your tour operator will typically organize your sleeping tent and mattress, whereby the quality of tents ranges from cheap locally produced via high-quality imported winter mountaineering tents (mid-range offers) to luxurious walk-in size tents with proper frame beds (VIP offers).

The Marangu Route offers shared hut accommodation with dormitory-style bunk beds. We'd rather recommend you a high-quality package on any other route if you prefer comfort and privacy.

Preparing Your Trip
Getting started
What are the next steps once I've booked my Kilimanjaro climb?

Once you've booked your Kilimanjaro climb, if not sooner, it is important that you take these steps:

1. Take out travel insurance

Travel insurance is mandatory to participate in climbs booked via Fair Voyage (read more here). To protect your financial investment in case of cancellation due to illness or other unforeseen changes, it is best to take out your insurance (that should cover cancellations) as soon as you've booked your Tour. We recommend the travel insurance by World Nomads which has good coverage at affordable prices. You can easily apply for it online within few minutes (get it now).

2. Book your flight

To maximize your chances of finding a convenient & affordable flight, it's best to book your flight as soon as you've booked your climb. Kilimanjaro International Airport is conveniently located within 20-60 minutes drive of most hotels in Moshi and Arusha that are commonly used as a base to climb Kilimanjaro. It is best to arrive at least 2 nights before the start of your climb and to depart a day after you finish your climb. If constrained by time, it is also possible – but not recommendable – to arrive on the evening prior to the start of your climb, and to depart on the evening of your last climbing day.

3. Make sure your passport will be valid for 6 months

Visas can be obtained upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport and must be paid for in cash (US$100 for US citizens and US$50 for most other nationals). However, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the data your entry to Tanzania.

4. Get a health check & required vaccinations

It is important that you are in good physical health. If you are at increased risk due to age, level of fitness, or health condition, you must get a medical check and confirm with your doctor that strenuous exercise in high altitude is permissible for your condition. Please also check all required & recommended vaccinations and medications for travelling to Tanzania. As some vaccinations may need to be administered over longer periods of time to become effective, it is best to consult your medical expert well in advance of travelling to Tanzania.

5. Fill in the Traveller Details Form

Please fill in the Traveller Details Form for each person in your booking and send it back to us and your local Tour Operator as soon as possible prior to the start of your Tour. This allows your local Operator to prepare your Tour (including your arrival and departure arrangements; as well as any dietary, medical or other requirements they should be a aware of), and to ensure that we have all your details for emergencies.

6. Start to train

It is never too soon to start your training.

The best training you can do to prepare for your Kilimanjaro climb is hiking. Running, swimming and cycling are all very good exercise but what you will be doing on Kilimanjaro is hiking. You will need to condition your body to walk in ascension, over uneven terrain for long periods. If you live in an area with hiking trails and mountains, this is a great opportunity to practice. If you live in a city or somewhere flat, taking stairs instead of elevators and targeted muscle exercises are excellent practice.

7. Organize all required gear, documents, medications, etc.

Organizing your gear can be a very time-consuming process. It is best to review our recommended packing list and start thinking about how to organize any missing items as soon as you've booked your climb. Most gear can be rented locally, which is a cost-effective and environmentally friendlier alternative to buying new gear. Please check with us for a full list of items available locally.

8. Be aware of all risks, notably altitude sickness and malaria

It is important that you familiarize yourself with all risks involved with your tour and travels to Tanzania. The biggest risk for Kilimanjaro climbers is altitude sickness. Another risk when travelling to Tanzania is malaria. Please familiarize yourself thoroughly with all risks involved so that you can take adequate precautions.

9. Carefully read your pre-climb briefing

Please carefully read our pre-climb briefing. Your local Tour Operator may also provide you with their own pre-climb briefing. Please carefully also read their documents. If in doubt about any information, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Why book with Fair Voyage?

Fair Voyage helps you find & CUSTOMIZE your best CONSCIOUS travel experience in Africa and developing regions. Through our direct relationships with LOCAL leaders in sustainability, we can offer you highest QUALITY at best prices. In addition, we INSURE your payments – all 100% free for you. Being INDEPENDENT , we only have your best interest at mind.

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