Route Duration – 6 Days Hiking
If Marangu is the “Coca Cola” route, then the Machame Route is the “whiskey” route. It is the second most popular and one of the most scenic route on the mountains. All climbers sleep in tents (tents are included) and meals are served in a dinner tent or on a blanket outside.
It is done over 6 days, so acclimatization is easier, and the success rate is fairly high. With the Machame/South Circuit route, you will circle halfway around the mountain with great views from all angles. This route is approximately 40 km versus 20 km on the Marangu route. It is for physically fit people with some hiking experience.
An alternative route is to start on the Machame and cut off to summit via the Western Breach. This route is shorter in distance, but the final day is very steep up rock in the dark.
Most people descend down the Mweka trail and stay at the Mweka camp the final night on the mountain. An alternative is to descend the Marangu route, but availability may be limited in the Horombo Hut.
DAY 1 -- Machame Gate to Machame Camp
Elevation (m): 1830m to 3100m Elevation (ft): 6000ft to 10,200ft
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Habitat: Montane Forest
The drive from Moshi to the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park Gate takes about 50 minutes. The journey passes through the village of Machame which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain.
We now leave the park gate and walk through the rainforest on a winding trail to the Machame Camp. Lower down, the trail can be muddy and slippery. Gaiters and trekking poles are a good idea here.
We continue a short distance until we reach the Machame Hut. Here we make camp, rest, enjoy our dinner, and overnight.
DAY 2 -- Machame Camp to Shira Camp
Elevation (m): 3100m to 3840m Elevation (ft): 10,200ft to 12,600ft
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
After breakfast, we leave the glades of the rainforest and continue on an ascending path, crossing the little valley walking along a steep rocky ridge, covered with heather, until the ridge ends. The route now turns West onto a river gorge. Time for rest, dinner, and overnight at the Shira campsite
DAY 3 -- Shira Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
Elevation (m): 3840m to 4630m to 3860m Elevation (ft): 12,600ft to 12,700ft
Distance: 15 km
Hiking Time: 6-7 hours
From the Shira Plateau, we continue to the east, passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo. As we continue, our direction changes to the South East towards the Lava Tower, called the “Shark’s Tooth.” Shortly after the tower, we come to the second junction which brings us up to the Arrow Glacier at an altitude of 4,876 meters. We now continue down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 3,860 meters.
Here we rest, enjoy dinner, and overnight. Although you end the day at the same elevation as when you started, this day is very important for acclimatization and will help your body prepare for summit day.
DAY 4 -- Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp
OPTIONAL DAY (7-day trek) — Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
Elevation (m): 3860m to 4200m Elevation (ft): 12,700ft to 13,800ft
Habitat: Alpine Desert
After breakfast, we leave Barranco and continue on a steep ridge passing the Barranco Wall, to the Karanga Valley campsite.
Elevation (m): 3860m to 4600m Elevation (ft): 12,700ft to 15,100ft
Hiking Time: 8 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert
After breakfast, we leave Barranco and continue on a steep ridge passing the Barranco Wall, through the Karanga Valley (4200m), and the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue to the Barafu Hut. You have completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles.
Here we make camp, rest, enjoy dinner, and prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are to be seen from this position.
DAY 5 -- Barafu Camp to Summit to Mweka Hut
Elevation (m): 4600m to 5895m (and down to 3100m) Elevation (ft): 15,100ft to 19,300ft (and down to 10,200ft)
Distance: 7km ascent / 23km descent
Hiking Time: 6- 8 hours ascent / 7-8 hours descent
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
Very early in the morning (midnight to 2am),, we continue our way to the summit. You head in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. At Stella Point (5685m), you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see (weather permitting).
From Stella Point, you will encounter snow all they way on your 2-hour ascent to the summit. At Uhuru Peak, we have reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. Faster hikers will see the sunrise from the summit.
It can be very cold at night at these elevations, but it will be quite warm by the end of the hiking day. You will want clothing for both extremes with you.
From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. You will want gaiters and trekking poles for the loose gravel going down. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon.
Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep. Beer and soda may be available for purchase at the Mweka Hut — the only location on this route.
DAY 6 -- Mweka Camp to Moshi
Elevation (m): 3100m to 1830m Elevation (ft): 10,200ft to 6000ft
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
After breakfast, we continue the descent down to the Mweka Park Gate to receive your summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. Gaiters and trekking poles will help. Shorts and t-shirts will probably be plenty to wear (keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy).
From the gate, continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will meet you at Mweka village to drive you back to hotel in Moshi. Don’t forget to tip your guides and porters. It is time for celebration!