Kilimanjaro – Marangu route

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One of the best hikes in the world

Kilimanjaro – Marangu route

Kilimanjaro = “mountain of greatness”.

Hike — not climb — to Uhuru (Freedom), the highest point in Africa, on the Kibo volcano, part of the Mt. Kilimanjaro massif.


The Marangu Route, also called the Tourist Route, or the Coca Cola Route, is used by 80% of hikers. We prefer more expensive tenting alternatives — the Machame and Rongai (Loitokitok) routes.



  • the top “trekking peak” in the world.
  • the most sought after trek in Africa
  • the highest mountain on the continent
  • one of the seven summits
  • extremely difficult due to altitude
  • most hikers do not reach the final summit due to altitude sickness and / or fatigue
  • sleep in Kibo Hut the night before the final ascent
  • anywhere between 2-10 hikers die each year on the attempt
  • 64km (40mi) plus sidetrips
  • recommended 6-days, 5-nights (most hikers do it in 5-days to save money)
  • Jan – mid March recommended. Also June – Oct (dryer & colder)

Att 5896m (19,344ft) this is the highest altitude most hikers will ever reach. A classic “trekking peak”, there’s no need for rope or technical experience on the Marangu route.

Over 80% of trekkers book their trip before arriving in Tanzania. On-line research is essential. The adventurous who book close to the trailhead may have some good last minute options to choose from, however.

The snows of Kilimanjaro are melting. Ice cap volume has dropped more than 80% over the past 100yrs. Get there before it is entirely gone.

snows of Kili

Why We Like This Hike

  • the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, 4,600m (15,000ft) above the plains
  • wonderful to see ice and snow on the equator after passing through so many other climatic zones on the way up
  • it’s “like walking from the equator to the North Pole”
  • weird, unique vegetation
  • seeing the stunningly beautiful glaciers on top, the same that will be completely gone in less than 100yrs
  • the sense of accomplishment getting to Gillman’s Point on the crater rim. (Most turn back here.)
  • a few do the extra 2hrs or more to Uhuru peak to get a photograph with the sign “Highest Point in Africa”.


  • on the Marangu Route you can sleep in huts or tents. (Other routes you must sleep in tents.)
  • can be climbed year round
  • the summit actually has GSM mobile phone service for emergencies
  • Tanzania is a parliamentary democracy and is considered one of Africa’s most politically stable countries.



Hikers die every season on Kilimanjaro, most from altitude sickness.

  • summit is much higher than Everest Base Camp, base to top
  • acclimatization is really difficult here as — unlike the Himalayas and Andes — there is no place to acclimatize. (We recommend doing the lower Mt. Meru trek first.)
  • normally the final climb is done at night as the scree is frozen. Many hikers start climbing at midnight. This can be a 16hr walking day!
  • the Marangu route has been called filthy and overpriced
  • it’s popular — over 20,000 hikers in 2000
  • even though the volcano is close to the equator, high up be prepared for rain, snow & bitter cold any day of the year
  • warm sleeping bag needed
  • you can tent instead of staying in the huts, but the cost is the same
  • must carry water up to Kibo hut
  • many foreign hikers bring antimalarials
  • check to see if you are required to get a yellow fever vaccination
  • though technically not active, steam is released from the crater & there is a slight chance the mountain could collapse as did Mount St Helens
  • Tanzania uses 220V and if you are bringing 110V appliances you will need an adapter as well as the proper plug configuration. Most Tanzanian outlets accommodate three prong UK style plugs.
  • internet can be accessed from any city in Tanzania. The connections are relatively fast and cheap ($/hr), and there are many internet cafes. You will not have access to internet while on Kilimanjaro though you can get cell phone reception in some areas.
  • ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry
  • no independent hiking has been allowed since 1991
  • Kilimanjaro often called the highest ‘walkable’ mountain in the world — not true. There are many volcanoes higher that can be ‘walked’ in good weather and more than a few higher trekking peaks. Kilimanjaro is the most popular of the high volcanoes, however.


  • minimum cost in 2013 is around US$1300 carrying your own pack. Choose a less expensive adventure if budget is a concern.
  • many climbs are packaged with other adventures
  • buy insurance for high altitude trekking before you arrive in Tanzania
  • there are many fees levied to climb Kilimanjaro. Most of those are included in the flat fee paid to your trekking company. Confirm carefully what is not included.
  • the biggest additional cost is tips, paid directly at the end of the trip. (Guides & porters are not well paid — they are counting on your tip.)
  • budget about 10%  of your trip cost as a basic tip. Pay more if you are happy with the service.
  • pay extra if you want porters to carry your gear
  • bring U.S. cash or, better, ATM cards. Some merchants in East Africa require newer U.S. notes (2002 and newer)
  • change some money to shillings for small purchases. It’s less expensive to buy souvenirs, etc. in local currency
  • carry small notes in any currency as it’s not easy to get change
  • on less expensive treks, there are more complaints from hikers. Get a recent, personal recommendation before you sign on with any guide or company.
  • in the past we’ve heard complaints about incompetence, even dishonesty. Know the details of your trip — don’t follow along blindly.
  • hikers have been bamboozled by fake guides who took cash, then disappeared
  • only about 60 start each day on the Marangu Route due to limitations of space in the huts
  • Africa is not inexpensive. Head for Peru and Bolivia if you want low cost high altitude hiking
  • Stingy Nomads – Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, is it worth it?


Kili-route-ManThe fixed Marangu Route starts and finishes at Marangu Gate

  1. Mandara hut
  2. Horombo hut (1 or 2 nights)
  3. Kibo hut
  4. Horombo hut

We recommend the extra day at Horombo on the ascent to help with acclimatization
you can explore that area during the extra day

Alternative routes:

  • Lemosho Route
  • Machame route
  • Rongai Route
  • Umbwe Route

Instead of climbing, consider doing a lower altitude circuit around Kibo instead. This is sometimes called the Northern and/or Southern Circuit trek.

Trekking Guides

Research very carefully any on-line company before making payment.


  • most hikers arrive from Dar es Salaam or Arusha
  • Arusha is 128km (80mi) from the Park
  • in Tanzania it is easy to get public transport to the town of Moshi, the jumping off point for the trek.
  • Kilimanjaro International Airport is 40km (25mi) from Moshi, if you are rushed for time
  • Moshi is the place to buy last-minute provisions
  • rental gear is available in Moshi, but the quality is not great. Bring everything with you if possible.
  • in Moshi, you can even sign-on with a guiding company if you prefer to negotiate in person.
  • check well in advance what visas & documents, inoculations, etc. you need. Get an up-to-date travel guidebook as early as possible.

Local Information

Best Trekking Guidebooks

Best Travel Guidebooks

Other Recommended Books

Best Maps

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports


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Check our blog for posts tagged “Kilimanjaro”.

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8 Replies to “Kilimanjaro – Marangu route”

  1. Hi Rick very thorough article! Kilimanjaro was the first of many multi day hikes I have done around the world. I enjoyed it, but found the price much to high. As you mentioned in Nepal and South America there are many fantastic multi day hikes that can be done for a fraction of the cost. In our blog entry we look at how difficult is the trek? What are the costs involved? The minimum budget. What route should I choose? Itinerary for Marangu route My Story. and in Hindsight: Would I do it again, was it worth the money?

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