The Ultimate Guide To Hiking Kilimanjaro

Tackling Mount Kilimanjaro is a dream for many adventurers. Every year, this iconic mountain lures thousands of experienced hikers who embark on a challenging journey to reach its snowy summit. It is one of the Africa Safaris‘s most sought-after adventures! 

Having personally climbed the mountain, I have enlisted the help of my community manager to share tips and recommendations on how to save money and increase your chances of reaching the “Roof of Africa.”

I vividly remember the emotion and sense of accomplishment I felt standing on the frigid peak of Kilimanjaro at sunrise. After a grueling week that included a 17-hour hike in a single day, I had finally conquered the highest point on the continent. For a brief moment, I stood as the highest person on the entire African continent, and it was truly magical.

Kilimanjaro holds a special place in the world of travel. It is one of those extraordinary experiences, like a trek to Everest base camp, a visit to Machu Picchu, or a journey on the Camino, that beckons a certain type of traveler. One who craves a challenge, who yearns to push their limits and test their strength.

While the climb up Kilimanjaro has become more accessible to tourists over time, it remains a serious feat. Every year, people get injured – and even lose their lives – on the mountain. In fact, only 45 to 65 percent of hikers who attempt the journey make it to the summit.

But with proper planning and preparation, you can greatly increase your chances of success on this exhilarating adventure. Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your trip:

The Different Routes

There are six main routes to climb Kilimanjaro, each with its own length, level of difficulty, and success rates. The route you choose will depend on your budget, the duration of your trip, and the tour company you book with.

Marangu: Often referred to as “the Coca-Cola route,” this path is named after the huts along the way where hikers can rest and purchase refreshments, including a cold Coca-Cola beverage. Contrary to its name, this route actually has a low success rate as many underestimate the challenge and rush to the summit in just five days, without taking the necessary time to acclimatize.

Machame: This is the most popular route, with a success rate of over 60% when completed in seven days. It is nicknamed “the whiskey route,” alluding to the fact that it is a more challenging climb than the Marangu route.

Rongai: This is the easiest route on Kilimanjaro, although it is less scenic and more expensive compared to other routes due to the limited number of budget operators in the area. It is the only route that approaches the mountain from the north and is less crowded.

Shira: This route involves gaining a lot of altitude early on before merging with the Machame route. It is a demanding and costly option, as it starts from the west and eventually joins the main route.

Lemosho: Considered the most picturesque route up the mountain. It offers a diverse range of challenges and is one of the more expensive options.

Umbwe: This route is recommended for experienced climbers seeking an extreme challenge. It involves a lot of scrambling and climbing rather than regular hiking.

No matter which route you choose, it is advisable to opt for a trek of at least seven days. Do not rush this journey. While it may cost more, the slower pace allows your body to acclimatize to the high altitude, which significantly increases your chances of reaching the summit.

Costs

As with any form of travel, there is a range of prices for climbing Kilimanjaro. Some luxury companies even go as far as to carry a full-sized bed up the mountain so that hikers do not have to sleep on the ground. On the other hand, some budget operators may cut corners and not fairly compensate porters in order to keep costs low.

I recommend choosing a mid-range company for a couple of reasons:

First, they typically have more experienced guides who can provide valuable insights during your journey. Additionally, these companies ensure their porters are treated fairly, providing you with peace of mind knowing that your team is taken care of.

Second, you can be confident that the company is not cutting corners. With plenty of competition for Kilimanjaro treks, if a company’s prices seem too good to be true, then they are likely skipping out on something. Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is worth investing in a reputable company.

Prices range from USD 1,000 to over USD 5,000 USD per person. I would not recommend booking with a company charging less than USD 2,000 USD (my trip cost around USD 2,200 before tipping – more on that below) as anything below that is likely very bare-bones.

Remember, people are seriously injured – and around 10 lose their lives – on this mountain each year. Do not compromise on safety. Pay for a reputable company with positive reviews. Not only will you enjoy your trip more, but you will also feel more comfortable and secure.

Finding a Kilimanjaro Tour Company

Since it is prohibited to climb Kilimanjaro without porters, you will need to book a Kilimanjaro tour company that provides everything required for the journey, including gear, guides, porters, and necessary documents.

With so many companies to choose from, how do you select the right one for your trip?

Here are some key considerations

1. Read reviews – Once you have narrowed down your options based on your budget, look for a company with positive reviews. While online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, they can give you an initial impression. Pay attention to details about the gear and food provided.

2. Inquire about the client/porter ratio – How many other hikers will be on your trek? And how many porters/guides/assistant guides will be included? It is best to avoid joining a large group where you may not receive personalized attention if you have questions or concerns.

3. Know the success rate – What is the company’s success rate for the route you are interested in? While they cannot control the weather, they can make every effort to support their clients in reaching the summit.

4. Choose an ethical company – The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project maintains a list of tour operators that meet their guidelines for responsible and ethical travel. Book with one of these companies to ensure that the porters are fairly treated. I was not aware of this list before my trip, and it is one of my biggest regrets.

5. Select a company with accommodation included – Most companies offer a complimentary hotel stay the night before and after your trek, as well as transportation to and from the mountain. Ensure that the company you choose includes this so that you can get a good rest before your hike and enjoy a comfortable bed after your strenuous journey.

Climbing Kilimanjaro Company comes highly recommended. They meet the guidelines of KPAP and have qualified local guides leading their treks. Begin your search with these companies.

Tipping Your Guides and Porters

While gratuity is not mandatory, it is customary to tip your guide and porters at the end of your trek. This additional compensation is greatly appreciated by the hardworking team that helps make your climb possible.

Final Thoughts

Kilimanjaro Hike is an incredible experience that takes careful planning and preparation. By choosing the right route and a responsible Kilimanjaro tour Operator, you can increase your chances of reaching the summit and having a safe, enjoyable trip. And remember, while it may be a challenging endeavor, the sense of accomplishment and the breathtaking views from the summit make it all worth it. Happy climbing!

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