When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro and what route should I take?
Some of the most commonly asked questions about blimbing Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, are "When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro" and "What is the best route up Kilimanjaro?" When to go The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the two dry seasons: January - mid-March and June - October. Outside of those periods the chances are you will get rained on, trails turn to mud and clouds obscure the summit. The ideal months to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are January, February, September and October. These are also great months to tag on a safari. During the January to mid-March short dry season, temperatures are slightly lower than during the long dry season (June - October). There is a greater chance of snow also, but days are clearer and trails quieter. During the long dry season clouds hang around the tree line and there is a chance of rain, but otherwise the skies above the tree line are clear. Trails are especially busy during the European summer holidays (July, August). Routes - overview There are six routes up the mountain (Marangu, Machame, Umbwe, Rongai, Shira and Lemosho), each reaching a path circling the top. From this circular path there are then 3 routes (Western Breach, Barafu, Kibo) up to the summit. The Marangu and Rongai ascents use the Kibo Hut route to get to the summit. The other four routes use either the Western Breach (which I deem unsafe due the the risk of falling rocks) or the Barafu route to the summit. Marangu Route (6-7 days) The Marangu trek is one of the shortest, most popular treks. You sleep in huts along the way. Due to its popularity with untrained backpackers and it being one of the shortest routes it has the highest fail rate for summitting. Machame Route (6-7 days) The Machame trek is almost as popular as the Marangu route, but most people take a day longer, so the success rate is higher. You sleep in tents. The route has a variety of landscapes, including cloud forest and dry deserts. Rongai Route (6-7 days) The Rongai trek has some spectacular views, few trekkers and therefore the one to take if you want to see wildlife - colobus monkeys, elephants, civet cats and even buffalo. The 'easiest' of all the Kilimanjaro trekking routes, it has a relatively gentle gradient and short daily stages. It has the highest success rates of all the standard climbs. Umbwe Route (6-7 days) The Umbwe trek is the most scenic but also the hardest trek up Kilimanjaro. It therefore sees the lowest number of trekkers. Shira and Lemosho Route (7-8 days) The Shira route is seldom used these days and has largely been replaced by the Lemosho trek. The latter allows for better acclimatisation and has some fine forest walking. This is one of the least trekked routes and you get to savour the immense wilderness of the Shira Plateau, with stunning views of the glaciers on the crater rim. The Northern Circuit (9 days) This is my favourite trek. Not only gives it the best acclimatisation time (and a success rate of 96%), it also combines some of the finest treks up the mountain. You ascend via the Lemosho route as far as Lava Tower, taking in the spectacular views across the Shira Plateau along the way. You then circle the mountain in a clockwise direction until you reach the Rongai Trail two days later at Third Cave. From here you start climbing again, via the Rongai Route, to the top. Descending If you hike up via the Machame, Umbwe or Lemosho/Shira routes, you will normally descent via the Mweka trail. If you trek up via the Marangu or Rongai routes you descend via the Marangu Route. Once back at the start hotel make sure you allow for plenty of time for a shower and celebratory dinner! Related posts: Highlights and key-experiences in Tanzania