Machame Route

Most popular – Busy – Difficult – Success rate 85% – Scenic

Lava Tower camp seen with multiple tents with blue skies in the background

The Machame route begins in the Southwestern portion of the mountain and is the most popular route on Kilimanjaro. In fact, nearly half of all of the climbers on Kilimanjaro take this route. It is especially frequented by more experienced climbers that want a steeper, faster climb and are familiar and more accustomed to high altitude climbing. It is known as the “Whiskey Route” for its difficulty (which contrasts with the also popular Marangu or “Coca-Cola” Route). It can be done in as few as 6 days, although 7 days is recommended for improved success rates.

Because it starts on the southern end of the mountain, it is a shorter drive from Moshi than the western Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes. The topography of Kilimanjaro is elongated making its West and East sides more gradual and its North and South sides steeper. Thus the Machame route starts off quite steep even in the lower rain forest section, making it more difficult from the first day (and often quite slippery).

Day two leads the climbers to Shira Two Camp, which is shared by the western Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes. From this point, the Machame route is exactly the same as the Lemosho route. It climbs to the volcanic plug called Lava Tower and heads towards the Barranco Camp. It then follows what is known as the “Southern Circuit” which leads to Barafu Camp before heading out for the summit.

The route is approximately 37 miles (62 km), making it considerably shorter than the Northern Circuit and Lemosho routes while still offering beautiful scenery. However, with it being the most popular route, it does not offer the same feeling of serenity as the newer Lemosho and Northern Circuit hikes. This route is recommended for more experienced trekkers that want to minimize time on the mountain.


Day 1: Machame Gate (1,830 m/6,000 ft) to Machame Camp (3,100 m/10,170 ft)

  • Hike time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation change: +1,270 m / +4,200 feet
  • Estimated distance: 11 km / 7 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,100 m / 10,170 feet

At 08:00 am drive from hotel to Machame National Park Gate. It takes about forty minutes drive from Moshi and 1.5 hours from Arusha. The journey passes through the village of Machame, which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain. After registration and all the formalities, you leave the park gate with your drew of porters and guides and walk through the rain forest on a winding trail up a ridge. Lower down, the trail can be muddy and slippery. Gaiters and trekking poles are a good idea here. We continue all the way to Machame Camp. This is a somewhat long day but guests are fresh and excited to begin the long journey ahead.


Day 2: Machame Camp (3,100 m/10,170 ft) to Shira Camp (3,840 m/12,600 ft)

  • Hike time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation change: +740 m / +2,400 feet
  • Estimated distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,840 m / 12,600 feet

After breakfast, we leave the glades of the rain forest 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 (3,840 m/12,600 ft) to Lava Tower (4,630 m/ 15,190 ft) to Barranco Camp (3,860 m/12,700 ft)

  • Hike time: 5-7 hours
  • Ascent elevation: +790 m / +2,591 feet
  • Descent elevation: - 770 m / -2,526 feet
  • Estimated distance: 10 km / 6 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,860 m / 12,700 feet

From the Shira Plateau, we continue to northeast up a ridge, passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo. As we continue, our direction changes to the South east towards the Lava Tower, where we will have a hearty hot lunch. After the tower, we will see the second junction that brings us up to the Arrow Glacier at an altitude of 4,876 meters (16,000 feet). We now continue down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 3,860 meters (12,700 feet). Here we rest, enjoy dinner, and overnight. Although you end the day at the approximately 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 (3,860 m/12,700 ft) to Karanga Camp (4,200 m/13,775 ft)

  • Hike time: 3 hours
  • Elevation change: +340 m / +1,100 feet
  • Estimated distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,200 m / 13,800 feet

After breakfast, we leave Barranco and continue on a steep ridge in the alpine desert climate zone. We hike to the base of the Barranco wall, then start climbing up the wall. It is not technical, but it is very steep and feels more exposed than the other hiking days. Eventually we will reach the top of the 900-foot cliff and you can look down with a feeling of accomplishment. After another short uphill hike we reach the Karanga Valley campsite.


Day 5: Karanga Camp (4,200 m/13,775 ft) to Barafu High Camp (4600 m/15,100 ft)

  • Hike time: 3 hours
  • Elevation change: +400 m / +1,325 feet
  • Estimated distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,600 m / 15,100 feet

After breakfast, we leave Karanga and continue to the Barafu High camp. 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, which starts very early the next morning. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo can be seen from this camp.


Day 6: Barafu High Camp 4600 m/15,100 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5,896 m/19,343 ft) to Mweka Hut (3,100 m/10,200 ft)

  • Summit Time: 7-8 hours
  • Elevation change: +1,295 m / +4,243 feet
  • Estimated distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Final elevation: 5,896 m / 19,343 feet
  • Descent time: 4-6 hours
  • Elevation change: -3,100 m / -10,200 feet
  • Estimated distance: 12 km /7 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,100 m / 10,200 feet

Very early in the morning (between midnight and 2:00 am), we continue our way to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers. You head in a northwestern 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 (5,685m / 18,650 feet), 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 may encounter snow all they way on your 1-hour ascent to the summit. At Uhuru Peak, you have reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the true Roof of Africa.

You will want clothing for both extremes with you. From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut campsite, stopping at Barafu high camp 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.


Day 7: Mweka Camp (3,100 m/10,200 ft) to Mweka Gate (1,830 m/6,000 ft)

  • Hike time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation change: -1,270 m / -4,200 feet
  • Estimated distance: 10 km / 6 miles

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. A vehicle will meet you at Mweka gate to drive you back to Moshi.

Are you interested in the popular "Whiskey Route" on Kilimanjaro?  With the awe-inspiring Lava Tower Camp and exciting Barranco Wall, it will be an adventure you will never forget!  We have highly experienced guides that will make your journey easy and memorable.  Contact us below!

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