Marangu Route

Second most popular – Busy – Difficult – Lowest success rate 35% – Least Scenic

Hut accomodations in Mandara camp on Marangu Route in Kilimanjaro

The Marangu route is the oldest established route on Kilimanjaro. As such it offers the widest trails and even offers bunk-style hut accommodations (as opposed to sleeping in a tent) and dining halls (as opposed to eating in a more quaint “mess tent” with just your group. It is by far the cheapest route due to its simpler logistics (and reducing the need for porters to carry tents) and is often called the “Coca-Cola Route” for its touristy feel.

It is said that climbers can even buy soft drinks like mineral water, Coca Cola along the way. While beer may even be sold there, it is not recommended as it encourages dehydration and slows down your body’s ability to adjust to the elevation. It used to be the most popular, but was recently surpassed by the Machame Route.

Although considered to be one of the “easiest” routes by some, its success rate is remarkably low at only 35% (so only 35 out of 100 climbers make it to the summit). This is in stark contrast with the Northern Circuit, which manages to get 90 out of 100 climbers to the peak successfully. This may be because many guides attempt to do this hike in just 5 days, which does not allow climbers to adjust to the altitude very well.

Because it starts on the east side of the mountain, it enjoys a more gradual slope from the very start of the hike. But there is no shortcut to the top of this mountain! So by the time climbers have reached Kibo Hut (the last camp before their summit day), many have succumbed to some level of altitude sickness.

Another less appealing part of this route, is that it goes up and comes down the same trail (the only route to do so). Thus climbers do not get to enjoy different scenery and views each direction. However, climbers that are on an extreme budget may opt for this generally less expensive route.

While the hut accommodation may seem like an alluring temptation, keep in mind that they are dormitory-style accommodations. So while they may seem like a better choice than a tent, you will be sleeping in bunks with lots of other people from lots of other groups. Some claim the huts to be a better choice in the rain, but that too offers minimal improvement. Particularly because respectable guides use great modern day tents and even have porters that wipe your tent and gear down. You did select a reputable guide, correct?

Itinerary

Day 1: Marangu Gate (2,117 m/6,946 ft) to Mandara Hut (2,700 m/8,858 ft.)

  • Hike time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation change: +583 m / +1,912 feet
  • Estimated distance: 8 km / 5 miles
  • Final elevation: 2,700 m / 8,858 feet

After a brief drive to the Marangu Gate from Moshi or Arusha, we will register with the Kilimanjaro park and prepare to depart. The trail starts in the deep rainforest and ends right at the edge of the forest before the climate zone changes. This means you’ll have a very good chance at seeing Blue Monkeys and may even see a Colobus Monkey on a lucky day.

 

Day 2: Mandara Hut (2,700 m/8,858 ft.) to Horombo Hut (3,720 m/12,205 ft)

  • Hike time: 7-8 hours
  • Elevation change: +1,020 m / +3,347 feet
  • Estimated distance: 8 km / 5 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,720 m / 12,205 feet

We depart Mandara Hut for our first long day that ascends more than 1,000 meters (3,000 feet). The rainforest becomes thinner and eventually the trees disappear as you enter the Moorland and Heather climate zone. On a clear day, you will get your first look at the Mawenzi and Kibo peaks. These are the two volcanic peaks of the three still standing on Kilimanjaro. As you arrive in the Horombo tent, you will be looking forward to some rest and a hearty meal after all that hiking!

 

Day 3: Horombo Hut (3,720 m/12,205 ft) to Mawenzi Ridge (4,490 m/14,400 ft) then back to Horombo Hut (3,720 m/12,205 ft)

  • Total hike time: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation change (ascent and descent): 770 m / 2,195 feet
  • Total Estimated distance: 10 km / 6 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,720 m / 12,205 feet

Day 3 is purely for the purposes of acclimatization. You will depart the Horombo hut, reach the Mawenzi Ridge, then head back to the same camp. This is a critical hike and skipping it will greatly reduce your chance of summiting. This hike follows the “Climb high – sleep low” rule and because you reach almost 5,000 (16,000+ feet) your body will be much more accustomed to the altitude as you continue your journey up the next day. The landscape is beautiful on this hike and, since we have more time, we are free to explore and enjoy our day before returning back to Horombo Hut.

 

Day 4: Horombo Hut (3,720 m/12,205 ft) to Kibo Hut (4,700 m/15,430 ft.)

  • Hike time: 7-8 hours
  • Elevation change: +980 m / +3,225 feet
  • Estimated distance: 10 km / 6 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,700 m / 15,430 feet

We depart the Horombo Hut and head towards our high camp at Kibo Hut. The landscape turns very barren and green plants will be hard to find. We will cross the saddle between the Mawenzi and Kibo volcanic peaks and our camp sits right at the base of Kibo peak, which is glorious to view from our camp. We will have an early dinner this night and do gear checks and health checks before our very early start the next morning for the summit.

 

Day 5: Kibo Hut (4,700 m/15,430 ft.) to Uhuru Peak (5,896 m/19,343 ft) and then to Horombo Hut (3,720 m/12,205 ft)

  • Summit time: 6-8 hours
  • Elevation change: +1,196 m / +3,913 feet
  • Estimated distance: 6 km / 4 miles
  • Final elevation: 5,896 m / 19,343 feet
  • Descent time: 5 hours
  • Elevation change: -2,176 m / -7,138 feet
  • Estimated distance: 16 km / 10 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,720 m / 12,205 feet

We will wake up at approximately 11pm and begin our summit attempt at about midnight. It will be dark and cold, but on a clear night the stars and moon will be a beautiful sight. The elevation is very high, so we will move slowly but consistently and take many short breaks along the way. Our goal is to reach Gilman’s point right as the sun begins to rise. You will have a great view of the Kilimanjaro crater as well. Another 45-60 min will get you to Uhuru Peak the tallest point of Kilimanjaro and all of the African continent! We will spend a few moments taking photos and celebrating our achievement, before heading back down. The whole day will take 13-14 hours and you will very happy to arrive in camp for dinner and some well-deserved sleep!

 

Day 6: Horombo Hut (3,720 m/12,205 ft) to Marangu Gate (1,842 m/6,046 ft)

  • Hike time: 5-7 hours
  • Elevation change: -1,878 m / -6,159 feet
  • Estimated distance: 20 km / 12 miles
  • Final elevation: 1,842 m / 6,046 feet

The last day is somewhat long, but quite easy because it is all downhill. You will be back in the rainforest zone which can get wet and muggy, but you will celebrate ending your journey at the Marangu Gate. A bus will be there to drive you back to your hotel and we will celebrate our journey!

Don't let the low success rate deter you from taking the most historic (and some say most luxurious!) route on Kilimanjaro.  We have highly experienced guides with well over 100 summits that know all the tricks to maximize your chance of summiting on this route.  If you prefer sleeping with a solid roof over your head and having the option of buying snacks and soda on your journey, the "Coca-Cola" route is for you!  Contact us for more information below.

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