Northern Circuit Review

Longest route – Highest success rate – Less busy than most – Beautiful scenery

Secluded camp on Northern Circuit with Kilimanjaro in the background during sunrise


The Northern Circuit is the newest route on Kilimanjaro. The route starts on the west side and is the ONLY route that goes along the north side of the mountain. What does this mean? Solitude and amazing scenery! Many of the other routes blend on top of each other on the southern side of the mountain and tend to get very busy. But the Northern Circuit ventures off on its own and feels more secluded and intimate with few other groups joining your crew.

For the first few days, the route follows the Lemosho route which starts at the Londorossi Gate. While this section of the journey has slightly more crowds, Lemosho is still one of the less popular routes, so there is still a good feeling of solitude. Once you reach Moir Hut, the Northern Circuit heads north and goes off on its own.

The northern section of the journey is the most amazing part of the journey. The next few days are spent circumventing the volcano, which gives climbers a near 360 degree view of the highest free standing mountain in the world! Remarkable formations appear from the igneous (volcanic) rock which makes for an unique trail and unusual experience. Expansive views of Kenya cannot be missed.

Summit day starts from “School Hut” at 4800 M (15,750 ft). It is called this because there is a small building structure that is frequently used for training purposes and scientific experiments that require high elevation. Many studies of the effects of high altitude on the human body have been performed there. It is the only route on Kilimanjaro that begins at School Hut. However, within a few hours, your route will meet up with climbers who departed from Kibo Hut and you will all make the journey towards Uhuru Peak (the tippy top of the mountain).

After summiting and congratulating yourself on the achievement of a lifetime, you will descend the Mweka route, which is shared by multiple other climbers from different routes including the Lemosho, Machame, Shira and Umbwe routes. Thus your final night on the mountain will be noticeably busier than previous nights. However, all travelers will be going the same direction, which makes for easier traveling.

Some consider this route to be the hardest because of its length which is a full 60 miles (97km). It is certainly one of the longest in time as well (usually 9-11 days). However, do not let this deter you. The northern section of the hike is primarily flat which allows you to enjoy the solace and breathtaking views. The extra time on the mountain also allows your body to adjust to the high elevation (“acclimatize”) which gives this route by far the highest success rate at over 90%. Yes, this means that 90 out of 100 people successfully reach the top of Kilimanjaro when they take this route. Isn’t the extra few days worth those odds?

Planned Itinerary

Day 1: Londorossi Gate (2,000 m/6,561 ft) to Mti Mkumbwa (2,650 m/8,692 ft)

  • Hike time: 3 hours
  • Elevation change: + 650 m / +2,132 feet
  • Estimated distance: 10 km / 6.2 miles
  • Final elevation: 2,650 m / 8,692 feet

After a 1 1/2 hour drive from Moshi/Arusha check in is at the Londorossi Gate. Day 1 is fairly easy with a 3/4 hour climb to Mti Mkubwa Camp.


Day 2: Mti Mkubwa (2,650 m/8,692 ft) to Shira One Camp (3,609 m/11,841 ft.)

  • Hike time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Elevation change: +950 m / +3,116 feet
  • Estimated distance: 12 km / 7.5 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,609 m / 11,841 feet

After a few hours walk we will see the end of the Montane forest and the beginning of a climb through Heather and Moorland region to the edge of the Shira Caldera. Destination is the scenic Shira One Camp.


Day 3: Shira One Camp (3,609 m/11,841 ft) to Shira Two Camp (3,849 m/12,628 ft)

  • Hike time: 5 - 6 hours
  • Elevation change: +240 m / +787 feet
  • Estimated distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Final elevation: 3849 m / 12,628 feet

Today is spent on a gentle hike across the Shira Plateau with possible side trips to Shira Cathedral. We will camp at the first high camp of Shira Two.


Day 4: Shira Camp Two (3,849 m/12,628 ft) to Moir Hut Camp (4,200 m / 13,860 ft)

  • Hike time: 4 – 5 hours
  • Elevation change: +351 m / +1,158 feet
  • Estimated distance: 6 km / 3.7 miles
  • Final elevation: 4200 m / 13,860 feet

Continuing exploring Shira plateau in its gentle walk east towards Kibo to Moir Hut, which is a little used site on the base of Lent Hills. In the afternoon a variety of short day hikes can be done, if weather permits, for an excellent acclimatization opportunity.


Day 5: Moir Hut Camp (4,200m/13,860ft) to Buffalo Camp (4,020m/13,266ft)

  • Hike time: 5 – 7 hours
  • Elevation change: -180 m / -590 feet (downhill)
  • Estimated distance: 12km / 7.5 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,020 m / 13,266 feet

Today you will have a rather long but, at the same time ,easy trek. After a short steep climb out of a Moir Valley you will start going around the northern slopes of Kilimanjaro, the trail with up and down meandering close to Kenya border with scenic views of Amboseli and Tsavo Valleys.


Day 6: Buffalo Camp (4,020 m/3,266 ft) to Third Cave camp (3,870 m/12,771 ft)

  • Hike time: 5 - 7 hours
  • Elevation change: -150 m / -492 feet (downhill)
  • Estimated distance: 8 km / 5 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,870 m / 12,771 feet

Kili Northern Circuit continues to the top of ‘Buffalo Ridge’. After lunch, we will continue eastwards through alpine zone with increasingly sparse vegetation. The day’s journey ends after circumventing the northern slopes to reach the Rongai Third Cave Camp. By this stage of the trek, you’ll be fully acclimatized to the high altitude, which will contribute to your general feelings of well-being as we start to climb to higher altitudes.


Day 7: Third Cave Camp (3,870 m/12,771 ft) to School Hut (4,800 m/15,840 ft)

  • Hike time: 4 - 5 hours
  • Elevation change: +930m / +3,069feet
  • Estimated distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,800 m / 15,840 feet

This is the final leg of the trip before your last ascent up to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. The highlight of the day will be the trek up and over The Saddle, a lunar-looking landscape that lies between the Kibo and Mawenzi Peaks. You’ll then head southwest to School Hut (4,800 m / 15,840 feet) to rest in preparation for your summit attempt the next day. Your guides will thoroughly check all your gear and supplies in preparation for an early morning start.


Day 8: School Hut (4,800 m/15,840 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5,895 m/19,340 ft) to Mkewa Camp (3,100 m/10,170 ft)

  • Hike time: 12 – 15hours
  • Elevation gain: +1095 m / +3,591 feet
  • Elevation loss: -2795 m / -9,168 feet (downhill)
  • Estimated distance: 19 km / 12 miles
  • Final elevation: 3100 m / 10,170 feet

We will set off by midnight at the latest in order to reach Gilman’s Point by sunrise. You will be trekking up scree slopes to the rim where you can look down into the large volcanic crater. We will then continue along the crater rim in order to reach the summit - Uhuru Peak at 5,895 m (19,340 feet). Take your time to enjoy the indescribable view and peace before our descent. We will be heading back to Millennium Camp at 3,730 m (12,237 feet) for a hearty lunch. We will then descend to Mweka camp at 3,100 m (10,170 feet). This whole day, including ascent and descent is tough and can take up to 12 - 15 hours of trekking. It takes mental preparation and physical stamina. The key is to just keep moving forward. It's a huge achievement!


Day 9: Mweka Hut (3,100 m/10,170 ft) to Mweka Gate (1,828 m/6,000 ft)

  • Hike time: 4 hours
  • Elevation change: -1,250 m / -4,101 feet (downhill)
  • Estimated distance: 10 km / 6.2 miles
  • Final elevation: 1,828 m / 6,000 feet

On the last day, we will continue our descent across the Moorland towards Mweka Gate where your trekking experience comes to an end! This day is still fairly strenuous, since your body will be sore from the previous day. The temperature is hotter due to the lower elevation and because you are in a rainforest, it can be quite muggy and wet. There is no rush to get to the bottom, so we can take our time. We should be aiming for 5 to 6 hours. When we arrive at the gate, you may purchase a beer or soft drink and we will transport you to your accommodation for crew celebration and relaxation before a well-deserved sleep.

So what do you think?   Are you ready to learn more about the newest and least busy route on Kilimanjaro?  We have lots of experienced local guides that love to make the Northern Circuit route an adventure you will never forget!  Contact us below!

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