Rongai Route

Seldom used – Not Busy – Moderate difficulty – Success rate unknown – Scenic

Sunset with tree view on Kilimanjaro

The Rongai route is the only route that starts on the northern end of the Kilimanjaro. If you end up doing your Kilimanjaro climb during the rainy season (March through May OR November through mid-December), this is a great choice, since it receives less rain than the rest of the mountain. This is not to say it can’t rain there, but it is most likely to rain less on that side of the mountain during those months. The route can be done in 6 or 7 days.

The crowds remain very low on this route due to its starting point on the other side of the mountain close to the Kenyan border. The drive from Moshi is approximately 4 hours (much longer than the other routes). Because of the reduced precipitation, the route has somewhat less variety in its scenery. However, you will very much enjoy the solitude of this route. And, as a bonus, the hike wanders through true wilderness area and you are likely to see even more wildlife than the other routes.

The final camp before summit day is the popular Kibo Hut, where your solace will end, but the excitement of summiting Kilimanjaro will fulfill you. After your summit you will be taking the Marengo route back, which is also a popular route. However, this is also the oldest route on the mountain, and it is interesting to see the difference in the route. For instance, the trails are much wider and there are permanent huts for dining and sleeping. So the Rongai has a bit of it all – both the ultimate solace for the first half and the old-world business of the first established route on Kilimanjaro.

It should be noted that the Rongai route can be more expensive due to the long drive to get the trailhead. But if you decide to climb during the rainy season, this is your best choice.

Day 1: Nalemoru Gate (1,950 m/6,400 ft) to Simba Camp (2,600 m/8,500 ft)

  • Hike time: 4 hours
  • Elevation change: + 650 m / +2,100 feet
  • Estimated distance: 9 km / 5.6 miles
  • Final elevation: 2,600 m / 8,530 feet

Early morning pick-up from your Hotel and drive Nalemoru gate, which takes about 4 hours through an attractive wooden village. After signing in and preparing the porters, you will begin the hike on a wide path that winds through fields of maize and potatoes before entering pine forest. The track then starts to climb consistently, but gently through attractive forest that shelters a variety of wildlife. The forest begins to thin out and the first camp is at the edge of the moorland zone with extensive views over the Kenyan plains.


Day 2: Simba Camp (2,600 m/8,500 ft) to Kikelelwa Camp (3,600 m/11,800 ft)

  • Hike time: 7 hours
  • Elevation change: + 1,000 m / +3,300 feet
  • Estimated distance: 17 km / 10.5 miles
  • Final elevation: 3,600 m / 11,800 feet

The morning walk is a steady ascent up to the Second Cave where we will have lunch and enjoy the superb views of Kibo peak and the Eastern ice fields on the crater rim. After lunch, we leave the main trail and strike out across the moorland on a smaller path towards the jagged peaks of Mawenzi. The campsite is in a sheltered valley with giant Senecio plants near Kikelelwa Camp.


Day 2: Kikelelwa Camp (3,600 m/11,800 ft) to Mawenzi Tarn (4,330 m/14,200 ft)

  • Hike time: 4 hours
  • Elevation change: + 730 m / +2,400 feet
  • Estimated distance: 7 km / 4.3 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,330 m / 14,200 feet

A short but steep climb up grassy slopes is rewarded by superb all-round views and a tangible sense of wilderness. Leave the vegetation behind shortly before reaching the next camp at Mawenzi Tarn, spectacularly situated in a cirque directly beneath the towering spires of Mawenzi. In the afternoon you will be exploring the surrounding area as an aid to acclimatization. If you are spending an extra day on the mountain, you will camp for two nights here. You can hike up and around Mawenzi for your acclimatization hike.


Day 2: Mawenzi Tarn (4,330 m/14,200 ft) to Kibo Camp (4,750 m/15,600 ft)

  • Hike time: 5 hours
  • Elevation change: + 730 m / +2,400 feet
  • Estimated distance: 7 km / 4.3 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,750 m / 15,600 feet

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 (4,750 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: +1,146 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

Begin the final, and by far the steepest and most demanding, part of the climb with headlight around 1 a.m. Proceed very slowly in the darkness on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the crater rim at Gillman’s Point. Rest there for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the three hour round trip to Uhuru Peak, passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Kibo is surprisingly fast and, after some refreshment, continue the descent to reach the final campsite at Horombo.


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

After breakfast, a steady descent takes us down through moorland to Mandara Hut, the first stopping place at the Marangu route. Continue descending through lovely lush forest on a good path to the National Park gate at Marangu. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. Gaiters and trekking poles will help. Shorts and t-shirts will probably be plenty to wear (keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy). A bus will be at the gate waiting to drive you back to your hotel and we will celebrate our journey!

If you are limited to hiking during the rainy season (March-May OR November-December) or just wanted to see a different view of the mountain than nearly all visitors, the Rongai Route is for you!  Our highly exerienced guides will go the extra mile for you.  Contact us for more information below.

Contact us

Please fill out the form below and we will contact you back shortly

* indicates required fields