About this route
This is probably the most beautiful route up Kilimanjaro. All your equipment and supplies are carried by porters and a cook prepares all your meals. Where accommodation on the Marangu Route is in huts, the Machame Route offers strictly tents only. This makes Machame (also referred to as the “Whiskey Route”) better suited to the slightly more adventurous climber rewarding him or her with a scenic splendour such as not seen on the Marangu Route.
From spectacular sunsets at New Shira, to the misty revelations of Kibo at the great Barranco Wall, the Machame Route offers the adventurous hiker a stunning scenic “slide show” over a period of 6 days. This route is normally completed in a minimum of 6 days with the option of extending the route to 7 days by adding an extra night at the Karanga Valley camp. There is an added benefit to this, as you are afforded the most valuable commodity on the mountain – acclimatisation. The Machame Route leads you up to Lava Tower (4430 m) on day 3 and brings you down by nearly 500 m for an overnight at Barranco Camp (3960 m). This is the secret to successful acclimatisation.
- more difficult as surefootedness necessary, short climbing stretch
- excellent scenery
- high traffic as Lemosho climbers join route on 3rd day
- good success rate
Duration: 6 days
Starts from: Arusha or Moshi
Ends at: Arusha or Moshi
Price: from 2000 USD per person
The route day-to-day
(click on the day to expand)
Day 1: Machame Gate (1790 m) to Machame Camp (3010 m)
Your day starts with an early breakfast and a 1.5 hour drive from your lodge in Arusha or Moshi to the Machame Gate (1840 m). At the gate the guides and porters prepare and pack the supplies and your equipment. Here you will receive a lunch pack and, after registering at the gate office, you start your ascent and enter the rain forest almost immediately. There is a strong possibility of rain in the forest, which will transform the trail into a very soggy, muddy and slippery experience. Along the way you can see the endemic Impatiens Kilimanjari – a beautiful little red and orange flower as well as trees draped in bearded lichen lending the forest an eerie and mystical feeling especially if it is misty. You will have a welcome lunch stop about half way and will reach the Machame Camp in the late afternoon. If you are lucky and the weather is clear you will be rewarded with your first view of Kibo.
Your porters (hopefully arriving at the camp site before you) may have erected your tent on your arrival. In the evening, the porters will boil drinking and washing water and the cook will prepare dinner before you retire to your tent for the night. Night temperatures can already drop to freezing point at this campsite.
Accommodation: Machame Camp. (-/L/D)
Day 2: Machame Camp (3010 m) to (New) Shira Camp (3845 m)
After an early breakfast at Machame Camp a steep climb lasting an hour or so to the top of the forest awaits you and then the ascent for the next 2 hours takes place along a rocky narrow path at a gentler gradient through the heather and moorland zone. After a short lunch and rest, you continue up a rocky ridge onto the Shira plateau. By now you will be able to see in a westerly direction, the Shira Needle and the Shira Cathedral – two common landmarks which your guide can point out to you. You are now due west of Kibo and, after a short stroll downhill you will reach (New) Shira Camp at 3845 m.
The remainder of the afternoon can be spent relaxing in the camp or taking a walk (1.5 hours return) past the Shira Caves to Shira 2 Camp. Shira 2 Camp offers incredible views towards the northern icefields on Kibo rim as well as down and across Shira Plateau. On return to the camp your porters will boil drinking and washing water for you before serving dinner. The night at this exposed camp will be even colder than the previous night, with temperatures dropping to well below freezing. This camp is also notorious for its strong winds which can blow the finest sand into the tents. It is wise to double-check that the tent ropes are well-secured before retiring for the night.
Accommodation: New Shira Camp. (B/L/D)
Day 3: New Shira Camp (3845 m) via Lava Tower (4430 m) to Barranco Camp (3960 m)
The route now turns east into a semi-desert and rocky landscape surrounding Lava Tower, where you reach an altitude of 4430 m after about a 5 hours walk. Lunch is served in a designated area before ascending the rocky scree path to Lava Tower (4430 m). This is definitely the toughest day so far. It is normally around this point, where for the first time, some climbers will start to feel symptoms of breathlessness, irritability and headaches. After lunch you descend again by almost 500 m to Barranco Camp and, after reaching the high altitude of 4430 m at Lava Tower, the true acclimatisation benefit of this day becomes clear.
The descent to Barranco Camp takes about 2 hours and offers great opportunities to take some beautiful photographs of the Western Breach and Great Barranco Wall. The camp is situated in a picturesque valley full of tree groundsels (Senecio Kilimanjari) and lobelia (Lobelia deckenii) formed by a landslide below the Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which should provide you with a memorable sunset while you wait for the preparation of your dinner.
Accommodation: Barranco Camp. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Barranco Camp (3960 m) to Barafu Camp (4640 m)
After spending a night next to the Great Barranco Wall (a very imposing sight at first), you make your way up this impressive-looking obstacle which, in the end, normally turns out easier than what you anticipated. Arriving at a viewpoint just below Heim Glacier, you now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. The track then heads down through a valley and over intervening ridges before descending steeply into the Karanga Valley where a steep ascent winds its way up towards Karanga Camp where a hearty lunch awaits you. For those doing a 7-day ascent the 4th night is spent here at this camp before proceeding on to Barafu Camp. There is also a short cut which connects the Machame Route with the Mweka Route at Karanga Camp.
The last water stop on this route is the Karanga Valley, as there is no water at Barafu camp. Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice” and it is a bleak and inhospitable camping area to spend the night. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales, the tents are pitched on a narrow, stony, and dangerous ridge. Make sure that you familiarise yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. The summit is now a further 1345 m up and you will make the final ascent the same night. Prepare your equipment, walking poles and thermal clothing for your summit attempt. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well – pack them on your body to keep them warm. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed at round about 19:00 and try to get some precious rest and sleep.
Accommodation: Barranco Camp. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Barafu Camp (4640 m) to Uhuru Peak (5895 m) and down to Mweka Camp (3080 m)
You will rise around 23:30 and, after some tea and biscuits, you shuffle off into the night. You will head in a north-westerly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. For many climbers, this 5-6 hour walk to Stella Point is mentally and physically the most challenging on the route. At Stella Point (5740 m) 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 it is approx. another hour to ascend to Uhuru Peak. The time you will spend on the summit will depend on the weather conditions. Do not stop here for too long as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. Enjoy your accomplishment and a day to remember for the rest of your life.
The walk back to Barafu from the summit, takes about 3 hours. Here you will have a well-earned but short rest before you collect the rest of your gear and depart for Mweka Camp. The route is not difficult and after the first 1.5 hours, a welcomed break can be enjoyed at the Millennium Camp before continuing down a rocky path through a heather and moor landscape dotted with proteas (Protea Kilimandscharica). Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. It is often a muddy, damp and cold camp but, after a cat wash with warm water and a hearty dinner, you are most likely to be too exhausted to care.
Accommodation: Mweka Camp. (-/Brunch/D)
Day 6: Mweka Camp (3080 m) to Mweka Gate (1680 m)
After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short 3-hour and scenic hike through the rainforest back to the park gate. It is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. At Mweka Gate you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5740 m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895 m) receive gold certificates. Transfer back to your lodge.
Requirements on Kilimanjaro
Persons attempting the climb must be physically very fit and in very good general health. You need surefootedness, trekking experience, good physical shape for the hiking stages lasting several hours, team spirit and acceptance to staying in simple accommodations.
Campsites and toilet facilities on the mountain are very basic and water for personal hygiene on the mountain is limited. Clients climb at their own risk. It is at the guide’s discretion to break off a climb in case weather conditions or clients health dictate it for safety reasons.
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