Machame Route: Kilimanjaro's Favourite Route

By Sierd van der Bij

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Machame Route: Kilimanjaro's Favourite Route
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Karibu! The Machame Route, also known as the Whisky Route, is our absolute favourite route for climbing Kilimanjaro. Do you want to know why? In August 2022, my Bookatrekking.com colleague Rintsje and I used this exact route to make it to Uhuru Peak. We still regularly think of highlights like the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower, the Barranco Wall, and Barafu Camp. In this blog post we do our show and tell.

All the action at the park gate, the little cheeky monkeys in the forest, the early excitement at Machame Camp, the altitude that’s kicking in, and of course Uhuru Peak vibes. I wish we could go back. And we sometimes do, when we watch the below video with the team, with Team Kili. Let’s go!

The Machame Route on Kilimanjaro: Numbers First

From gate to gate the Machame Route is 58.5 kilometres / 36 miles long. In comparison to some other routes like the Northern Circuit and the Lemosho Route, it is a route of average distance. Although there is a lot of discussion about the accuracy of success rates, it can be safely stated that the Machame Route is one of the routes with the best chances of summiting. The hard numbers:

Days: 6 or 7 days

Total Distance: 58.5 kilometres (36 miles)

Ascent: 5,020 metres (16,569 feet)

Descent: 5,190 metres (17,027 feet)

Day-to-day distance on a 7-day climb

Day 1: 10.3 kilometres (6.4 miles)

Day 2: 4.8 kilometres (3.0 miles)

Day 3: 9.7 kilometres (6.0 miles)

Day 4: 4.4 kilometres (2.7 miles)

Day 5: 4.1 kilometres (2.5 miles)

Day 6: 16.6 kilometres (10.3 miles)

Day 7: 8.7 kilometres (5.4 miles)

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What Makes the Machame Route So Special?

The Machame Route doesn’t only hold a special place with Bookatrekking.com’s Team Kili. We are not alone because the Machame Route is one of the most frequented climbing routes on Kilimanjaro, with about 35% of all climbers using this route. Often referred to as the "Whiskey Route," in contrast to the “easier” "Coca-Cola Route" (Marangu), it offers a unique blend of features that contribute to its distinct allure. The Machame Route is a 6- or 7-day camping route and allows for adequate acclimatisation and beautiful scenery.

Scenic but also difficult. The Machame Route is considered steep and challenging, especially in the rainforest sections. Although it is not essential, it can help if you have some previous experience in for example the Alps or at least on higher altitudes. Some of the highlights on the Machame Route include Shira Camp, the Lava Tower, the Barranco Wall and Karanga Camp. When we climbed Kilimanjaro with Team Kili of Bookatrekking.com, we were thrown away by the beauty of this route. This doesn’t mean that the Machame Route is necessarily more beautiful than others. Some highlights like the Lava Tower and the Barranco Walles are also an inherent part of the Lemosho Route, another stunning route.

What Makes the Machame Route So Special?

Machame Route Map: From Start to Finish

Wondering what it more or less looks like and what side of the mountain you get to start and end? In the below interactive Komoot map, you can see what you're in for when you hike the Machame Route.

How Hard is the Machame Route? 

The difficulty of Kilimanjaro climbing routes is hard to gauge and even harder to explain. There are different ways to get up Kilimanjaro and the one route is more technical than the other. However, the difficulty should not be measured in technical aspects but in terms of acclimatization.

Yes, the Machame Route has some technical sections like the Barranco Wall, but it also makes it the better option when it comes to climbing high and sleeping low. Acclimatization is the deciding factor when it boils down to whether or not you will be able to summit Kilimanjaro.

In that regard, the Machame Route is an easier option than for example the Marangu Route. If you choose the Machame Route, you actually have a very fair chance of succeeding. 

How Hard is the Machame Route? 

The Barranco Wall on the Machame Route

The Barranco Wall is a steep and imposing rock formation that trekkers on the Machame Route encounter during their ascent. It is known for its challenging terrain, featuring sections of scrambling, climbing, and exposed ridges. Despite its name, the Barranco Wall is not a vertical wall in the traditional sense, but rather a steep incline covered with boulders. As such, it’s not a climb but rather a scramble. When we climbed Kilimanjaro in August 2022, we were actually surprised to see how easy it was. Not that it’s easy, but it’s definitely not worth having sleepless nights about. Having said all that, if you have a fear for heights, the Barranco Wall can be triggering.

Elevation on the Barranco Wall equates to 257 metres (843 feet), and scaling it won't take much more than an hour. There can be a bit of a queue on this section as everyone has to manoeuvre across hurdles like for example Kissing Rock. You can only get around this outcrop if you get very intimate with it, hence the funny name. Again, this section is not really a massive challenge. Another reason for the Barranco Wall being busy is that it is the first thing on the menu for everyone who spends the night in Barranco Camp. This is also why the Barranco Wall is called the Breakfast Wall. Everyone is basically having this challenge for breakfast at around the same time. Groups tend to all start early and voila, it's busy. Want to have a look? Check our video below.

Best Season for the Machame Route

There are no seasonal restrictions on Kilimanjaro. The mountain is open to trekking and climbing expeditions all year round. Having said that, there are certain months which a more suitable than others. The rainy season lasts from April to May and November to December. 

The dry season includes January to March and June to October. As such, the Machame Route is a route which is best enjoyed during the dry season. The dry season is also the busy season. If you are looking for a quieter time to climbing Kilimanjaro, you can actually consider taking the Machame Route during the rainy season. 

Best Season for the Machame Route

Machame Route Itinerary: From Day to Day

From gate to gate the Machame Route is 62 kilometres/ 37 miles long. In comparison to some other routes like the Northern Circuit and the Lemosho Route, it is a route of average distance. The route can be done in either seven days or six days. The more time you take for your ascent, the better your chances of summiting become. Thus we advise the below 7-day itinerary.

Day
1

Machame Gate (1,790m) – Machame Camp (3,010m)

Duration: 04:40 h
Distance: 10.3 km
Ascent: 1200 m

You will be picked up by your guide and assistant guide. There’s a fair chance that the majority of the team will be joining you in the van. The others will be met at the gate. All the stuff that is carried by the porters needs to be weighed at the gate. To kill time and to get you properly fueled, the cook will already cook up a small meal for you. You won’t be alone here. There are likely a few dozen climbers waiting to start. The guide will ask you to fill out some paperwork and then you’re off.

Soon you will be hiking through the lush rainforest with its large ancient trees, primeval ferns, and endemic flowers, like the Impatiens Kilimanjaro. You might also spot black and white thumbless colobus monkeys peeking through the leaves. Reaching the campsite, you will have time to relax, stretch your legs, and enjoy a hearty meal before snuggling into your tent for the night.

Machame Camp

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Machame Camp
Day
2

Machame Camp (3,010m) – Shira Camp (3,845m)

Duration: 02:50 h
Distance: 4.75 km
Ascent: 850 m
Descent: 30 m

The cook’s assistant will wake you up and bring you your tea or coffee. He’ll ask you for your bottles, so he can fill them up for you. 15 minutes later there will be a complete breakfast ready for you. Climbing Kilimanjaro is perhaps hard, but the good care and food definitely make it a whole lot easier. Think eggs, pancakes, toast - whatever you want. Vegetarian? No problem. Gluten-Free? Coming right up.

Today you will ascend to Shira Camp. You will notice the dramatic change in the landscape as you get out of the rainforest and find dry moor and heathland. It may not look like it, but Shira Camp is at a whopping 3,845 metres or 12,616 feet. You can take the whole day for your trek, enjoying the views on the way, chatting to fellow climbers, and listening to the interesting stories from your guide(s). The easier you go, the better you will acclimatize.

Every night you can expect a scrumptious meal prepared with the freshest local ingredients. At Bookatrekking.com we’ve even enjoyed freshly caught fish from Lake Victoria. And are you could? Hang out with the porters in their tent when the cook is preparing food for everyone. Good conversations and warmth are guaranteed.

Shira Cave Camp

Info
Shira Cave Camp
Day
3

Shira Camp (3,845m) – Lava Tower Hut (4,640m) – Barranco Camp (3,960m)

Duration: 05:10 h
Distance: 9.7 km
Ascent: 770 m
Descent: 650 m

Today is a beautiful day. After breakfast and the usual “wishy-washy”, which is the tub of warm water and soap you get given every morning, you head off in the direction of Lava Tower. You might already start feeling the effects of thinner air. It can for example fool with your maths skills. Try to do some subtractions and multiplications. It’s good fun.

Ascending will go a bit more gradual from here onwards. The views will blow your mind as the landscape is slowly but surely changing. Other routes, like the Lemosho Route and the Northern Circuit, will join you on this stretch. This day is not only beautiful, it’s also a crucial day for acclimatization. Lava Tower at 4,640 metres or 15000 feet is the highest point. Here you will have lunch before you will descend to Barranco Camp at 3,960 metres (12,992 ft.), pretty much the same altitude as Shira Camp. Having spent some time in Lava Tower will have helped your body to adapt to higher altitude later this week. In Barranco Camp you will get ready for the Barranco Wall. Get some good rest.

Barranco Camp

Info
Barranco Camp
Day
4

Barranco Camp (3,950m) to Karanga Camp (3,930m)

Duration: 02:40 h
Distance: 4.45 km
Ascent: 350 m
Descent: 270 m

Today, you face the challenge of conquering the Barranco Wall. While certain sections may demand the use of your hands for improved grip, actual climbing is not required. Your guide will be right alongside you, offering assistance every step of the way. Our video demonstrates that the experience isn't as daunting as some blog posts might suggest.

The route's series of ascents and descents serve as a valuable acclimatization opportunity before reaching the mountain ridge. Walking along this ridge allows you to absorb the stunning landscape, characterized by captivating contrasts between desert and vegetation. Eventually, you'll arrive at the mist-shrouded Karanga Camp, positioned at 4,035 meters (13,240 ft). Even through the clouds, Kibo remains visible, while the call of Uhuru Peak beckons.

Karanga Camp

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Karanga Camp
Day
5

Karanga Camp (3,930m) to Barafu Camp (4,700m)

Duration: 02:25 h
Distance: 3.5 km
Ascent: 570 m

Another day unfolds on the captivating slopes of Kilimanjaro. The meticulous acclimatization efforts you've undertaken are paying off. By maintaining a steady "pole pole" pace, the summit will draw near sooner than you realize. Today's journey leads you through arid desert terrain, with the imposing presence of Kibo on your left side.

Although the distance covered is short, the altitude's effects will be noticeable, adding to the challenge. Embrace the gradual approach and heed the guidance of your knowledgeable guide(s). As this day concludes, anticipation builds for the significant day that lies ahead – an early night awaits for the journey that unfolds tomorrow.

Barafu Camp

Info
Barafu  Camp
Day
6

Barafu Camp (4,700m) to Summit (5,895m) (midnight start) descent to Mweka Camp (3,100m)

Duration: 10:50 h
Distance: 16.6 km
Ascent: 1220 m
Descent: 2790 m

Your guide will wake you up in the middle of the night. There will be a light breakfast and a warm beverage ready for you. How do you feel? Chances are, you are not feeling that great. The altitude does funny things but food and water will help you get ready. The moon and your headlamps will be your only source of light as you make your way up to Stella Point, reaching the crater rim in about 5 – 7 hours. From Stella Point, it’s another deceiving 1 to 2 hours to Uhuru Peak. Depending on how you feel, this is not easy. But you’ve made it. You are at the highest point. on one of the Seven Summits. Enjoy the sun rising over Africa.

After capturing this incredible view and achievement on film, you will start your descent along the same route back to Barafu Camp, where your team awaits you with some snacks and refreshments. Rested and relaxed you will make your way to Mweka Camp for your last night on the highest mountain in Africa. A massive day, but it all went so quickly. From camp you look up to Kibo and you start to realize that you were up there that same morning. Incredible. One more wishy washy, one last dinner on the mountain.

And, most likely, the tipping ceremony. This is the moment to thank your guides and porters for their share in successfully summiting Kilimanjaro. There’s no need to give cash now, but it is a good moment to let your guide know how much the staff can expect. Get in touch with our Kilimanjaro expert to learn more about tipping and receive a guideline for fair tipping.

Mweka Camp

Info
Mweka Camp
Day
7

Mweka Camp (3,100m) to Mweka Gate (1,800m) to Moshi

Duration: 03:40 h
Distance: 8.7 km
Descent: 1420 m

The more you descend, the better your oxygen intake. The better your oxygen intake, the better your body and mind work. It’s all sinking now. You’ve ascended Kilimanjaro. You will once more trek through the rainforest, giving you another opportunity to spot the cheeky colobus monkeys, finally reaching the Mweka gate in about 2 – 3 hours. In Mweka, after some paperwork, another meal awaits you. You may as well add a Kilimanjaro beer to that. While you’re at it, your guide will present you with your climbing certificate. Well done!

After some good food and a celebration, you will be taken back to your hotel. It’s time to rest those legs. Jump in the pool, eat, drink and sleep.

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Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Machame Route with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Packing List for the Machame Route

Trekking in the Kilimanjaro requires decent gear. Especially the basics like an 80-90 L backpack and quality trekking socks. We highly recommend that you read our suggestted packing list to hike the Machame Route.

  • Technical clothing

  • Headwear

  • Handwear

  • Footwear

  • Accessories

  • Equipment

  • Other

Gear Checklist for the Machame Route

So, above you find a guideline of what you need for your Kilimanjaro ascent, and below we've thrown in a handy checklist for you. Remember, pole pole!
Gear Checklist for the Machame Route

How To Get Fit for the Machame Route

We’ve said this before and we will say it again. Kilimanjaro is a trekking mountain, not a climbing mountain. Trekking = Hiking, so the best training for Kilimanjaro is to go hiking. Some websites will tell you that you need to cross-train, biking, swimming, weight training, or even go on a diet. No. Again, pole pole. Just become the best version of yourself and start with that process about two months in advance. You can follow a strict training plan or just keep the following things in mind.

We recommend a minimum of three hiking/walking sessions per week, each lasting at least one hour. The specifics of your sessions, such as distance, duration, and elevation gain, will largely depend on the available trails in your area. Ideally, you should look for trails that are a few miles long and include a challenging uphill section that can be completed in approximately one hour. Finding a convenient location for your training will enable you to schedule regular sessions and easily track your progress.

Additionally, try to make time for longer day hikes, as they are excellent training opportunities. A solid day hike typically lasts four to six hours and involves moderate elevation changes of around 1,000 feet (305 meters), all while carrying a 20 lb. (9 kg) pack. If you feel up to the challenge, don't hesitate to tackle harder trails; they will provide even more beneficial training for your Kilimanjaro climb. If you don't have access to outdoor trails, don't worry. Training on stairs can be an excellent alternative to simulate the climbing experience on Kilimanjaro. You can also make use of a stair master machine for productive training sessions.

To mimic the challenge of climbing the mountain, wear your backpack and maintain a slow and steady pace. We suggest dedicating 1-2 hours to climbing stairs or using the StairMaster. What goes up, must come down. Descending Kilimanjaro is harder than climbing Kilimanjaro. Train your downhill walking!

Now, are you feeling confident and do you think you have most of the hiking under the belt? Then you can change it up. Go for a run, do stretching exercises, yoga, maybe even weight. Essentially, anything that can help to improve your overall fitness is a plus. Just make sure your main focus is hiking.

How To Get Fit for the Machame Route

Where Can I Book the Machame Route?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book this trek and many others. Our guided options come with experts on the ground, and offer you a convenient, stress-free, safe, and educational way to explore the outdoors. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is this not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our blog posts:

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