Marangu Route: Kilimanjaro's Most Comfortable Route

By Sierd van der Bij

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Marangu Route: Kilimanjaro's Most Comfortable Route
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If you are looking for a more comfortable route for climbing Kilimanjaro, the Marangu Route is it.If camping is not your game, the Marangu Route is it. If you don't have a lot of time, the Marangu Route is also it. If you're looking for something more affordable, the Marangu Route is it again. Let's have a closer look at one of the most original routes on Kilimanjaro.

Every year Bookatrekking.com's Team Kili helps hundreds of people to reach Uhuru Peak. Although the Marangu Route has had more popular days, we still greet a lot of people who choose the route with the huts. And why not? Although the Marangu doesn't get all the love anymore, it is the first route on Kilimanjaro and therefore an absolute classic.

The Marangu Route on Kilimanjaro: Numbers First

From gate to gate the Marangu Route is 72,5 kilometres / 44 miles long. In comparison, the Marangu Route counts a bit more distance than for example the Machame or the Lemosho Route. Although there is a lot of discussion about the accuracy of success rates, it is important to state that the Marangu Route does not see high success rates. More about that in the next paragraph.

Days: 5 or 6 days

Total Distance: 72.5 kilometers (44 miles)

Ascent: 4,270 meters (14,009 feet)

Descent: 4,290 meters (14,075 feet)

Day-to-day distance on a 6-day climb

Day 1: 8 kilometers (5 miles)

Day 2: 12 kilometers (7.5 miles)

Day 3: 4 kilometers (2.5 miles)

Day 4: 9.5 kilometers (5.9 miles)

Day 5: 19.7 kilometers (12.3 miles)

Day 6: 19.6 kilometers (12.2 miles)

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What Makes the Marangu Route So Special?

The Marangu Route is also known as the Tourist or Coca-Cola Route. This while the Machame Route is known as the Whisky Route. Now that sounds a lot cooler than Tourist or Coca-Cola, right? Indeed, the Marangu Route has a bit of a reputation problem. The nicknames can give you the impression that it is an easy route or that it is a very busy route with long queues of tourists. Both impressions are wrong. Although the Marangu Route, thanks to the gradual slope and direct path, has the easiest path, in terms of acclimatization it is fairly difficult. It is because of this reason, that especially the 5-day version is not a favourite among tour operators. About half of the people who choose the 5-day Marangu Route don't make it to the top. This figure changes drastically if those people would have chosen the 6-day Marangu Route, which includes an acclimatization day. This gives a success rate of more than 80%. Not bad. Then what about all the tourists? No, this is not a very busy route. In fact, the Machame Route and Lemosho Route see way more traffic. So, it appears that the Marangu Route can be easily misunderstood.

What then makes the Marangu Route special? Huts! There is no need to camp! On the Marangu Route, you stay in dormitory-style huts. Now we're talking. Mattresses? Check. Pillows? Check. The huts on the Marangu Route allow for a very classic mountain feel, one that can remind you of a hut-to-hut hike. Sure, you don't have most of the same amenities, but it is very easy to get in touch with people who are undergoing the same experience. More about the huts in the next paragraphs and the itinerary. Another benefit of the Marangu Route is the number of days. Although it is not great for acclimatization, you can hike the Marangu Route in 5 days. This makes it the fastest route on Kilimanjaro. Fewer days also make it more affordable. You can hike the Marangu Route for about 1500 USD per person.

What Makes the Marangu Route So Special?

Marangu 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 Marangu Route.

How Hard is the Marangu 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 one route is more technical than the other. The Marangu Route is known for its more gradual ascents and descents, making it a good option for those who are less experienced with high-altitude trekking. The accommodations in huts provide a certain level of comfort compared to camping on other routes. However, the difficulty should not be measured in technical aspects but in terms of acclimatization.

In terms of acclimatization, the Marangu Route is pretty much the most difficult route. This especially applies when you choose the 5-day Marangu Route. Because of the straightforward approach, there is no opportunity to climb high and sleep low. This changes when you allow for a rest day at Hormbo Huts. This allows for an acclimatization hike to Mawenzi Ridge. This acclimatization makes the the 6-day Marangu Route your best and therefore easiest choice.

How Hard is the Marangu Route?

Huts on the Marangu Route

The Marangu Route is the only route on Kilimanjaro that does not allow camping. Like it or not, you have to stay in the huts.

Mandara Huts: 60 climbers, 4 to 8 people per A-frame hut. There is a little shop which sells snacks, drinks, and sometimes, even beer.

Horombo Huts: 120 climbers, 4 to 8 people per A-frame hut. This camp is double the size of the others because most climbers spend two nights here.

Kibo Huts: 60 climbers, large dorms in a stone building. Due to the altitude, Kibo Huts only has a few amenities.

Apart from at Kibo Huts, you can expect quite a few bonuses at the camps. Communal dining halls, bathrooms, a kitchen hut, separate huts for the crew, solar power, and, at the lower huts even running water. You can also expect flush toilets at the huts. All-in-all, this makes the Marangu Route definitely the most comfortable route on Kilimanjaro.

Huts on the Marangu Route

Best Season for The Marangu 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 climb Kilimanjaro, you can actually consider taking the Marangu Route during the rainy season. It will be a bit quieter on the trails and, because you are staying in huts, you don't have to camp in the rain anyway. 

Marangu Route Itinerary: From Day to Day

Although there is a 5-day option for the Marangu Route, your chances of summiting will increase drastically if you opt for the 6-day alternative. This is also the more popular option. Your body will be grateful for the extra night at Horombo Huts.
Day
1

Moshi – Marangu Gate (1,860 m) – Mandara Hut (2,700 m)

Duration: 03:30 h
Distance: 8 km
Ascent: 830 m

After breakfast, you'll head to Kilimanjaro National Park gate (1,840 m) where glimpses of thumbless black and white colobus monkeys amidst lush vegetation might greet you. Around 4 hours later, you'll arrive at the Mandara Hut (2,670 m), your rest point for the day.

Once rested, your guide will lead you to Maundi Crater, treating you to panoramic views of Kenya's interior. The Mandara Hut is where you'll relish your evening meal and spend the night, surrounded by the serene beauty of the mountains.

This day's journey blends nature's marvels with relaxation, leaving you with indelible memories of Kilimanjaro's diverse landscapes and unique wildlife.

Mandara hut

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Mandara hut
Day
2

Mandara Hut (2,700 m) – Horombo Hut (3,700 m)

Duration: 04:50 h
Distance: 11.9 km
Ascent: 1000 m

Your journey continues through heather-strewn paths, leading you to the brink of the neatly trimmed moorland plains, culminating at the Horombo Hut situated at 3,760 meters. On clear nights, this vantage point reveals the splendid sights of Moshi and the Pare ranges, twinkling in the distance.

Perched at the hut, you'll be treated to sweeping vistas that encompass Mawenzi and Kibo peaks, as well as the expansive Masai steppe. As the day winds down, you'll savor your evening meal and prepare for a peaceful overnight stay within the welcoming embrace of the Horombo Hut.

This segment of your journey offers both natural beauty and panoramic perspectives, creating a day that seamlessly combines adventure with relaxation amidst the remarkable landscapes of Kilimanjaro.

Horombo hut

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Horombo hut
Day
3

Horombo Hut (3,700 m) – Zebra Rocks (3,980 m) – Horombo Hut (3,700 m)

Duration: 02:30 h
Distance: 22.8 km
Ascent: 290 m
Descent: 290 m

After a delightful and leisurely breakfast that sets the tone for the day, you'll eagerly set off on a trek that spans 2 to 4 hours, leading you to the iconic Zebra Rocks at an elevation of 3,980 meters. This unique rock formation derives its name from the striking black and white stripes that adorn its surface, a true marvel of nature that awaits your exploration.

Upon completing your captivating trek and returning to the welcoming embrace of the Horombo Hut, you'll find a delectable cooked lunch prepared to satisfy your appetite. With each bite, you can relish not only the flavors but also the sense of accomplishment from the day's journey.

The afternoon presents you with a precious window of time to unwind, both physically and mentally. As you bask in the serene atmosphere of the Hut and take in the panoramic views around you, your strength is gradually restored, setting the stage for the upcoming day's hike.

As the golden hues of the evening sunset begin to paint the sky, you'll partake in a hearty evening meal, savoring each bite while exchanging stories and laughter with fellow adventurers. The Horombo Hut, with its cozy and welcoming ambiance, will be your home for the night, providing you with the restful reprieve you need to continue your journey through the enchanting landscapes of Kilimanjaro.

Horombo hut

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Horombo hut
Day
4

Horombo Hut (3,700 m) – Kibo Hut (4,700 m)

Duration: 04:10 h
Distance: 9.46 km
Ascent: 990 m

Today's goal is to reach Kibo Hut, a destination that typically takes around 5 to 6 hours of determined trekking. This stage of the journey is marked by its considerable length and challenge, as you traverse a plantless plateau that serves as a vital link between the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi.

The path you tread is one of endurance and perseverance, demanding your unwavering commitment to the journey. As each step brings you closer to Kibo Hut, the panoramic views that unfold before you serve as a testament to your dedication and the remarkable landscapes that Kilimanjaro has to offer.

Despite the difficulty, the rewards are immeasurable. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies reaching Kibo Hut, along with the camaraderie of fellow adventurers and the stunning vistas that surround you, make this segment of the expedition an unforgettable experience.

With the challenges and triumphs of the day in your heart, you'll retire to Kibo Hut, ready to rest and replenish your energy for the final push toward Kilimanjaro's summit.

Kibo hut

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Kibo hut
Day
5

Kibo Hut (4,700 m) – Uhuru Peak (5,895 m) – Horombo Hut (3,700 m)

Duration: 10:25 h
Distance: 19.7 km
Ascent: 1160 m
Descent: 2170 m

Under the cover of the night, as the lava ash remains frozen and lends ease to your steps, your journey commences. The ascent to the summit begins, a formidable and demanding undertaking illuminated solely by the stars above. Guided by their distant glow, you'll pass the Hans Meyer cave at 5,200 meters, your path steadily rising with each step.

With the arrival of sunrise, you'll stand proudly at Gilman's Point (5,715 m), perched upon the crater rim. The frigid grip of the night gives way to the sun's warmth, and you'll find yourself enveloped in the awe-inspiring vistas that stretch before you. The ascent continues with newfound vigor, and after an additional 1 to 2 hours of steadfast determination, the crowning achievement awaits: Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters.

The descent retraces your journey along the same route, yet now the once-frozen lava ash yields to the touch of the sun, enabling a swift and spirited descent. Upon your return to Kibo Hut, a heartening meal awaits, welcoming you back and providing a much-needed chance to restore your strength. After a pause of 1 to 2 hours, your journey continues, guiding you downward to the embrace of Horombo Hut (3,700 m).

As the sun begins its descent, casting hues of warmth across the landscape, you'll find solace and respite within the haven of Horombo Lodge. Here, your evening meal and the promise of a restful night's sleep await, a fitting conclusion to a day that epitomized the challenges and triumphs of your journey towards Kilimanjaro's summit.

Horombo hut

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Horombo hut
Day
6

Horombo Hut (3,700 m) – Marangu Gate (1,860 m) – Moshi

Duration: 07:10 h
Distance: 19.6 km
Descent: 1830 m

The final leg of your journey traverses through the heather and moor zones, leading you to the welcoming Mandara Hut situated at 2,700 meters. Here, a nourishing cooked lunch eagerly awaits, offering you a taste of satisfaction as you prepare to bid farewell to the mountains.

As you continue your descent, the landscape transforms once again, enveloping you in the embrace of the lush tropical rainforest. Over the course of approximately 6 hours of trekking, you'll steadily make your way back to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate at an altitude of 1,860 meters.

Your return to Kilimanjaro National Park marks the conclusion of your expedition, a moment to reflect on the extraordinary journey you've undertaken. From this point, your passage leads you back to the town of Moshi, where the echoes of your adventure will remain with you, a constant reminder of the breathtaking landscapes and incredible experiences that Kilimanjaro has bestowed upon you.

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Packing List for the Marangu 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 Marangu Route.

  • Technical clothing

  • Headwear

  • Handwear

  • Footwear

  • Accessories

  • Equipment

  • Other

Gear Checklist for the Marangu 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 Marangu Route

How To Get Fit for the Marangu 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 Marangu Route

Where Can I Book the Marangu 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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