The Northern Circuit Route is one of the best routes on the Kilimanjaro. It is highly praised by operators, guides and hikers for its ideal conditions and high success rate. The Northern Circuit Route, the Northern Circuit, is the longest route with 90 kilometres. The route is even 34 kilometres longer than the number two, the Lemosho Route.
The beginning of the route is more or less the same as the Lemosho, but you notice the big difference halfway through. There, the Northern Circuit Route surrounds the summit with a northern loop, after which Uhuru Peak is conquered from the east. The result is that you get to see a lot of the Kilimanjaro massif, that you have long days and that there is, therefore, a lot of time for acclimatization. For this reason, it has a particularly high success rate. The Northern Circuit Route is, therefore, an absolute must.
Northern Circuit Itinerary
- Day 1 - Londorossi Gate - Mti Mkubwa (6 kilometres - 3.8 miles, 3-4 hours, 520m - 1700ft ascent)
The drive from Moshi to Londorossi Gate will take about four hours. A few formalities await us here. We are still an hour on our way to the starting point of the Lemosho trails. From here we hike through an untouched forest to our first camping spot near Mti Mkubwa.
- Day 2 - Mti Mkubwa - Shira Camp 1 (8 kilometres - 5 miles, 5-6 hours, 610m - 2000ft ascent)
When coming out of the forest we arrive at a savannah: we see high grasses, heathland and volcanic rock covered in lichens. As we ascend the lush rolling hills and cross a number of streams, we reach the Shira Ridge. From here we descend calmly to Shira Camp 1. The view of Kibo is stunningly beautiful.
- Day 3 - Shira Camp 1 - Shira Camp 2 (7 kilometres - 4.3 miles, 3-4 hours, 300m - 980 ft ascent)
Today we explore the Shira Plateau. It is a relatively easy hike towards the Kibo glaciers. We ultimately will arrive at Shira Camp 2. Here we will likely meet Shira Route hikers.
- Day 4 - Shira Camp 2 - Lava Tower - Moir Huts (14 kilometres - 8.7 miles, 5-7 hours, 825m - 2700ft ascent / 490m - 1607ft descent)
From the Shira plateau we continue our way over a ridge and pass the crossing to the summit of Kibo. As we continue, our direction changes to the Lava Tower, also known as the shark tooth. Shortly after the Lava Tower we leave the main route and descend to the Moir Huts. This is a special small spot on the Lent Hills. From here there are plenty of opportunities for a short walk.
- Day 5 - Moir Huts - Buffalo Camp (12 kilometres - 7.5 miles, 5-7 hours, 100m - 330ft descent)
Although the distance is relatively large today, there is hardly any vertical gain. This makes a big difference in the acclimatization process. We start our day with a hike to the top of the Lent Hills. From here we find our way back to the main route. The trail meanders through a rocky field to Buffalo Camp. It offers fantastic views over the plains north of the Kilimanjaro.
- Day 6 - Buffalo Camp - Third Cave (8 kilometres - 5 miles, 5-7 hours, 150m - 500ft descent)
On the way to Buffalo Ridge, the terrain becomes more rugged. This segment of the Northern Circuit Route has seen relatively few hiking boots. It gives a fantastic adventurous feeling to walk this trail. Our day ends at our tent camp at Third Cave.
- Day 7 - Third Cave - School Hut (5 kilometres -- 3 miles, 4-5 hours, 880m - 2900ft ascent)
We climb up steadily and go over the saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi. At the School Huts we more or less completed our Northern Circuit. From here we can easily reach Uhuru Peak. Before that we rest and enjoy an early dinner. We have a short night ahead of us.
- Day 8 -
School Huts - Uhuru Peak (6 kilometres - 3.7 miles - 4 miles, 6-8 hours, 1220m - 4000ft elevation)
Very early in the morning (around midnight) we commence our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging part of the trip. The wind and cold at this altitude and at this time can be extreme. We ascend into the darkness for a few hours. There will be many small breaks. This is to prevent altitude sickness symptoms. At Gilman's Point (5669m - 18600ft), you'll be rewarded with the most beautiful sunrise you have ever seen. Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak - the roof of Africa. You have made it. Congratulations!
Uhuru Peak - Mweka Camp (12 kilometres - 7.5 miles, 4-6 hours, 2800m - 9200ft descent)
After Uhuru Peak has been conquered, the day has only just begun. The return journey starts with a hike down to Barafu. Here we stop for lunch. You are already beginning to notice that the constant descent has some impact on the body. It is recommended to bring hiking poles along for this segment. You also want to keep your rainwear handy. Mweka Camp is such a low altitude that we are already in the higher forests. Here it can rain. It will definitely not spoil the last evening on the mountain.
- Day 9 - Mweka Camp - Mweka Gate (10 kilometres - 6.2 miles, 3-4 hours, 1524m - 5000ft descent)
After breakfast, we continue our descent to the Mweka Park Gate. Here you will receive a certificate for making it to Uhuru Peak. These always do well at birthday parties. At the lower altitudes it can be wet and muddy again. Gaiters and hiking poles are recommended. Although this last segment is easy to do in shorts and a t-shirt, it is recommended to keep rainwear handy. At Mweka we finish our trekking. From here you will be taken back to Moshi.
*This itinerary is subject to change and may vary from one tour operator to another.