The Whisky Route? The name is the cooler sibling of the much easier Marangu Route. The Marangu Route is known as the Coca-Cola Route or the Tourist Route. Although the Machame is not technically much more difficult, it is considered to be a bit more challenging.
It is the most popular route of today because of of its high success rates and because of the beauty of highlights on trail such as the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower and the Barranco Wall. Because the Machame Route is so popular, the rates are also relatively lower.
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When you are comparing the different routes on Kilimanjaro, the Machame Route doesn’t come up as the most difficult one. In terms of acclimatization, you can’t really go wrong on the Machame Route. You can either do the Machame Route on Kilimanjaro in 6 or 7 days. If you want to make the most of it while at the same time get the best acclimatization, you should opt for 7 days.
The longer your itinerary, the better your acclimatization and the more you will enjoy your ascent of Kilimanjaro. On the Machame Route, you climb high and sleep low. This is the golden rule for acclimatization. In that regard, the Machame Route is definitely not the most difficult one. Definitely not as difficult as for example the Umbwe Route.
One thing that is difficult about the Machame Route is the fact that climbers will have to pass the Barranco Wall. It requires some scrambling but there is no need to worry about technical climbing. It is very doable.
The Machame Route on Kilimanjaro is also known as the Whisky Route. This is not because of all the Whisky you can drink on this popular Kilimanjaro route. The Machame Route is known as the Whisky Route because the Marangu Route is known as the Coca Cola Route. For a long time, the Marangu Route, known as the Tourist Route or the Coca Cola Route, was seen as the easiest route on Kilimanjaro.
The Machame Route was considered a more difficult option than the Marangu Route, and therefore this route was soon given the nickname Whisky Route. Interestingly enough, one can consider that the Whisky Route is easier than the Coca Cola Route. Unlike the Marangu Route, the Machame Route offers climbers the opportunity to acclimatize adequately.
The Machame Route has a total distance of 62 kilometers or 37 miles from gate to gate.
Day-to-day distance on a 7-day climb:
Day 1: 10.8km / 6.7mi
Day 2: 5.4km / 3.4mi
Day 3: 10.8km / 6.7mi
Day 4: 5.5km / 3.4mi
Day 5: 3km / 1.9mi
Day 6: 13.4km / 8.3mi
Day 7: 12.1km / 7.5mi
The Barranco Wall isn’t just part of the Machame Route. Also, the Umbwe Route, the Lemosho Route, and the old Shira Route cross the Barranco Wall. Elevation on the Barranco Wall is 257 meters and although this is seen as the hardest part of the Machame Route it is by no means undoable. On most Machame Route itineraries you climb the Barranco Wall on day of the ascent.
You don’t need to worry about technical climbing when crossing the Barranco Wall. Scrambling does the trick. This means that you can use both arms and legs climbing the wall. Again, this does not mean that you will be entirely vertical. Because the Barranco Wall is the first thing you will do after breakfast, it is also called the Barranco Breakfast. You will love it!
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.
Although the Machame Route is ideally tackled in 7 days, it is also possible in 6 days. The following itinerary gives you the fastest way to Uhuru Peak.
Day 1: Machame Gate (1,790m) – Machame Camp (3,010m)
After breakfast, you will be picked up at hotel and make the 45-min drive to the Kilimanjaro National park gate. After completion of all the necessary paperwork, your adventure commences. Your destination for today is the Machame Camp, a 5 – 6 hour hike. 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 thumb 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.
Day 2: Machame Camp (3,010m) – Shira Camp (3,845m)
Today’s early start is not due to a long stretch, but rather to allow you to reach Shira Camp at around mid-afternoon. As you walk you will notice the dramatic change in the landscape – from lush and green rainforest to dry moor and heath land. Arriving at your campsite a beautiful view of the mountain range opens up before you. The glaciers of Kibo glistens in the golden hue of the setting sun as you enjoy another lovingly cooked meal before climbing into your tent.
Day 3: Shira Camp (3,845m) – Lava Tower Hut (4,640m) – Barranco Camp (3,960m)
Acclimatization is on today’s menu, where you will climb roughly 700 m, but sleep on a level not much higher than the previous night. Starting at Shira Plateau, you will make your way up to Lava Tower (4,640m), where you will rest a while, before continuing through the Barranco Valley to the beautiful Barranco Camp. The trek will take approximately 6 – 7 hours, but the various distractions of the alpine desert as well as the Barranco Valley with its small lobelia plants and giant senecios, will keep your mind off the stretch still ahead. A well-deserved dinner and overnight awaits you at Barranco Camp.
Day 4: Barranco Camp (3960m) to Barafu Camp (4640m)
Our day starts by descending into the Great Barranco, a huge ravine. We then exit steeply, up the Great Barranco Wall, which divides us from the southeastern slopes of Kibo. It’s a climb over rock, not technical, but long and tiring. Passing underneath the Heim and Kersten glaciers, we head towards the Karanga valley, which is our last stop for fresh water before the summit. Scree now forms the terrain as we walk through arid and desolate land towards Barafu camp.
Day 5: Barafu Camp (4,640m) – Uhuru Peak (5,895m) – Mweka Camp (3,080m)
At around midnight you will be awoken by your guide with a warm cup of tea and biscuits to get you ready for your final ascent. 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. Another 1 – 2 hours will take you to Uhuru Peak (5,895m), where you can enjoy the sun rising over the African landscape, casting a pink hue over the snowy peak and making the glaciers sparkle like diamonds around you. 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.
Day 6: Mweka Camp (3,080m) – Mweka Gate (1,630m)
A scrumptious breakfast is followed by a traditional farewell ceremony from your mountain crew, before you start your final stretch down the mountain. 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. You will be met at the gate and taken back to hotel for a long shower. The rest of the day is for you to enjoy at leisure and giving yourself a pat on the back for conquering the famous Kilimanjaro!
The following 7-day Machame Route itinerary is great for acclimatization and gives you the best chances for a successful ascent of Kilimanjaro.
Day 1 – Machame Gate – Machame Huts (11 kilometres – 6.8 miles, 5-7 hours, 1200m/3940ft elevation)
The drive from Moshi to the gate of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park will take about fifty minutes. The tour goes through the village of Machame, which lies on the lower slopes of the mountain. Upon arrival we walk through the rainforest on a winding path up a ridge. At the foot of the mountain, the path can be muddy and slippery. Gaiters and hiking pools will come in convenient. We go a little further until we reach the Machame Camp.
Day 2 – Machame Huts – New Shira Camp (5.5 kilometers – 3.4 miles, 4-6 hours, 820m/2700ft elevation)
After breakfast, we leave the glades of the rainforest and continue our trek on an elevating trail. We cross the valley and walk over a steep, heathland-covered rocky ridge. The route now goes west, to a gorge on the river. It’s a short day today, but it’s definitely one that you can feel in your legs. At New Shira Camp the surroundings are starting to look much rougher. No matter which tent you choose, the view is equally fantastic. You can see the Kibo, the Western Breach, the Shira Cathedral and the Needle.
Day 3 – New Shira Camp – Lava Tower – Barranco Huts (10 kilometres – 6.2 miles, 5-7 hours, 790m – 2600ft elevation)
From the Shira plateau we continue our way to the east over a shoulder and pass the crossing to the summit of Kibo. As we continue, our direction changes to the southeast towards the Lava Tower, also called the “Shark Tooth”. Shortly after the Lava Tower we arrive at the second crossing that brings us to the Arrow Glacier at an altitude of 4800 meters (15800ft). We now continue down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 3962 meters (13000ft). Here we enjoy the peace and quiet, have dinner and stay for the night. It seems crazy to end up at the same altitude as we started this morning, but your body will be grateful later on. It helps to acclimatize before the day we are going to push for Uhuru Peak.
Day 4 – Barranco Huts – Karanga Camp (5.5 kilometers – 3.4 miles, 4-5 hours, 55m – 180ft elevation)
After breakfast, we leave Barranco and continue along the famous Barranco Wall, to the campsite in the Karanga Valley. Today you’re glad you chose the 7-day option and not not the 6-day hike. Today we keep it simple and short to acclimatize as effectively as possible.
Day 5 – Karanga Camp – Barafu Huts (3.5 kilometres – 2.2 miles, 4-5 hours, 640m – 2100ft elevation)
After breakfast, we leave Karanga and arrive at the crossing that connects to the Mweka Trail. We continue to the Barafu Hut. At this point, you’ve completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from various angles. Here you can camp, rest, enjoy dinner and prepare for Uhuru Peak. From the Barafu Huts you can see the two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo.
Day 6 – Uhuru Peak via Stella Point – Millenium or Mweka Camp* (15 kilometres – 9.3 miles, 10-16 hours, 1072m – 3517ft ascent / 2075m – 6807ft descent)
You hike onwards to Stella Point on the crater rim. This is the most mentally and physically challenging part of the trip. At Stella Point, you will stop for a short break and will be rewarded with the most beautiful sunrise you will ever see. If you started a little earlier and would have trotted a bit faster, you can also enjoy the same sunrise from the top. From Stella Point you can encounter snow on your 1 hour climb to the top. At Uhuru Peak, you have reached the highest point of Kilimanjaro. Congratulations, you are now on the roof of Africa.
The day has only just begun. From the top we now descend straight down to the Mweka Hut. On the way we stop at Barafu for lunch. You will want to wear gaiters and use hiking poles for the loose gravel on the way down. Mweka Camp is located in the higher forest and in the late afternoon rain or fog can be expected. Later in the evening we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and get ready for a well deserved night’s sleep.
Day 7 – Millenium Camp – Mweka Park Gate (20 kilometres – 12.4 miles, 5 hours, 2075m – 6807ft 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.