Sponsored by that famous soft drink brand? No. Coca Cola Route is the nickname for the Kilimanjaro route that is also known as the Tourist Route. This is not because there are no tourists on the other routes, but because the route is seen as an easier alternative. It is easier, but it is certainly not easy. There are large differences in altitude per day, which can lead to acclimatisation problems for some climbers.
In terms of comfort, the Marangu Route does make a difference. If you don’t like camping, choose the Coca-Cola Route to Uhuru Peak. The Mandara, Horombo and Kibo Huts are relatively luxuriously equipped. Well, you still bring your own sleeping bag and there is no running water at Kibo, but given you are at Kilimanjaro, there is no reason for complaints.
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The Marangu Route is perceived as an easy Kilimanjaro climbing route. The Marangu Route goes via a relatively comfortable trail and has a very steady, gradual slope. This would make you believe that the Marangu Route is easy. The route is also dubbed Coca Cola Route or Tourist Route. This can give a bad impression to people who are interested in tackling the Marangu Route. It sounds easy, right?
In fact, the Marangu Route is fairly difficult. It is not easy and it’s definitely not for tourists. Most people who take on the Marangu Route do so because it allows them to climb Kilimanjaro in five days. Unlike on other routes like the Machame Route or the Lemosho Route, the Marangu Route has a low success rate. Only about a third of all climbers make it to Uhuru Peak.
Nonetheless, the Marangu Route is a Kilimanjaro classic. It is one of the oldest routes and, let’s not forget that, the Marangu Route comes with huts. If you don’t like sleeping in tents, then the Marangu Route is your choice.
The Marangu Route has a reputation problem going on. It is known as the Tourist Route or the Coca Cola Route and the reason for that is that it is an easy route. But because of poor acclimatization it is not an easy route at all. In fact, it is quite difficult. Why then is it called the Tourist Route or the Coca Cola Route?
In the huts that can you find on the Marangu Route they sell that particular beverage. The fact that it has huts, is a drawcard for tourists. Where there are huts, there must be some comfort right? That is one of the reasons. The other reason why it is called the Tourist Route is that it is quite the crowded one. Although the popularity of the Marangu Route is shrinking, it still attracts a lot of climbers who want to make it to Uhuru Peak.
The Marangu Route has a total distance of 73 kilometers or 45 miles from gate to gate.
Day-to-day distance on a 6-day climb:
Day 1: 8 km / 5 mi
Day 2: 12 km / 7.5mi
Day 3: Rest day
Day 4: 9 km / 5.5 mi
Day 5: 6 km / 4 mi up / 15 km / 9 mi down
Day 6: 20 km / 12.5 mi
If you are not much of a camper and you like to have a solid roof over your head, the Marangu Route is your Kilimanjaro climbing route. After all, it is on this route that you get to stay in huts. You will find the huts spread out in camps along the route. There will be your checkpoints where you will get to spend the night. You will spend the night at the Mandara Huts, the Horombo Huts and the Kibo Huts.
The huts are pretty basic. They are communal, which means that you will sleep in bunk beds dormitory style. The sanitary facilities will make you go back to basics as well. Some of the camps have running spring water that also supplies toilets, others come with long drop toilets. Expect to share a hut with 6 to 8 other people.
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 Marangu Route is a route which is best enjoyed during the dry season.
It is not recommended to do the Marangu Route in 5 days. If you, however, do not have more time at your disposal, this itinerary could work for you.
Day 1: Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut
After breakfast, you will be collected from your lodge in Moshi and taken to the Marangu gate. Once the necessary paper work has been completed, your trek can begin and you will soon be hiking through the dense rainforest. Alongside the impressive vegetation, you will have the chance to catch a glimpse of some primates as you head to the Mandara Hut. After a well-earned rest, your guide can take you to the Maundi Crater where you can enjoy the wonderful view of the Kenyan interior.
Day 2: Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut
The day begins with an early breakfast. Shortly after you have left Mandara Hut, you will reach the timberline and then enter the heath and moor zone. Approximately 4 – 6 hours later, the Horombo Hut will come into sight, standing at an altitude of 3700m. From the hut, you will have fantastic views overlooking Mawenzi, Kibo and the wide plain of the Masai steppe.
Day 3: Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut
Today’s stage is long and tough. The well-built trail passes the “Last Water point” which is followed by the so-called “saddle”. This nearly vegetation less plateau joins the main summit Kibo with Mawenzi. Today’s destination is the Kibo Hut that is usually reached in about 5 – 6 hours. Here, you will enjoy an early evening meal followed by an early night, as the night will be short.
Day 4: Kibo Hut to UHURU PEAK & down to Horombo Hut
Today is “The Big Day” – the summit stage. You will begin your final ascent around midnight which will be long and strenuous. Passing the Hans Meyer Cave at 5220m, the climb slowly but surely goes upwards. At sunrise, you will reach Gillman’s Point (5681m) – the crater rim of Kilimanjaro – where the sun will slowly start to warm up the land. You will have soon forgotten the cold of the night and after a further hike of 1 – 2 hours, you will reach Uhuru Peak at 5895m. On your return to Kibo Hut, a warm meal awaits you followed by a 1 – 2 hour break before proceeding back down to Horombo Hut.
Day 5: Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate
The last stage passes through the heath and moor zone to the Mandara Hut (2700m) where a warm lunch is waiting for you. Soon, you will once again pass the tropical rainforest and after a total time of 6 hours trekking, you will be back at the Kilimanjaro National Park Gate (1860m). After saying goodbye to your mountain guides, a short transfer follows to take you back to your hotel in Moshi. Once there, you can take a warm and relaxing shower and celebrate your success in reaching the summit of the Kilimanjaro.
The following 6-day Marangu Route itinerary includes a day for rest and acclimatization and offers you the best chances to make it to Uhuru Peak.
Day 1: Drive to Marangu Gate – Hike to Mandara Hut
After breakfast and briefing, drive to the Kilimanjaro National Park Gate (about 1 hour), register and commence the trek. Walk through the rainforest to the Mandara Huts. A side trip to Maundi Crater is a good way to see the surroundings including Northern Tanzania and Kenya. In the rainforest, look for towering Eucalyptus trees, bird life, and Colobus monkeys.
Day 2: Mandara Hut – Horombo Hut
You leave the glades of the rain-forest and follow an ascending path on the open moorlands to the Horombo Huts. Views of Mawenzi and the summit of Kibo are amazing. Look for giant lobelias and grounsels. You may begin to feel the affects of the altitude.
Day 3: Rest day at Horombo Hut
Rest day at Horombo Hut with an optional hike to Mawenzi Peak.
Day 4: Horombo Hut – Kibo Hut
Ascending, we now pass the last watering point, walking onto the saddle of Kilimanjaro between the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi. Vegetation begins with upper heath-land but then disappears into “moonscape”. Eat, rest, and prepare for summit climb.
Day 5: Kibo Hut – Summit Uhuru Peak – Horombo Hut
Very early in the morning (midnight to 2am), commence the climb to the summit on steep and heavy scree or snow up to Gilman’s point located on the crater rim. Continuing, we now ascend to Uhuru Peak, which is the highest point in Africa. There are unbelievable views at every turn. Have your picture taken at the summit to show your friends and family. From here we descend, stopping for lunch and a rest at Kibo before continuing on to the Horombo Huts.
The beginning of this climb is done in the dark and requires headlamps or flashlights. It will be very cold until you start descending, so you will need all of your warm layers. This is by far the most difficult part of the trek with many switchbacks. Going slowly “pole pole” and an optimistic attitude will get you there!
Day 6: Horombo Hut – Trailhead – Moshi
After breakfast, a steady descent takes us down through moorland to the Mandara Hut. Continue descending through lush forest path to the National Park gate at Marangu. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. Gaiters and trekking poles will help. Shorts and t-shirts will probably be plenty to wear (keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy).
Tanzania Joy Tours vehicle will meet you at Marangu gate to drive you back to your hotel in Moshi (about 1 hour).