6 Days Rongai Route

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The Rongai route ascends Kilimanjaro from the north-eastern side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya. This route retains a sense of unspoilt wilderness and offers a different perspective on Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the north. The topography of the route does not allow for the application of the climb high and sleep low principle and hikers generally suffer more from altitude sickness on the Rongai route compared to other routes (an additional acclimatization day is highly recommended on this route). The Rongai route use the scree summiting path from Kibo hut to Gilman’s point and descend via the Marangu route.

Day 1 - Nalemoru (1950 m/6400 ft) - First Cave Campsite (2650 m/8700 ft)

Walking distance: 6.5 km/4 miles
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Altitude gain: 700 m/2300 ft

Your first day on Kilimanjaro starts with the transfer from your hotel to the village of Nalemoru. This route used to start from the border village of Rongai, hence the name Rongai route, which is still widely used. But the start of the route was eventually moved away from the Kenya border, to Nalemoru near Loitokitok. So now you may find any of these names used in descriptions and even on signs of the trail: Rongai route, Loitokitok route or (rarely) Nalemoru route. Rest assured, it's all the same trail. The first day on the Rongai route leads intially through cypress plantations, then through fairly open country with only two patches of montane forest. Even those forests are nothing like the rainforest on the western and southern slopes. The scenery of the first day may not be that memorable, but the wildlife can be.

Birdlife is prolific and you should also see some colobus monkeys. What you may spot beyond that depends on the time of the year and the amount of people on the trail, but Rongai is certainly one of the routes that offers a greater chance of seeing wildlife on Kilimanjaro. You soon reach the First Cave Campsite where your porters should have already set up your tents and may even have hot drinks and popcorn waiting.

Day 2 - First Cave Campsite - Kikelewa Caves (3600 m/11810 ft)

Walking distance: 9 km/5.6 miles
Walking time: 6-7 hours
Altitude gain: 950 m/3110 ft

Until lunch time all groups still follow the same path, through moorland covered in heather, on an increasingly steep trail, to the lunch spot known as the Second Cave Camp (3450 m/11320 ft)., After lunch swing south east towards Mawenzi.

The path, not so steep any more, ambles through the heathland with the occasional rocky section and a few little ups and downs to keep things interesting. I find this a very enjoyable day, with great views towards Mawenzi, Kibo with its eastern icefields, and, weather permitting, back down the mountain over the Amboseli Plains into the distance. It is, however, a long day. Especially those who start to feel the altitude will be glad to arrive at the next campsite, the Kikelewa Caves Camp, near a group of small caves in a valley below the saddle.

Day 3 - Kikelewa Caves - Mawenzi Tarn (4330 m/14210 ft)

Walking distance: 6 km/3.7 miles
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Altitude gain: 730 m/2400 ft
Afternoon acclimatization walk to about 4500 m/14760 ft

Today you wake up to great views of Kibo in the early morning sun. Your day starts as yesterday finished, on an easy path up a gentle slope. Soon the scenery changes and the trail becomes steeper and steeper. But If the steepness of the path starts to bother you, know that you must be near your next campsite! Today is a short day and you will have lunch at camp.

The Mawenzi Tarn Campsite is one of the most spectacular campsites on the mountain, right underneath the jagged peak of Mawenzi, in a protected hollow, next to a tiny lake. Several paths lead up the ridges and towers of Mawenzi, taking you to great views across the saddle towards Kibo. You will be doing some exploring on an acclimatization walk in the afternoon. After a hot lunch and some rest.

Day 4 - Mawenzi Tarn - Kibo Huts (4700 m/15420 ft)

Walking distance: 9 km/5.6 miles
Walking time: 4-5 hours
Altitude gain: 370 m/1215 ft

The direction today changes sharply as you start heading back towards Kibo, first climbing over a small ridge, and then wandering on a comfortable path along the northern side of "The Saddle". If the view is clear it will be breathtaking, especially when you get your first peak over that ridge.

The saddle is the barren plain of alpine desert between the two main peaks of Kilimanjaro: Mawenzi and Kibo. The only living things left are some hardy grasses and the occasional everlasting flower. The landscape can be quite dramatic, open and windswept, with big clouds rolling across it, big boulders to rest amongst. Many people really enjoy this part. But it all depends how well acclimatized you are. Just take it very easy. The best thing about this route is that it will be only around lunch time when you get to Kibo Huts. You'll have plenty of time to eat, rest and acclimatize some. Have an early dinner and early night, and hopefully get some sleep. This is the big night.

Day 5 - Summit attempt via Gilman's Point (5700 m/18700 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5895 m/19340 ft) and descent to Horombo Huts (3700 m/12200 ft)

Walking distance: 5 km/3.1 miles ascent + 15 km/9.3 miles descent
Walking time: 5-6 hrs + 1-2 hours up, 5-6 hours down (the overall walking time may vary from 10 - 16 hours)
Altitude gain: 1000 m/ 3280 ft (Gilman's Point) or 1195 m/3920 ft (Uhuru Peak)
Descent: 2195 m/7200 ft

This day will likely go down in your memory as the most physically challenging day in your whole life. Likely it will also be one of the earliest starts you ever made... Your day pack should be ready with everything you will need tonight: rain gear if you aren't wearing it anyway, enough water, hand warmers, balaclava. You should have fresh batteries in your head torch and camera and you should already be wearing the right clothes. Make sure everything you are wearing is bone dry.

Your guides will wake you up some time between 11.00 and 11.30 pm. There will be some hot drinks and maybe some food, but mostly it's a matter of crawling out of your sleeping bag, putting on a few more layers of clothes, your boots and your head torch. Grab your day pack and off you go. Around midnight or not long after.

As steep as the slope is, due to the many switchbacks the path itself isn't all that bad. However, nothing is easy without oxygen and the air is incredibly thin, getting thinner all the time. Take all the time you need and for goodness sake don't let anyone pressure you into moving faster than you feel comfortable to. Steady, steady, one tiny little step after the other. Lunch should be waiting for you at Kibo Huts. You just want to collapse and sleep; you cannot imagine getting up from that chair again. But after what you have done to your body today it is not safe to remain at this altitude. You have no choice but to pack up your gear and keep going, the sooner the better. Three more hours to the Horombo Huts. Dinner is often a much livelier affair, with everybody is eyes shining as they recount the experiences of the day. And I have no doubt that you will sleep well tonight.

Day 6 - Horombo Huts - Marangu Gate

Walking distance: 20 km/12.5 miles
Walking time: 5 hours
Descent: 1840 m/6040 ft

After beakfast you set off, down past Mandara Huts (lunch stop) to Marangu Gate. Once you reach the gate you'll have to endure some more formalities, but eventually you will say good bye to your guides (a sad and emotional moment), climb into the vehicle waiting for you and be whisked away to your hotel for hot showers and cold beers.

Rescue fee
Park fees (For non-residents)
All activities (Unless labeled as optional)
All accommodation (Unless listed as upgrade)
Camping equipment (Sleeping bag excluded)
A professional driver/guide
All transportation (Unless labeled as optional)
All Taxes/VAT
Roundtrip airport transfer
Meals (As specified in the day-by-day section)
Drinking water (On all days
Climbing gear
International flights (From/to home)
Additional accommodation before and at the end of the tour
Sleeping bag
Bath towels
Tips (Tipping guideline US$10.00 pp per day)
Personal items (Souvenirs, travel insurance, visa fees, etc.)
Government imposed increase of taxes and/or park fees

This tour starts and ends in Arusha
Book your own international flights when using this operator help
A transfer from and back to the airport (or hotel) is included
Additional accommodation before and at the end of the tour can be arranged for an extra cost

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