This page provides a comprehensive and impartial guide to climbing Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route.
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The Machame Route is one of the most popular routes for those seeking to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. According to statistics from Kilimanjaro National Park, about 50% of Kilimanjaro hikers choose to take the Machame route. Offering great views of the surrounding landscape, the Machame Route is indeed a great choice for one's first visit to this beautiful mountain.
The Machame Route is a fairly difficult hike which includes an ascent up the steep Barranco Wall on day four and a further ascent up the side of Kibo on summit night. That said, the route doesn’t require any technical skills and is often trekked by recreational hikers with little mountaineering experience.
Covering a total of approximately 62 kilometres of trail, hikers can choose to traverse the Machame Route in either six or seven days. Both options include an acclimatisation day, during which hikers climb high and sleep low in preparation for the summit push.
This map illustrates the Machame Route. Starting in the South-west, the route heads up to Shira Camp. Here it joins up with the Lemosho Route.
On day 3 climbers ascend to Lava Tower and then back down to Barranco Camp. The summit push starts at Barafu and the descent is via the Mweka trail.
The schematic diagram shows the altitude profile for the Machame Route. You can see how on day 3 you get the chance to ascend high to Lava Tower and then descend to sleep at Barranco. This is profile makes the Machame good for acclimatisation.
The Machame route can be completed in 6 or 7 days. Below is a detailed itinerary for the Machame Route (six-day version). Click each day to read more.
The first day of trekking begins with a drive from either Moshi or Arusha to Machame Gate, where trekkers will be introduced to their crew, which includes guides, porters and cooks. Packs are weighed to ensure they don't exceed 20 kilograms, and the porters arrange all the gear needed for the days ahead. Beginning at Machame Gate (1,640 meters), trekkers ascend through a stunning rainforest growing on the southwest face of the mountain. A long day of trekking (5 to 7 hours) ends at Machame Camp (2,835 meters) on the border of the rainforest and the alpine region higher up the mountain. Trekkers arrive to the welcome sight of a fully-assembled camp, and dinner is served.
Day Two sees trekkers making their way from Machame Camp (2,835 meters) to Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters). The path takes you through scenic low alpine meadows and moorlands. At Shira Camp 2, trekkers are rewarded with their first views of the Kibo summit, and Mount Meru is visible in the East.
On Day Three, a long and arduous hike is in store. Ascending from Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters) to Lava Tower (4,600 meters) in the morning, this is a likely day to begin feeling the effects of the altitude. In the second part of the hike, the trail loses almost all of the altitude gained in the morning before ending at Barranco Camp (3,900 meters). The landscape drifts between low and high alpine zones, which are characterized by grassy moors and barren fields of volcanic rock, respectively.
First thing in the morning on Day Four, trekkers are faced with an arduous scramble up the Barranco Wall, a 257 meter rock face which leads into the Karanga Valley. Once over the wall, the trail meanders towards Karanga Camp (3,960 meters). Eight-day trekkers will stop here for the night, gaining another valuable opportunity for acclimatization before their summit attempt. Trekkers on the six-day and seven-day routes will stop in Karanga Camp for lunch, then continue on towards the Mweka Trail and Barafu Camp (4,680 meters).
It's summit day! However, you start hiking promptly at midnight. This is the most challenging portion of the entire route. Scrambling up a scree field in the pitch dark, many trekkers find that this is the point in the hike where they really begin to feel the effects of altitude. (It's very important that if you show serious symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness, get help and descend as quickly as possible.) After 6-8 hours of hiking with a headlamp, you should reach the crater rim at Stella Point (5,739 meters). This is not the summit, but it is a good place to stop for some tea and to watch the sunrise. Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, is another 156 meters higher. To reach it, you must traverse around the rim of the caldera. Keep going, you've already finished the hard part! Once you've taken a few photos on the highest point in Africa, it's time to get going on the descent, which takes you another 7 miles(!) down to Mweka Camp (3,100 meters). To relieve stress on your knees, trekking poles can be very handy on the descent. At the end of the day, the rainforest surrounding Mweka Camp will be welcome relief from the inhospitable environment at the summit.
During the last day on the Machame Route, you will descend gradually through a lush rainforest to Mweka Gate (1,640 meters). If you've reached Stella Point or Uhuru Peak on the previous day, you will be presented with an official certificate at the park gate. It is customary to tip your crew at this point, before your trip back to your hotel in Moshi or Arusha.
The Machame Route is also operated as a seven-day trek. For the seven-day version, trekkers spend the night at Karanga Camp (3,960 meters), gaining another valuable opportunity for acclimatization before their push up to Barafu Camp (4,680 meters) and the subsequent summit attempt, beginning at midnight after the noontime arrival to Barafu Camp.
A beautiful video overview of the seven-day Machame Route by Jared Kohn, offering all the sights and sounds you might encounter on the mountain.
Mount Kilimanjaro: Trekkers Guide to the Summit is a practical and super insightful guidebook that has been used by 1000s of climbers as an authoritative resource to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro.
July-September is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro, as the weather is most stable during this period and encountering rain is less likely. That said, since it is close to the equator it is possible to climb the mountain at any time of the year. April and May is the rainy season so this period is best avoided.
The costs of trekking on the Machame Route will vary based on a few factors, such as what season you choose to hike, whether you choose the six or seven-day option, or whether you choose to use a Western guiding company or communicate directly with a local guiding company. Here are the major costs to consider when planning to undertake the Machame Route:
Total Costs: $3,200 – $5,100
A permit is required to climb Kilimanjaro. Furthermore, all trekkers must be accompanied by a guide and porters. If you are joining an organised tour, these will be arranged for you. Otherwise, speak to your hotel in Moshi or Arusha and they should be able to help you find a guide and obtain the necessary permit to climb Kilimanjaro.
The Machame Route, while being very popular, is considered one of the more difficult treks up Kilimanjaro. You will be trekking for 4-7 hours a day for about a week, gaining elevation every day. It's a good idea to work on your aerobic fitness before taking on the trek. That said, hikers of all ages regularly reach the summit via the Machame Route, and the success rate is generally considered to be above 90% on the seven day variation.
The Machame Route is designed to allow hikers some time for acclimatization before the summit push. That said, altitude sickness is a serious concern and trekkers should be informed of the risks, symptoms and warning signs before they go.
If you are particularly concerned about altitude sickness, the seven-day Machame Route is probably your best chance to reach the summit as it allows ample time for acclimatization.
Therefore, it is important to have a solid understanding of the risks associated with high altitude trekking and how the body acclimatises to high altitude. See our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation.
Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro requires a number of essential pieces of trekking clothing and equipment. You will be exposed to a range of altitudes where temperatures fluctuate dramatically between night and day.
To help you plan and prepare for your trek we have written a detailed gear list.
Trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro carries with it certain inherent risks. Chief among these is the risk of altitude sickness. It's a good idea to look into travel insurance before your journey. Make sure your insurance covers trekking up to 6,000 meters, which does not come standard in most travel insurance packages.
Check out World Nomads for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip.