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Northern Circuit Route – The Quietest Route to the Summit of Kilimanjaro

  • Updated: December 6, 2019
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This page provides a comprehensive and impartial guide to climbing Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit.

Please note: We are not a tour operator, but we can put you in touch with our recommended partner, see details below.

As this is a very long and detailed article on the Northern Circuit, we recommend using the quicklinks below to navigate to the sections that interest you most. Alternatively, bookmark this page for future reference.

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We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended partner click Get a Quote.

Northern Circuit Kilimanjaro Route Overview

The Northern Circuit, as the newest and longest route up Kilimanjaro, links together portions of several other routes. It is operated as an eight- or nine-day trek by most tour operators. Success rates are relatively high for this route because trekkers have plenty of time to acclimatise.

Beginning in the West, the Northern Circuit follows the same route as the Lemosho Route for the first two days before veering north towards Lava Tower and around to the eastern side of the mountain. Trekkers reach the crater rim at Gilman's Point and traverse around to Uhuru Peak before descending via either the Mweka or Marangu Route.

Northern Circuit Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Can be completed on a 8 or 9 day route variation. Both have great summit success rates!
  • Great Walk High, Sleep Low profile which aids acclimatisation
  • Quiet and remote route, ideal if you want to avoid crowds and have the mountain to yourself

Cons

  • The longest route in days and distance. This means trekking fatigue is quite common

Northern Circuit Route Map

The map illustrates the Northern Circuit Route, which begins on the remote Western side of Mount Kilimanjaro before heading to the North and East.

You can see how the route follow the Northern Circuit around Kilimanjaro and summits via the apporach at Gilman's Point.

Descent is via the Mweka route.

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Northern Circuit Altitude Profile

The schematic diagram shows the altitude profile for the Northern Circuit.

You can see how the route initially ascends to Lava Tower, but then gradually descends to Rongai Cave. This provides good time to acclimatise for the summit push. 

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We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended partner click Get a Quote.

Typical Itinerary for Northern Circuit 

The Northern Circuit Route is operated as an eight-day or a nine-day trek. Below is a detailed itinerary for the nine-day route. For details on the eight-day variation, see the Route Variations section below.

Click each day to read more.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

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Northern Circuit Route Variations

The Northern Circuit Route can be hiked in eight days, rather than the more-typical nine days. Eight-day trekkers skip the additional acclimatisation day at Shira Camp 2, heading straight to Moir Camp via Lava Tower. Otherwise, the two routes are identical.

Video Overview

See a detailed, animated tour of the Northern Circuit Route for a taste of what can be expected on this long and beautiful trek.

Get a Kilimanjaro Trek Quote

We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended partner click Get a Quote.

Recommended Guidebook

mount-kilimanjaro-guide

Mount Kilimanjaro: Trekkers Guide to the Summit

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.

The book is available on Amazon Kindle or an eBook version can be downloaded here.


Frequently Asked Questions About Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route

1.

How much does the Northern Circuit Route of Kilimanjaro cost?

The costs of trekking on the Northern Circuit Route will vary based on a few factors, such as what season you choose to hike, whether you choose the eight-day or nine-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 Northern Circuit:

  1. Visa, Vaccinations, Insurance etc: ~$300-$500
  2. Equipment (buying and hiring): ~$200-$300
  3. Flights to Kilimanjaro International Airport/Dar es Salaam/Nairobi: ~$800
  4. Tour Agency: About $1,800 for a cheap local agency to ~$4,000 for an expensive Western agency.
  5. Tips: ~$200-$300
  6. Misc (additional food, unplanned travel / hotels etc): $200
  7. Total Costs: $3,500 – $6,000
2.

Are permits required for the Northern Circuit Kilimanjaro?

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.

3.

When is the best time to trek the Northern Circuit?

June to September is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro, as the weather is best. 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 are the rainy season so most hikers avoid these months. November is a light rainy season but the Northern side is in the rain shadow so you should be fine to trek in this month.

4.

Is altitude sickness a risk?

The Northern Circuit 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. We recommend you read our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation. If you are particularly concerned about altitude sickness, the nine-day Northern Circuit is probably your best chance to reach the summit as it allows ample time for acclimatization.

5.

How difficult is the Northern Circuit?

The Northern Circuit Route offers trekkers ample time for acclimatisation, therefore it can be considered easier than some of the shorter routes. That said, you will be hiking nearly 100km over the course of eight or nine days, which is not an easy task. It's a good idea to work on your aerobic fitness before taking on the trek.

6.

What gear do I need?

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.

7.

What insurance do I need for the trek?

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 to Kilimanjaro.

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