Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Kilimanjaro Machame Route

Machame is the most popular of what might be defined as the outfield routes. It is the trailhead closest to the jump-off town of Moshi and as a consequence the easiest of all the Kilimanjaro routes for tour operators to sell and use.

Machame Route is best attempted over a period of 7-days. Be wary of any outfitter offering you a shorter option on this trail. This will always mean two days combined into one somewhere along the trail, and the net result of this is ineffective altitude adjustment and an early departure…unless of course you have the experience to be certain you can cope with this…

Machame Route offers the best view of the beautiful Kilimanjaro Forest. All of day-1 is spent trailing through this lovely section of the mountain. The Kilimanjaro Forest is a remnant forest that over the years has suffered terrible environmental destruction, but has in more recent times been better preserved. It is a superb example of tropical cloud forest and is a rare sight in Africa these days.

Machame Route also offers some of the most beautiful views of the Masai Mara, and the plains of East Africa, from the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The intermediate phases of the Machame Route trail pass through the heather belt offering glimpses of the summit and interesting encounters with the wildflowers of Kilimanjaro.

After day-2 Machame Route links up with Lemosho Route along the Southern Circuit of Mount Kilimanjaro, which can be pretty busy, but is nonetheless a varied and beautiful stretch of tail. The main camps along the Southern Circuit…Lava Tower, Barranco and Karanga…are often quite crowded and facilities can be pretty basic. At higher altitudes the standards of camp maintenance decline and in particular the public toilets can be oppressively odorous…

The Machame Route summit push kicks off from Barafu Camp which is probably the most crowded and smelly of all the camps, but by then your whole focus is on getting to the top and your interest in your physical surroundings has diminished to almost zero.

Summit day is killer day. The usual schedule is an ‘Alpine Summit’ which means a midnight wake-up call and a tough 6/7 hour trudge to the summit in total darkness with a howling wind and frigid temperatures. After a quick photo call at the summit most climbers try and get back down to Barafu Camp as quickly as possible. Once there, after a quick mean and a short break, it is on to Mweka camp some 3-hours distant for a night spent at a much more comfortable altitude…

Machame Route schedule

Day 1: Machame Gate (1634 m/5,363 ft) to Machame Hut (2834 m/9,300 ft)

  • Hike time: 7.5 hrs
  • Elevation change: +1200 m/+3937 ft
  • Estimated distance: 10km/6.21 miles
  • Final elevation: 3100 m/10,170 ft

Day 2: Machame Hut (2834 m/9,300 ft) to Shira Hut (3749 m/12,300 ft)

  • Hike time: 7 hrs
  • Elevation change: +800 m/+244 ft
  • Estimated distance: 6km/3.75 miles
  • Final elevation: 3800 m/12,467 ft

Day 3: Shira Hut (3749 m/12,300 ft) to Barranco Hut (3901 m/12,800 ft)

  • Hike time: 5 hrs
  • Elevation change: +100 m/+328 ft
  • Final elevation: 3900 m/12,800 ft

Day 4: Barranco Hut (3901 m/12,800 ft) to Karanga Valley (3963 m/13,000 ft)

  • Hike time: 3.5 hrs
  • Elevation change: +100 m/+328 ft
  • Estimated distance: 4km/2.5 miles
  • Final elevation: 3963 m/13,000 ft

Day 5: Karanga Valley (3963 m/13,000 ft) to Barafu Hut (4,600 m/15,091 ft)

  • Hike time: 3.5 hrs
  • Elevation change: +600 m/+1968 ft
  • Estimated distance: 4km/2.5 miles
  • Final elevation: 4,600 m/15,091 ft

Day 6: Barafu Camp (4,600m/15,091 ft) to the Summit (5896 m/19,343 ft) and then to Mweka Camp (3100 m/10,170 ft)

  • Summit time: 7 hrs
    • Elevation change: +1300 m/+4265 ft
    • Estimated distance: 5km/3.2 miles
    • Final elevation: 5896 m/19343 ft
  • Descent time: 5 hrs
    • Elevation change: -2800 m/-9186 ft
    • Estimated distance: 12km/7.5 miles
    • Final elevation: 3100 m, 10,170 ft

Day 7: Mweka Camp (3100 m/10,170 ft) to Mweka Gate (6,000’)

  • Descent time: 4 hrs
  • Elevation change: -1250 m/-4101 ft
  • Estimated distance: 10km/6.21
  • Final elevation: 1828 m/6000 ft