The Marangu Route is also known as the "Tourist Route" and the "Coca-Cola Route." This is because Marangu is the most popular route on the mountain, and thus is considered "touristy", and because the route is the only one that offers sleeping huts, which serve beverages like Coca-Cola, on the way.
Marangu is the easiest route on Mount Kilimanjaro. It's ascension profile is very gradual and steady, allowing for painless trekking for most of the way. However, due to its reputation as an easy route, Marangu is often selected by unprepared, unexperienced climbers. Correspondingly, only about 35% of the people actually make it to the top.
The trek begins in the south-east area of the mountain at Marangu Gate. The route takes five days minimum to complete, although six days is more practical and recommended. The sleeping huts along the route are structures with a dining hall and bunk beds, equipped with mattresses and pillows. The descent is done on the same path, contributing to Marangu's overcrowded feeling. It is a cheaper climb as well, do to the close proximity of the gate to Moshi, the gateway town, and because it is a shorter route.
Scenically, Marangu is not a desirable route compared to all the other routes because it confines climbers to one area of the mountain, thus limiting the variety. However, Marangu has the best trail in the rainforest section of the trek. Of course, there are still great views of the Mawenzi and it's equally spectacular for everyone at Uruhu.
Marangu is ideal for those who are not confident in their ability to hike over steeper paths. It's also attractive for those who do not want to sleep in a tent. Marangu's huts offer shelter and warmth against the weather so it is a decent choice when climbing during the rainy season. Marangu is for those who want to spend less on their climb, and do not mind crowds.
DAY 1 - MARANGU GATE TO MANDARA HUT
The drive from Arusha to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate, takes about three hours. The journey passes through the village of Marangu, which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain. Once you reach the park gate, all hikers are requested to sign in at the Park office and make their final preparations for the climb.
Our guides will be available to assist with any additional information or needs you might have. You now leave the Park gate and ascend on a cleared ridge trail through the rain forest. The forest, suffused with mist and dripping with beards of moss, is also where most of Kilimanjaro’s animals are found such as colobus monkey and blue monkey and birds.
An alternative and more scenic parallel forest trail branches off to the left a few minutes after the gate. This trail follows the edge of a stream through the undergrowth and offers you the option to rejoin the main trail either after 1.5 hours hiking, or 1 hour before Mandara hut.
Your first night stop, Mandara hut, consisting of a group of wooden A-framed huts in a forest clearing. Each hut features 6-8 sleeping bunks with solar generated lighting. The total capacity of the camp is 60 climbers. Water is piped into the camp from springs above and there are flush toilets behind the main hut. Dinner is prepared by our cook and served in a communal dining mess.
- Elevation: 1860 m to 2715 m
- Distance: 8.1 km
- Hiking time: 5 hours
- Habitat: Montane forest
DAY 2 - MANDARA HUT TO HOROMBO HUT
From Mandara hut the trail passes through a short stretch of forest, skirts the base of the Maundi Crater and then emerges into the transition from rain forest to moorland. It is well worth a short detour to scramble up the rim of the Maundi Crater for your first really impressive view of the Kibo Crater. On a clear day, Kibo will glimmer in the distance, showing off her majestic glaciers in the morning sun.
Once you are in the open moorland you will get the chance to see some of Kilimanjaro’s most spectacular plants – the endemic giant lobelia which grows up to 3 m in height and the giant groundsel (Senecia kilimanjari), which can reach heights of 5 m! After about 6 hours trek from here, you reach the Horombo hut where you will overnight.
- Elevation: 2715 m to 3705 m
- Distance: Approximatly 12 km
- Hiking time: 6 hours
- Habitat: Moorland
DAY 3 - HOROMBO HUT (3705m) – ACCLIMATISATION DAY
Horombo hut is a village of huts perched on a small plateau, with buildings similar to Mandara, but with a total capacity of 120 climbers! Horombo is normally bustling with hikers, guides and porters, with an atmosphere of adventure and excitement. You will meet both ascending and descending hikers here.
This extra day and night at Horombo is for additional acclimatisation. A hike towards the Mawenzi hut, passing the Zebra Rocks on the way (about 3 hours up and 1.5 hours down), is strongly recommended. This hike will further assist with the process of acclimatisation. Remember to drink enough water and move slowly! All meals for the day are provided at the hut. Retire to bed early and get a last good night’s rest.
DAY 4 - HOROMBO HUT TO KIBO HUT
After breakfast you now continue your ascent into the Alpine desert habitat. From Horombo there are two trails to the “Saddle” (which refers to the area located between the peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo). There is an upper route (right hand fork) and lower route (left hand fork) to choose from. The upper route (right hand fork) should be very familiar, as you will have climbed most of it the previous day (on your acclimatisation hike) towards Mawenzi hut. This section is very stony and eroded.
The recommended lower route (left hand fork) is much easier and nearly an hour shorter, and it also passes the last watering point at 4,130 m. Once again remember to slow down and drink enough water!
Situated in the barren Alpine desert is Kibo hut, a stone build block house which has bunk beds for 60 climbers, There are platform toilets behind the hut.
The summit is now a further 1,195 m up and you will make your final ascent the same night. Prepare your equipment, ski-stick and thermal clothing for your summit bid. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed at round about 19:00h and try to get as much rest and sleep as possible.
- Elevation: 3,705 m to 4,730 m
- Distance: Approximately 10 km
- Hiking time: 6 hours
- Habitat: Alpine desert
Day 5 - KIBO HUT TO UHURU PEAK TO HOROMBO HUT
Walked up before the midnight, you will get ready and having something to eat like tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night, and this is where the going really gets tough. The first section of the trail consists of a rocky path to the Hans Meyer Cave (5,150 m), also a good resting spot. The path then zigzags up to Gillman’s Point (5,681 m), which is located on the crater rim. This section is very steep with a lot of stone scree, requiring a great physical and mental effort. This is probably the most demanding section of the entire route. Do the Kili shuffle and move slowly.
From Gillmans Point you will normally encounter snow all the way up to Uhuru peak (5,895 m), the highest point in Africa. Total exhilaration and satisfaction – you made it. Weather conditions on the summit will determine how long you will be able to spend, taking photographs, before the 3 hour descent back to Kibo hut. After a short rest you gather all your gear you left behind for the ascent and head down to Horombo hut (3 hours) for your overnight. The return to Horombo hut will seem surprisingly fast compared to the ascent. The total time spent walking on this day is around 14 hours, so be prepared for a very tough day. Later in the evening you enjoy your last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep, filled with memories and stirring emotions.
- Elevation: 4,730 m to 5,895 m to 3,705 m
- Distance: Approximately 5.4 km ascent and 15 km descent
- Hiking time: 7-8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak, 6-8 hours to descend to Horombo
- Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
Day 6 - HOROMBO TO MANDARA TO MARANGU GATE
After breakfast you continue your descent (6 hours), passing the Mandara hut, down to the Marangu gate. At Marangu gate you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Gillman’s Point (5,685 m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5,895 m), receive gold certificates. You now drive back to Moshi for hot lunch then Arusha for a long overdue hot shower.
- Elevation: 3,705 m to 1,860 m
- Distance: Approximately 20 km
- Hiking time: 6 hours
- Habitat: Rain forest