Planning on climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania? Step 1 is deciding you’re going to do the trek but then step 2 is deciding on the best route for you.
After my younger sister returned from her trip to Tanzania, having reached the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro Africa’s highest mountain via the Rongai Route. I decided it was time to take on the challenge.
How hard can it be to climb Mt Kilimanjaro! Well let me tell you it’s not that easy but wow what a feeling to conquer it.
But which route should you take up this amazing mountain?
I started researching options for my adventure. Along with the Rongai Route to climb Kilimanjaro, there is also the Machame Route, Lemosho Route and the Marangu Route (known as the coca cola route, as it is the most popular).
Along with the Rongai Route to climb Kilimanjaro, there is also the Machame Route, Lemosho Route and the Marangu Route
The Rongai, Machame and Marangu were the three options offered by GAdventures who I had booked previous trips with (meaning a loyalty discount!) So an obvious choice for me to go with them for my epic adventure to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.
The Marangu route was the cheapest of the three options and the shortest route up and down Mt Kilimanjaro (or Mt Kili as I now call it). My sister had opted for the Rongai route to climb Mt Kilimanjaro so my decision was partly influenced by her.
Keep reading to see why I picked the Rongai route versus the Marangu route for my Kilimanjaro trip.
Why I Chose the Rongai Route to Climb Mt Kilimanjaro?
The Rongai route starts on the North Eastern side of the mountain, a place called Rongai, no surprise there! It takes you on a beautiful path up to the summit then back down a different route.
For me this was a big part of the decision, instead of hiking up and down the same path (as with the Marangu route), I would experience different environments. This Rongai route option versus the Marangu route really gives you a different perspective of the mountain.
Rongai Route – Where is Everyone?
The Rongai route is a less popular option but this comes with benefits. For me personally, the experience can be really different depending on the number of people around you. Yes, of course, it’s good to share what you are seeing with someone but on the other hand, the peace and quiet is something not to be overlooked.
Think about those amazing landmarks, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal in India. The brochure pictures show them with no one there, which we know isn’t true!
But starting the hike from Rongai, it was just me and my team. Although, very quickly the speedy porters had overtaken me, even carrying the extra weight so I had the path to myself.
Meet the Columbus Monkeys on Mt Kilimanjaro
Your climb to Mt Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route starts through a beautiful green forest. It’s not too steep so a great start to the hike. And it is a perfect place to spot Columbus monkeys. Although the monkeys live on the other side of Mt Kilimanjaro, as this route is less popular you have a better chance of spotting them as it’s quieter.
After just an hour into the walk, I spot our first family high up in the trees jumping from branch to branch. They are quite unusual with big white fluffy tails and a cheeky black and white face. As this is a less popular route you have a better chance of spotting them.
Rongai Route Kilimanjaro – Looking Back at Views of Kenya
The Rongai Route is the only trail that starts from the Northern side of Mt Kilimanjaro. Day one takes you through the forest and up a steep path. Well, you are climbing a mountain so I guess it had to happen sometime!
The Rongai Route is the only trail that starts from the Northern side of Mt Kilimanjaro
One thing I try to do when walking is to look behind me. Not whilst walking, I would probably fall over knowing me! Wow, we have climbed pretty high already and looking out you can see both Tanzania and Kenya behind us.
As this is the only route that starts from this side of the mountain, the Rongai route is the only hike you get to see Kenya!
More Wildlife on the Rongai Route, Mt Kilimanjaro
More wildlife spotting on Mt Kilimanjaro 🙂
Because of its remote location, the Rongai route offers hikers a relatively unspoilt wilderness experience. There are many birds along the path as well, mostly you hear them but if you look carefully you will spot them.
There’s a chance you might spot larger wildlife like elephants, antelope and buffalo. It was just the Columbus monkeys for me and I was happy enough with that. I did see animals footprints crossing our path though so they definitely weren’t too far away.
Rongai Route Means Extra Time on the Mt Kilimanjaro
The experience and scenery are beautiful so why wouldn’t you want to spend longer in such lovely surroundings. Booking with GAdventures, the Rongai Route takes 6 days (see my itinerary below) through forests to start, then the scenery is constantly changing.
The plants and trees seem to start shrinking as you climb higher until it’s literally just rocks! The Marangu route is one day shorter in just 5 days.
Camping Under the Stars on Mt Kili
(I know this is daytime but you get the idea!)
One thing you might want to consider when planning which route to choose, is the Rongai route is a camping option, whereas the Marangu route you stay in little wooden huts. It might not be everyone’s first choice but since I love camping it did make it an easier decision.
Camping gives you that closeness to nature, you can just zip open your tent and you’re outside. Away from the artificial lights of the cities, it’s pitch black with just light from the moon. And looking up there are hundreds of tiny stars twinkling far away. It’s so quiet as well. I truly feel relaxed and happy, out on the mountain.
Climb Mt Kilimanjaro via Rongai Route = Different scenery and walking options
The great thing about the Rongai Route is that although it’s a set path there are options to take slightly shorter routes if you want to. Day two on the hike gives you a choice, I picked the longer route but it’s good to know you have a choice. Maybe see how you feel and pick the one that’s right for you.
Click here to read my tips for Preparing to climb Kilimanjaro plus packing list
Better Weather on the Rongai Route (Maybe!)
Finally the top of the mountain!
I am not 100% sure how correct this is. I know it is a pretty big mountain but apparently, the Rongai Route side of the mountain gets significantly less moisture than the southern side.
In short, it means that you are less likely to meet rain. I am not a great person to prove this theory as day one of my hike it rained and again on day three but who knows maybe the other side got it worse.
Different Views of Mt Kilimanjaro
Hiking up the Rongai Route to climb Mt Kilimanjaro means you can experience the mountain from a different side. Ok, kind of obvious but maybe not something you might think about first. It does all depend on how the weather is behaving. The mornings are normally cleared so worth waking up and checking the views as soon as you wake up.
Acclimatisation Walk to Help Climb Mt Kilimanjaro Summit
The day you hike to Mawenzi Tarn Hut is a shorter day gives you a chance to charge the batteries. It also allows you to fit in an acclimatisation walk which helps as the Rongai Route is flatter than the other Kilimanjaro routes.
Having done various other high altitude hikes, including Morocco’s Mt Toubkal at 4,095m I now understand what a difference this makes. Click here to read more about my Mt Toubkal hike.
Rongai Route Kilimanjaro = Better Chance of Reaching the Top
The stats show that the Rongai Route is a better option to choose to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and for reaching the summit. That’s why you sign up to do the hike in the first place, isn’t it! So with an extra day hiking on the mountain, this means an extra day for your body to acclimatise. And for me, I think this made a massive difference in reaching the top.
I did suffer from altitude sickness. For the majority of the hike, I had felt ok but on reaching base camp I started to feel strange. Mainly just a headache and a bit sick but I now wonder how much worse I would have felt if I hadn’t had the extra day and high altitude.
For tips on preventing altitude sickness, you can read more here.
Itinerary To Climb Mt Kilimanjaro Via The Rongai Route
(6 days, 76 km/47 miles)
Day 1 on the Rongai Route
Rongai gate (1,950m) to Simba camp (2,750m)
Distance – 8km/5 miles
Day 2 on the Rongai Route
Simba camp (2,750m) to Kikelelwe camp (3,450m)
Distance – 10 km/6 miles
Day 3 on the Rongai Route
Kikelelwe camp (3,450m) to Mawenzi Tarn camp (4,330m)
Distance – 3 km/2 miles
Day 4 on the Rongai Route
Mawenzi Tarn camp (4,330m) to Kibo Hut (4,700m)
Distance – 9 km/6 miles
Day 5 on the Rongai Route
Kibo Hut (4,700m) to Uluru Point (5,895m) to Horombo Hut camp (3,700m)
Distance – 28 km/17 miles
Day 6 on the Rongai Route
Horombo Hut camp (3,700m) to Marangu gate (1,830m)
Distance – 18 km/11 miles
Rongai route tour booked to climb Mt Kilimanjaro via GAdventures
You can check out the latest costs for the tour here.
Top Tips to Climb Mt Kilimanjaro
- Take a head torch – great for hunting around in your bag when it gets dark. Also an essential item for visiting the toilet in the dark. You don’t want to fall in the hole!!
- High altitude means you might lose your appetite, but keep eating to keep your strength up
- Extra comfort – if you like a good night’s sleep then I would recommend taking a Thermarest mattress. The trip provides you with a mattress but this is a lightweight item that really makes the difference.
- Pole, pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili) – this is a tip for whatever route you take. The slower you walk the easier your body will adapt, therefore reducing the chance of altitude sickness.
- Flipping freezing – ok a slight exaggeration but I am one of those people that gets cold in the supermarket freezer department. Take plenty of layers so you can keep warm at night. It’s not so bad when you’re walking but the last night at base camp I was really cold.
Click here to read more of my Hiking Adventures
Compare the other routes here Machame route and Marangu route to find the one that suits you.
Are you planning to climb Mt Kilimanjaro? Which route are you planning? Want to know more about the Rongai Route to climb Mt Kilimanjaro? Ask me any questions in the comments below.
Looking for another challenge? Read about Gabe’s hike on the Appalachian Trail
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30 thoughts on “Why I Chose Rongai Route Versus Marangu Route | Mt Kilimanjaro”
This is really interesting! Not sure how I’d go as I’ve suffered from altitude sickness in the past, but maybe one day I can climb Kili!
Thanks Kristy. I suffered from altitude sickness a bit but still made it to the top. Having an extra day on the mountain at high altitude defintely helped me and I wonder if I had picked a different route whether I would have made it or not?
I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but I definitely couldn’t hack it! You’re a legend for doing this. It looks incredible! Such a memorable experience ?
Ah thanks Rhiannon, well never say never, the same day I summitted a 70 year old man had also done it so never too late!!! It’s a fantastic experience and would defintely recommend it 🙂
This is great to know! I’d love to climb Kilimanjaro this year so this is a great tip to take this route!
Thanks Gabby, glad you found it useful. I loved this route and was so pleased that I chose it. Hope you get to climb it soon 🙂
I hike and climb on a weekly basis so reading this post was awesome and also very useful 🙂
Thanks Chiara, I really appreciate you saying that. I guess some people that take on Kilimanjaro are regular hikers whereas some are pretty new so glad you enjoyed. 🙂
Uhmmm you’re amazing for not only climbing Kili but also for hiking for 6 days AND camping. And you’re so right that hoards of people alter your experience so this is some really great advice! Thanks!
Ah thanks so much :). Yes I love the feeling of having the mountain to myself, even on the summit night I was the only person at the top for about 10 minutes, whilst I did my photo shoot ha ha!!
This is such a cool post. Mt. Kilimanjaro has never been on my list but maybe it should be. It looks lovely. And all your tips are so helpful, like taking an extra day to acclimate. I bet altitude sickness if the worst. But glad you made it and sounds like a blast.
Ah thanks so much Kelly, maybe it’s time to add it to your list, it really is an awesome thing to achieve. Yeah I have to admit not a fan of the altiude sickness but it doesn’t last long and you are left with great memories. 🙂
Such a cool experience! However, I am a bit worried about altitude sickness 🙁 I am very prone to this :/
Ah thanks Magda. Yes I completely understand. I am actually in the middle of writing another post about high altitide so maybe that might answer some of your questions. I have suffered from altitude sickness but it hasn’t stopped me!!
This is so inspiring! I would be intimidated by the hike but kudos for going for it!
Thanks Maegan. Loads of people do it, the day I summitted a 70 year old man had also made it to the top so if he can do it maybe you could too!
I never even knew there were so many routes up to mount kilimanjaro. I am a slow traveller so I would definetly keep this route in mind. The extra days in acclimatization do make a difference. And great that you see so many wildlife on the way. After reading your post I wish I could go tomorrow.
Yes I know, the more you research the more you realise how many there are. Yes this route would be perfect, the days are spread quite nicely so you don’t have to rush. Ah hopefully you will be able to go soon Ellis, maybe just not tomorrow. I am currently writing a post about preparations for the hike which you might be interested in 🙂
I’d love to climb Kilimanjaro one day so this is a great tip to take this route ! Taking an extra day to acclimate is a good tip ! I suffered from altitude sickness just a little bit when I did a trek in Nepal but still made it to the top as well !!
Ah that’s fantastic, I think quite often people have mild altitide sickness but it doesn’t stop you from reaching the top!
Hey there! Amazing info to one of the most sought after treks?? I visited Kenya this Feb, wanted to go for this trek but Alas! Was short on time, plan to do it in the coming months! Thanks for sharing your experience??
Ah thanks Deepika, hopefully you will get to go back to East Africa soon and take on the trek. It’s a great experience. I do love Kenya too 🙂
I would love to do this one day! And 6 days doesn’t seem so bad, I thought it would be longer. Thanks for the detailed overview and congrats on such a huge accomplishment.
Ah thanks so much Jen, that’s really kind. Yes 6 days and such a great achievement so hope you get to do one day 🙂
Kilimanjaro is certainly on my wishlist! I haven’t yet started to check out the options, so thanks for all the useful tips and the amazing pics!
Ah that’s great to hear Irina. Well I hope this really helps when you start looking into more. I am currently writing another post on preparation for the hike so you might like to check that out too. I should be posting next week 🙂
Oh cripes. I though I had decided on the Leshomo route but now you are making me wonder as I like the idea of flatter, shorter and that extra acclimatisation day. Back to the drawing board. Thanks for sharing! Good to see a fellow UK worker/traveller/blogger
Ah thanks Anne, well I think whichever route you chose you will have an amazing time. Plus the summit is the same for all of them he he!! And yes you too, there aren’t many UK bloggers especially compared to the US!
I’ve saved lots of your posts, Becky, to my travel board. You’ve been to so many places and completed so many hikes – when I spot one of your posts I know it’s worth saving. I was particularly interested in this post as I climbed Kilimanjaro from the Kenyan side in 1973. The route was called the Rongai route, then, but it was slightly different. Our overnights were: first caves on night one, school hut on night two, uhuru point at dawn on day three and all the way down so back home on the evening of day three. I was volunteering at The Outward Bound Mountain School near Loitokitok at the time, located on the lower slopes of Kili, In Kenya, so I suppose we had a few miles head start as our route just hit the forest behind the school. Yes, lots of Colobus in the forest – glad they are still there. We were a totally unfit and unprepared group – all volunteers working in Loitokitok- a teacher, a German nurse, and three of us from Outward Bound. Doing the climb was on a whim, it wasn’t a bucket list item like it is now, and there were no organised treks. We borrowed boots and rucksacks from Outward Bound and hired local porters to guide us. I didn’t even have a camera! The big difference I see in photos is how little snow is on the mountain now compared with 1973. Our final climb was through deep snow.
Oh wow, that’s amazing to hear of your hike, this was 8 years ago now and already there are many more changes. I was also very unprepared and the guide leant me a jacket and trousers, without them I would have froze! Yes, not much snow at the top, I guess it varies from year to year as my friends did a few years back and the day after they summited there was heavy snow which meant it was impossible to get to the summit! Hope you enjoy more of my future hikes 🙂