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).
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.
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
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
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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