MACHAME ROUTE KILIMANJARO
The most popular route to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro these days is Machame route, and for good reason. This trail offers stunning views, a reasonable challenge, and plenty of time to acclimate, making it a good choice for those who have a bit of extra time in their schedule.
Machame route has been nicknamed the “Whiskey Route” because it is often perceived as being tougher than Marangu route, which is often referred to as the “Coca-Cola” route. Unlike that trail however, camping is allowed on Machame, which means trekkers will be sleeping in tents all the way to the summit.
Trekkers who take the Machame Route pass several well known Mount Kilimanjaro landmarks while en route, including the famed Lava Tower and Shira Plateau. The route wanders up and down a series of valleys and ridges, which make the walk a bit more strenuous, but rewards hikers with some of the best views on the mountain.
It is for that reason that Machame route is widely considered to be the most scenic of all of the routes up Mount Kilimanjaro, providing unique and varied landscapes to pass through on each and every day. The trail starts on the south side of the mountain, passes underneath the Southern Ice Field and makes its summit approach from the Barafu Camp.
For travelers who have a few extra days in their schedule, Machame route is an excellent option. One or two additional days of acclimatization can make a big difference in the success rate, so trekkers who choose this route reach the summit more often, despite the fact that this is a more challenging hike than Marangu route.
One of the biggest and most intimidating of those challenges is the Barranco Wall, a steep cliff face that can look quite scary upon first approach. In reality, Barranco isn’t nearly as frightening or difficult as it first appears, although you will have to watch your step, and possibly use your hands for extra leverage while scrambling over certain sections. The climb usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete, and the view from the top makes it worth the effort.
The downside of the Machame Route is that it can get crowded at times. Because it is so scenic, and offers a few extra days to acclimate, it is a popular choice for Kilimanjaro trekkers, which can make the trail and campsites very busy, particularly during the high season.
Still, if you’re looking for the quintessential Kilimanjaro experience, it is difficult to beat Machame route.
Climbing Kilimanjaro offers Machame as a seven day climb or as a six day climb. The six day variation combines days four and five, going from Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp without staying at Karanga. You Skip Karanga Camp
Machame Route 7 days Itinerary Overview
Starting from Machame Gate to the summit and finish at Mweka Gate. For a day-by-day itinerary for the Machame Route please click on this link: 7 day Machame Route
Machame Route Detailed Itinerary
The itinerary below describes the 6 nights/7 day Kilimanjaro climb via the Machame route. To shorten the below itinerary to six days you skip the night in the Karanga Valley and instead walk straight from the Barranco Huts to the Barafu Huts in one day.
Duration: 6 nights /7 days Climb
Day 1: Machame Hut Camp
A short drive brings us to the Machame trailhead (~5,380’). After the climbers and crew have checked in with the park rangers, we will hike up through the montane forests, winding up the mossy jungle, making our way to Machame Hut camp.
Hiking: 5-7 hours
Overnight Altitude: ~9,350′
Day 2: Shira Plateau
After breakfast, our hike continues through the forest. We will take our time, soaking in the scenery as we make our way through the moorlands. We will be treated to spectacular views of Kibo peak.
Hiking: 4-6 hours
Overnight Altitude: ~12,500′
Day 3: Barranco Camp
Today is a long day but lots of acclimatization as you climb high, sleep low. We will take an acclimatization hike to Lava Tower (~15,190’) for lunch, before descending to the Barranco valley. For those who have energy, and if time and weather permit, there’s the possibility to scramble up the Lava Tower itself. The scenery is amazing today, passing through different zones of the mountain.
Hiking: 6-8 hours
Overnight Altitude: ~13,044′
Day 4: Karanga Camp
Today you’ll continue to acclimatize and let your body adjust to these higher altitudes, in preparation for your upcoming summit push. Climb the steep Barranco Wall and then go up and down several ridges and valleys before arriving at Karanga camp. There will likely be time for an acclimatization hike in the afternoon.
Hiking: 4-5 hours
Overnight Altitude: ~13,106′
Day 5: Barafu Camp
Today you’ll continue your circuit and arrive at your final camp before the summit (Barafu camp). Some ups and downs along ridges and valleys along the way. You’ll have an early supper, sleep for a few hours, and then arise at about 11:00 PM to start tomorrow’s summit ascent.
Hiking: 3-4 hours
Overnight Altitude: ~15,331′
Day 6: Summit and Mweka Camp
Start hiking at around midnight, using your headlamps to lead the way slowly up to Stella Point and then the summit. Due to the altitude, you will hike slowly, and will need to dress warmly for the cold. After celebrating with photos at the summit, descend down to Mweka camp.
Hiking: 6-7 hours ascent to the summit, then 6-9 hours of descent
Overnight Altitude: ~10,500′
Day 7: Mweka Park Gate (~5,000’) to Arusha
We make the final descent through the rain forest to Mweka Gate. Here we will have lunch and say goodbye to our mountain crew before leaving Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Drive back to Arusha for a hot shower and a celebratory dinner.
Hiking: 3-5 hours
MACHAME ROUTE MAP
The route starts at Machame Gate on the south west of the mountain and ascends to the first camp at the edge of the forest and then continues up and traverses the mountain for several days before climbing to the peak from the final camp on the south east side of the peak. The descent is almost directly south.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The entire climb up and down is approximately 62 km/ 37 miles from gate to gate. The height gain from the gate to the summit is 4157 metres, which is ascended over six days of around 5-7 days walking each day.
The seven day route on Machame allows for a first night at 3000m, then the following three nights at around 3900m, then the final camp at 4600m at midnight on day 6. Summit day involves ascending 1385m to Uhuru Peak and then descending all the way down to 3800m. Day 7 is then a descent through forest to the gate.
Day Start Level Daily High Point Sleep Level Camp name
Day One 1830m 3000m 3000m Machame
Day Two 3000m 3850m 3850m Shira
Day Three 3850m 4560m 3950m Barranco
Day Four 3950m 4200m 3950m Karanga
Day Five 3950m 4600m 4600m Barafu
Day Six 4600m 5985m 3800m Millennium
Day Seven 3800m 3800m 1830m
The camps for the seven day Machame route are Machame, Shira, Barranco, Karanga Valley, Barafu and Millennium (or sometimes Mweka). A full description of each camp is below.
Machame and Millennium Camp are on the tree line and have a number of campsites set in small clearings in the forest. The whole site can accommodate probably a hundred tents. You will see a central ranger station and a number of brick toilets and long drop latrines. The air is quite humid and it’s not too cold; being right in the trees you won’t see lots of other people round the site.
Shira Camp is situated on the vast Shira plateau which is a volcanic spill-off from the last explosion some 100,000 years ago. Open and exposed and often dusty with smaller, you will find more fragile plants among the rocks. Brick toilets and latrines and Ranger huts are around and the area is so huge it is easy to spread out and have some privacy. Shira could accommodate hundreds of tents fairly easily. Expect it to be colder here, more windy potentially. The views of the summit massif are really amazing, especially at dawn and dusk, and it’s worth getting up in the night if there is a full moon to see it rise behind the summit.
Barranco Camp is at the head of the steep valley which drops down into the Umbwe route that goes all the way down to Moshi. Tucked up underneath the summit massif there are huge dramatic cliffs to see, some remains of hanging glaciers and often the whole of Kibo will be plastered in snow. Meanwhile looking down the valley you can see the lights of Moshi. The campsite has brick toilets and latrines (long drops), a Rangers hut of course, and there is a lot of plant life here so it’s green and verdant, especially the giant groundsels which can grow several metres tall. The camp can take over a hundred tents quite easily but space is limited so you can sometimes expect to walk a distance to find your tent.
Karanga Camp is very open and situated somewhat on a slope so make sure your tent is on a flat piece of ground. There are great views of the summit massif again and you can see the route to the summit quite easily. Looking downhill you can see the lights of Moshi. Brick toilets and pit latrines again, a Rangers Hut and space for at least a hundred tents. It can be cold and windy here, and the cloud can come and go very fast. Water is a problem at this camp, the porters have to walk forty minutes back down the trail to the nearest stream.
Many people go direct from Barranco to the next camp Barafu in one day in order to climb Kilimanjaro in six days, so Karanga is a half-way stop, but it’s well worth the additional acclimatization.
Barafu, meaning ‘ice’ in Swahili, is the final camp at 4600m. It is no longer covered in permanent snow but it is cold and rocky and exposed. People definitely feel the altitude here and you can expect snow and often wind. The campsites are dotted among nooks and crannies in the rocks, running the length of the ridge. Some camps are far below the Rangers hut and the start of the summit climb, so it can add more than half an hour to the ascent. With brick toilets and latrines, the facilities are now good but water is in short supply so the porters are forced to travel back downhill to the nearest stream. The Rangers here have large heavy duty stretchers at hand which have a single wheel underneath, so it’s possible to get people down quickly. There is also a helipad at the camp.
Kilimanjaro Packing List
Clothing for Kilimanjaro
Hiking underwear and shirts
Bags & Backpacks for hiking
Camel bag / Hydration bladder
Travel bag organizers
Hands & Walking
Hiking sleeping bags
Sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro
Personal & Medical items