The Marangu route to Kilimanjaro

by Kshaunish Jaini

The Marangu Route on Mt. Kilimanjaro is the oldest route on the mountain. Many also know it as the “Coca Cola” route. Many people mention that it is the most popular and the cheapest Kili route. However, when actually comparing the Marangu Route to other routes on the mountain, the only true statement is that it is the cheapest option.

The route is no longer the most popular route on the mountain as it has been surpassed greatly by the Machame route. The Machame route links up with the Lemosho and Shira route which adds to the traffic and makes it the busiest route on the mountain.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not true that the Marangu Route is the easiest out of other trails on the mountain. It has been around for the longest time and therefore makes it the easiest to organize. Also, it is the only route on Mt. Kilimanjaro where you can sleep in actual huts. This can make the trip much more comfortable for those that do not like sleeping in tents. It is also to be noted that the Marangu route has the least amount of summit successes in comparison to all other routes on the mountain.

Marangu-is-the-only-Kilimanjaro-Route-to-have-accommodation-in-Huts

Marangu is the only Kilimanjaro Route to have accommodation in Huts. Photo by Rob

The Marangu Route starts from the southeast side of the mountain and most itineraries are for five days.

For those of you that want a route with a higher success rate to the summit, the Rongai route may be a better option. However, by reading the itinerary and having a good understanding of what the actual Marangu route consists of, will give you a better insight on what it will take to get to the top.

Marangu Route Itinerary

Below is the general itinerary in regards to where you will be staying as well as typical hike distances and time:

Day 1 – Marangu Gate (1,860m) – Mandara Huts (2,700m)

Hike Distance: 8 km
Hike Time: 3-4 hours

Day 2 – Mandara Huts (2,700m) – Horombo Huts (3,700m)

Hike Distance: 12 km
Hike Time: 5-7 hours

Day 3 – Horombo Huts (3,700m) – Kibo Huts (4,700m)

Hike Distance: 9.5 km
Hike Time: 5-7 hours

Day 4 – Summit attempt to Uhuru Peak (5,895m) and descend to Horombo Huts (3,700m)

Hike Distance: 5.5 km ascent + 15 km descent
Hike Time: With ascent and descent 10-16 hours

Day 5 – Horombo Huts (3,700m) – Marangu Gate (1,860m)

Hike Distance: 20 km
Hike Time: 5 hours

Detailed Itinerary for the Marangu Route

To get a better understanding of what the Marangu Route will look like we will take a more detailed look into the route day-by-day.

Marangu Route Day 1

The first day you will get transport from your hotel to the Marangu gate where you will register and go through all the first formalities for the trail. The trail begins on the southwest side of the mountain where you will start by entering the rainforest. Remember to bring some rain gear, as well as something to keep your bag dry, there is a good chance that it will rain here. Be sure to ensure that you have all the items in the packing list required for climbing Kilimanjaro .

Marangu-Route-to-Kilimanjaro

Marangu Route to Kilimanjaro. The trail on Day 1. Photo by Twiga

You will follow a formalized gravel path that slowly inclines and you will pass a couple of waterfalls. On the first day, you will already start to enter into a different climate zone of alpine heath and moorland.

The campsite you will stay at this first night is at the Mandara Huts. If you do a slight 15-minute walk to the Maundi crater you will have a clear view of Mawenzi.

P.S. Keep your eye out for some blue monkeys…

Marangu Route Day 2

During day two you slowly start to break away from the tree line. With good weather, you will have great views of both the Kibo and Mawenzi mountains.

This will be a long day on the trail so remember to drink plenty of water to help minimize the chance of altitude sickness.

Throughout this day you will cross over various dry creeks as well as seeing local vegetation such as senecios and lobelias.

Horombo-Hut-on-Marangu-Route-Kilimanjaro

Horombo Hut on Marangu Route, Kilimanjaro. Photo by Thorsten

Tonight you will be camping at the Horombo Huts, which is also one of the busiest camp sites at the mountain. This campsite is used to acclimatize for many hikers doing the Marangu Route and is highly recommended. One of the reasons that many people fail on the Marangu Route is simply from not being able to acclimatize. If you choose to spend an extra night and acclimatize at the Horombo Huts it may be worth your while.

Marangu Route Day 3

If you chose to not take this day as an acclimatization day your third day of the Marangu Route will mean you are hiking up to the Kibo Huts.

As you gradually climb on this day you will slowly see vegetation decrease. You will also reach a signpost around 4,200 meters mentioning that this is the last location for water.

Kibo-Hut-on-Marangu-Route-Kilimanjaro

The door of the famous Kibo Hut on Marangu Route, Kilimanjaro. Photo by Hans

On this day you will cross a section known as the “Saddle.” The section is a beautiful flat plain which gives you the impression of being in the middle of Kibo and Mawenzi.

This day is truly beautiful and your enjoyment of it will have a lot to do with how well you have acclimatized. Also on this day climbers from the Rongai Route will have joined up with you as well to make an attempt with you on summit day.

Marangu Route Day 4

You will have wanted to rest well at Kibo Huts the night before summit day. This main be one of the most physically strenuous days of your life as the guides wake you up at 11:00 pm or 11:30 pm.

The switchbacks that will lead you to the summit will take away from some of the steepness of the climb. However, it will still be quite difficult due to the lack of oxygen as you have climbed to such a high altitude.

You may see a large landmark called Williams Point on the way up during the climb that will mark the altitude as 5,000 meters.

The most difficult part of the climb will start at the landmark of the Jamaican Rocks. From there you only have one hour left of climbing before you reach Gilman’s Point, which for many of you may be the highest altitude you have ever been in your life.

Huts-on-Marangu-Route-Kilimanjaro

The Marangu route to Kilimanjaro is the only one that offers accommodation in Huts. Photo by Rob

You will gain another 200 meters as you climb to the summit and to Uhuru Peak where you will finally be on top of the highest mountain in Africa.

By the time you arrive at Kibo huts, you will be utterly exhausted, but feel truly rewarded for accomplishing such a great feat.

Marangu Route Day 5

This will be the final day for you on the mountain taking with you an experience that you will never forget.

You will pass through all the vegetation that you climbed including the beautiful rainforest where you may relish some rain to help wash off some of the sweat from the climb.

You will climb into the vehicles and the climbing Kilimanjaro via Marangu route will become an experience that you will never forget.

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