Hiking Kilimanjaro vs. Everest

The intrepid adventurer will no doubt want to summit a mountain at some stage of their life and the choice of where usually boils down to either Kilimanjaro or Everest. These two giants in mountainous majesty offer an unforgettable experience that takes adventure to a whole new level. Kilimanjaro is an excellent option for first-time climbers, and Everest Base Camp is another great choice for people new to mountains. However, summiting Everest is better for climbers that have had plenty of experience in alpine conditions at high altitudes. We unpack a little more detail about each climb to help make your decision between climbing Kilimanjaro vs. Everest a whole lot easier.

LocationTanzania, AfricaHimalayas, Asia
Height above sea level5,895m8,848m
Height above base4,900m3,650 – 4,650m
Days to base camp5 – 9 days10 days


Kilimanjaro climbs can be undertaken by adventurous spirits from a variety of age groups, some trails to the summit are even suitable for 15 to 80 years old. Because there are many different routes which vary in their level of difficulty, the opportunity opens up to so many more people.

Bookmark the guide: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro is a tough physical challenge, hiking for 5-9 days depending on the route you choose. One factor that a lot of people don’t prepare for is the mental side. The summit night was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life as I started hiking in pitch black at 11 pm with nothing but the light from my head torch. It’s a slow and steady walk up the to the top of the mountain. The scenery on the way up is sparse and you have below freezing temperatures to contend with.

Following in my guide’s footsteps I focused on where to put my feet and kept moving. Unfortunately, I suffered from mild altitude sickness and headaches, including throwing up behind a big rock half way up! But if you keep your head in the game and a positive attitude, then you’ll have a much better chance of making it to the top. Yes, those were the hardest 8 hours I’ve ever experienced, but I made it to the top and I’m immensely proud of the achievement. – Becky, Becky The Traveller

View of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, Kenya
View of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, Kenya | ⓒ Sergey Pesterev/Unsplash

Our number one piece of advice for someone looking to conquer Kilimanjaro is to be present. Be in the moment on the mountain and stop often to take it all in. So many people are focused only on the summit, they forget to look around and enjoy the journey.  The summit is only one part of the Kilimanjaro experience, and it’s important to not put so much stress and pressure on that one part. Step by step, with one foot in front of the other, you will get there, so it’s important to enjoy and appreciate each and every one of those steps that guides you to the next. – Allison & Danielle, Whoa Travel

Choosing to hike Kilimanjaro starts with choosing the routes, of which there are seven that have been established.

1. Marangu

  • Also known as the Coca-Cola route
  • Approaches from the south
  • Known as the easiest route due to a gradual slope
  • Least scenic route
  • Ascent and descent are along the same path, which can be busy
  • Minimum climb duration is five days

Travel to: Kilimanjaro

2. Machame

  • Also known as the Whiskey route
  • Approaches from the south
  • The walk is steeper than Marangu, with days stretching a bit longer
  • Most popular route
  • Very scenic with awe-inspiring views
  • The minimum climb is six days although seven days are recommended

3. Lemosho

  • Approaches from the west
  • Most preferred route
  • Less traffic on this route until it joins Machame
  • Scenically the most beautiful route
  • The minimum climb is six days although eight days are recommended
Porter carries a load along one of the routes to Kilimanjaro's summit
One of the many trails on Kilimanjaro | ⓒ Tom Cleary/Unsplash

4. Shira

  • Approaches from the west
  • Similar route to Lemosho
  • Not recommended as the initial ascent is very quick
  • The minimum climb is six days although seven days are recommended

5. Rongai

  • Approaches from the north
  • Quiet route due to location
  • A relatively difficult route that descends Marangu
  • A scenic route without much variation
  • The minimum climb is six days although seven days are recommended

6. Northern Circuit

  • Approaches from the west
  • The newest route and also the quietest
  • Highest success rate due to time spent acclimatising
  • Beautiful scenery
  • The minimum climb is nine days, which is the recommended duration

7. Umbwe

  • Approaches from the south
  • Short route with a steep climb
  • Very difficult and not recommended for inexperienced climbers
  • The minimum climb is five days although seven days are recommended

Mweka is the name of the route that is used solely for descending Kilimanjaro, although some of the routes use other descents.

Barafu Huts camp, 4681m above sea level, Kilimanjaro
Barafu Huts camp, 4681m above sea level, Kilimanjaro | ⓒ Stig Nygaard/Flickr

Ideally, first-time climbers should opt for a route that is gradual and spread out over a longer period. Choosing to spend longer on your trek will help you acclimatize to the altitude a lot better, which can only make the experience more enjoyable.

The best and most bizarre advice I received prior to climbing came from a local man who said, “walk like the elephants.” He explained that while it is important to take in the scenery, the journey, and the breathtaking views (sometimes literally – thanks, high altitude!), the key to summit successfully is not focusing on the end destination or goal, which always seems to be miles away, but rather keeping your head down and to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Follow the person in front of you, just like the elephants do, and before you know it, you’ll have arrived at your destination.

My personal advice comes from the mountain itself. Kili taught me the power of having a positive attitude. Just like in life, summiting the mountain is a mental challenge and is all about mind over matter. Tell yourself you can do it and remind yourself not to give up now. (But be safe, of course. If your life and health is indeed at risk, ask for help.) Other random tips are to save your iPod for summit night to help pass the time and store batteries close to your body to prevent freezing. Drink a ton of water during the day, but be smart about timing. For me, it worked to stop around 6pm so I could get a solid night sleep and not have to leave the warm tent to go out in the freezing night to pee. – Caryn, A Day in The Life


Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain and forms the border between Tibet and Nepal. A climb up Everest is not for the faint-hearted, and it requires a lot more preparation and equipment than climbing Kilimanjaro. There are trips to base camp, which are shorter treks that still allow adventurers to take in the beauty of the area, but summiting Everest is an entirely different ball game and only recommended for experienced climbers.

For someone planning to trek to Mount Everest, they need to know that despite minor setbacks, things always work out in Nepal. Bad weather may delay your flight into the lush Khumbu Valley, but in time the weather will clear. The yak carrying your duffle bag on the trek may get lost for a while in the colorful rhododendron shrubs by Tengboche monastery, but he and your bag will eventually reappear. The Nepali people are warm-hearted, anxious to help, and want you to have a wonderful trip.  So, when things go a bit off track stay positive, be patient, smile, and say the key Nepali phrase “Ke garne?” (pronounced “Ka gar-na”) which means, “What can you do?” This always makes everyone around you laugh, and reminds you to enjoy the unfolding adventure. – Jim Davidson, Speaking of Adventure

Climbing Mount Everest also comes with the option of different routes adding up to 18 in total, but with two primary routes taking center stage, one from the Nepalese side (South East Ridge) and one from Tibet (North Ridge).

Mount Everest
Mount Everest | ⓒ Martin Jernberg/Unsplash

1. South East Ridge

  1. Also known as South Col
  2. More popular route than North Ridge
  3. Begins in Nepal with a trek to base camp at 5,380m
  4. Hike to base camp takes 6 to 8 days for optimal acclimatisation
  5. A few days are spent in base camp adjusting to the altitude
  6. Porters and yaks carry climbing equipment
  7. From base camp, climbers travel through Ice Fall at 5,500m-6,100m, which can be very treacherous due to crevasses opening up. It can take anything between 3-8 hours
  8. From there, climbers head to Camp 1 or the Valley of Silence at 6,100m-6,400m
  9. Then Camp 2 at 6,400m (also known as Advanced Base Camp, ABC)
  10. Then Camp 3 or the Lhotse Wall at 7,470m is reached by fixed ropes and sits on a ledge. This part of the climb can take between 4-8 hours
  11. Climbers then need to traverse a rocky section of wall to Camp 4, also known as the Deathzone at 8,000m, which is the final camping area before the summit attempt
  12. The push to summit comes afterwards with a climb of between 8-16 hours all the way up to 8,848m

Travel to: Everest

2. North Ridge

  1. Also known as North Col
  2. Begins in the north in Tibet
  3. The route starts with a drive to base camp where acclimatization starts over a period of days at 5,182m
  4. The first actual trek is to Interim Camp at about 6,187m, which takes about 5-6 hours
  5. From there comes Advanced Base Camp on North Col at 6,492m, which takes in the region of 6 hours
  6. Camp 1 is at 7,000m and takes 4-6 hours
  7. Camp 2 is at 7,500m and takes 5 hours
  8. Camp 3 is at 8,300m and takes 4-6 hours
  9. The Yellow Band comes next
  10. The First Step follows after this and requires the use of fixed ropes and competent footing
  11. Mushroom Rock comes before Second Step, which is dominated by the Chinese Ladder, a tricky part of the climb with a vertical drop
  12. The Third Step follows at 8,690m, which is pretty easy and takes 1-2 hours
  13. Summit Pyramid is next, a steep, exposed slope that takes 2-4 hours
  14. Summit follows and takes about an hour to complete

My one piece of advice is be prepared to do the hike. I did not do a lot of training but at home I am always active. I run or take a long walk daily. I also have done a lot of hiking so I have experience with both multi-day hiking and altitude. It is very important to know how your body handles altitude. Some people can get altitude sickness at little as 10,000 feet. Finally do your homework and make sure you go with a reputable tour guide. – Nicole, Third Eye Mom

Stunning views at Everest Base Camp, Nepal | ⓒ valcker/Flickr

So, which one is better?

It depends on a number of different factors. Summit day is difficult on Kilimanjaro but achievable for first-timers. To summit Everest, you will require a greater level of training, endurance, skill and physical fitness over a longer period. If you want to experience Everest but are new to mountains, it might be worth considering an Everest Base Camp trek to start withthe scenery is spectacular since you’re in a region that boasts four peaks that are higher than 8000m. On the other hand, Kilimanjaro is all about exploring different eco-zones. Either way, it’s essential to cross both off your bucket lists eventually.

While summiting Kilimanjaro or Everest is no easy task, joining a tour that’s led by a professional adventure guide will make it less arduous and much safer.

From his hometown of Sydney, Australia, Sebastian has turned travel into a profession. Starting out as a tour guide in Sydney, he then moved to Europe to lead tours across the continent, before returning home where he continues inspiring others to find their own adventures.

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