Machame Vs Marangu: Which Popular Kilimanjaro Trekking Route is Best for You?

Standing at 5,895 metres with unparalleled panoramas at its peak, formidable climbing trails, and covetable sceneries along the way, Mount Kilimanjaro is the stuff that bucket lists are made of. It’s not only one of the world’s Seven Summits but it is also the highest free-standing mountain on Earth, which essentially puts in the top five of every avid long-distance hiker’s list. Reaching its peak is also a test of character, strength and endurance. 

There are seven trekking trails to its peak, each one with its own advantages and disadvantages. However, it’s the Marangu and Machame routes, with Marangu arguably getting the biggest share of foot traffic, that are perhaps the most well-known and the most in-demand for several reasons.

Which of these two popular Kili routes is right for your guided trekking tour? It all depends on your level of experience, time and personal preference, really. Here’s our detailed guide to help you decide.

Machame Vs Marangu
Photo credit: Stig Nygaard on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Machame Route

  • Start: Machame Gate, west of Umbwe
  • Finish: Mweka Gate at the end of Mweka Route
  • Length of trail: 49 kilometres (30 miles)
  • Length of trek: Typically 7 days, anywhere from 3 to 14 hours of hiking per day
  • Camps: Machame, Shira, Barranco, Karanga, Barafu and Mweka

Nicknamed the ‘Whiskey Route’, the Machame Route might only be second to Marangu in popularity. But that isn’t because it’s less scenic or not as impressive. On the contrary, the Machame Route, which starts at Machame Gate in the southwest and ends at Mweka Gate in the southeast, boasts spectacular sights and picturesque trails.

The reason it isn’t quite as popular might just be because trekking it involves longer hiking days, steeper climbs and more challenging sections. The Machame Route is, in fact, one of Kilimanjaro’s most difficult routes to take on, which only means it’s even more rewarding to conquer.

Machame Vs Marangu
Photo credit: romanboed on / CC BY

Best time to trek Machame Route

While it’s possible to climb Kilimanjaro year round, due to Machame’s challenging nature, it’s best to avoid it during the wet season when conditions are rougher. While traffic is high, August to October are the best months.

Gear to pack for Machame Route

You do not require any special climbing gear to tackle Machame. It might be challenging, but it’s not less accessible. After all, it is one of Kilimanjaro’s most popular trails. For a detailed list of things you need to pack, you should contact your tour operator as they may or may not provide certain pieces of equipment. 

Machame Vs Marangu
Photo credit: malczyk on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

What to expect from Machame Route

High traffic especially during peak season. Be prepared to take on a 14-hour trekking day, during which you will hike 17 kilometres (10.5 miles). Trekking the Machame route will take you through a rainforest, an alpine desert and a moorland, past an ice field, and if you’re making a good time, a quick visit to a cave. Wildlife sightings and unforgettable sights abound. 

Take this route if you are experienced, already acclimated to the high altitude and looking for a challenge.

Machame Vs Marangu
Photo on Visual Hunt
Mount Kilimanjaro
Height5,895 meters
RoutesMachame Route, Lemosho Route, Marangu Route, Rongai Route, Shira Route, Umbwe Route
Nearest AirportKilimanjaro International Airport

Marangu Route

  • Start: Marangu Gate from the east
  • Finish: Marangu Gate
  • Length of trail: 64 kilometres (39.8 miles)
  • Length of trek: five to six days, the six-day variant better suited for people who require longer acclimatisation
  • Camps: Mandara Hut, Horombo Hut and Kibo Hut

There are several reasons why Kilimanjaro Marangu Route, also dubbed the ‘Coca-Cola Route’, is it’s most popular. It isn’t only because it’s the oldest and most well-established. It’s also because it is by far the easiest trail, making it perfect for less experienced, timider and not quite as strong trekkers. Not to mention the fact that it has several hut-style accommodations complete with dining halls, washrooms, and even running water (only in the lower huts) forgoing the need to carry tents and sleeping pads, and making the hike all the more painless. 

In exchange for the comfortable slumbers and easier hike to the top, you’re deprived of the awe-inspiring views that the other, more challenging hikes have in abundance and you’re also likely to battle a few crowds.

Machame Vs Marangu
Photo credit: Thorsten Hansen on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Best time to trek Marangu Route

Because it is the easiest route, trekking tours are on hand year-round, though there are less of them during the low season. To avoid the high traffic, June and December have fewer trekkers and moderate precipitation. For even less traffic, March is also good if you can handle the heavy rains.

Gear to pack for Marangu Route

In lieu of primitive camps are the huts established along the trail. This means you need not pack:

  1. Tents
  2. Pillows
  3. Sleeping pads.

Keep in mind however that you will still need to pack your own sleeping bags as these are not provided at the huts.

What to expect from Marangu Route

The Marangu Route is the least scenic, so magnificent views are less abundant. That said, it does have its share of unforgettable moments: for example, the views at Gilman’s Point if you reach it at sunrise. Additionally, while it is the easiest, don’t take it to mean it’s smooth sailing all the way to the top.

Marangu has its share of challenging ascents. Take this route if you are not quite the experienced hiker, prefer a more solid roof over your head at night, or you need a longer time acclimating to the high altitude.

Ready to reach new heights in Kilimanjaro? Take a look at the most popular trekking tours to Kilimanjaro right here.

Michelle is Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. Her dream, next to travelling the world, is to own her own funky, boutique hotel with a small animal sanctuary so she can spend the rest of her days chilling with cats and hedgehogs. Follow her on Instagram .

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