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The Rongai Route - Kilimanjaro

Of all the paths you can take up Africa's tallest mountain, the Rongai route is the only trail that starts on the Kenyan side of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you're looking to avoid a steep incline to the summit, this is an excellent option as it has a flatter terrain than other Kilimanjaro trails! Learn more about the Rongai route below. 

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Overview of the Rongai route

As the only route that approaches from the northern side of the mountain, the Rongai route offers a gentle approach toward the summit. The Rongai route is a moderately difficult route but is highly recommended to those with less backpacking or hiking experience.

The most important thing to note is that it's flatter than the other Kilimanjaro treks, and does not offer trekkers good options to climb high and sleep low. As a result, hikers generally suffer more from altitude sickness on the Rongai route compared to others, and an additional acclimatisation day is definitely recommended. 

During the journey itself, you will travel through forests, moorlands, grassy slopes, desertlike environment, and tropical rainforests on the route down to Marangu Gate. Given that it's the only trail to start from the Kenyan side of Kilimanjaro, the Rongai route is generally less crowded, and you might even be lucky enough to spot antelope, elephants, and buffalo at the start of your journey through the wilderness. 

Rongai route distance and other facts

  • Distance: The Rongai route is 72 kilometres (44 miles) long. 
  • Location: The Rongai route ascends Kilimanjaro from the northeastern side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya
  • Height: The Rongai route reaches the summit of Kilimanjaro at the Uhuru peak, reaching a height of 5,895 metres (19,341 feet). 
  • Trail conditions: The northeast side of the mountain gets significantly less moisture than the southern slopes, which means that trekkers are less likely to encounter rain.

Six and seven-day itineraries for the Rongai route

A trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on the Rongai route can take anywhere between six to seven days. The main difference between the six-day and seven-day route is an additional acclimatization day at Mwenzi Tarn.

Previous trekking experience is highly recommended, as the days will feature 6-8 hours hiking with daily ascents of 900m to 1,000m, perhaps with the odd day of ascending around 1,100m to 1,200m. You will be trekking at an altitude and need complete confidence in your ability to trek for many days over difficult terrain.

Extremes of altitude and weather may be encountered, as may the use of ice axes and crampons. A degree of physical and mental stamina will be essential to complete the hike as the days will be tiring. 

Facts about Kilimanjaro

Oldest person to ever summit
87 year-old Frenchman Valtee Daniel
Youngest person to ever summit
7 year-old Keats Boyd
Name and height of summit
Uhuru Peak is 5,895 m or 19,341 feet high
Amount of climbers annually
Approximately 25,000 people attempt to summit Kilimanjaro annually
Did you know
Kilimanjaro is the world's highest free-standing mountain

A typical itinerary for the Rongai route

1Rongai Gate1,950m/ 6,398ftRongai Cave2,830m/ 9,300ft47km/ 4mi
2Rongai Cave2,830m/ 9,300ftSecond Cave3,450m/ 11,300ft3-46km/ 4mi
Second Cave3,450m/ 11,300ftKikelewa Cave3,600m/ 11,811ft3-43km/ 2mi
3Kikelewa Cave3,600m/ 11,811ftMawenzi Tarn4,315m/ 14,160ft46km/ 6mi
4Mawenzi Tarn4,315m/ 14,160ftMawenzi Ridge4,389m/ 14,400ft1-22km/ 1mi
Mawenzi Ridge4,389m/ 14,400ftMawenzi Tarn4,315m/ 14,160ft1-22km/ 1mi
5Mawenzi Tarn4,315m/ 14,160ftKibo Hut4,703m/ 15,430ft5-69km/ 6mi
6Kibo Hut4,703m/ 15,430ftUhuru Peak5,895m/ 19,341ft6-86km/ 4mi
Uhuru Peak5,895m/ 19,341ftHorombo Hut3,720m/ 12,205ft4-516km/ 10mi
7Horombo Hut3,720m/ 12,205ftMarangu Gate1,843m/ 6,046ft5-720km/ 12mi

Rongai route summit success rate

To ensure a higher success rate, it is highly recommended trekkers aim for the seven-day itinerary with one day dedicated to acclimatization. On average, this itinerary has a decent 80% summit success rate, while for the six-day itinerary, the success rate drops down to 65%.

Tips for trekkers on the Rongai route

  • Be prepared not to shower for a week, and make sure to pack a generous supply of wet wipes. 
  • Climbing can be physically and mentally challenging, but try to stay positive when the journey seems impossible. 
  • A perfectly curated playlist for you to listen to can make a challenging climb much more enjoyable; particularly during your summit attempt. 
  • Mentally prepare yourself for altitude sickness. Even experienced hikers will suffer from some symptoms at times. Remember that it affects everyone differently. 
  • If time and budget allow, aim to add an extra night to your journey to reduce the impact of altitude sickness. 
  • To mentally prepare for the Rongai route, try to spend a few weekends camping to get familiar with using limited facilities, and to overcome any small barriers you might encounter. 
  • Be sure to wear your hiking boots before your hike to avoid blisters, as this could potentially stop you from reaching the summit if you’re not careful.
  • Travel at your own pace, and remember that it is not a race. Most importantly, don’t forget to take in the incredible views.
  • Drink as much water as possible, and then drink a little more! 

FAQs: Learn more about how to climb the Rongai route

  • How do I prepare for the Rongai route?

    Any physical activity you can do beforehand will help make your ascent more enjoyable. As for how hard you train, this will depend on whether you're aiming for the Uhuru Peak or embarking on a shorter journey. Learn more.
  • When should I climb the Rongai route?

    You can climb the Rongai route all-year-round, but it may be wet and cold, which means you will need waterproof gear. Consider climbing between January–March and June–October. Note that April, May and November are the wettest months. Learn more.
  • What should I pack and what equipment do I need?

    While trekking tour operators may supply some of the gear required, there are a few non-negotiables you will need, and that includes waterproof outerwear, a headlamp, sunglasses, appropriate hiking boots, personal medication, a non-disposable water bottle and a cap or a beanie for example. Learn more.
  • How do I get to the Rongai route?

    Before you start your hiking escapade to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, you will need to establish how to get there, and the best mode of transport to suit your itinerary or tour. Travellers flying from the UK, the US, Australia or Canada and other parts of the world have a few options to explore. Learn more.
  • What are the climbing requirements for the Rongai route?

    Mount Kilimanjaro welcomes hikers of all levels of fitness and ability, but if you’re planning to reach the summit, careful planning and vigorous training is vital. Consider adding extra time to your itinerary to avoid altitude sickness and to enjoy your time climbing Kilimanjaro. Learn more.
  • What permits do I need?

    Each visitor will be required to pay a fee per person, per day for the conservation fee to help manage the national park. However, most tours will cover the permits and entry fees are included in the price. Learn more

Other popular Mount Kilimanjaro routes

  1. Machame RouteDistance: 62 km, average duration: 6-7 days, success rate: 75%-85%
  2. Marangu RouteDistance: 72 km, average duration: 5-6 days, success rate: 50% 
  3. Lemosho Route. Distance: 70 km, average duration: 7-8 days, success rate: 65%-90%
  4. Rongai Route. Distance: 73 km, average duration: 6-7 days, success rate: 65%-80%
  5. Shira Plateau Route. Distance: 56 km, average duration: 7-8 days
  6. Umbwe Route. Distance: 53 km, average duration: 5-6 days, success rate: 60%-70% 
  7. Northern Circuit Route. Distance: 98 km, average duration: 8-9 days, success rate: 95%

Rongai route tours and reviews