Northern Circuit - Kilimanjaro

Offering unparalleled scenery, excellent acclimatisation, and a great success rate, the Northern Circuit route is a fantastic Kilimanjaro trek for both beginners and experienced hikers. If you’re considering climbing Africa’s highest mountain, read on to learn what it takes to tackle Kilimanjaro’s Northern Circuit route.

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Climbing Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit route

If you have the luxury of time and a generous budget, the Northern Circuit route is one of the most beautiful routes on Kilimanjaro, offering sweeping 360-degree views across the rarely visited northern slopes. It’s the longest of all Kilimanjaro routes, typically operated as an eight-day or nine-day trek by most tour operators, but it offers a great acclimatisation profile and a high summit success rate.

The Northern Circuit route overview

The Northern Circuit route starts in the west from the Londorossi Gate, travels to the Shira Ridge, and crosses over to the Shira Plateau. Then, instead of travelling south and following the direction that other routes take, the Northern Circuit swings north, travelling clockwise to the summit from the east. The descent is made along the Mweka route.
 

  • Location: Travelling from the west and starting at the Londorossi Gate, the route starts in the same direction as the Lemosho route
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Height: The Northern Circuit route makes its way to the Uhuru peak and reaches a height of 5,895 metres (19,341 feet). 
  • Duration: The Northern Circuit route can be completed in eight or nine days, and the additional time on the mountain means the success rate is much higher than other routes. 
  • Trail conditions: Hikers and trekkers will enjoy the peacefulness of the trail, as it is a newer route and less popular (as it is one of the most expensive routes to complete). The trail itself is one of the most beautiful, offering breathtaking vistas.

How difficult is the Northern Circuit route?

While no Kilimanjaro route is easy, the Northern Circuit route is generally considered to be one of the “easier” climbs due to its longer itinerary (which gives trekkers plenty of time to acclimatise). That being said, a degree of physical and mental stamina is essential to complete the hike as the days will be long and tiring, often covering difficult terrain. 

With the right preparation, a good level of fitness, and support from a guide and mountain crew, everyone from first-timer trekkers to experienced hikers can successfully complete this route. 

What is the Northern Circuit route success rate?

Averaging roughly 95%, the Northern Circuit route has one of the highest success rates of all Kilimanjaro routes. Success rates are high for this route because it allows for the longest period of acclimatisation.

Tips for trekking Kilimanjaro's Northern Circuit route

  • Choose your route carefully. And be sure to consider traffic levels, difficulty, sights, and scenery. Implement a training regimen before the trek. Before you embark on your hike, it's best to attempt a few small hikes at home and consider as much physical preparation as possible.
  • Buy the right gear. Take a close look at your packing list to make sure you have the right gear including footwear, clothing, snacks, and equipment. 
  • Stay hydrated. Remember: water is a hiker's best friend, and staying hydrated could be the difference between reaching the summit or not. 
  • Get ready to experience altitude sickness. Mentally prepare yourself for altitude sickness. It affects everyone differently, and even experienced hikers will suffer from some symptoms at times. 
  • Choose a longer route. If time and budget allow, aim to spend as much time on the mountain as possible. Hikers that embark on the shorter routes often see a much lower success rate. 
  • Pace yourself. It’s not a race to the top, and you’ll save yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety by taking your time and enjoying the views.

Nine-day Northern Circuit route itinerary

The Northern Circuit route can be completed in either eight days or nine days (but it's recommended to choose the longer route as it offers more time to acclimatise). Below is a day-by-day itinerary for the nine-day route. 

DAYSTARTALTITUDE (M/FT)FINISHALTITUDE (M/FT)TIME (HRS)DISTANCE (KM/MI)
1Londorossi Gate2,360m/ 7,742ftMti Mkubwa2,895m/ 9,498ft3-46km/ 4mi
2Mti Mkubwa2,895m/ 9,498ftShira 1 Camp3,505m/ 11,500ft5-68km/ 5mi
3Shira 1 Camp3,505m/ 11,500ftShira 2 Camp3,810m/ 12,500ft3-47km/ 4mi
4Shira 2 Camp3,810m/ 12,500ftLava Tower4,630m/ 15,190ft3-47km/ 4mi
Lava Tower4,630m/ 15,190ftMoir Hut4,200m/ 13,800ft2-37km/ 4mi
5Moir Hut4,200m/ 13,800ftBuffalo Camp4,020m/ 13,200ft5-712km/ 7mi
6Buffalo Camp4,020m/ 13,200ftThird Cave3,870m/ 12,700ft5-78km/ 5mi
7Third Cave3,870m/ 12,700ftSchool Hut4,750m/ 15,600ft4-55km/ 3mi
8School Hut4,750m/ 15,600ftUhuru Peak5,895m/ 19,341ft6-86km/ 4mi
Uhuru Peak5,895m/ 19,341ftMweka Camp3,068m/ 10,065ft4-612km/ 7mi
9Mweka Camp3,068m/ 10,065ftMweka Gate1,640m/ 5,380ft3-410km/ 6mi

FAQs: How to climb Kilimanjaro

  • How do I prepare for Kilimanjaro?

    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 and will be different for everyone.
    Learn more.
  • When should I climb Kilimanjaro?

    You can climb Kilimanjaro year-round, but it may be wet and cold which means you should be equipped with the right 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 you’ll need, there are a few non-negotiables you will need that includes waterproof gear, a headlamp, sunglasses, appropriate hiking boots, personal medication, a non-disposable water bottle and a cap or a beanie for example. Learn more.
  • How to get to Kilimanjaro?

    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 Kilimanjaro?

    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

Kilimanjaro Routes

 

  1. Machame Route. Distance: 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% 

 

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