The Rongai Route to Mount Kilimanjaro is a great option for first-time trekkers due to its gradual ascent and less demanding terrain. The trail is well-designed, with nicely spaced campsites to ensure a balanced daily trek duration.
While the favorable time to climb Kilimanjaro is the months of January through early March and June through October, the Rongai trail is highly recommended if you are trekking during the rainy seasons of April and May. Its starting point on the north side of the mountain creates a rain shadow effect, so the northern slopes receive comparatively less rainfall and remain drier during the wet season.
The Rongai Route is known for its remote and less-crowded nature, making it an excellent choice for trekkers seeking a more secluded and intimate connection with nature. The trail's location on the mountain's quieter side also increases the chances of witnessing rare species of plants and animals, including Giant Senecios (Dendrosenecio kilimanjari) and the elusive Klipspringer. This route also offers trekkers a chance to connect with local culture as it passes through areas where the Chagga and Maasai tribes reside.
The trek starts at the Rongai Gate on the northeastern side of Mount Kilimanjaro and leads trekkers through various landscapes, including rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert, before culminating in the final ascent to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the mountain. The route merges with Marangu for the final push toward the summit.
The Rongai Route covers a total round-trip distance of 72 kilometers, which takes six to seven days to complete.
|Climb difficulty:||Moderate to Difficult|
|Trek duration:||6 to 8 days|
|Max altitude:||5,895 meters|
|Success rate:||80% (seven-day hike); 65% (six-day hike)|
|Best season:||All year|
The Rongai Route trek can be completed anywhere between six and eight days. We recommend planning a seven-day itinerary for a better climbing success rate of 80 percent.
Below is a seven-day sample itinerary for your reference.
Day 1: Trek to Simba Camp (3–4 hours)
The journey begins with a scenic drive to the charming wooden village of Nale Moru, which takes about two hours, including a stop to obtain permits at Marangu. Once there, you'll sign in and prepare with the porters before commencing the hike. The trail starts as a wide path, meandering through picturesque fields of maize and potatoes before entering a serene pine forest.
The path gradually climbs, offering gentle yet consistent progress through the captivating forest, home to a diverse array of wildlife. As you go higher, the forest begins to thin out, and soon you'll reach the first campsite, situated on the outskirts of the moorland zone. From this vantage point, you will be rewarded with expansive views overlooking the Kenyan plains, making it a truly captivating spot to rest and spend your first night at Simba Camp.
Day 2: Trek to Second Cave (3–4 hrs)
Today you head from the Simba Camp to the Second Cave, which marks a steady 650 meters jump from the 2,000 meters Simba Camp elevation. On your way, be mesmerized by the views of eastern ice fields and Kibo Peak.
Day 3: Trek to Kikelewa Camp (2-3 hours)
This day your hike continues through rainforests for a few more hours before the surrounding vegetation changes to grass and shrubs as the rainforest zone gives way to low alpine moorlands. You head east towards Kikelelwa Camp (3,600 meters), a sheltered valley known for abundant Giant Senecios.
Day 4: Trek to Mawenzi Tarn (3–4 hours)
Day four of your trek leads us to take a short but extremely steep climb up to Mawenzi Tarn. Located at a height of 4,300 meters, this hidden oasis offers stunning views of Mawenzi Peak.
Day 5: Trek to Kibo Camp (4-5 hours)
Having spent most of last afternoon acclimatizing to your surroundings, you’re ready to proceed to the next part of your journey. Gradually head west through a saddle formed between the Mawenzi and Kibo peaks all the way up to Kibo Hut. The route is rather inhospitable, but it offers magnificent views of Kibo.
Day 6: Trek to the Summit, back to Horombo Hut (17 hours)
Once you enter the high alpine and glacial zones, you know that you are close to the summit. The trek commences at the stroke of midnight as you make your way to Hans Meyer Cave (5,150 meters). After a short break, you traverse past winding paths and reach Gilman’s Point (5,681 meters). Another 200-meter ascent is all it takes to get to Uhuru Peak, Africa’s highest point.
Day 7: Back to Moshi (4–5 hours)
Having witnessed nature at its magnificent best, you must now descend all the way back to Marangu Gate. Use trekking poles to assist you, and do not forget to collect your green or gold certificates. Green certificates are given to the trekkers who stopped at Gilman’s Point, and gold ones to those who made it all the way up to Uhuru Peak.
Note: The durations mentioned are approximate and can vary depending on individual pacing and weather conditions.