A Guide to Kilimanjaro


With its impressive height of 5,895m/19,341ft, Kilimanjaro is the largest mountain on the continent of Africa, and one of the seven summits.

Unlike other mountains that require technical skills, conquering this dormant volcano requires a moderate level of fitness, a can-do attitude, and a good acclimatisation plan. This makes it a feasible and attainable goal, for an experience of a lifetime.

However, to make the most of this adventure, it's essential to plan and prepare thoroughly. Here are some key factors to consider when hiking Kilimanjaro:

Choosing the best route

As you plan your ascent of majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, you'll want to carefully consider which route to take. Here are all of the options, each with its own unique advantages and challenges.

Elephants Kili
Elephants in Kilimanjaro Park
  • Machame route – This route is an exceptional choice for those who crave breathtaking scenery and the one of the best chances of reaching the summit. With its varied climatic zones and high success rates, it's no wonder this route is a favorite among seasoned trekkers. Plus, on day 3, you'll have the opportunity to climb high and sleep low, ensuring you're properly acclimatized for the days ahead.

  • Lemosho route – If you're looking for a newer and more remote route, the Lemosho trail might be just what you're seeking. With its longer trek and superb scenery, you'll have a better chance of success at the summit. As an added bonus, you might even spot some of the local wildlife, like elephants and buffalo, during your journey.

  • Marangu route – The Marangu route, also known as the Coca-Cola route, is the only path that provides huts for shelter instead of camping. However, this convenience comes with a cost, as the trail can be noisy and crowded. Additionally, the short route to the top means less time for acclimatization, resulting in a lower success rate.

  • Rongai route – For those craving a true wilderness experience, the Rongai route is an excellent option. Although the scenery isn't as spectacular, you'll have the chance to see larger wildlife such as buffalo and elephants. However, the poor acclimatization plan and challenging terrain make reaching the summit a bit more difficult.

  • Northern Circuit – If gradual acclimatization is a top priority for you, the Northern Circuit route might be the ideal choice. It's one of the longest routes, allowing for plenty of time to adjust to the altitude and offering a high success rate. However, the trek is physically demanding and less scenic than some of the other options.

  • Shira route – While the Shira route does offer stunning views, it's not recommended due to the higher start point, which results in poor acclimatization and a lower chance of summit success.

  • Umbwe route – Similarly, this route is steep and challenging, with poor acclimatization and a lower success rate.

  • Western Breach route – Finally, the Western Breach route is the most technically difficult path on Kilimanjaro. Due to past rockfall, only experienced mountaineers are advised to tackle this trail. However, for those who are up for the challenge, the moderate success rate and unique landscape make it worthwhile.

So what’s the verdict? Personally, we want to get to the top and experience the beautiful African nature. Therefore, we would choose the Machame or the Lemosho route.


While some may argue that it's all a matter of perspective, seasoned travelers and locals alike suggest that a moderate level of fitness is the sweet spot to conquer Kilimanjaro and return safely to base camp. But, what exactly does that entail, you ask?

The honest answer is that the fitter you are, the more enjoyable the trek will be. It has quite a tough summit day, with a really early start and an aim to reach the summit by sunrise. The whole day can take around 12 hours. As such we recommend training with any aerobic sport you enjoy (e.g. jogging) 3 times a week, for at least 3 months before your trek.

Choosing the right guides

Camp kili
Hanging out at camp on Kilimanjaro

First of all, its worth mentioning that you should probably stay well away from the low end, budget guides that you can find by simply walking down the high street in Moshi, at the bottom of Kilimanjaro. I have heard horror stories of people getting VERY cheap guides who didn’t bring enough food and they got altitude sickness as they ascended far too quickly! You pretty much get what you pay for. Simply put, its pretty dangerous!

Having said that, the best guides are not always the most expensive. Some of the best guides can be provided by local family run companies with little over-heads and tonnes of experience on the mountains. Plus, the experience is more personal, and they can often be some of the best on the mountain.

So here is the sales pitch! Skyhook finds fully qualified, local guides who know Kilimanjaro like the back of their hands. Often they are from family run, small local companies who would go to the moon and back to look after you. I consider all the guides I have met as friends and its just really nice! Ok that’s my brief pitch over with 😊

What to Pack for Kilimanjaro

As you prepare to conquer Kilimanjaro, the majestic peak that towers above Tanzania, you must ensure that you have everything you need for a successful trek to the summit. From essential documents to technical gear, here is a list of items that you must pack for your adventure.

First and foremost, make sure you have your passport and travel insurance details, as well as boarding passes for your flights. Don't forget your driver's license if you plan to drive while in Tanzania. Of course, cash and credit/debit cards are essential for any travel, especially when it comes to tipping your guides and porters.

When it comes to sleeping, you may want to bring a sleeping bag liner to add an extra layer of comfort. As for footwear, don't skimp on trekking boots - opt for 3 or 4 season lightweight boots to keep your feet supported and protected on the mountain. And hey, why not bring some comfy shoes for the plane too? You never know when you'll need a quick change out of those boots.

When packing your clothing, remember that cotton is a no-go for trekking - stick with non-cotton clothing that will wick moisture away from your skin. Bring along two base-layer t-shirts, a fleece or soft-shell jacket, a waterproof jacket, and a down jacket for those chilly summit nights. Don't forget your travel clothes and city wear, as well as underwear, waterproof trousers, and trekking shorts if you fancy. And yes, wool mountaineering socks are a must for keeping your toes toasty, along with lightweight, breathable trekking socks. Oh, and let's not forget gloves and a wool hat - gotta keep those extremities warm!

For all your other gear, make sure you have a daysack with a capacity of 35 litres, as well as a duffel or rucksack with straps for easier carrying. A dry liner or dry bag will keep your clothes and gear dry in case of rain, and you'll need a water bottle or thermos with a capacity of at least 2L (Nalgene bottles are the best!). Sunglasses and suncream are essential for protecting your skin and eyes from the strong African sun, while general toiletries, contact lenses, glasses, and a towel will keep you fresh and clean. And of course, bring all your electronics, including a head torch, travel adaptor, phone and charger, as well as some lip balm, a book, MP3 player, and headphones for downtime. A little travel wash and hand sanitizer never go amiss, either.

And if you're feeling fancy, throw in a pair of trekking poles for that extra support and stability. Just don't forget that plastic bags are prohibited in Tanzania, so leave them at home and opt for a reusable bag or dry bag instead. Finally, don't forget to pack your sense of adventure!

As always, if you book through Skyhook you'll also get a handy kit list on your dashboard.

How to get to Kilimanjaro

You ideally want to fly into Kilimanjaro International airport and then make the 45-minute car journey to Moshi (most of our trips include the airport transfers). From Moshi your guides can drive you to the start of the Machame or Lemosho routes in around 30 minutes.

Porter welfare

A porter on a day off, near Kilimanjaro

Gone are the days where you can see porters carrying 40kg+ up Kilimanjaro! The Tanzanian government have so many rules in place to promote the welfare of the guides and porters in the region……. And to be honest, rightly so! Each porter can only carry a maximum of 15kg now, so we ask you to strictly follow this weight limit.


Always a bit of a tough subject. You want to make sure you don’t tip too little as you may offend, but at the same time you don’t want to tip too much and be skint for a week or so.

The average wage in Tanzania is $0.68 per hour. I will just let that sink in for a minute….. Skyhook advise that you should tip around $7 per porter, per day but of course if you want to tip more then it will go a long way!

Tipping is always at your own discretion and my opinion is that you should tip based on the experience and service you receive. From my experience, the porters work incredibly hard.