The Kilimanjaro Machame Route: Your Blueprint To The Summit

The Machame Route on Mount Kilimanjaro is an exhilarating yet challenging trek. Expect steep and rugged terrain that tests both your physical stamina and mental determination.
With significant elevation gains, proper acclimatisation is vital on your trek. However, your reward is unparalleled scenery, including glaciers, volcanic formations, and sweeping savannah vistas.
Skyhook offers two guided hiking tours on this route - the Kilimanjaro Machame 7-day trek and the Kilimanjaro Machame 6-day trek. Because you trek high and sleep low, you are perfectly set up to reach the summit, even more so on the longer itinerary.
In this guide, we'll delve into the specifics of the Machame Route, offering insights and tips to ensure you're well-prepared for this life-changing adventure.

Facts About the Kilimanjaro Machame Route

Path to the summit
Path to the summit.
The Machame Route, nicknamed the ‘Whiskey Route,’ is one of the mountain's most popular and scenic routes. It features diverse landscapes over a trekking distance of approximately 62 kilometres from gate to gate.
Tour operators typically offer it over a six or seven-day itinerary to complete it at a steady pace with opportunities for acclimatisation.
The Machame Route commences from the Machame Gate, located on the southwestern side of Mount Kilimanjaro. It culminates with a descent to Mweka Gate after a thrilling summit to Kilimanjaro Uhuru Peak.
You'll encounter beautiful landscapes and different climate zones throughout the trek.
The trek begins in lush rainforests with towering trees, thick vegetation, and a rich variety of flora and fauna. The dense canopy provides shade, a calm atmosphere, and a unique jungle-like experience.
As you ascend, the rainforest gradually transforms into heath and moorland.
You then reach the alpine desert climate, where the landscape becomes increasingly barren, marked by volcanic rocks and rugged terrain. The vegetation here is minimal, and the climate is harsher.
Further up, you enter the highland desert. This zone is characterised by rocky, lunar-like landscapes with minimal plant life.
The final stretch takes you to the Arctic zone, where Kilimanjaro temperatures drop significantly, and the environment turns into a surreal, icy realm with glaciers and snowfields.

Why Take the Machame Route?

Porters on Machame route
Porters carrying climbing and camping essentials up Mt. Kilimanjaro.
What sets the Machame Route apart as you trek Kilimanjaro is its blend of challenge and natural beauty. This route has relatively demanding terrain, making it popular for those who seek a more exhilarating adventure.
Its diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests at lower elevations to the barren alpine deserts near the summit, provide an ever-changing backdrop for your ascent.
As you journey through distinct ecological zones, you'll witness stunning scenery, including imposing glaciers and panoramic views of the African savannah.
One of the major considerations on this route is the opportunity for optimal acclimatisation. Its gradual ascent profile allows you to adapt to the increasing altitudes, reducing the risk of altitude sickness.

Kilimanjaro Machame Route Map

You can book a six- or seven-day Machame trek through Skyhook. Which you choose might be based on your budget, fitness level (see our Mount Kilimanjaro training plan), experience, and time allocation.
The critical difference between the two is that the seven-day itinerary offers an extra day for acclimatisation. And its daily hiking distances are shorter than the six-day option.
Where it makes sense, we always recommend taking a longer itinerary for a better experience.
Either way, here’s a quick overview of the Machame route map. This will give you an idea of the stops and points of interest en route:

Machame Gate (1,800m) to Machame Camp (3,021m)

Machame Gate
You'll begin your Kilimanjaro hike here.
Start your adventure at Machame Gate, register with park authorities, and begin your trek.
As you start walking, enjoy the lush, green rainforest on a gradual ascent. Complete the day at the Machame Camp, where you spend your first night on the mountain.

Machame Camp to Shira Camp (3,830m)

Machame to Shira
See the clouds below you.
Today, you leave the rainforest behind and enter the moorland zone. You trek through a more open landscape and discover your first glimpses of Kilimanjaro's peak.
The night is spent at Shira Camp, where you can enjoy the incredible surroundings and a view of nearby Mount Meru.

Shira Camp to Barranco Camp (3,972m)

Shira to Barranco
Welcome to Barranco Camp.
Hike through the high moorland and alpine desert zones, gaining significant elevation as you cross the Shira Plateau.
During the day, you will pass the Lava Tower, a distinct rock feature formed by the now-dormant volcano.
The day ends at Barranco Camp, located beneath the impressive Barranco Wall.

Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp (3,963m)

Barranco to Karanga
The view is always worth it.
On the fourth day, you’re set to conquer the Barranco Wall, which involves a bit of scrambling followed by breathtaking views. Then, continue to the Karanga Valley (for the 7-day itinerary).
Enjoy a relatively short day to aid acclimatisation. In the afternoon, you can go on a hike above camp to 4,200 metres before coming back down to sleep.
If you pick the 6-day itinerary, you bypass Karanga Camp and head straight to Barafu Camp for the night. Rest and prepare for the next day's ascent.

Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp (4,640m)

Barafu Camp
All smiles after reaching Barafu Camp.
On the longer 7-day trek, the fifth day will have you ascend to Barafu Camp, the base camp for the summit attempt.
Here, the landscape becomes more barren as you approach the Arctic Zone. Rest and hydrate at Barafu in preparation for the summit push.

Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak (5,895m) and Back to Millennium Camp (3,100m)

Begin the summit bid at midnight, climbing to Kilimanjaro Stella Point (5,739m) by sunrise. From there, you continue to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro.
After enjoying the views and having a well-deserved photo session, you descend to Millenium Camp for the night.

Millennium Camp to Mweka Gate

Your final trekking day is a gentle hike down through the rainforest to the exit gate, where you receive your summit certificate.
The final night is spent at the hotel in Moshi, where you can grab a warm shower and celebrate your accomplishment with the team.

How Hard is the Kilimanjaro Machame Route?

How difficult it is to climb the Kilimanjaro Machame Route depends on several factors.
Weather on Kilimanjaro can be unpredictable. Prepare well for cold temperatures, snow, rain, and high winds. Proper gear and clothing are vital to staying comfortable.
Then there is the fitness aspect. Rocky and uneven terrain, particularly during the summit push and the Barranco Wall section, can be physically demanding.
Uhuru Peak
Standing at the summit.
Being in good physical shape is essential, regardless of your route to the summit. You’ll be hiking for several hours every day, and the high altitude can impact even the most experienced trekkers.
Coupled with the prolonged physical exertion and lack of oxygen, trekking can become mentally taxing. Be prepared to stay positive and determined, especially during the summit push.
The summit push begins at midnight and is one of the most challenging aspects of the Machame Route. Hiking in the dark, ascending steep inclines, and dealing with the thin air at high altitudes requires mental and physical strength.
You’re also on your feet for 12-15 hours that day, with a total trekking distance of just over 13 kilometres.

Recommended reading: Kilimanjaro climb difficulty.

What is the Length of the Machame Route?

The Kilimanjaro Machame Route is approximately 62 kilometres in length. This is measured from the start at Machame Gate to the summit and back down to the exit point at Mweka Gate.
Most tour operators, Skyhook’s included, offer the trek over six or seven days. The extra day allows for better acclimatisation, in turn elevating the trekking experience.

Key Landmarks Along the Route

Without a doubt, the view from Kilimanjaro is stunning and otherworldly. Here are some of the key landmarks on your path to the summit:
  • Shira Plateau: A vast, elevated plateau with sweeping views where you hike across the moorland and heath zones.

  • Lava Tower: A distinctive volcanic formation along the route, often used as an acclimatisation point and lunch stop.

  • Barranco Wall: A challenging climb that involves scrambling. At the top, you get breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment.

  • Karanga Valley: A scenic valley nestled between Barranco Wall and the Karanga Camp, offering a picturesque route through high-altitude landscapes.

  • Stella Point: A notable landmark on the crater rim before your final push to Uhuru Peak. It provides breathtaking vistas.

Alternative Routes to the Summit

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