Shira 2 and Karanga Camps are the best places for sunrise and sunset on Kilimanjaro. Though on summit day, everyone is rewarded with a sunrise!
When you’re climbing Mt Kilimanjaro – a mighty volcano that rises up out of the plains – you naturally look forward to seeing some spectacular sunrises and sunsets throughout your trek. Two of Kilimanjaro’s dozen or so camps offer the most spectacular views of sunrise and sunset. These are Shira 2 Camp on the mountain’s western slope, and Karanga Camp on its southern slope. We discuss which routes take you via these camps so that you can factor this into your choice of Kilimanjaro route.
The good news is that summit night on Kilimanjaro rewards all trekkers with a glorious sunrise! This is because you start your summit climb at midnight, and by the time the sun rises, you’re very near the top of the mountain!
So here’s what you need to know about the best sunrises and sunsets on Kilimanjaro…
- Shira 2 Camp
- Karanga Camp
- The best Kilimanjaro routes for multiple sunrises and sunsets
- Sunrise on your summit hike
Shira 2 Camp
The map below shows the seven different routes leading up Kilimanjaro (as well as the descent-only route to Mweka Gate). It also shows the campsites along each route. Shira 2 Camp can be found on the west of the mountain. It sits at 3,505 m (11,500 ft) above sea level and is your first night’s stop.
Shira 2 Camp sits in the heather and moorland zone of Kilimanjaro (see the five climate zones of Mt Kilimanjaro National Park). In this zone you’ve climbed above the trees of the rainforest zone, and so there’s no longer tall, thick vegetation blocking your view of sunrise and sunset.
Which routes stop at Shira 2 Camp?
If you want to stay at Shira 2 Camp and enjoy the sunset and sunrise there, you must trek one of the following Kilimanjaro routes:
The best sunset on the mountain
What’s most special about Shira 2 Camp is the sunset. Having had a hard’s day slog up the mountain, you’re rewarded with a clear view to the west of the sunset. Everyone in camp tends to gather by the rocks at the edge of the camp to watch the sun as it descends over the western plain. It’s a special moment of beauty and camaraderie at the end of a tiring day.
In her video journal below, Tash encourages everyone to enjoy the sunset at Shira 2 Camp as she did. Watch from the 10:09 mark to see Tash head with others to watch the sunset. Or you might like to start at the 09:00 mark to see her enter Shira 2 Camp.
As was the case with Tash’s sunset at Shira 2 Camp, often you’re watching the sun as it drops into a thick sheet of cloud.
Karanga Camp is situated 3,995 (13,106 ft) above sea level and sits on the edge of the moorland and alpine desert zones of Kilimanjaro. From Karanga Camp, you have just two days’ of climbing till you reach the mountain’s summit.
Which routes stop at Karanga Camp?
If you want to stay at Karanga Camp, you must trek one of the following routes:
Gorgeous sunset and sunrise
Karanga Camp is great for both sunrise and sunset. This is because the camp sits due south of the summit and has no obstructions to both the east and the west. You’re also so high up on the mountain, that your views feel endless! We love Karanga Camp, and a stay there is very special.
If you’d like to see what Karanga Camp looks like, start watching Tash’s video journal at the 18:08 mark. She also shows the beautiful sunset and sunrise she enjoyed there!
The best Kilimanjaro routes for multiple sunrises and sunsets
The following three Kilimanjaro routes stop over at both Shira 2 and Karanga Camp. If you’re super keen on enjoying the best sunrises and sunsets on Kilimanjaro, then we recommend opting for one of them:
Having more than one chance to see the best sunset and sunrise on your trek is also a good idea should there by mist or clouds obscuring the view on one day. Remember that the weather on a mega mountain like Kilimanjaro is unpredictable, and it also varies depending on the time of year you climb (in that vein, you might like to read the best time to climb Kilimanjaro).
Why we recommend the Lemosho and Machame routes over the Shira route
The Lemosho and Machame are excellent routes for a number of reasons, including that they offer many chances to enjoy sunrise and sunset. Other postitves to these routes are that they:
- are very scenic and varied, taking you through some of the prettiest areas on the mountain
- follow a different down the mountain from the one that takes you up
- start at relatively low elevations, unlike the Shira route, which helps you to acclimatise better
- have excellent ‘hike high, sleep low’ opportunities, which help you to avoid developing altitude sickness
- are rated medium difficulty, as they don’t follow as steep an incline as routes like the Umbwe
If we had to choose between the Lemosho and the Machame, we’d probably go with the Lemosho, as it’s slightly less crowded than the Machame.
Sunrise on your summit hike
On the day you summit Mt Kilimanjaro, you start your hike at midnight. That’s right – you read correctly! You set off in the middle of the night for the summit, guided only by torchlight (unless you’re doing a full-moon climb). There are a few reasons for this, one of which is the great distance that must be hiked on summit day – you must reach the summit, and still then hike a long way back down the mountain to reach camp for the night.
One of the glorious results of such an early start is the climbers usually reach the summit of Kilimanjaro around sunrise. The goal is to reach Stella Point (5, 739 m), from which you have a perfect view east to the rising sun. After that, there’s about half an hour of climbing left to reach Uhuru Peak (5,895 m), which is the top point of both Kilimanjaro and Africa!
Hikers are usually very near the top of the mountain when the sunrise appears!
Of course, please note that not everyone gets a perfect sunrise. Sometimes a summit climb is done in the mist. We recommend not setting your hopes too firmly on a sunrise climb. That way, if it happens, you’re delighted, but your mood isn’t dampened if it doesn’t. Because no matter what the weather is doing, if you’re standing on Uhuru Peak, then you’re a champion!! 🏆