Climbers and Lemosho route scenery

Lemosho vs Machame – a comparison of the two Kilimanjaro routes

Jul 11, 2024
Reading time: 11 minutes

The Lemosho and Machame are the two most popular ascent routes on Kilimanjaro. They’re also fairly similar, so we’ve put together this comparison to help you choose between the two routes. 

Map of the Lemosho and Machame routes

Take a look at the map below which shows both the Machame and Lemosho routes on Kilimanjaro ...

Updated map of 7-day Lemosho vs 7-day Machame

Map showing Lemosho and Machame routes on Kilimanjaro

As you can see in the map above, the Lemosho and Machame routes only differ from each other early on. It's en route to Barranco Camp that they meet up and thereafter follow the same trail for the remainder of the ascent as well as the descent. So most of the differences between the two routes have to do with the first couple of days.

Let's talk about those differences, starting with trailhead elevations ... 

Starting elevation

The Lemosho route has its starting point at Lemosho Gate, which is to the northwest of the summit. The Machame, on the other hand, starts its approach from a southwesterly point at Machame Gate. This means trekkers on the two routes initially walk different trails, stay at different campsites, and enjoy different scenery. 

The elevation at Machame Gate is 1,640 m. This a good starting altitude as it's not too high (which means you won't feel icky from a too-high altitude). The elevation at Lemosho Gate is 2,100 m. Even though you start a little higher on the Lemosho, 2,100 m isn't a problematic starting elevation. We therefore don't feel the starting altitudes of the two trails should really impact on your choice of a route.



Where the two routes meet

The Lemosho and Machame routes converge at Lava Tower, a popular lunch stop. From then on, the two routes are the same. The first campsite shared by trekkers of both routes is Barranco Camp.

So starting with Barranco Camp, trekkers on the Lemosho and Machame stay at the same campsites and walk exactly the same route up the rest of the mountain. (The only deviation is that those following the six-day Machame itinerary don't stop over at Karanga Camp. But more on that in a moment.)

After your summit, both the Machame and Lemosho have you hike the Mweka descent route. This comes down the south face of the mountain, and ends at Mweka Gate


Group Photo Lemosho Gate Kilimanjaro

Lemosho Gate is the trailhead of – surprise, surprise – the Lemosho route

The overall distance of the Machame route (which includes your descent via the Mweka route) is 62 km (39 miles). The overall distance of the Lemosho route (which also includes your descent via the Mweka route) is a touch longer at 70 km (43 miles).

Again, the difference in total distance is nominal enough that we don't feel it really factors into one's route decision-making.


Shaded path on Kilimanjaro Lemosho route

A steep section in the forest on the Lemosho route

As you now know, it's only the start of the Machame and Lemosho routes that differ. Both routes lead you up through rainforest and then into the more open moorland band of vegetation. You can expect some steep climbs on both routes. However, the Lemosho is a little steeper generally speaking. But once again, this difference isn't really all that significant, and we wouldn't recommend factoring it into your route choice.

Barranco Wall

Trekkers on edge of Barranco Wall with clouds on right, Kilimanjaro

The Barranco Wall is the steepest section on both routes

Both the Machame and Lemosho routes require you to climb the Barranco Wall. This is the steepest section, and has you use your hands and even knees at time to navigate the narrow path. That said, it's perfectly doable. And it's quite the special experience, as the wall creates a bottleneck and the camaraderie creates a memorable vibe.

While most people find the Barranco Wall perfectly manageable, we suggest opting for the Northern Circuit if you're really scared of heights. This route takes you round the north side of the mountain and in so doing avoids Barranco Wall or any similarly steep feature.

Each route has two itineraries

Rainforest on the way from Machame Gate to Machame Camp

A section of the rainforest trail on Day 1 of the Machame route

Both the Lemosho and Machame have two itinerary options.

The Lemosho (including the descent) can be completed in seven or eight days. The difference comes early on, with the seven-day route asking you to climb to Barranco Camp (3,976 m) over three days, and the eight-day route allowing you to do the same over four days.

The Machame (including the descent) can be completed in six or seven days. The difference comes near the summit, where the shorter itinerary skips a night at Karanga Camp (3,995 m). The six-day itinerary therefore requires you to climb from Barranco Camp (3,976 m) all the way to Barafu Camp (4,673 m), while the seven-day itinerary allots two days for the same distance.


Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro Machame Route

The Lemosho and Machame are the most popular ascent routes

The Machame and Lemosho are both popular routes and as such the busiest on the mountain. The Machame is, however, a little busier than the Lemosho. This is largely because it offers a slightly shorter (and therefore cheaper) itinerary.

The Lemosho, which is the newest ascent route, was actually a quieter option for quite a while. But the secret of its awesomeness has gotten around!

This means neither the Machame nor Lemosho are optimal choices if you want a quiet climb. For those wishing to avoid the crowds as much as possible, we recommend the much quieter Northern Circuit route. The Northern Circuit not only has beautiful scenery, but it also has the highest summit success rate of all the routes! 

Some folks, however, don’t care about a trail’s busyness, and others actually prefer a busy route and vibey campsites. The busier the route, the more people from all around the world there are to meet! So think about your preference in terms of trekker numbers when choosing a route.


Mount Kilimanjaro. On the way from Machame Camp to Shira Camp

A section of the trail on the way from Machame Camp to Shira Camp

Both the Machame and Lemosho offer truly splendid and world-class scenery. They're among the prettiest routes, for sure. Of course, after Lava Tower, the scenery is the same. It's just the first few days that offer different scenery.

The Lemosho is generally considered the most beautiful of all the routes. We at Follow Alice certainly prefer the scenery of the Lemosho over the Machame. That said, the Machame also has fantastic scenery, so you can expect a beautiful climb on either route.

On both routes you hike up through pristine rainforest, and then enter the enchanting and otherworldly moorland zone. From here, you start enjoying panoramic and amazing views over the vast plains. Note that the two routes aren't massively different in terms of scenery and vegetation as they both include time in the rainforest and both climb the western slope of the mountain.

If you'd like to know more about the scenery, vegetation and wildlife you can expect to see on the mountain, please read Kilimanjaro National Park.

Rainforest Lemosho

The starts of both routes have you walking through beautiful rainforest

Different campsites

Perhaps one of the biggest differences in terms of scenery and experience between the two routes relates to the campsites of the early days. Before Barranco Camp, trekkers of the Lemosho and Machame stay in different campsites. Further to this, trekkers of the seven- and eight-day Lemosho itineraries also stay in campsites from one another at one point.

Meanwhile, on the Machame route, the two itineraries differ only after Barranco Camp, as the six-day itinerary sees climbers skip Karanga Camp on their way to Barafu Camp, while climbers of the seven-day itinerary make a stopover there. Take a look at the seven-day Machame route map below to see the locations of the camps in question.

map of 7-day Machame route

Those who climb the Machame route stay at Machame Camp and Shira Cave Camp on their way to Barranco Camp.

Those who climb the seven-day Lemosho route, on the other hand, stay at Mti Mkubwa Camp and Shira 2 Camp before Barranco Camp. While those climbing the eight-day Lemosho stay at Mti Mkubwa Camp, Shira 1 Camp and Moir Hut. We've included the seven-day and eight-day Lemosho maps below for you to see.

Lemosho-Route-8-days-Map Kilimanjaro
Lemosho-Route-7-day-Map Kilimanjaro

Sunsets and sunrises

Kilimanjaro sunset

High up on the mountain you enjoy glorious sunsets and sunrises

Of all the campsites used by trekkers of the Machame and Lemosho, we must point out that Shira 2 Camp is known for its great location, as it often lets you see amazing sunsets.

Further, Karanga Camp, high up on the mountain, is known as a great site for both sunsets and sunrises. You skip Karanga Camp on the six-day Machame itinerary, but on the seven-day itinerary you do stay there. And all Lemosho trekkers spend a night at Karanga Camp.

If you'd like to know more about really good sunrise and sunset spots on the mountain, please take a look at Where to see the best sunrises and sunsets on Kilimanjaro.


Kilimanjaro clouds

Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) is a whole kilometre higher than Mt Blanc (4,809 m)!

The Lemosho and Machame both offer really good acclimatisation, especially when you choose the longer itinerary over the shorter itinerary.

For those of you who don't know, acclimatisation refers to your body adjusting to the reduced oxygen that comes with a higher altitude. Good (or proper) acclimatisation takes time. If you were to somehow jump from sea level to 6,000 m, your body would react badly and develop altitude sickness. To avoid altitude sickness, you need give your body enough time to adjust by increasing your elevation slowly.

According to a 2006 survey conducted by Kilimanjaro National Park:

  • 8-day itineraries have an 85% summit success rate
  • 7-day itineraries have a 64% summit success rate
  • 6-day itineraries have only a 44% summit success rate!

By far the biggest contributing factor to the above stats is acclimatisation. So you can see why we always advise choosing the longer itinerary over the shorter one if possible.

An important climb-high-sleep-low feature

Kilimanjaro route porter

It's the moorland section where you start to feel the impact of the altitude

One effective way of helping our bodies to acclimatise is what's known as the climb-high-sleep-low strategy. This simply refers to hiking to a fresh new altitude during the day and then dropping back down a bit for the night.

Both the Machame and Lemosho share one of the mountain's best climb-high-sleep-low opportunities. This takes place after three or four days when the routes converge near Lava Tower. After a morning climb to reach Lava Tower (4,630 m), trekkers hike down to Barranco Camp (3,976 m) for the night. This significant drop in elevation for the night is really great in helping you to acclimatise.

Summit success rates

Southern Ice Field on Kilimanjaro

The Southern Ice Field is a treat awaiting all Kilimanjaro climbers near the summit

The Lemosho as well as the seven-day Machame have pretty high summit success rates, meaning a high percentage of trekkers who hike these routes actually manage to reach the summit. Of course, the longer itineraries of each trek route have higher success rates than the shorter itineraries.

Again, the reason for this is that the longer routes allow for better acclimatisation. And by far the biggest contributing factor to unsuccessful summit attempts is inadequate acclimatisation. So if you're vacillating between a longer or shorter itinerary for either of the routes, we recommend opting for the longer route.

The only folks who should choose the shorter itinerary are those who regularly do high-altitude treks and know from experience that the thin air isn't a big deal for them. Remember that altitude sickness strikes at random, and is no respecter of age, health or fitness. Most of us don't regularly hike to such great altitude, and so it's better to hedge your bets by doing a longer trek route.

The route with the highest success rate

Panorama of trail leading to Barafu Camp with Uhuru Peak in view. Kilimanjaro.

The trail to Barafu Camp is used by both routes – snap from our client Roger

It's worth pointing out that the only route with a higher success rate than the Machame and Lemosho is the Northern Circuit (also known as the Grand Traverse), which is a nine-day trek. If you feel nine days is too long for your schedule or costs too much (each day on the mountain increases the cost), then the Machame or Lemosho is a really good choice.

Our opinion: choose the Lemosho

Lemosho route on Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro routes

Giant groundsels seen on the Lemosho route

At the end of the day, Chris and all of us in the Follow Alice team recommend the Lemosho over the Machame. We prefer the Lemosho for its better scenery. We also really like the high summit success rate of the eight-day Lemosho, since we naturally want all of our clients to reach Uhuru Peak!

If you think you might be ready to book your spot, please check out our eight-day Lemosho route package or our seven-day Machame route package. We hope to lead you along the Lemosho – or the Machame – in the near future!