Follow Alice's Marangu route map, Kilimanjaro

The Marangu route on Kilimanjaro – a day-by-day itinerary

Jun 13, 2024
Reading time: 8 minutes

The Marangu is the original Kilimanjaro route. It's the only route where you stay in huts instead of camping. It's not a steep route, but it has a low summit success rate as its acclimatisation profile is poor. Here's a day-by-day description of the route.

The Marangu is one of the oldest and most popular Kilimanjaro route. It's sometimes called the Coca-Cola route because you stay in huts and can buy a Coke en route.

The Marangu route approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from the southeast. Overall it's a relatively easy route, having very few steep climbs. But it doesn't let you acclimatise well, so trekkers using this route often develop altitude sickness and don't make it to the summit.

Quick facts about the Marangu route

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Distance: 72 km / 45 miles
  • Duration: 6 days
  • Success rate: Low
Porters on open path in alpine desert of Marangu route, Kilimanjaro

A high section of the Marangu route

Marangu route itinerary

The Marangu route approaches the mountain from the southeast. As with all of the ascent routes, your climb takes you through a handful of distinct climatic zones, namely rainforest, moorland, alpine desert and arctic summit. The ascent and descent are along the same path on the Marangu – another unique aspect of this route.

Updated map of 6-day Marangu route on Kilimanjaro

Map showing the six-day Marangu route on Kilimanjaro

Note: Some Kilimanjaro tour operators offer a five-day Marangu route, but we don't feel that this is safe, as the acclimatisation time on such an itinerary is too short. We therefore outline the more responsible, six-day Marangu itinerary below.

Day 1: Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut

  • Elevation: 1,843 m to 2,700 m
  • Distance: 8 km / 5 miles
  • Hiking time: 4-5 hours
  • Habitat: Forest

On Day 1 of your Kilimanjaro trek you hike though dense rainforest, though at points there are openings in the vegetation that offer views of the farmlands which cover the base of the mountain outside of the Kilimanjaro National Park. The day's trail ends at Mandara Hut, where you overnight.

Tangled rainforest of Marangu route, Kilimanjaro

A section of the Marangu route on Day 1

Day 2: Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut

  • Elevation: 2,700 m to 3,720 m
  • Distance: 12 km / 7 miles
  • Hiking time: 6-8 hours
  • Habitat: Heath

On Day 2 you trek through more beautiful rainforest, but soon the forest gives way to moorland. The snowcapped peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi can be seen. After trekking for six to eight hours you reach Horombo Hut, where you stay for the night.

Seated blue monkey looking at camera in rainforest of Marangu route, Kilimanjaro

A blue monkey spotted in the forest on the Marangu route

Day 3: Horombo Hut to Mawenzi Ridge to Horombo Hut

Your third day on the mountain can be split into two parts: a climb to Mawenzi Ridge, followed by a return to Horombo Hut. The reason for this is that it's in keeping with the 'climb high, sleep low' strategy which helps your body to acclimatise properly to the increased elevation.

Part 1 | Horombo Hut to Mawenzi Ridge

  • Elevation: 3,720 m to 4,390 m
  • Distance: 5 km / 3 miles
  • Hiking time: 2-3 hours
  • Habitat: Heath

This part of the day's trek sees you climb from Horombo Hut up into the heath zone of Kilimanjaro. The turning point of the climb comes when you reach the horseshoe-shaped Mawenzi ridge.

Trees of moorland zone on Marangu route, Kilimanjaro

You ascend from forest to heath on today's hike

Part 2 | Mawenzi Ridge to Horombo Hut

When you reach Mawenzi ridge, you spend some time taking in the breathtaking views before heading back down to Horombo Hut for another night. As already mentioned, climbing high and then sleeping low is an important acclimatisation strategy.

During the trek on the Marangu route you should strive to climb slowly and steadily. Kilimanjaro is not a race!

During the trek you should strive to climb slowly and steadily. Kilimanjaro is not a race!

Day 4: Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut

  • Elevation: 3,720 m to 4,750 m
  • Distance: 10 km / 6 miles
  • Hiking time: 6-8 hours
  • Habitat: Alpine desert

Today you traverse the so-called Saddle, a five-mile stretch of rubble and emptiness that connects the craters of Mawenzi and Kibo. You spend the night at Kibo Hut.

Trekkers on flat open path on Marangu route in alpine desert, Kilimanjaro

Trekkers traverse the so-called Saddle of Kilimanjaro

Day 5: Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut

Similarly to Day 3, today's trek consists of two parts. For the first part, you strike out for the summit! Having hopefully successfully reached it, you start your descent down the mountain, stopping at the now familiar Horombo Hut for the night.

Part 1 | Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak

  • Elevation: 4,703 m to 5,895 m
  • Distance: 6 km / 4 miles
  • Hiking time: 7-8 hours
  • Habitat: Arctic

Your guide wakes you up around midnight to get ready for the ascent. Today is usually the most mentally and physically challenging part of the entire Kilimanjaro climb. The route ascends northwest into the dark night. Within about six hours you reach Stella Point and enjoy the sunrise. After that, you trek for about another hour on a snow-covered trail to reach Uhuru Peak at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) at the very top of Africa!

Glacier at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Glacier near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Part 2 | Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut

  • Elevation: 5,895 m to 3,720 m
  • Distance: 16 km / 10 miles
  • Hiking time: 7-8 hours

After reaching the summit, you descend to Horombo Hut for the night. Having hiked for about 12 to 15 hours, you’ll fall asleep immediately, trust us!

Bird seated in a dead tree in alpine zone on Kilimanjaro's Marangu route

A little bird spotted in the alpine zone of the Marangu route

Day 6: Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate

  • Elevation: 3,720 m to 1,843 m
  • Distance: 20 km / 12 miles
  • Hiking time: 5-7 hours
  • Habitat: Rainforest

Today you do the last bit of hiking down to the foot of the mountain, where your driver is waiting for you. Time for a beer and a great celebration dinner!

Follow Alice's opinion of the route

During your research you may have heard that the Marangu route is the cheapest, easiest and most popular route up Kilimanjaro. This is, in fact, an outdated view, and we feel quite the opposite. The Marangu route is probably one of our least favourite Kilimanjaro climb routes. Whilst offering rewarding views from the Saddle (a high-altitude desert), it's less scenic than other Kilimanjaro routes because you ascend and descend via the same trail.

The Marangu route is the only Kilimanjaro route to offer hut accommodation. On all other routes you must camp. On the Marangu route you sleep in dormitory-like huts that provide mattresses and other basic amenities. This makes the route a popular choice for budget operators that don’t have camping equipment.​ We only recommend choosing this route if you really don't want to camp.

The Marangu route is for climbers who don't want to camp and require a shorter trek.

What is the scenery like on the Marangu?

The Marangu route is less scenic than the other Kilimanjaro routes because you ascend and descend along the same path.

That said, the scenery is still very beautiful! You pass through rainforest, moorland, high-altitude desert, and an arctic summit. It's just worth noting that other routes offer more variety in the way of scenery because their ascent and descent routes differ.

Tangled tree trunk and dense vegetation of forest zone on Marangu route, Kilimanjaro

Tangled trees in the rainforest band of the Marangu route

How hard is the Marangu route?

The Marangu route has a reputation for being an 'easy' climb, but this perception is actually misleading. Yes, it offers amenities like hut accommodation and, yes, it's a comparatively shorter route. But it demands you ascend quickly and so many people climbing this route suffer from poor acclimatisation and don't make it to the top.

The Marangu route actually has one of the lowest success rates of all the seven Kilimanjaro routes.

The route's elevation profile

The graphs below show the Marangu route in profile - first in metres, then in feet.

Marangu route elevation in metres
Marangu route elevation in feet

The route's summit success rate

The Marangu route is one of the shortest Kilimanjaro routes, which gives it a relatively poor acclimatisation profile. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators for the five-day Marangu route is around 50%. That means your chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro when using the Marangu route aren't fantastic.

How busy is the Marangu route?

The Marangu route is a popular choice among the seven Kilimanjaro ascent routes because it's seen as an easier climb, given its gradual slope and direct path. It's therefore a busy route and can get crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, this Kilimanjaro route is not for you.

Trekkers making their way up the Marangu route

Trekkers making their way up the Marangu route

Do you camp on the Marangu?

The Marangu route is the only route to offer hut accommodation. There are 60 bunk beds at both Mandara and Kibo Huts, and 120 bunk beds at Horombo Hut. You must bring your own sleeping bags, but you're supplied with mattresses and pillows at the various huts. Check to see if your chosen tour operator has sleeping bags you can use.

A-frame huts at MArangu route campsite with blanket of cloud below

Some of the communal huts on the Marangu route

The huts themselves have communal dining halls and washrooms. The latter range in quality: you can expect running water and flushing toilets at the lower huts, and buckets of water and long drops at Kibo Hut.

Having read all we have to say on the Marangu route, we recommend that you read The seven different Kilimanjaro routes – pros and cons of each to see how this route stacks up against the others in terms of its difficulty, summit success rate, and more.