A line of Kilimanjaro hikers walking towards the peak and away from the camera on the Marangu route

The Northern Circuit route on Kilimanjaro

Apr 17, 2023
Reading time: 11 minutes

The Northern Circuit is a fantastic Kilimanjaro route that's walked by relatively few. It offers amazing scenery, excellent acclimatisation, and a quiet trek. We tell you all the reasons we love this Kilimanjaro route!

The Northern Circuit route is the longest and newest of the seven established Kilimanjaro routes. It's one of the best routes because of its great acclimatisation profile, high summit success rate, stunning views, and comparatively relaxed pace. It's also much less crowded than the other Kilimanjaro routes. Simply put, it's one of the best ways to experience the roof of Africa.

Quick facts about the Northern Circuit

Difficulty: Medium

Distance: 98 km / 61 miles

Duration: 9 days

Success rate: High

Follow Alice's opinion of the route

The Northern Circuit is definitely our favourite Kilimanjaro route along with the Lemosho route. If you have the extra time to spare, we believe that the Northern Circuit is the best route for experiencing Mount Kilimanjaro. For starters, it offers stunning scenery including the quiet, rarely visited northern slope. The Northern Circuit is the only route to show you this side of the mountain! You also get to explore more of Kilimanjaro via this slightly longer route, thereby enjoying its various environments thoroughly. We recommend choosing this Kilimanjaro climb route if you have the extra time and money available.

Thick clouds around the summit of Kilimanjaro

The Northern Circuit gives you the best chance of summiting this mighty mountain


✓ Good acclimatisation profile

✓ Very high success rate

✓ Beautiful scenery

✓ Panoramic views

✓ Varied terrain

✓ Quieter than other routes


- Forest section is muddy in wet season

- Longer than other routes

- More expensive than other routes

- You can experience trekking fatigue

The Northern Circuit route is for climbers who have a little more time, really want to explore the mountain, and wish to avoid the crowds.

Northern Circuit Route Kilimanjaro

Stopping for water on the Northern Circuit

What is the scenery like?

The Northern Circuit route is one of the most beautiful of all seven established Kilimanjaro routes. In fact, it might be the most beautiful route of all!

Along the route you see all of the different environments and ecosystems the mountain has to offer. From Shira Plateau, you can see Mt Meru floating above the clouds. And when you traverse the quiet northern flank of the mountain, you get to enjoy fabulous vistas across the vast lowlands of southern Kenya.

You end the trek at a different gate from the starting one, so there's also no backtracking on the Northern Circuit – you're always trekking fresh trail. 

How hard is the Northern Circuit?

No Kilimanjaro climb is easy, but the Northern Circuit route is one of the easier climbs because of its great acclimatisation profile. It has great 'climb high, sleep low' opportunities, and as such is the Kilimanjaro route with the highest summit success rate. Put simply, with the right Kilimanjaro preparation anyone can climb it.

You might like to read Trekking tips for beginners and How should I train for Kilimanjaro?



What is the route's success rate?

The Northern Circuit is the longest Kilimanjaro route and also provides many opportunities to climb high and sleep low, both of which give it an excellent acclimatisation profile. The summit success rate of the Northern Circuit route is the highest on the mountain. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators for the Northern Circuit is 90%. Follow Alice has a success rate of 95% for the Northern Circuit!

You might find it helpful to read 10 tips for hiking and summiting Mt Kilimanjaro.

How many days is the Northern Circuit?

The Northern Circuit route can be completed in a minimum of eight days, but we recommend the nine-day itinerary. This extra day gives you more time to acclimatise. Further, climbing Kilimanjaro isn't a race. Especially with this route, the whole idea is to take your time and soak in everything the mountain has to offer! In our experience, most people who have completed the right Kilimanjaro preparation complete the Northern Circuit route with no real problems.

Northern Circuit Route

Hiking through the rainforest on the Northern Circuit route

How busy is the route?

The Northern Circuit route is the least frequented of the Kilimanjaro routes. The route circles around the quieter northern slope to the east side of the mountain. You get to enjoy remotes slopes and seldom-used camps. It's the perfect option if you're looking for a quieter, more relaxed Kilimanjaro climb.

What is accommodation like?

The Northern Circuit route only offers camping accommodation. If you climb Kilimanjaro with Follow Alice then all of your camping equipment is provided for you: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. Further, all tents are pitched and then taken down by our dedicated mountain crew. throughout the trek.

You can learn more in Sleeping on Kilimanjaro.

What does the route cost?

Follow Alice offers the Northern Circuit route as a nine-day group or private climb. This costs $3,325 per person (based on double occupancy) in 2023. The fee includes nine days on the mountain and one day either side at our beautiful partner lodge in Moshi.

For more information on inclusions and exclusions, as well as more details about the trip, head to our Kilimanjaro climb page.

"The summit is worth every tough step it takes, and it's completely breathtaking to be the highest person on the African continent for a little while."

Stephen Hemmings

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Relaxing at the Follow Alice camp

Northern Circuit overview

The trek starts at Londorossi Gate, where you sign the park registry. You then drive to Lemosho Gate, and start your hiking up the western slope from there. For seven days you ascend the mountain, sometimes sleeping at a lower elevation to what you hiked that day as this is good for helping your body to acclimatise.

At the very start of Day 8 – midnight, in fact! – you start for the summit, Uhuru Peak. You reach the summit a little after sunrise, then start your descent down the southeastern slope of the mountain. You reach Mweka Gate after Day 9's hiking, and your driver meets you to take you back to the hotel.

The figures for the trek are shown below.

9-day Northern Circuit itinerary

Northern Circuit elevation in profile

The graphs below show the elevation of the Northern Circuit route in profile - first in metres, then in feet. This gives you a good idea of how the climb proceeds day by day and landmark by landmark.

Graph showing 9-day Northern Circuit trek route elevations in metres
Graph showing 9-day Northern Circuit trek route elevations in feet

Detailed Northern Circuit itinerary

When trekking the Northern Circuit you approach the summit of Kilimanjaro from the west. Before the climbing can begin, you leave Moshi and take a four-hour drive to Londorossi Gate. You sign into Kilimanjaro National Park, then drive to Lemosho Gate.

From Lemosho Gate, you follow the same first couple of days as the Lemosho route, which involves trekking through beautiful rainforest to Shira Ridge.

From Shira Ridge, you cross the open terrain of Shira Plateau. From here you head in an easterly direction towards Moir Camp, which is nestled behind a ridge near the famous Lava Tower. You then head around the northern approach route via Pofu Camp and join up with the Rongai route at Third Cave.

Next, you ascend to Kibo Hut, where the route joins with that of the Marangu route. From here you make your summit attempt.

You then descend back down the mountain via the Mweka route on the south side of the mountain.

The Northern Circuit is the best Kilimanjaro route for acclimatisation because of its longer climb.


Map showing the Northern Circuit route up Kilimanjaro

Day 1: Lemosho Gate to Mti Mkubwa Camp

Today you drive to Londorossi Park Gate, where you're recorded in the Kilimanjaro National Park records. You then start the trek from Lemosho Gate, hiking through mountain rainforest for three to four hours to reach Mti Mkubwa Camp, where you stay the night.

Elevation: 2,100 m to 2,895 m

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 3-4 hours

Habitat: Montane forest

Follow Alice team climb Kilimanjaro

Follow Alice group at Londorossi Gate

Day 2: Mti Mkubwa Camp to Shira 1 Camp

Today you trek through the last of the rainforest, before entering moorland terrain. The trail leads towards Shira Plateau and Shira Camp 1, where you stay the night. All in all today's hike takes about five to six hours.

Elevation: 2,895 m to 3,505 m

Distance: 8 km / 5 miles

Hiking time: 5-6 hours

Habitat: Rainforest

Day 3: Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp

Today you make your way across the Shira Plateau to Shira 2 Camp on a trek that lasts just four to six hours. Temperatures start to change rather dramatically at this point of the trek, with the nights sometimes plummeting below freezing.

Elevation: 3,505 m to 3,810 m

Distance: 7 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 4-6 hours

Habitat: Semi-desert

Porters on Kilimanjaro taking a break

Some of our excellent porters taking a load off!

Day 4: Shira 2 Camp to Moir Hut

On this day you can expect a trek of two to three hours through the high alpine desert. You climb to Lava Tower and the Shark's Tooth rock formation. You then head back down Moir Camp. This is an important acclimatisation day.

Elevation: 3,810 m to 4,206 m

Distance: 14 km / 8 miles

Hiking time: 2-3 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Day 5: Moir Hut to Pofu Camp

Today you hike for five to six hours. The trek The trek begins with a steep incline as you journey around Kibo's north face. You then walk through the alpine desert to reach Pofu Camp, where you spend the night.

Elevation: 4,206 m to 4,033 m

Distance: 12 km / 7 miles

Hiking time: 5-6 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

 Night-time at Pofu Camp on Kilimanjaro

Night-time at Pofu Camp

Day 6: Pofu Camp to Third Cave

Much like the past couple of days, the journey today is lengthy but can be very rewarding. Buffaloes are sometimes spotted here. You cross valleys on this trek of four to five hours and end at Third Cave, where you stay the night.

Elevation: 4,033 m to 3,870 m

Habitat: Semi-desert

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Arctic

Day 7: Third Cave to Kibo Hut

Today you undertake a steady climb over the Saddle, a stretch of barren land connecting the two peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi. The terrain is pretty inhospitable, being high-altitude desert. You climb for four to five hours to arrive at School Hut, where you get some rest before the big day!

Elevation: 3,870 m to 4,750 m

Distance: 5 km / 3 miles

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Arctic

Day 8: Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Today is summit day! It's all been leading to this, so it's time to dig deep and use all of your determination to reach the top. Picture yourself standing on the roof of Africa and enjoying those unparalleled views!

Snowy Kilimanjaro summit

At certain times of the year the summit of Kilimanjaro is blanketed in thick snow

Part 1 | Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak

Your guide wakes you up around midnight to begin your trek to the summit! The route ascends northwest into the dark night. In about five to seven hours you reach Stella Point on the crater rim at 5,685 m (18,651 ft) above sea level. You then continue for an hour or so on a sometimes snow-covered trail to reach Uhuru Peak at 5,895 m (19,341 ft). You're now standing at the very top of Africa having achieved a truly remarkable feat!

Elevation: 4,750 m to 5,895 m

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 6-8 hours

Habitat: Arctic

You might like to read Why summit Kilimanjaro at night?

Part 2 | Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

After reaching the summit, you descend to Mweka Camp at 3,110 m (10,204 ft) above sea level. Here you spend your final night on the mountain after having hiked for about 12 to 16 hours today!

Elevation: 5,895 m to 3,068 m

Distance: 12 km / 7 miles

Hiking time: 6-8 hours

Summit Mount Kilimanjaro

Glacier near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Day 9: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

Today you do the last bit of hiking down to the foot of the mountain, where your driver meets you. Time for high-fives and a celebratory drink!

Elevation: 3,068 m to 1,640 m

Distance: 10 km / 6 miles

Hiking time: 3 hours

Habitat: Rainforest

Keen to explore more of Tanzania?

If you want to add a little adventure onto the end of your Kilimanjaro climb, we recommend going on a Tanzania safari – you won’t find a better African safari! Or hop over the border into Uganda to trek with mountain gorillas. Alternatively, if you’ve limited time and budget, why not do one or two extra activities in the Kilimanjaro region like visit a Maasai village or a coffee farm?

Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania

Flamboyances of flamingoes can be seen in Ngorongoro Crater