A line of hikers walks up a path in the moorland zone of Kilimanjaro on the Rongai route

The Rongai route on Kilimanjaro

The Rongai route is the only route that ascends the northern slope of Kilimanjaro. It's a quieter route, and offers some amazing views. We discuss the pros and cons of the Rongai to help you decide if it's the right route for you.

The Rongai route is the only route that approaches the summit from the northern side of the mountain, near the Kenyan border. It's one of the least crowded of the seven Kilimanjaro routes.

It's recommended to do the seven-day itinerary (as opposed to the six-day itinerary) as the topography of this trail doesn't afford many opportunities to 'climb high, sleep low'. The seven-day itinerary includes an acclimatisation day at Mawenzi Tarn Camp, which gives your body time to adjust to the higher elevation. Acclimatisation is important in allowing you to reach the summit.

Quick facts on the Rongai

Difficulty: Low

Distance: 73 km / 45 miles

Duration: 6-7 days

Success rate: Medium

Rainforest and peak of Kilimanjaro

You start the Rongai route in rainforest

Follow Alice's opinion of the route

The Rongai route is the only route that approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from north of the mountain. It's a decent route choice for those looking to climb during the rainy season, as the north side of the mountain generally receives a little less precipitation.

We recommend choosing this route if you want to avoid the crowds. It's also a good option if you have less or no trekking experience and want a more relaxed climb with fewer steep sections. (You might also like to read our trekking tips for beginners.)

There isn't an opportunity to climb high and sleep low on the Rongai if you opt for the six-day itinerary. If, however, you hike the seven-day itinerary, there is an acclimatisation day at Mawenzi Tarn Camp. We highly recommend choosing the seven-day over the six-day itinerary.

 

 

Highlights

✓ Only route that approaches from the North

✓ Usually offers the clearest views of the mountain

✓ Panoramic views

✓ High chance of seeing wildlife

Considerations

- A little less scenic than the other routes approaching from the west

The Rongai route is for climbers who want a more remote climb away from the crowds and are interested in seeing both sides of the mountain.

We're about to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, dude!

We're about to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, dude!

What is the scenery like?

The Rongai route is often considered one of the less scenic Kilimanjaro routes. However, because the northern side of the mountain is a little less prone to rainfall, you're more likely to get clear, unclouded views of the mountaintop along the way. Whoop whoop!

Horombo Hut at dawn, Kilimanjaro campsite

Horombo Hut is a campsite perched on a small plateau at 3,705 m above sea level

How hard is the Rongai route?

No Kilimanjaro climb is easy – it's important you know that. But relatively speaking, the Rongai route is considered one of the 'easier' routes, as it has a gentle incline throughout. It's a bit of a longer hike for this reason.

What makes the Rongai route 'hard' is its less-than-ideal acclimatisation profile, because it doesn't often have you climb high during the day and then drop back down for the night, which is a key strategy in helping one's body acclimatise to the increased elevation.

In fact, there's only one day on the trail when you climb high and then sleep low. You can combat this by opting for the seven-day itinerary over the six-day one to at least give your body another day to adjust to the changes in altitude on your ascent. Put simply, with the right Kilimanjaro preparation anyone can climb it.

Footpath through the alpine desert on the Rongai route

A long stretch of the Rongai route through alpine desert

Note that you should be physically fit to attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, though you don't need any previous trekking experience. The Rongai route is not technical at all, meaning a good pair of hiking boots strapped onto some decently strong legs is all you need. That said, if you're new to multiday hikes, we recommend you read our trekking tips for beginners.

What is the route's success rate?

Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate for the seven-day Rongai route across all Kilimanjaro operators is 80%, and 65% for the six-day route.

If you compare these statistics with those of routes like the Lemosho route and Northern Circuit route, you'll see they aren't particularly good. The reason for this low success rate is the route's poor acclimatisation profile: it only offers one opportunity to climb high and sleep low. Days when you hike up to a new altitude and then descend to a lower altitude for the night are incredibly helpful for acclimatisation.

How busy is the Rongai route?

The Rongai route is the least frequented of the Kilimanjaro routes. It's the only route to approach the summit from the northern side of the mountain.

Trekkers often don't consider the Rongai route because of the perception that it's not as beautiful. However, it's actually a very beautiful Kilimanjaro route. We think it's a good choice if you're looking for a quieter, more relaxed climb.

Good to note

Though the Rongai route is one of the least frequented Kilimanjaro routes, over the last couple of years the route has grown in popularity. If you climb in peak season and start on a group departure date (most commonly a Sunday), you may experience some crowds. Speak to us for the latest updates on the Rongai route.

What is accommodation like?

The Rongai route offers camping accommodation only. If you climb Kilimanjaro with Follow Alice, we provide all of your camping equipment, including your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. Further, all tents are pitched and taken down by our dedicated mountain crew throughout the trek.

Follow Alice tents on Mount Kilimanjaro

Follow Alice tents on Mount Kilimanjaro

How many days is the Rongai?

The Rongai route can be completed in six days, but we recommend you do it over seven days. The extra day gives you more time to acclimatise. Most people need the extra day to acclimatise properly and so have a good chance of successfully summiting the mountain.

In our experience, most people who have completed the right Kilimanjaro preparation complete the seven-day Rongai route with no real problems. And finally, climbing Kilimanjaro isn't a race. If you're travelling all the way to Tanzania to climb the mountain, don't rush the experience!

Mt Kilimanjaro in morning light

Kilimanjaro looking gorgeous from a distance

What is the route's cost?

Follow Alice offers the Rongai route as a seven-day group or private climb. Our seven-day Rongai route package costs $2,585 per person. This includes seven days on the mountain and one day either side at our beautiful parter lodge in Moshi. The fee is based on double occupancy, which means you'll be sharing your tent and lodge room with a partner in crime. For more information on the inclusions and exclusions of the Follow Alice trip fee, as well as more details about the trip, head to our Kilimanjaro climb page.

The hike was super challenging for me because I suffered from pretty bad altitude sickness, but our team did everything they could to make me feel comfortable.

– Alexandre Polise

Rongai route overview

The trek starts at Rongai Gate. You climb to the summit, then descend the mountain to finish at Marangu Gate. This means you don't retrace your steps on the Rongai route but are always trekking new trail.

7-day Rongai route overview

Rongai route elevation in profile

The two graphs below show the elevation of the Rongai route in profile - first in metres, then in feet. They offer a nice visual of the gradual climb involved in trekking the Rongai route.

Graph showing Rongai route up Kilimanjaro: elevation in metres
Graph showing Rongai route elevation in feet

7-day Rongai route itinerary

The Rongai route can be completed over six to eight days. We always recommend the seven-day itinerary as we feel six days is too short for proper acclimatisation. Eight days is also good.

The Rongai route approaches the mountain from the north. You enter Kilimanjaro National Park at Rongai Gate, which is on the Kenyan side of the mountain. It takes about four hours of driving to reach the gate from the town of Moshi, which is where we stay on the nights before and after the trek.

You pass through various climate zones on your way to the summit, including forest and high-altitude desert. The highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro is Uhuru Peak, which sits at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level. After summiting, you descend the mountain via the Marangu route on the southeast side of the mountain.

The Rongai route is the only Kilimanjaro route that approaches the summit from the northern side of the mountain.

Map of 7-day Rongai route on Kilimanjaro

Map showing the seven-day Rongai route up Kilimanjaro

Day 1: Rongai Gate to Simba Camp

First things first, you drive to Rongai Gate where you're recorded in the Kilimanjaro National Park's registry. You begin your climb by trekking through rainforest. At points you have breaks in the vegetation that offer magnificent views of cultivated fields down below. You climb for about four hours to reach Simba Camp, where you spend the night.

Elevation: 1,950 m to 2,830 m

Distance: 8 km / 5 miles

Hiking time: 4 hours

Habitat: Forest

Day 2: Simba Camp to Second Cave

Today you trek through moorland to Second Cave. This takes three to four hours.

Elevation: 2,830 m to 3,450 m

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 3-4 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Day 3: Second Cave to Kikelelwa Cave

Today you trek through alpine desert to Kikelelwa Cave. The scenery along this part of the journey is quite remarkable. You hike for about four hours.

Elevation: 3,450 m to 3,600

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 3-4 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Day 4: Kikelelwa Cave to Mawenzi Tarn Hut

After breakfast you trek to Mawenzi Tarn Hut, which takes around four hours.

Elevation: 3,600 m to 4,315 m

Distance: 4 km / 2 miles

Hiking time: 4 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Rongai Route Mount Kilimanjaro

On Kilimanjaro your guides tell you to go "Pole, pole", which means 'slowly, slowly' in Swahili

Day 5: Mawenzi Tarn Hut to Kibo Hut

Today you trek for five to six hours through alpine desert to reach Kibo Hut. The trek is a gradual incline that heads west through the Saddle, a ridge of barren land that connects the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi.

Elevation: 4,315 m to 4,703 m

Distance: 8 km / 5 miles

Hiking time: 5-6 hours

Habitat: Forest

Day 6: Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut

Today is the day! All going well, you'll be standing at the tippy top of Africa before lunchtime and glorying in your mega achievement. Summit day is split into two parts: the ascent to Uhuru Peak, followed by a descent of over two vertical kilometres.

Part 1 | Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak

The first half of today's journey starts much earlier than on every other day. Your guide wakes you up at midnight. The follow a rocky, moonlit trail to Uhuru Peak. Welcome to the Roof of Africa!

Elevation: 4,703 m to 5,895 m

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 7-8 hours

Habitat: Arctic

Part 2 | Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut

Part two of today's trek sees you make your way down the mountain from Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut, which is where you overnight.

Elevation: 5,895 m to 3,720 m

Distance: 12 km / 7 miles

Hiking time: 7-8 hours

Habitat: Rainforest

Kilimanjaro summit

We invite you to Follow Alice to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!

Day 7: Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate

Today is the last day of your incredible journey! You do however have a relatively long hike down the mountain ahead of you. You trek for five to seven hours from Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate, where you bid Kilimanjaro farewell.

Elevation: 3,720 m to 1,843 m

Distance: 10 km / 6 miles

Hiking time: 5-7 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?

back and white colobus monkey Tanzania safari

A Tanzania safari exposes you to the Big Five as well as many unusual animals, like the black-and-white colobus

 

Contact

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+1 (785) 859-4930

info@followalice.com

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Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD

P.O Box 1923, Moshi

Tanzania, East Africa

 

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