Smiling group of trekkers in front of Karanga Camp sign on Kilimanjaro

The Shira route on Kilimanjaro

The Shira route is unusual for having a high starting point. This can make it tough from an acclimatisation point of view. We discuss the pros and cons of the Shira to help you decide if it's a good route for you climbing Kilimanarjo.

The Shira route is one of the older Kilimanjaro routes, and is very similar to the Lemosho route. The only differences between them is the trail walked on first couple of days, and that the starting point of the Shira is higher. In fact, the Lemosho route can be considered the 'new-and-improved' version of the Shira route.

The Shira route approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from the west, starting at Morum Barrier. It starts relatively high above sea level and is therefore a less frequented route as it offers a poorer acclimatisation profile. The route requires you to camp.

Shira route quick facts

Difficulty: Medium

Distance: 56 km / 35 miles

Duration: 7-8 days

Success rate: Medium

Follow Alice's opinion of the route

Along with the Lemosho route, the Shira route has all the qualities you could ask for in a Kilimanjaro climb, including beautiful views and varied terrain throughout. The Shira route, however, starts at an elevation that's roughly a kilometre higher than the Lemosho route! This means that climbers tackling the Shira route are at a higher risk of developing altitude-related symptoms from the first day.

As such, we recommend opting for the Lemosho route over the Shira route. That said, we're happy to recommend the Shira route to those who are seasoned high-altitude hikers or already live at a very high altitude.

 

 

Highlights

✓ Beautiful scenery

✓ Panoramic views

✓ Varied terrain

✓ Quieter than other routes

Considerations

- Poor acclimatisation profile at the start

- You miss out on the beautiful forest section

The Shira route is for climbers who want a trail that's scenic and exciting and who are able to adjust quickly to the starting point's high altitude.

Lava Tower Shira Route

All smiles at the Lava Tower Camp

What is the scenery like?

Along with the Lemosho route, the Shira route is known for being one of the most beautiful Kilimanjaro routes. The spectacular western approach offers trekkers the experience of hiking across the Shira Plateau, which is one of the largest high-altitude plateaus in the world. It also offers fantastic views of Shira Cathedral, a dramatic buttress of rock.

The Shira route offers some of the best sunrises and sunsets on Kilimanjaro.

One of the downsides is that you miss out on hiking through the truly beautiful rainforest band on the mountain as you start you climb above the forest.

A vast scene of moorland vegetation on Kilimanjaro near Shira 2 Camp

The beautiful terrain near Shira 2 Camp

How hard is the route?

No Kilimanjaro climb is easy, but the Shira route is one of the harder climbs given it starts at a much higher altitude. This means that a relatively high number of trekkers fall victim to the effects of altitude right from the start. From Day 3 the route offers opportunities to 'climb high, sleep low', which help you to acclimatise.

The Shira route is undoubtedly a beautiful climb, and with the right Kilimanjaro preparation it's definitely achievable. We do however recommend opting for the Lemosho route as it offers a better acclimatisation profile while not robbing you of any of the scenery offered along the Shira route.

What is the route's success rate?

The Shira route doesn't have the best acclimatisation profile given it starts at such high altitude. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators for the seven-day Shira route is around 85%.

Shira route landscape

The scenery along the Shira route is just gorgeous

How busy is the Shira route?

The Shira route is generally less busy than other Kilimanjaro routes such as the Machame route. You're free from big crowds during the first couple of days on the Shira route. You then join trekkers hiking the Lemosho route on the evening of Day 2 at Shira 2 Camp, and then those hiking the Machame route near Lava Tower. This is when the crowds can get a little bigger in peak season.

What is accommodation like?

The Shira route only offers camping accommodation. As part of our Follow Alice climbing package all of your camping equipment is included: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. All tents are pitched and then taken down by our dedicated mountain crew throughout the trek.

Barranco camp at night with tents lit up from within

Camp with a starry sky as its crown

How many days is the route?

The Shira route can be completed in either seven or eight days. The extra day gives you more time to acclimatise. In our experience, most people who have completed the right Kilimanjaro preparation and are okay with the higher altitude at the start of the climb, manage fine with the seven-day option.

What is the Shira route cost?

Follow Alice offers the Shira route as a seven-day group or private climb. It costs $2,585 per person (based on double occupancy). This includes seven days on the mountain and one day either side at our beautiful parter lodge in Moshi. For more information on inclusions and exclusions, please read How much does Kilimanjaro cost?

The climb was tough, but as a first-time high-altitude climber I never felt worried and always felt like I knew what was happening.

– Stephen Hemmings

 

 

Shira route overview

The trek route starts at Morum Barrier. You climb to the summit and then descend to finish at Mweka Gate.

Detailed table showing the 7-day Shira route itinerary

Shira route elevation in profile

The graphs below show the Shira route elevation in profile – first in metres, then in feet.

Graph showing Shira route elevations in metres
Graph showing Shira route elevation in feet

7-day Shira route itinerary

The Shira route is nearly identical to the Lemosho route, it just differs in the first couple of days. Where the Lemosho route starts at Lemosho Gate, the Shira route begins much higher up at Morum Barrier. So before the climbing can begin, you drive to Shira Ridge, bypassing the rainforest zone which you hike on the Lemosho route.

You then link up with the Lemosho route on the evening of Day 2 at Shira 2 Camp. After passing Lava Tower, the Shira route then follows a path known as the Southern Circuit, which traverses Kilimanjaro’s southern ice field. You then summit from Barafu, and descend via Mweka.

The Shira route is the Lemosho route's predecessor. The Lemosho route is actually an updated and improved version of the Shira.

Shira-7-day-route-map-Light

Map showing Kilimanjaro's Shira route

Day 1: Morum Barrier to Shira 1 Camp

Today you're driven to Londorossi Park Gate, where you're entered in the registry of the Kilimanjaro National Park. You're then driven quite a ways to Morum Barrier. Your climb begins here, and you trek through heath and moorland to arrive at Simba Camp, where you stay for the night.

Elevation: 3,414 m to 3,500 m

Distance: 4 km / 2 miles

Hiking time: 2 hours

Habitat: Forest

Day 2: Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp

Today your trek takes you past beautiful moorland rock formations and across volcanic rock plateaus. You also cross Shira Cathedral, which is one of the three peaks of Kilimanjaro. Tonight you stay at Shira 2 Camp.

Elevation: 3,505 m to 3,847 m

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Shira 2 Camp showing tents and sunrise

Shira 2 Camp with a gorgeous sunset

Day 3: Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp

Today's trek consists of two parts: the climb to Lava Tower, followed by the descent to Barranco Camp. This plan is in keeping with the 'climb high, sleep low' strategy that allows for good acclimatisation.

Part 1 | Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower

Elevation: 3,847 m to 4,630 m

Distance: 8 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Semi-desert

Today you hike up to the impressive rock formation called Lava Tower at 4,630 m (15,419 ft) above sea level. It takes four to five hours to get there and is a true highlight of the entire Kilimanjaro trek.

Part 2 | Lava Tower to Barranco Camp

Elevation: 4,630 m to 3,976 m

Distance: 3 km / 2 miles

Hiking time: 2-3 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

After lunch at Lava Tower, you head down to Barranco Camp, a hike that takes about two to three hours. The campsite is located in a valley below the Western Breach and great Barranco Wall.

Barranco Camp Landscape

Travel through dramatic landscapes on the Shira route

Day 4: Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp

This is a short hiking day of four to five hours that's focused on helping you to acclimatise. After an early morning breakfast, it’s time for you to conquer Barranco Wall. Although it may look intimidating at first, trekkers usually report that it turned out to be much easier than they anticipated.

At the top of the wall, you're above the clouds and enjoy superb views of the Southern Ice Fields and the summit. The trail then winds up and down until you arrive at Karanga Camp.

Elevation: 3,976 m to 3,995 m

Distance: 5 km / 3 miles

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Day 5: Karanga to Barafu Camp

It’s getting real! You’re now very close to the summit and have some amazing views of the mountain during your ascent of just three hours to reach Barafu Camp, which sits at 4,600 m (15,091 ft). An early dinner is served so you can get some rest before attempting the summit that same night. Before you go to bed, your guide briefs you in detail on how best to prepare for summit night.

Elevation: 3,995 m to 4,673 m

Distance: 4 km / 2 miles

Hiking time: 3 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Karanga Camp sign with peak behind

Karanga Camp sign

Day 6: Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Today is summit day! It's time for the big push – to dig deep for everything you have to make it to the summit.

Part 1 | Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak

Elevation: 4,673 m to 5,895 m

Distance: 5 km / 3 miles

Hiking time: 6-8 hours

Habitat: Arctic

The route ascends northwest into the dark night, and you walk over stone scree. In about six to seven hours, you reach Stella Point on the crater rim, which sits at 5,685 m (18,651 ft) above sea level. It should be around sunrise at this point. You then continue for an hour or so on a sometimes snow-covered trail before reaching Uhuru Peak, which is 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level. Uhuru Peak is the highest point in Africa! Be prepared to be overwhelmed by your accomplishment and the magnificent views!

Kilimanjaro Summit via Shira Route

Uhuru Peak!

Part 2 | Uhuru Peak and back down to Mweka Camp

Elevation: 5,895 ft to 3,068 ft

Distance: 12 km / 7 miles

Hiking time: 6-8 hours

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!

Day 7: 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 at Mweka Gate. Time for a beer and great celebration dinner!

Elevation: 3,068 m to 1,640 m

Distance: 10 km / 6 miles

Hiking time: 3 hours

Habitat: Forest

View from Mweka Camp, Kilimanjaro

A pretty section of the Mweka descent route

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?

Ngurdoto Crater Tanzania

Ngurdoto Crater in Arusha National Park is a lush oasis for wildlife and a perfect day's outing from Moshi or Arusha

 

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