Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit route is the longest and newest of the 7 established Kilimanjaro routes.
It is considered one of the best routes because of its great acclimatisation profile, high success rates, stunning views, and comparatively ‘relaxed’ pace. It is also much less frequented than the other Kilimanjaro routes. Simply put, it is one of the best ways to experience the roof of Africa.
Follow Alice’s view
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 best route to experience Mount Kilimanjaro. It offers near 360 degrees of stunningly beautiful scenery including the quiet, rarely visited northern slopes (the only way to see the northern part of Kili!). You get to explore the mountain in detail and experience all of it’s many environments thoroughly. We recommend choosing this Kilimanjaro climb route if you have the extra few days to spare, and a little more money to spend compared to routes like the Lemosho.
✓ Good acclimatisation
✓ High success rates
✓ Beautiful scenery
✓ Enjoy panoramic viewpoints
✓ Variety of terrain
✓ Quieter than other routes
– Not possible in wet season
– Longer than other routes
– More expensive than other routes
– Trekkers can experience trekking fatigue
The Northern Circuit route is for climbers who: have a little more time, really want to explore the mountain and avoid the crowds
What is the scenery like on the Northern Circuit route?
The Northern Circuit route is known for being one of, if not the most beautiful out of all 7 established Kilimanjaro routes. You have the chance to witness all of the different environments and ecosystems the mountain has to offer. Catch a glimpse of Mt Meru floating on the clouds from the Shira Plateau before traversing the less visited northern flanks to enjoy fabulous vistas across vast Kenyan lowlands. This less-visited northern route provides opportunity for a truly remarkable adventure to the top of Kilimanjaro.
How hard is the Northern Circuit?
No Kilimanjaro climb is easy, but the Northern Circuit route is generally considered one of the ‘easier’ climbs because of it’s great acclimatisation profile. It has great climb high sleep low opportunities, and is the Kilimanjaro route with the highest success rate. Put simply, with the right Kilimanjaro preparation anyone can climb it. You should be physically fit, and with the right support in the form of your mountain crew, you can achieve the summit whether you have previous hiking experience or are a first time trekker.
What is the Northern Circuit summit success rate?
The Northern Circuit is the longest Kilimanjaro route, and combined with the fact that it has amazing climb high sleep low opportunities means it has an excellent acclimatisation profile. Summit success rates on the Northern Circuit route are the highest on the mountain. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators is 90%. Follow Alice retains a success rate of 95% for the Northern Circuit route!
How long does it take to hike the Northern Circuit route?
The Northern Circuit route can be completed in a minimum of 8 days, but we recommend the 9 day Northern Circuit route itinerary. The extra day gives you more time to acclimatise. Furthermore, climbing Kilimanjaro is not a race. Especially with this route, the whole idea is to take your time and soak in everything the mountain has to offer, so it would be a shame not to spend the extra day! In our experience most people who have completed the right Kilimanjaro preparation complete the Northern Circuit route with no real problems.
How busy is the Northern Circuit route?
The Northern Circuit route is the least frequented of the Kilimanjaro routes. The route circles around the quieter northern slopes to the east side of the mountain. You get to enjoy remotes slopes and seldom-used camps. It is very unique in this sense and is perfect for if you are looking for a more relaxed and quiet climb.
What is the accommodation on the Northern Circuit route?
The Northern Circuit route only offers camping accommodation. As part of our climbing package all of your camping equipment is included; tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. The tents are taken up and down each day by your dedicated mountain crew.
What does the Northern Circuit route cost?
Follow Alice offers the Northern Circuit route as a 9 day group climb or private climb. This package costs $3065 per person (based on double occupancy). This includes 9 days on the mountain and one day either side at our beautiful parter lodge in Arusha, Kigongoni Lodge. For more information on the inclusions / exclusions and more details about the trip, head to our Kilimanjaro climb page.
“The summit is worth every tough step it takes, and it’s completely breath-taking to be the highest person on the African continent for a little while.” Stephen Hemmings
9 Day Northern Circuit Itinerary
Starting from Londorossi Gate to the summit and finish at Mweka Gate
|Day||Start||Altitude (m)||Altitude (ft)||Finish||Altitude (m)||Altitude (ft)||Time (hrs)||Distance (km)||Distance (miles|
|1||Londorossi Gate||2,360||7,742||Mti Mkubwa||2,895||9,498||3-4||6||4|
|2||Mti Mkubwa||2,895||9,498||Shira 1 Camp||3,505||11,500||5-6||8||5|
|3||Shira 1 Camp||3,505||11,500||Shira 2 Camp||3,810||12,500||3-4||7||4|
|4||Shira 2 Camp||3,810||12,500||Moir Hut||4,630||15,190||3-4||7||4||5||Moir Hut||4,200||13,580||POFU Camp||4,000||13,100||5-7||12||7|
|6||POFU Camp||4,000||13,100||3rd Cave||3,870||12,700||5-7||8||5|
|7||3rd Cave||3,870||12,700||Kibo Hut||4,750||15,600||4-5||5||3|
|8||Kibo Hut||4,750||15,600||Uhuru Peak||5,895||19,341||6-8||6||4|
|Uhuru Peak||5,895||19,341||Mweka Camp||3,068||10,065||4-6||12||7|
|9||Mweka Camp||3,068||10,065||Mweka Gate||1,640||5,380||3-4||10||6|
Northern Circuit Itinerary
You approach the mountain on the Northern Circuit from the west. Before the climbing can begin, you will leave Moshi and take a 4 hour drive to Londorossi Gate. From there, you will follow the same first couple of days as the Lemosho route, trekking through the rainforest to Shira Ridge, before crossing the Shira Plateau. From here you head in an easterly direction towards Moir’s 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 Caves. Ascend to Kibo Huts, join the Marangu route and lead up to summit via Gilmans. After summit you descend back down the mountain via Mweka.
The Northern Circuit is considered the best Kilimanjaro route for acclimatisation because of it’s longer climb profile
Londorossi Gate to Mkubwa Camp
After an early breakfast, our driver will take you to Londorossi Park Gate. Here we get recorded and enter the national park. We then trek through mountain rainforest for 3-4 hours to Mkubwa Camp where you will stay the night.
Mkubwa to Shira 1 Camp
Today you will trek through the last of the rainforest as it opens up onto moorland terrain. This trail will continue to the Shira Plateau and continues to Shira Camp 1 where you will stay for the night. This concludes the 5-6 hour hike for today.
Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp
Today we make our way across the Shira Plateau to Shira Camp 2 on a 3-4 hour trek. You will stay here overnight. Temperatures start to change rather dramatically at this point, with the nights sometimes plummeting to below 0.
Shira Camp 2 to Moir Hut
On this day we can expect a lengthy trek of 5-7 hours through the high alpine desert. You will climb to Lava Tower and the Shark’s Tooth rock formation. You will then head back down Moir Camp. This is a good chance to acclimatise. You stay here over night.
Moir Hut to POFU Camp
Another day of lengthy hiking can bee expected today. The trek begins with a steep incline as you journey around Kibo’s north face. 5-7 hours of trekking through the Alpine Desert will bring you to POFU camp. You will stay here for the night.
POFU Camp to Third Cave
Today we hike from POFU Camp to Third Cave. Much like the past couple days, the journey is lengthy but can be very rewarding. Buffalos are a popular sighting here. You will cross valleys on this 5-7 hour trek and will end at Third Cave where you will stay for the night.
Third Cave to School Hut
Today we endure a steady climb over The Saddle. This is located between the two peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi. The terrain is pretty baron and is said to be inhospitable, similar to any high altitude desert. You will climb for 4-5 hours and arrive at School Hut where you will get some rest before the big day!
Part 1 | Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak (summit day!)
Our guide will wake you up around midnight for tea and biscuits. You then begin your summit attempt which many describe as the most mentally and physically challenging part of the whole Kilimanjaro climb. The route heads northwest into the dark night ascending over stone scree. In about 6h, we’ll reach Stella Point (5,685m/18,651ft), located on the crater rim. After enjoying the magnificent sunrise, we continue for an hour or so on a snow-covered trail before reaching Uhuru Peak (5,895m / 19,341ft), the very top of Africa and a life-time accomplishment! Be prepared to be overwhelmed and don’t forget to take your pictures.
Part 2 | Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
After reaching the summit, we descend down to Mweka Campsite at 3,110m (10,204ft). Here, we’ll spend our final night on the mountain after having hiked for about 12-15h. You’ll fall asleep immediately, trust us!
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
We wake up at our last campsite down in the rainforest. After breakfast, we’ll say goodbye to all of our helpers that have been working so hard throughout the week to get us successfully to the summit. Helpers that have become friends during our days on the mountain. We do the last bit of hiking down to the foot of the mountain, where our driver will be waiting to bring us back to Kigongoni Lodge. Time for a beer and great celebration dinner!
Feeling inspired to climb the Northern Circuit route ? Got some more questions that you want answered? Shoot us a message! We are always happy to hear from you.
Other useful Kilimanjaro posts
- Kilimanjaro routes
- Kilimanjaro packing list
- Best time to climb Kilimanjaro
- Kilimanjaro preparation
- Kilimanjaro safety
- Tipping on Kilimanjaro
- What is it like to climb Kilimanjaro
The 7 Kilimanjaro routes
- Lemosho Route
The Lemosho is the most beautiful Kilimanjaro route
- Machame Route
The Machame is the most popular Kilimanjaro route
- Marangu Route
The Marangu route only offers hut accommodation
- Rongai Route
The Rongai is the only route that approaches from the North
- Shira Route
The Shira route approaches from the Western side of Kilimanjaro
- Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest Kilimanjaro route
- Umbwe Route
The Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route