Kilimanjaro Shira Route
The Shira route is one of the older Kilimanjaro routes, and is nearly identical to the Lemosho route. The only difference between them is that the starting point of Shira is higher. In fact, the Lemosho route is the ‘new-and-improved’ version of the Shira route.
The Shira route approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from the west. 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.
Learn more about the different Kilimanjaro routes in this video.
Follow Alice’s view
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 only difference between the two is that the Shira route starts at a much higher elevation: 3,600 m (11,811 ft) above sea level compared with Lemosho’s 2,360 m (7,743 ft). That’s a difference of over a kilometre! 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 Shira. That said, we’re happy to recommend the Shira route to those who are a seasoned hikers or already live at a high altitude.
✓ Beautiful scenery
✓ Panoramic views
✓ Varied terrain
✓ Quieter than other routes
– Poor acclimatisation profile at the start
– Not possible in the wet season
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.
What is the scenery like on the Shira route?
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 only difference between the Shira and Lemosho routes is the scenery is on the first couple of days, as the Lemosho route has you spend more time hiking in forest.
How hard is the Shira 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 Shira route summit 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%.
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 the Lava Tower. This is when the crowds can get a little bigger in peak season.
What is accommodation like on the Shira route?
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.
How long does it take to hike the Shira 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, as well as more details about the trip, head to our Kilimanjaro climb page.
“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
7-day Shira route overview
The trek route starts at Shira Gate. You climb to the summit and then descend to finish at Mweka Gate.
|Day||Start||Altitude (m)||Altitude (ft)||Finish||Altitude (m)||Altitude (ft)||Time (hr)||Distance (km)||Distance (miles)|
|1||Shira Gate||3,600||11,800||Simba Camp||3,600||11,800||1-2||4||2|
|2||Simba Camp||3,600||11,800||Shira 2 Camp||3,810||12,500||2||6||4|
|3||Shira 2 Camp||3,810||12,500||Lava Tower||4,630||15,190||4-5||7||4|
|Lava Tower||4,630||15,190||Barranco Camp||3,976||13,044||2-3||3||2|
|4||Barranco Camp||3,976||13,044||Karanga Camp||3,995||13,106||4-5||5||3|
|5||Karanga Camp||3,995||13,106||Barafu Camp||4,673||15,331||4-5||4||2|
|6||Barafu Camp||4,673||15,331||Uhuru Peak||5,895||19,341||7-8||5||3|
|Uhuru Peak||5,895||19,341||Mweka Camp||3,068||10,065||4-6||12||7|
|7||Mweka Camp||3,068||10,065||Mweka Gate||1,640||5,380||3-4||10||6|
Shira route elevation in profile
The graphs below show the Shira route elevation in profile – first in metres, then in feet.
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 Londorossi Gate, the Shira route begins higher up at Shira Gate. 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 Gate to Simba 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 to Shira Gate. Your climb begins here, and you trek through heath and moorland to arrive at Simba Camp, where you stay for the night.
Simba 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 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
Today you hike up to the impressive rock formation called Lava Tower at 4,630 m (15,419 ft) above sea level. It takes five hours to get there and is a true highlight of the entire Kilimanjaro trek.
Part 2 | Lava Tower to Baranco Camp
After lunch at Lava Tower, you head down to Barranco Camp, a hike that takes about two hours. The campsite is located in a valley below the Western Breach and great Barranco Wall.
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.
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 short ascent of two to three hours to the last base, 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.
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
The route ascends northwest into the dark night, and you walk over stone scree. In about six hours, you reach Stella Point on the crater rim, which sits at 5,685 m (18,651 ft) above sea level. After enjoying the magnificent sunrise, you continue for an hour or so on a 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!
Part 2 | Uhuru Peak and back down 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 15 hours today!
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!
Feeling inspired to climb the Shira route? Got some more questions that you want answered? Shoot us a message! We’re always happy to hear from you.
Other useful Kilimanjaro topics
- Kilimanjaro routes
- Kilimanjaro packing list
- Best time to climb Kilimanjaro
- Kilimanjaro preparation
- Kilimanjaro safety
- Tipping on Kilimanjaro
- What is it like to climb Kilimanjaro?
- Climb Kilimanjaro cost
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 offers hut accommodation.
- Rongai Route
The Rongai is the only route that approaches from the north.
- Shira Route
The Shira route approaches from the summit from the west.
- Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest route.
- Umbwe Route
The Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest route.