Climb Kilimanjaro by the Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit Route is the longest route on Kilimanjaro, it is a nine day trip on the mountain initially ascending the western Lemosho route up onto the Shira Plateau before reaching the Lava Tower, then heading north and circumnavigating the entire main summit massif in a clockwise direction and joining up with the Rongai route. The summit is then climbed from the eastern side of the mountain and the descent is straight down via the southern Mweka route.
This is a longer journey which allows you to explore the mountain in detail from all sides and through all the different habitats. It offers excellent acclimatisation and stunning scenery with views across the southern flanks, western forests, the northern plains to the Kenyan border and the dry arid eastern slopes. It takes you along remote, seldom used paths to quiet camps.
Camps and elevations on the Northern Circuit route of Kilimanjaro
Northern Circuit Route Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive into Kilimanjaro airport. Transfer to Moshi hotel. Afternoon / evening free
Day 2: Rest and relax by the pool, visit Moshi town / market. Meet guides, chef and mountain briefing / kit check
Day 3: Moshi (900m) to Londorossi Gate (2385m) to Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree Camp 2780m).
Trek: 6 km, 3-4 hours
We leave the Hotel and drive to the Londorossi Gate (2385m), which can take 3.5 hrs but if there’s been a lot of rain the last section is on foot due to poor roads. We then meet the team of porters, guides and head upwards through the pristine forest to Mti Mkubwa Camp at 2780m
Day 4: Mti Mkubwa (2780m) to Shira 1 Camp (3500m)
Trek: 8 km, 5-6 hours
We make our way further through the forest then out on to open heathland which is a savannah of tall grasses, heather and volcanic rock. The land in undulates gently and after crossing several streams, we reach the Shira Ridge and descend gently to Shira 1 Camp at 3500m.
Day 5: Shira 1 Camp (3500m) to Shira 2 Camp (3840m)
Trek: 7 km, 3-4 hours
This is a relatively short day from Shira 1 to Shira 2 but an important day in terms of rest and acclimatisation. We’ll explore the vast Shira Plateau as we enjoy the gentle walk across the heathland meadows of wildflowers and Senecio trees whilst looking up at the mass of Kibo seemingly only a stone’s throw away and the clouds which will be below u
Day 6: Shira 2 Camp (3840m) to Lava Tower (4600m) to Moir Hut (4200m)
Trek: 14 km, 6 - 7 hrs
This is an important day in terms of acclimatisation as we continue across the Shira plateau to the Lava Tower, which is a 100m volcanic rock skyscraper of a formation and our high point at 4600m not just for the day but also up until our summit attempt. We then divert from the main trail and drop in altitude to Moir Hut at 4200 which is a seldom used camp at the base of the Lent Hills.
Day 7: Moir Hut (4200m) to Buffalo Camp (4000m)
Trek: 12 km, 5-6 hou
We trek out of camp and the Moir Valley starting with a bit of a steep climb and then we have a detour option to the summit of Little Lent Hill at 4700m, which is great for acclimatisation before returning to the main circuit trail. The path crosses a rock field and undulates up and down before reaching Buffalo Camp at 4000m. The views this day are simply stunning across the plains to the north of Kilimanjaro to the border and Kenya’s famous Amboseli national park.
Day 8: Buffalo Camp (4000m) to Rongai Third Cave (3800m)
Trek: 8 km, 6-7 hours
We leave camp and head up the Buffalo Ridge in the morning and usually have some lunch at Porfu Camp before we start our trek around the northern slopes heading towards the eastern side of the mountain. The terrain becomes increasingly sparse and dry with little shrubs. This route is rarely travelled and feels remote, wild and free as we then reach our camp at what’s known as Rongai’s Third Cave at 3800m.
Day 9: Third Cave (3800m) to School Hut (4800m)
Trek: 6 km, 4-5 hours
We climb steadily up and over the Saddle, which sits between Kilimanjaro’s two peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi through an environment akin to the moon or a high-altitude desert. We then continue to our high camp at School Hut. We then have plenty of time to rest in the afternoon and to prepare for early start and summit day.
Day 10: School Hut (4800m) to Uhuru Peak (5895m) to Millennium Camp (3850m)
Trek up: 6 km, 6-8 hours
Trek down: 10 km, 4-6 hours
Around midnight, we begin our push to the summit. This is a night-time ascent on rock, scree and occasionally snow to the crater rim and beyond to the summit. We wake about 11.30pm and have tea, biscuits and some snacks before starting our trek up to the summit. It’s not a steep climb from beginning to end but undulates and changes throughout. We stop for rests along the way and the pace is slow. The final slope to the crater rim is steep and has loose scree and you can expect cold temperatures and wind chill throughout, however as you approach the crater rim you will start to see the sun rising over the African plains thousands of feet below. The rising sun brings warmth and delivers scenery that will remain with you forever more. The heat and light also brings motivation and encourages you to make the final 45-minute climb up from the crater rim to the summit of Kilimanjaro.
After some time on the summit we then descend to Barafu for a rest and early lunch and then walk down along a gentle path to Millennium Camp, dropping out of altitude, normally arriving mid-afternoon.
Day 11: Millenium Camp (3850m) to Mweka Gate (1640m) to Moshi Hotel (900m)
Trek: 10 km, 4 hours
Descending through the lush forest to Mweka Gate where we sign out of the national park and pick up our summit certificate. This is a walk surrounded by monkeys, lush ancient forests and can be slippy underfoot especially with tired legs! After a rest at the gate we’ll say thank you and farewell to our team of porters before transport back to the Moshi hotel, arriving back mid-afternoon for a hot shower, cold drink and an overnight in the hotel.
Day 12: Today you can either fly home / onward travel, or we can organise for you to experience the wild side of East Africa on a four day, three-night safari to Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.
Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route cost: £2445.00
- Full ground price for the Northern Circuit Route
- Accommodation in Moshi for 3 nights in the Keys Annexe Hotel (twin, B&B)
- Jeep or coach transport to the mountain gate from and to Moshi
- Park fees, camping fees and park rescue fees plus all forest transit fees
- Park certified guides (ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 depending on number of climbers) and company reps
- Porters and cooks, plus equipment and tents for them
- All camping equipment including sleeping tents with mattresses
- Expedition administrator, translator and Manager
- Meals on the mountain - fresh food, 3 meals per day
- International airfare to Kilimanjaro Airport
- Airport transfers (£40 / $50 per vehicle one way) must be requested in advance through the office - pay in advance or cash in-countrt
- Tanzanian Visa - $50 for most passports & $100 for USA citizens, purchased on arrival
- Vaccinations and malaria tablets
- Personal expenses
- Travel insurance est £40
- Lunch and dinners in Moshi
- Tips ~ £120 ($180) paid in local currency for distribution at exit gate
How do payments work? We try to make payments as easy and manageable for you as possible. We ask for a deposit of £250 on booking (which is included in the advertised trip fee). The balance is then due 4 weeks prior to your trip start date. When you book a trip with us you are automatically given an online account on our secure server. You can then sign into your account at anytime to make interim payments or to make one instalment 4 weeks before your trip. It’s totally up to you, you can spread the cost or make one balance payment.
Not all about the money. Our prices are competitive and good value, and we offer a quality service, security and a strong stance on tourism in a developing country. We don’t want to be so expensive to run fewer trips and have our staff idle, but on the other hand we believe that running cheap trips that promote the practise of skimming budgets would result in the porters getting next to nothing, which is something we cannot consider.
We include a high level of support staff and one guide for every two or three climbers (ratios change depending on team size but it is never less than 1:3) which is the Park requirement. We do not operate kitties and we use a very good hotel in town with which we have built up a strong relationship over past 2 decades.
We have our own license to operate tours on Mount Kilimanjaro and are a member of the local Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators.
We advise you to take out travel insurance as soon as possible to cover potential events that might cause you to cancel your trip.
You need to ensure that you have a policy which covers trekking to 5895m, but it does not need to cover technical climbing. You should bring with you a copy of your policy and ensure your tent mate knows where you keep it. It is also worth bringing a photocopy of your passport and to keep it separate to your own documents just in case you lose your passport. Many of our Irish or UK clients use (click banner for a quote):
Local provider for this trip is Adventure Alternative Tanzania. We provide full employment for our subsidiary company alongside excellent rates of pay, equipment, training and career development.
You can book your Adventure Alternative holiday for as little as £100.00 and pay the balance in as many instalments as you like. Choose a scheduled date or contact us for private dates, a bespoke itinerary or more trip details.
- Duration 9 days
- Numbers 3 - 15
- Altitude 5895m
- Distance 96km
- Challenge Moderate
- Comfort Camping