The Rongai route on Mount Kilimanjaro is a seven day camping route; it has the attraction of being a lower traffic and easier route compared to the southern slopes for climbing Kilimanjaro. It attracts about 10% of visitors to the mountain. The route is really a complete traverse, the only one to experience the arid northern side and the lush southern side. It's also known as the Loitokok Route.
Starting from the Kenyan side of the mountain in the north its advantages are a more gradual and easier route in terms of terrain, plus there are excellent clear views of the mountain all through the approach. There is also more opportunity to see wildlife such as buffalo, elephant and antelope.
The seven days includes a day of acclimatisation at Mawenzi Tarn and this is an important addition because the flatter terrain means you can't 'climb high, sleep low' which is a good approach to acclimatisation. This extra day helps a lot and means the summit success rate on this route is quite high at over 80%. A six day itinerary without the acclimatisation day lowers the summit success rate to about 65% and it's much more likely to get altitude sickness.
The route is quieter and flatter, and arguably has less scenic quality than other routes on the south side. However walking across the open plain with the summit massif in view all the time gives a real sense of vastness to the mountain. It is drier because of the fact that the mountain itself stops the rain clouds coming up from the south, so it's really a very different experience in terms of scenery and terrain. For many, the solitude and sense of space is a big draw, although you don't get to experience all the different habitats which are evident on the south side routes like Machame and Lemosho.
It takes five days to ascend from the NNE through the forest and onto the heathland and to the last camp at Kibo where it joins the Marangu route. Summit day is on day six up to Gilmans Point on the crater rim and then up to Uhuru Peak and all the way down to Horombo Hut, and the seventh day is a descent to Mweka Gate which is just half an hour drive from Moshi.
We use top quality mountain tents, comfortable mattresses, and qualified guides who work with us full time, porters who carry the bags and equipment, and cooks who provide fresh food every day. The ratio of guide:climber is 1:2. You can read about Kilimanjaro preparation and Kilimanjaro safety on our More Info pages and there is also a comprehensive Kilimanjaro packing list.
Rongai Route Map
Brief itinerary of the Rongai Route
Day 1: Drive to Rongai Gate – Hike to Simba Camp. 6 kms
Drive to Marangu gate for permits and continue for 2 hours to Nale Moru village to start trek on path through farmland and pine forest initially to reach the edge of the moorland where the camp is with beautiful views over the Kenyan plains.
: Simba Camp – Kikelewa Camp. 6kms
Steady ascent up to the Second Cave with superb views of Kibo summit and the Eastern ice fields on the crater rim. Continue across moorland towards Mawenzi Peak. The camp is in a sheltered valley with giant Senecios nearby.
Day 3: Kikelewa Camp – Mawenzi Tarn. 9kms
Initial short climb and superb views of the mountain and a few hours to the tarn which is in a cirque directly beneath Mawenzi. Short hike, and rest day in the afternoon. Camp here for two nights.
Day 4: Acclimatisation day with a hike up and around Mawenzi.
Day 5: Mawenzi Tarn – Kibo Hut. 9 kms.
Crossing the high desert terrain of the saddle between Kibo peak and Mawenzi peak, the final camp is at Kibo campsite beneath the massif itself. Rest in preparation for summit day.
Day 6: Kibo Camp – Summit Uhuru Peak – Horombo Hut. 6 kms up, 15 kms down.
Summit day ascent to the crater rim at Gilmans Point and then Uhuru peak itself, and a descent to Horombo Hut which is on the Marangu route.
Day 7: Horombo Hut - Mweka Gate. 20 kms.
A long day descending back to the forest and all the way down to the gate on the path. From Mweka, the drive back to Moshi is only half an hour.
Camps used on Rongai Route
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to climb the Rongai Route?
Because this route lies in the rain shadow of the mountain and is drier, it's possible to climb the Rongai during rainy season as well as all other times of the year. Rainy season is April - May and October - December.
Is Rongai a busy route?
No, this route is less busy and more remote, but arguably less scenic than routes from the south side of the mountain. The Northern Circuit route does meet up with this route at the caves but you will only see other people from Kibo onwards.
How long is the Rongai route?
The total distance is 72 kilometres with the longest day being summit day at 21 kms. This route has an acclimatisation day at Mawenzi Tarn which helps with acclimatisation but there is less of the 'climb high, sleep low' option so we only do this route in seven days, which is the recommended number of days for a climb of this altitude.
What are the camps like on Rongai?
The camps on this route are less frequented and a bit more basic than the other routes but they all have toilet facilities and a Rangers hut. There are no huts, this is a camping route only.
What clothing and Equipment do I need for climbing Kilimanjaro by Rongai?
In general the temperatures will be hot and quite humid on the lower slopes, getting increasingly colder as you get higher. Prepare for a variety of conditions, from wearing T-shirts and shorts on the first day or so, to very warm parkas, hats and gloves for summit night. Do read our full packing list for Kilimanjaro and contact us for any questions about brands or particular models.
We provide tents and mattresses plus we have a whole range of rental items which you can see on the Extras tab on this page.