The Kilimanjaro Rongai route

The Rongai route is the only route that ascends the northern slope of Kilimanjaro. It’s a quieter route, and offers some amazing views. We discuss the pros and cons of the Rongai to help you decide if it’s the right route for you.

The Rongai route is the only route that approaches the summit from the northern side of the mountain, near the Kenyan border. It’s one of the least crowded of the seven Kilimanjaro routes.

It’s recommended to do the seven-day itinerary (as opposed to the six-day itinerary) as the topography of this trail doesn’t afford many opportunities to ‘climb high, sleep low’. The seven-day itinerary includes an acclimatisation day at Mawenzi Tarn Camp, which gives your body time to adjust to the higher elevation. Acclimatisation is important in allowing you to reach the summit.

Quick facts about the Marangu route

Our Opinion of the Rongai Route

The Rongai route is the only route that approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from north of the mountain. It’s a decent route choice for those looking to climb during the rainy season, as the north side of the mountain generally receives a little less precipitation.

We recommend choosing this route if you want to avoid the crowds. It’s also a good option if you have less or no trekking experience and want a more relaxed climb with fewer steep sections. (You might also like to read Trekking tips for beginners.)

There isn’t an opportunity to climb high and sleep low on the Rongai if you opt for the six-day itinerary. If, however, you hike the seven-day itinerary, there is an acclimatisation day at Mawenzi Tarn Camp. We highly recommend choosing the seven-day over the six-day itinerary.

Rongai route overview

The Rongai route can be climbed in 5 rather than 6 days, if desired.  Mawenzi Tarn is not visited in this case, and on the second day climbers go to Second Cave for lunch, as normal, but then the path continues directly towards the peak of Kibo for a further 2 hours and camp is made at Third Cave, 3,700 metres.  On the following day, climbers continue ascending up to the Saddle, and onwards to make camp next to Kibo Hut, at 4,700 metres.  The itinerary is then the same as for the 5th and 6th days of the 6 day Rongai ascent.  Although this 5 day climb is sometimes undertaken, we advise climbers to opt for the 6 day climb if possible, as Mawenzi Tarn is one of the most magnificent camps on Kilimanjaro, and it is a shame to miss it!

  • The Rongai route is the only northern start point to Kilimanjaro, beginning on the North East side of Kilimanjaro National Park.
  • The Rongai offers a true wilderness experience on the early stages of the climb, and like the Lemosho route it is possible to see large wildlife like buffalo, antelope and elephants.
  • The Northern slopes tend to be dryer than the southern slopes which makes the Rongai a great Kilimanjaro Route for trekking during the wet season. However, because the northern slopes are dryer they can also be considered less scenic. That being said, a northern approach is often characterized by clear views of Kilimanjaro – something that is not that common from the southern side.
  • The Rongai is also a flatter route for the first few days which makes for easy trekking. The route is usually completed on a seven day itinerary but has limited climb high, sleep low opportunities which means that acclimatisation opportunities are not as good as on other Kilimanjaro routes.
  • Typically the Rongai route uses the passage from School Hut up past Hans Meyer Cave and Gilman’s Point to Uhuru Peak.
  • The route descends via the Marangu route, hence the route has fully catered camping until the last night on the mountain – beers at Horombo Hut anyone?

Rongai Route Highlights

Considerations

Rongai Route Tours

Rongai Route Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Rongai Route 5/6 Days

What is the scenery like?

The Rongai route is often considered one of the less scenic Kilimanjaro routes. However, because the northern side of the mountain is a little less prone to rainfall, you're more likely to get clear, unclouded views of the mountaintop along the way. Horombo Hut is a campsite perched on a small plateau at 3,705 m above sea level

How hard is the Rongai route?

No Kilimanjaro climb is easy – it's important you know that. But relatively speaking, the Rongai route is considered one of the 'easier' routes, as it has a gentle incline throughout. It's a bit of a longer hike for this reason. What makes the Rongai route 'hard' is its less-than-ideal acclimatisation profile, because it doesn't often have you climb high during the day and then drop back down for the night, which is a key strategy in helping one's body acclimatise to the increased elevation.
In fact, there's only one day on the trail when you climb high and then sleep low. You can combat this by opting for the seven-day itinerary over the six-day one to at least give your body another day to adjust to the changes in altitude on your ascent. Put simply, with the right Kilimanjaro preparation anyone can climb it.
A long stretch of the Rongai route through alpine desert
Note that you should be physically fit to attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, though you don't need any previous trekking experience. The Rongai route is not technical at all, meaning a good pair of hiking boots strapped onto some decently strong legs is all you need.

What is the route's success rate?

Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate for the seven-day Rongai route across all Kilimanjaro operators is 80%, and 65% for the six-day route.
If you compare these statistics with those of routes like the Lemosho route and Northern Circuit route, you'll see they aren't particularly good. The reason for this low success rate is the route's poor acclimatisation profile: it only offers one opportunity to climb high and sleep low. Days when you hike up to a new altitude and then descend to a lower altitude for the night are incredibly helpful for acclimatisation.

How busy is the Rongai route?

The Rongai route is the least frequented of the Kilimanjaro routes. It's the only route to approach the summit from the northern side of the mountain. Trekkers often don't consider the Rongai route because of the perception that it's not as beautiful. However, it's actually a very beautiful Kilimanjaro route. We think it's a good choice if you're looking for a quieter, more relaxed climb.

What is accommodation like?

The Rongai route offers camping accommodation only. If you climb Kilimanjaro with KIAfrika Adventure , we provide all of your camping equipment, including your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. Further, all tents are pitched and taken down by our dedicated mountain crew throughout the trek.

How many days is the Rongai Route?

The Rongai route can be completed in six days, but we recommend you do it over seven days. The extra day gives you more time to acclimatise. Most people need the extra day to acclimatise properly and so have a good chance of successfully summiting the mountain.

In our experience, most people who have completed the right Kilimanjaro preparation complete the seven-day Rongai route with no real problems. And finally, climbing Kilimanjaro isn't a race. If you're travelling all the way to Tanzania to climb the mountain, don't rush the experience!

How much does the Rongai route cost?

KIAfrika Adventure offers the Rongai route as a seven-day group or private climb. Our seven-day Rongai route package costs $ 1.750 per person. This includes seven days on the mountain and one day either side at our beautiful parter lodge in Moshi. The fee is based on double occupancy, which means you'll be sharing your tent and lodge room with a partner in crime. For more information on the inclusions and exclusions of the KIAfrika Adventure trip fee, as well as more details about the trip, head to our Kilimanjaro climb page.