Machame Route Kilimanjaro trek

The Machame route begins on Kilimanjaro’s south western side and, of the seven main trekking paths, this is the most popular. Dubbed the ‘whiskey route’, in contrast to the easier Marangu route (known as the Coca Cola route), this trek has a reputation for being a tough one. Starting near Machame village, you pass through Machame Gate, on the lower slopes of the mountain, and enter a dense rainforest of lush foliage and primeval ferns where you’ll camp overnight. You may be lucky enough to spot the black and white colobus monkeys that live here, before the trail leads you out of the forest and onto heather covered heath lands. The strikingly different scenery reveals the mountains and glaciers ahead of you, and your second night is spent at Shira Camp, at 3850m.
Day three is all about acclimatisation, and you may start to feel the effects of the altitude. Your toughest day so far involves a six to seven hour trek to Barranco Camp (4600m), past the impressive Lava Tower rock formation and the gigantic cacti-like groundsel plants that pepper the alpine desert of Barranco Valley. On your fourth day you face the infamous Barranco Wall. No need to be nervous, however; it’s a steep scramble but requires no actual climbing or skill, and your guide will be with you every step of the way. Looking down over the clouds from Karanga Camp, day five completes the Southern Circuit of Kilimanjaro. Joining the Mweka route, you continue up through dry, desert terrain to Barafu Camp, the last stop before the summit.

Waking at midnight, the moonlight and your trusty head torch illuminate your way over the scree to Stella Point, where a magnificent sunrise makes the surrounding glaciers sparkle. Another one or two hours of ascent and you reach the summit at Uhuru Peak. It’s a challenging day, but the highlight of the trip. Your descent takes you back down the same way to Barafu Camp, before following the Mweka route to the south of the mountain.

The pros and cons of trekking the Machame Route

The Machame route offers spectacular scenery and wildlife as you trek through varied climates and habitats, with plenty to distract you from the difficult climb. And it is difficult, with several days spent walking six to seven hours and as many as 12 to 15 hours on your feet on summit day. It also throws in the additional challenge of the Barranco Wall, a 257m wall of rock requiring a steep uphill scramble. Despite its dramatic looks, this part of the trek is not that tricky, although the prevalence of steep trails, the longer distances and tent accommodation make this route better suited to the more adventurous or experienced. Arriving in your best physical condition, with a positive mental attitude, is the best way to ensure you reach the top.
Travel Team
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Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: oversnap] [Intro: Stig Nygaard] [The pros and cons of trekking the Machame Route: Guido Appenzeller]