Machame Route 7 Day Itinerary (My Experience)

Tristan Balme Machame route 7 day guide

Disclosure: I didn’t hike the Machame route. I hiked Lemosho which joins with the Machame route after 2 days. This post therefore includes opinions and photos from people I met who did the Machame route, plus my own account from day 2 onwards after the tracks merge.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been one of my bucket list items for a long time. I finally got the chance to fulfill my dream in July, when I joined a group of 10 other trekkers for an 8-day adventure.

The Machame Route is one of the oldest and most popular routes to climb Kilimanjaro, ascending through the rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and arctic zones. It’s also one of the shorter routes and most challenging, covering about 62 km (38 miles) and reaching an altitude of 5,895 m (19,340 ft) at the summit. It also has a lower success rate than the Lemosho Route and Northern Circuit

In this blog post, I’ll share my tips for climbing Kilimanjaro on the Machame route in 7 days, including the itinerary, difficulty, and considerations to make the most of your trip.

Machame Route Description

The Machame route is one of the most popular paths to climb Kilimanjaro. It starts from the Machame gate on the southwest side of the mountain and ascends through the rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and arctic zones. It then joins the Mweka route for the descent, ending at the Mweka gate on the southeast side.

It’s a demanding path because it involves steep sections and high altitudes. But it also offers some of the best views and follows the “climb high, sleep low” principle. This can help your body adjust to the low oxygen levels, and prevent or reduce the symptoms arising from a change in altitude.

The Difference Between The Machame 6 and 7-day Options

The Machame route can be done in either 6 or 7 days. If you opt for the 7-day option, you’ll be adding an extra day for acclimatization at Karanga Camp. It’s an ideal choice because it reduces the distance and elevation gain on the day before the summit attempt and allows more time to rest and recover. I also believe it improved my success rate and experienced mild altitude sickness symptoms–light headache and temporary loss of appetite. 

Why Choose The Machame Route?

After doing a lot of homework and comparison, I found the Machame route is popular because its one of the faster and therefore cheaper routes up Kili. Unfortunately it also makes it one of the most challenging ones. It offered a range of terrains and views and also followed the “climb high, sleep low” principle which helped with acclimatization and increased my chances of reaching the summit.

Here are the top 3 reasons to chose the Machame route.

  • Cheaper Cost: The Machame route is one of the most affordable ways to climb Kilimanjaro, ranging at around $1,500 to $2,500 per person. This includes park fees, guides, porters, meals, tents, and transfers. You pay over $50 in park fees per day just to be on the mountain, as well as additional costs for your guides and porters, so if you can complete the trek faster it’ll save you a lot of money.
  • Shorter Distance covered: With a total distance of about 62 km (38 miles) from gate to gate, this means the hike is an average of 9 km (5.5 miles) per day, which is shorter than other routes. The Catch? You’ll be doing the same elevation gain over this shorter horizontal distance, so you should consider your fitness levels if you want to take on this challenge
  • Success rate: With a success rate of 85% it’s slightly lower than other routes like Lemosho and the Northern Circuit. (you can read more on success rates here)

Machame Route 7 Days Itinerary Overview

Here is a brief overview of my 7-day Machame itinerary. 

Day 1 – Machame Gate (1,640 meters) to Machame Camp (2,835 meters)

The first day was a moderate hike through the lush rainforest. It took roughly 6 hours to get to Machame Camp, and we were greeted by a small amount of flora and fauna along the way. 

Day 2 – Machame Camp (2,835 meters) to Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters)

As we hiked through the heath and moorland zones, I felt the ascent’s effect taking its toll. It was tough and the rocky slopes amplified the intensity. We reached Shira Camp 2 in about 5 hours and enjoyed amazing views of Kibo Peak and Shira Plateau.

Tristan Balme Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route more flowers
Tristan Balme Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route Shira II campsite
Tristan Balme Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route tent site
Tristan Balme Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route water for washing
Tristan Balme shira 2 camp site

Day 3 – Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters) to Lava Tower (4,600 meters) and then Barranco Camp (3,900 meters)

I know I said the 2nd day was hard, but day 3 was just as tough. And long. The hike involved maneuvering the alpine desert zone, where we had to scramble the Lava Tower, one of our highest points so far. This was followed by a descent to Barranco Camp which lasted for about 7 hours.

Tristan Balme Lemosho Route Day 4 2
Tristan Balme Lemosho Route Day 4
Tristan Balme Lemosho Route Day 4 to lava tower camp
Tristan Balme Lemosho Route Lava Tower Camp
Tristan Balme shira II above the clouds

Day 4 – Barranco Camp (3,900 meters) to Karanga Camp (3,960 meters)

The hike to Karanga Camp was an easy feat. Though the Barranco Wall looked intimidating, climbing it was not as hard as it looked. 

We started the day by climbing the famous Barranco Wall, a steep rock face that required some scrambling and careful footing. It was not as difficult as it looked, and I enjoyed the challenge. We then descended into the Karanga Valley, where we crossed a stream and climbed up to Karanga Camp. The whole hike took about 4 hours. We had lunch and spent the afternoon resting and preparing for summit day.

Tristan Balme hiking to Karanga Camp
Tristan Balme Karanga Camp
Tristan Balme Karanga Camp at night

Day 5 – Karanga Camp (3,960 meters) to Barafu Camp (4,680m)

Day 5 was another short and easy trek. We followed a gentle trail along the southern circuit of Kilimanjaro and reached Barafu Camp in about 3 hours and had an early dinner and bedtime.

We arrived around noon and rested for a few hours before waking up at midnight for the summit attempt.

Tristan Balme hiking to barafu camp base camp
Tristan Balme porters trudging up kilimanjaro
Tristan Balme barafu camp base camp

Day 6 – Barafu Camp (4,680 meters) to Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters) and then Mweka Camp (3,100 meters)

This was the longest and by far the most difficult day of the trek. We climbed from 4,673 m to 5,895 m and then descended to 3,100 m. Then, we woke up at midnight, had some snacks, and set off on our way. The trail was steep and rocky, with switchbacks and loose gravel. The cold persisted for the rest of the hike, but we finally reached Stella Point, on the crater rim, after about 6 hours. We continued along the rim for another hour until we reached Uhuru Peak.

I was overjoyed and proud of myself and made it a point to admire the views of the glaciers and the clouds below us. We spent a couple of minutes at the summit before starting our descent. We retraced our steps back to Barafu Camp, had lunch, and packed our bags. and headed down to High Camp, where we had dinner and rested for the night.

Tristan Balme Admiring The View From On Top Of Mount Kilimanjaro
Tristan Balme lemosho route to uhuru peak kilimanjaro
Tristan Balme uhuru peak on kilimanjaro
Tristan Balme summiting kilimanjaro in the snow

Day 7 – Mweka Camp (3,100 meters) to Mweka Gate (1,640 meters)

After having my willpower tested and conquering the rocky terrains, the last day was certainly a breeze. It was a pleasant hike through the rainforest to Mweka Gate and we reached Mweka Gate in about 3 hours and received our certificates of completion. We tipped the porters generously and thanked them for all they’d done to make our hike more bearable. 

Machame Compared To Other Routes

There are about 7 routes to climb when looking to explore Mont Kilimanjaro, but the most popular ones are Machame, Lemosho, and Northern Circuit. Here’s a comparison of these paths. 

Machame vs. Lemosho

FeatureMachameLemosho 
ItineraryStarts from the southwest of the summit and follows a circular path around the mountainStarts at Lemosho Gate and follows a western approach to the summit, joining the Machame route at Shira Camp II. 
SteepnessHas more steep sections and requires more scrambling and climbingHas some steep sections, but generally, less steep than Machame
Distance62 km /38.5 miles70 km /43 miles
SceneryOffers varied scenery, but limited view of wildlife Very scenic and diverse, with views of the rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and glacier zones. Greater chance to see wildlife
ElevationStarts at 1,640m /5380 ft and reaches 5,895 m /19341 ftStarts at 2,100m /6890 ft and reaches 5,895 m /19341 ft
AcclimatizationFairGood
Success rateModerate, around 85%High, around 90%
Duration6 to 7 days7, 8 or 9 days
DifficultyModerate difficultyModerate difficultly

Lemosho is a newer route that starts from the west side of Kilimanjaro. It joins the Machame route at Shira Camp 2 and follows the same path to the summit and back. Lemosho is usually done in 8 days but can be done in 7 or 9 days too.

Machame vs. Northern Circuit

FeatureMachameNorthern Circuit
ItineraryStarts from the southwest of the summit and follows a circular path around the mountainStarts at Lemosho Gate and follows the western approach to the summit, but branches off at Lava Tower to circle around the northern slopes of the mountain
SteepnessHas more steep sections and requires more scrambling and climbingRelatively gentle and gradual 
Distance62 km /38.5 miles98 km /61 miles
SceneryOffers varied scenery, but limited view of wildlife. Extremely scenic and diverse
ElevationStarts at 1,640m /5380 ft and reaches 5,895 m /19341 ftHighest point is Uhuru peak at 5,895 m /19341 ft
AcclimatizationFairExcellent
Success rateModerate, around 85%Very high, around 95%
Duration6 to 7 days9 days
DifficultyModerate difficultyModerate to low

Northern Circuit is the newest and longest route that starts from the north side of Kilimanjaro. It circles around the mountain clockwise, passing through all the climatic zones. It joins the Mweka route for the descent from Barafu Camp. Northern Circuit is usually done in 9 days but can be done in 8 or 10 days too.

What Is The Distance And Elevation Of The Machame Route?

DayFromToDistance (km)Elevation Gain (m)Elevation Loss (m)
1Machame GateMachame Camp111,1950
2Mavhame CampShira Camp 291,0150
3Shira Camp 2 Barranco Camp 15 km Lava Tower15750700
4Barranco Camp Karanga Camp6250190
5Karanga CampBarafu Camp47200
6Barafu Camp  to Uhuru Peak Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp201,2152,795
7Mweka Camp Mweka Gate1001,460
TotalMachame GateMweka Gate 624,9454,945

When is the Best Time to Climb Kilimanjaro?

The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the warm months of the year–January to March and from June to October. The weather is usually stable and pleasant, with low chances of rain or snow. I climbed in July and it was not too hot or too cold, just comfortable.

But if you want to avoid the crowds, are out for a thrill, and believe you can cope with wet and muddy terrains, you can explore the mountain from April to May or from November to December. The downside is that the weather is more unpredictable and cloudy, and the chances of rain or snow are high. It’s also extremely cold. Just make sure you’re well prepared and have the right gear and clothes.

Other Considerations Before Booking Your Kilimanjaro Trip

Climbing Kilimanjaro is not a walk in the park. It requires a lot of planning and preparation. Here are some other things you should consider before booking your Kilimanjaro trip

Choosing a trekking company

The most important decision you will make is choosing a reputable and reliable trekking company to organize your climb. You should do your research and compare different options based on their services, prices, reviews, and ethics. Here are some factors I kept in mind while researching. 

Reputation

To find out how reliable and effective the service was, I searched for online opinions, experiences, and ratings from past customers. I looked for positive feedback on the service quality, safety standards, success rate, and customer satisfaction.

Experience

My goal was to choose a company that had a lot of experience and a long history of organizing Kilimanjaro climbs. This would ensure that I would get the best care and guidance, and they might even offer some tips and suggestions that I might not think of or consider. Some of the factors I considered were their credentials, such as certifications, awards, or memberships in professional associations.

Responsibility

I enjoy supporting companies that care about the environment and the local community. I searched for an operator that demonstrated their dedication to sustainability and fair trade. The best way to do this is to find one that follows the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), an organization that establishes minimum standards for porter welfare, like wages, tips, equipment, food, and accommodation. 

Fitness and training

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a physically demanding challenge that will test your endurance, strength, and stamina. I began training about 4 months prior to my trip by doing a lot of uphill and downhill walking. I also hiked on local paths and hills for about 6 hours a week–with a backpack and any other gear I might need–to prepare myself for the conditions on Kilimanjaro.

Vaccinations

You should consult your doctor or travel clinic about the recommended vaccinations for Tanzania. You may need to get vaccinated for yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid. I also took malaria pills before, during, and after my trip.

Insurance

Travel insurance will come in handy. Ideally, get one that covers medical expenses, evacuation costs, trip cancellation or interruption, lost or stolen baggage, and personal liability. Also, make sure it covers high-altitude trekking up to 6,000 meters.

Equipment to bring

A comprehensive packing list of all the equipment you’ll need can prevent any unnecessary headaches. Here’s one to get you started.

Clothing

Headgear
  • Balaclava
  • Sunhat or hat with neck cover 
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp with long battery life and extra batteries, just in case
  • Scarf, bandana, neckband, or buff
  • Beanie
Upper body
  • 3 short + 3 long-sleeved shirts. They should be breathable, lightweight, and quick-drying
  • Fleece or wool jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof and warm inner and outer gloves
Lower body/Legs
  • 4-5 breathable underwear, preferably sports underwear.
  • Ski pants
  • 3 pairs of trekking pants
  • Insulated trousers
  • Gaiters
  • Hiking boots
  • 4 hiking socks
  • 2 Liner socks
  • A pair of summit socks
  • Camp shoes (sandals or trainers)

Sleeping

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow

Hygiene

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Towel
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Personal medication
  • Moisturizer
  • Bug spray
  • Painkillers
  • Hydration tablets

Accessories/Extras

  • Backpack with a rain cover
  • Day pack
  • Water bottle or bladder
  • Snacks
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Solar charger
  • Power bank
  • Trekking poles 
  • Duffel bag
  • Daypack
  • Shoe bag
  • Hydration pack
  • Water Bottle
  • Dry bags
  • Packing cubes
  • Pee bottle

My Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Climbing Kilimanjaro requires a lot of preparation. And I’m not only talking about booking with the best trekking company and items to bring along but also physical and mental prep. It’s not an easy feat and requires a lot of commitment and determination. Once you’ve taken into account the considerations outlined in this post, here are some tips to apply at camp to make sure your adventure is a success.

  • Nurture and nourish yourself

Drink plenty of water and eat well to combat altitude sickness. Make sure you have enough water and snacks for the hike and take some painkillers or anti-nausea pills if you feel any symptoms of altitude sickness. Also, use walking poles to help you balance and reduce the impact on your knees and ankles. If you have enough strength, do some light exercises or walks around the camp to help your body acclimatize.

  • Keep warm

Dress in layers you can easily adjust as the temperature changes. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and gloves to protect yourself from the sun, wind, and cold. And use insect repellent and sunscreen to avoid bites and burns. 

  • Slow and steady wins the race

Not to sound cliche, but take it slow and steady, and don’t rush or overexert yourself. Listen to your guides and follow their instructions.

  • Enjoy the views of Kibo Peak and the glaciers along the way

I know the entire point is to reach the peak but take the time to enjoy the panoramic views along the way. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Machame Route 6 days or 7 days? 

The Machame route can be done in either 6 or 7 days. The 7-day option adds an extra day for acclimatization at Karanga Camp and it’s revered because it improves your success rate and reduces the risk of altitude sickness.

How Much Does it Cost to Climb Kilimanjaro Using the Machame Route? 

The average cost of a 7-day Machame climb is around $2,500 per person, depending on the trekkking company fees. I also recommend you budget for tips, flights, visas, vaccinations, insurance, equipment, and souvenirs.

What is the hardest route on Kilimanjaro? 

The hardest route on Kilimanjaro is Umbwe because it has steeper slopes, shorter acclimatization time, and higher altitude exposure.

What is the most beautiful route to climb Kilimanjaro? 

The most beautiful route to climb Kilimanjaro is Lemosho and Northern Circuit. They have more diverse landscapes and views of Kilimanjaro’s different sides.

How hard is Machame route? 

The Machame route is a difficult route to climb Kilimanjaro, but it’s not impossible. It’s steep and rugged and requires good physical and mental fitness and stamina. 

What is the success rate of the 7-day Machame route? 

The success rate of the 7-day Machame route is 85%.

What is the success rate of the 6-day Machame route? 

The success rate of the 6-day Machame route is about 75%.

Kilimanjaro Travel Planning Cheatsheet

 

🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Tanzania?

100% YES! — Tanzania has now introduceed “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens! Tourists need travel insurance in case anything happens on your visit. Also be aware many policies won't cover high altitude hiking as it's a high risk activity!

(that's right, check the t&c's on your complimentary credit card insurance

I highly recommend World Nomads as you can get specific add-ons for high altitude hiking UP TO 6000m (Which most travel insurance companies don't offer!)

🎫 Do I need a visa for Tanzania?

Probably not — Tanzania now provide a visa on arrival (VoA) for most western countires which allows you stay for up to 90 days. However, some other countries do need a pre-approved eVisa (check here!). VoAs cost $50 USD for a single entry - Note, US Citizens are required to get a Multi-Entry visa which costs $100 USD. (View visa prices here)

If transiting through Kenya (a lot of people fly via Nairobi), you'll need a Kenyan visa too. Visa's cost $20 for a 3 day transit visa and $50 for a toursit visa

(By the way, on both my interactions with the imigration officers in kenya they tried to scam me, so know what your obliged to pay and BRING THE EXACT CASH for the visa!)

💉Do I need any vaccinations for Tanzania?

YES! Make sure you are up-to-date with all your vaccines. Common travel vaccines include Hep A/B + Typhoid, and Diphtheria + Tetanus.

A yellow fever vaccination isn't a requirment to visit Kilimanjaro but is for neighbouring areas in East Africa. In reality, you will might not be allowed back into your home country on your return (I was asked for proof of vaccination upon returning to Australia) so getting this jab prior made for good peace of mind. 

Rabies is an issue in Tanzania but the vaccine is expensive and ineffective as a preventative measure (it only lasts a few years and you'll need to get them again if you require treatment). If bitten by a stray dog seek immediate medical attention!

As always, talk to your GP or specialised travel doctor a few weeks BEFORE you leave.

🏩 What’s the best Kilimanjaro Tour operators?

Your only realy two options here are Kumano Travel and Booking.com. Its a complicated process so I wrote this guide here on the best kumano kodo accomodation options

If you don't want to figure it all out (it's meant to be a holiday after all) you can book a package tour. Here are my recommendations for both guided and self-guided.

💸How do you pay for things in Tanzania?

Cash is king in Tanzania, so you'll want to get some folding tender out from an ATM when you land. Larger businesses and hotels will take Debit / Credit Card but most resturants, and street vendors want cash. I even had to pay for my Kili trip in cash!

I personally use a Wise debit card for all my international money needs as they only convert the funds when you make payment, plus they offer a much better spread (margin on the true exhange rate) than the banks do. They work in all the Tanzanian ATMs I tried. 

🚌 What's the public transport like in Tanzania?

There is a good basic network of local and inter-city busses in Tanzania and travel this way is very cheap. Domestic flight are also very affordable and a far more comfortable option. Checkout Busbora for booking bus tickets online.

📲 How do I get internet/data/wifi in Tanzania and on the mountain?

This one needs a whole nother article, but the short version is prepaid SIM cards are cheap and availible to tourists and locals alike (You don't need a pricey tourst SIM!)

Your cheapest option is buying a physical sim card on the street corner once landed and getting the shop assistant to help you set it up. I went with Vodacom and had generally good coverage, even up on Kili!

Another option if you're visiting other African countries is the Airalo eSIM. This is a little more expensive but gives you connectivity across 14 neighbouring African Countries and connectivity the moment you step off the plane!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to Tanzania?

For finding cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner. Once you find the flight you're looking for, I'd then suggest booking directly with the carrier (even if it costs a few $$ more than with one of the agreggators/agencies).

💧Can you drink the water in Tanzania?

Safest not to — tap water in Tanzania may be OK (the locals drink it) but is generally untreated and not reccommended for tourists. Purchase bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing.

🏔️💧Can you drink the water on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Yes — Your tour company with ensure the water provided to you is safe to drink by either carrying in bottled water, or by treating stream water with purification tablets or by boiling it. If you want to drink water from the rivers and streams you generally can but should do so at your own risk. ALWAYS follow best practice and drink from fast flowing water as far up stream as possible. I'd also recommend a Brita Water Bottle for rehydrating on the trail safely. 

 

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