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9 Days Northern Circuit Route Kilimanjaro Hiking

Route Overview

The Northern Circuit: A Scenic and Less Crowded Route to Kilimanjaro Summit

On a fantastic 9-day journey to summit Mount Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit, a route that offers stunning scenery and a higher chance of successful summiting while avoiding the crowds.

The climb begins at Londorossi Gate, situated at an altitude of 2360 meters. This western approach takes you through the majestic rainforest, where you may have the opportunity to spot some of the region’s unique wildlife. As you ascend, you’ll reach the third summit of the mountain, Shira Ridge, which offers breathtaking views. Traverse the renowned Shira plateau and witness the awe-inspiring Shira Cathedral before turning north onto the Northern Circuit proper.

The Northern Circuit takes you through the remote and less frequented northern slopes of Kilimanjaro, providing a more secluded and peaceful experience. On clear days, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views stretching over the Amboseli Plains of Kenya. The trail then joins the Rongai and Marangu routes in the east for the final summit ascent via Gillman’s Point.

After reaching the summit, instead of retracing your steps along the ascent route, you will descend via the Mweka trail. This variation adds diversity to your trek and allows you to experience different landscapes and perspectives of the mountain.

The Northern Circuit is an excellent choice for those who have limited experience trekking at high altitudes, as it includes an extra day for acclimatization, increasing the chances of a successful summit. Experienced trekkers may opt for the more challenging 8-day ascent along the Northern Circuit, which offers a faster pace.

Why this Northern Circuit

The Northern Circuit is the longest route up Kilimanjaro which gives the best chance for acclimatization. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all operators is 90%. However, we have a summit success rate of over 98% for the Northern Circuit Route!

The Northern Circuit is recommended for those who have a little more time, want to explore the mountain more than other routes allow, and wish to avoid the crowds.

mount kilimanjaro

Highlights of the Northern Circuit

  • Quieter than other routes
  • Very high success rate
  • Good acclimatization profile

Northern Circuit Itinerary

Arrival Day

Upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport, you will be met and transferred for overnight accommodation at hotel in Moshi – Kilimanjaro region. Your head guide will meet you for your briefing, gear check and arrange for you to hire any equipment you may need.

Day 1: Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa Camp

After breakfast in your hotel you will be given an overall briefing from your guide. At 9am you will be met by our staff, who will drive you several hours to the Western side of Mt. Kilimanjaro and to the Londrossi Gate, where our guides and porters will prepare and pack the equipment and supplies Once at the gate you will be given a packed lunch and after registration with the Kilimanjaro Park office, we will drive for another 45mins to Lemosho Glades where your trek will begin with ascending into the rainforest. You will ascend for approx. 3 hours in dense rain forest which could be very wet and muddy so be ready with your gaiters and trekking poles. During the trek we will have a break and you can enjoy the rest your packed lunch. We will reach the Mti Mkubwa Camp also known as ‘Big Tree’ Camp in late afternoon. After arrival, you will be taken to your camp and tent which has already been set up by the porters who ran ahead, where you will be greeted with boiled drinking water and hot washing water. Once you have freshened up and settled in, a hot dinner will be served in the mess-tent.

Day 2: Mti mkubwa Camp to Shira 1 Camp

After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast, we emerge from the rain forest and continue on an ascending path, we leave the forest behind now, the trail climbs steadily with wide views to reach the rim of the Shira Plateau. Temperatures begin to drop.

Day 4: Shira II Camp to Lava Tower

Although you end the day around the same elevation as when you began, this day is very important for acclimatization. From Shira Plateau we continue east up a ridge, passing the junction towards the Kibo peak before we then continue, South East towards the Lava Tower, called the “Shark’s Tooth” (elev. 4650m/15,250ft). Shortly after the tower, we come to a second junction, which leads to the Arrow Glacier. We then continue to descend to overnight at Barranco Camp.

Day 5: Moir camp to Buffalo camp

We begin with a moderately steep climb out of Moir Valley. If you wish, take a small detour here to climb the summit of Little Lent Hill at 4,375 meters before returning to the Northern Circuit trail. The route follows a series of inclines and declines, skirting around the northern slopes of Kibo to Buffalo Camp. Spectacular views of plains north of Kilimanjaro that stretches as far as the eye can see to the Kenyan / Tanzanian border. You will arrive at Buffalo Camp just after midday, where you will have lunch and have time to rest.

Day 6: Buffalo Camp to Rongai 3rd Cave

Day six starts with a climb up the Buffalo Ridge and down into Pofu Camp where lunch is served. We continue East around the Northern slopes to the Rongai Third Cave. Today’s climb is shorter than the day before and you should be feeling better acclimatized to the altitude at this point. You will arrive at the Third Cave just around mid-afternoon

Day 7: Rongai 3rd Cave to School Hut

A steady ascent and over the Saddle which sits between the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi Peak. Continue Southwest to School Hut where you will be served an early dinner and the rest as you will begin just before midnight to start your summit attempt. Remember to prepare all your gear, including warm clothes, insulated water bottles, snacks, headlamp, and camera before going to bed.

Day 8: School Hut to Summit down to Mweka Camp

Excitement is building as morning comes with an early start between midnight and 2 a.m. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek.

We continue our way to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers trying to stay warm and focused on the amazing sense of accomplishment that lies ahead. With a switchback motion in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. You will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise during your short rest here. Faster hikers may view the sunrise from the summit. From here on your remaining 1 hour ascent to Uhuru Peak, you are likely to encounter snow all the way.

Congratulations, one step at a time you have now reached Uhuru Peak the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the entire continent of Africa!

We strongly recommend gaiters and trekking poles for uncooperative loose gravel and volcano ash terrain. Well-deserved rest awaits you to enjoy your last evening on the mountain. Overnight Mweka Camp.

Day 9: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate Drive to Moshi

After breakfast and a heartfelt ceremony of appreciation and team bonding with your crew, it’s time to say goodbye. We continue the descent down to the Mweka Park Gate to receive your summit certificates. As the weather is drastically warmer, the terrain is wet, muddy and steep and we highly recommend Gaiters and trekking poles.

From the gate, a vehicle will meet you at Mweka village to drive you back to your hotel in Moshi (about 30 minutes). Enjoy a long overdue hot shower, dinner and celebrations!!

Overnight Kilimanjaro. before being transferred to your trip home, safari or a relaxing trip to Zanzibar