Machame route is regarded as the most scenic of the trails up Kilimanjaro. You ascend gradually through the forest till you emerge onto the Moorland of Shira Plateau, from which there are superb views of the Kibo Peak and the Great Western Breach. The second most popular and indeed one of the most beautiful routes up the mountain is the Machame Route. Also known as the Whisky Route, this trail is both longer and slightly more challenging than the Marangu Route. Where accommodation on the Marangu route is in huts, the Machame route offers strictly tents only. The route is better suited to the slightly more adventurous hiker, however rewarding them with a scenic splendor such as not seen on the Marangu route.
DAY 1: Machame Gate (1490m) - Machame camp (2980m)
Hiking time: 6-7 hours
Habitat: Montane forest
Your day starts early with a briefing, followed by breakfast and a drive from Hotel in Arusha or Moshi Town. You will receive a lunch pack and you can also buy mineral water in the village. Depending on the condition of the road, it is possible to drive from the village to Machame gate, but if not, the muddy 3 km walk will take about 1 hour to complete. After registering at the gate office, you start your ascent and enter the rain forest almost immediately.
There is a strong possibility of rain in the forest, which will transform the trail into a very soggy, muddy and slippery experience. You will have a welcome lunch stop about half way and will reach the Machame camping area in the late afternoon. Your porters (arriving at the camp site before you) will have erected your tent on your arrival. In the evening the porters will boil drinking and bathing water and the cook will prepare dinner. Night temperatures can drop to freezing point at this campsite.
DAY 2: Machame camp (2980m) - Shira camp (3840m)
Hiking time: 5-6 hours
You wake up early at Machame camp and after breakfast you climb an hour or so to the top of the forest and then for 2 hours at a gentler gradient through the moorland zone. After a short lunch and rest, you continue up a rocky ridge onto the Shira plateau. By now you will be able to see in an easterly direction, the Western Breach with its stunning glaciers. You are now due west of Kibo and after a short hike you will reach the Shira campsite at 3840m. The porters will boil drinking and bathing water, before serving dinner. The night at this exposed camp will even be colder than the previous night, with temperatures dropping to freezing.
DAY 3: Shira (3840m) | Lava Tower (4630m) | Barranco camp (3950m)
Hiking time: 6-7 hours
Habitat: Semi desert
The route now turns east into a semi desert and rocky landscape surrounding Lava Tower , where you reach an altitude of 4630m after about a 4 hours walk. Lunch is served in a designated area before ascending the rocky scree path to Lava Tower (4630m). Definitely the toughest day so far. It is normally around this point, where for the first time, some climbers will start to feel symptoms of breathlessness, irritability and headaches. After lunch you descent again by almost 680m to the Barranco camping area and after reaching the high altitude of 4600m at Lava Tower , the true acclimatization benefit of this day becomes clear. This descent to Barranco camp takes about 2-3 hours and offers great opportunities to take some beautiful photographs of the Western Breach and Breach Wall. The camp is situated in a valley below the Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which should provide you with a memorable sunset while you wait for your dinner.
DAY 4: Barranco camp (3950m) | Barafu camp (4550m)
Hiking time: 6-7 hours
Habitat: Alpine desert
After spending a night at the Great Barranco Wall (a very imposing sight at first), you make your way up this awesome looking obstacle, which in the end normally turns out easier than what you anticipated. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, you now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. The route then heads down through the Karanga Valley over intervening ridges and valleys, and then joins up with the Mweka route. This is the preferred route down from the summit, so remember it. Turn left up the ridge and after another hour or so, you reach Barafu Hut.
The last water stop on the route is the KarangaValley , as there is no water at Barafu camp. Barafu is the Swahili word for "ice" and it is a bleak and inhospitable camping area to spend the night. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales the tents are pitched on a narrow, stony, and dangerous ridge. Make sure that you familiarise yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. The summit is now a further 1345m up and you will make the final ascent the same night. Prepare your equipment, ski stick and thermal clothing for your summit attempt. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed at round about 19h00 and try to get some precious rest and sleep.
DAY 5: Summit Attempt | Barafu camp (4550m) | Uhuru Peak (5895m) | Mweka (3100m) Hiking time: 7-8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak 6-7 hours to descend to Mweka
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
You will rise around 23h30, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night. You will head in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This 5-6 hours walk to Stella point is for many climbers, mentally and physically the most challenging on the route. At Stella Point (5685m) you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see (weather permitting). From Stella Point you will normally encounter snow all the way on your 1-2 hours ascent to Uhuru Peak. The time spend on the summit will depend on the weather conditions.
Do not stop at the summit for too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. Enjoy your accomplishment and a day to remember for the rest of your live. The walk back to Barafu from the summit, takes about 2-3 hours. Here you will have a well earned but short rest and collect the rest of your gear, before heading down to Mweka hut (3100m). The route is not difficult and will take you down the rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually into the forest. The camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon.
DAY 6: Mweka camp (3100m)-Mweka Gate (1980m)
Hiking time: 2-3 hours
After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short 2-3 hours and scenic hike back to the Park gate. At Mweka gate you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates. From the Mweka Gate you will continue down to Mweka village, normally a muddy 3 km (1 hour) hike. In the Mweka village you will be served a delicious hot lunch!! You now drive back to your Hotel in Arusha or Moshi.