To climb Mount Kilimanjaro on the Rongai route used to guarantee you a quiet trek away from the masses.
The Rongai route is marketed as a remote wilderness experience and for much of the year it still is.
But watch out: over the last years Rongai has seen a surge in popularity.
If you climb Kilimanjaro on the Rongai route during the main season (August to mid October) and if your climb starts on the usual group departure day, you may find yourself in the middle of a pretty big crowd.
(Most groups depart Sunday, so people can finish work Friday, arrive Saturday, start climbing on Sunday and be back in the office the Monday after.)
Still, Rongai remains much quieter than the popular Machame or Marangu trails. It also has several other advantages that should make it one of your first choices:
- Rongai is the easiest route up Kilimanjaro, in some respects easier than Marangu. Rongai has excellent success rates.
- Rongai is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. You have to descend on the Marangu route on the southern side, so you get to see both sides of the mountain.
- The northern side of Kilimanjaro is drier. You are unlikely to have to slosh through mud and drizzle on the first two days (not unusual on any of the other routes).
A drawback is that to get to the other side of Kilimanjaro you have to drive for a couple of hours, and that costs extra. So Rongai is more expensive than a six day trail on Machame or Marangu.
The other drawback is that the Rongai route has a reputation as being less scenic than other routes.
However, that applies mostly to day one, when you will be trekking through fairly open country instead of the dense rainforest. But you’ll see the rainforest on your descent! You are not missing out on anything.
As for the rest of the Kilimanjaro climb on the Rongai route, read the detailed description below.
Rongai Route Itinerary
The Rongai route has several variations. It can be done as a five, six or even seven day trek.
The extra day is not spent in the same camp as the previous day.
(If you take an extra acclimatisation day on the Marangu Route you will simply hang around one camp for a second night.)
The six day Rongai trek usually follows a different trail than the five day version. After day two you make a detour towards Mawenzi Peak. Some operators of six day treks simply ascend slower, making an extra camp instead of the detour. All seven day treks make the detour to Mawenzi.
This itinerary (and the detailed route description below it) describes the six day trek with the detour via Mawenzi Tarn, one of the most scenic campsites on the montain.
(Note: altitudes and distances are approximations. Different sources will give you different numbers.)
Starting Point: Nalemoru (about 1950 m/6400 ft)
Duration: 6 days
Day 1: Nalemoru (1950 m/6400 ft) – First Cave Campsite (2650 m/8700 ft)
Walking distance: 6.5 km/4 miles
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Altitude gain: 700 m/2300 ft