Best Time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is possible throughout the year. The mountain is located in close proximity of the equator and doesn’t experience much temperature changes. Instead of the four weather seasons known in the Northern hemisphere, the mountain only undergoes two season – a dry and wet season which mainly determine the weather. However, in recent years the weather has become increasingly difficult to predict.
As on any mountain regardless of the climbing season, the weather is unpredictable and can change on short notice. It is therefore recommended to have robust wet-weather gear throughout the year. The below will give you a first indication on the weather, but if you have any questions, please reach out to us direct!
When would you like to climb?
January to early-March
Dry, Warm & Quiet
The months January to early March are generally considered as the hottest months. Rains can sometimes occur on the lower slopes and chances are high to encounter snow on the upper slopes. However, the sky is clear with good visibility and great panoramic vistas. If you want a little more peace with less people on the mountain, then these months are ideal for a more relaxing trek.
Mid-March to May
The long rainy season normally starts from mid-March and last throughout the month of May. If the rain doesn’t bother you, then you will pretty much have the mountain to yourself. However, the big downside is that the trails are muddy and slippery, which is not really suitable for climbing. Therefore, we would not recommend to trek Mount Kilimanjaro during these months.
June to October
Dry, Cool & Busy
The months June to October offer the best weather. Although occasional showers are possible on the lower slopes, these are predominately the driest months. This is also the busiest season as the majority of climbers prefer the dry season. In addition, it coincides with the summer holidays in Europe and North America. A good comprises is the shoulder month June with little rain.
November to December
Short Rainy Season
The short rainy season normally starts during the month of November and lasts for roughly four to six weeks. The rain is not as strong as in the main rainy season; however, rain is expected on the lower slopes, which makes the trails slightly muddy. Again, there will be less people on the mountain – an advantage as it makes the trekking adventure a little more intimate.
Kilimanjaro Weather through its climatic zones
A trekking adventure on Mount Kilimanjaro is like walking from Equator to Antarctica – and that within a few days! Mount Kilimanjaro is large enough to create its own climatic zones with each zone having its own weather. Sunny and warm weather conditions can suddenly change and strong winds bring rain, snow and coldness. Yet, the mountains unique climatic zones make your trek also an outstanding encounter with a wide range of flora (plants) and fauna (animals).
1. Cultivation Zone – Mount Kilimanjaro’s lower slopes
Altitude: 800 m to 1,800 m
Rainfall: 500 mm to 1,800 mm
Temperature: +15°C to +30°C
The base of Mount Kilimanjaro is mainly in human use. Especially the Chaga people call this area their home and cultivate a variety of crops. Much of its natural vegetation patterns have changed and what used to be bushes and scrubs is now grassland where livestock grazes, or farmland with banana and coffee plantation due to the mountains rich volcanic soil. You will be passing this zone on your way to the entry gate – depending on your route.
2. Forest Zone – Rich Montane Forest (also referred to as “rain” forest)
Altitude: 1,800 m to 2,800 m
Rainfall: 2,000 mm on the eastern and southern side / 1,000 mm on the western side
Temperature: +10°C to +20°C
The dense montane forest is the mountains richest zone that is most of the times covered in clouds. The forest on the eastern and southern side is much thicker due to the higher rainfall. Almost all the water on Mount Kilimanjaro originates in this zone. The thick carpet of leaves absorbs most of the rain which then penetrates through the soil and emerges as springs on the lower slopes.
The temperatures during the day are warm with a high humidity. However, a rainy night can result in low temperatures. You should definitely have your rain gear close by to protect yourself from a drizzle or sudden shower.
The hike through this part of the mountain is simply spectacular. A large variety of incredible flora incl. ferns, orchids, and moss-covered trees await you. With a little luck you might even encounter some wildlife including monkeys (both blue and black-and-white colobus). Wildlife is plentiful including bushbaby, genet, honey badger, serval, tree-hyrax, but they might be very difficult to spot.
3. Heather & Moorland Zone
Altitude: 2,800 m to 4,000 m
Rainfall: 1,300 mm on the edges of the forest / 530 mm on the upper edge of this zone
Temperature: Daytime +5°C to +15°C / Night 0°C and below
Once you enter the heather and moorland zone the forest seems to suddenly stop and the vegetation changes to wild flowers, tall grasses, giant heathers and small shrubs. This zone is considered as “high altitude” zone and most trekkers experience the first symptoms of mountain sickness. It is therefore important to spend an extra acclimatization day to adjust to the decreasing oxygen.
Temperatures remain warm, but drop significantly at night. Most rainfalls occur at the forest border and frost can occur above 3,000 m. Once you reach beyond 3,000 m the air becomes much drier with cooler temperatures. Mostly you will have a blue sky with strong sunshine – sunscreen is therefore essential!
4. Alpine Desert Zone
Altitude: 4,000 m to 5,000 m
Rainfall: less than 200 mm
Temperature: average temperature around freezing point
The alpine desert zone receives very little rainfall and only robust plants survive in this altitude. Temperatures during the day can be quite high and with its close proximity to the equator, there is a very high level of solar radiation – sunscreen is therefore an absolute must! At night temperatures drop below the freezing point which results in morning frost.
This zone is characterized as “very high altitude” zone and for an ideal acclimatization process an extra day should be added to the itinerary to adjust. Especially our preferred motto of “climb high, sleep low” will assist to reduce the effects of altitude sickness.
5. Artic Zone
Altitude: 5,000 m
Rainfall: less than 100 mm
Temperature: average temperature below freezing point
The final zone is categorized by artic conditions – burning sunshine during the day and below freezing at night. In this altitude the winds are quite strong which make the temperature feel far lower than it is actually is. There is no liquid surface water. Rain is immediately absorbed and the remaining moistures is transformed in snow and ice.
This zone is classified as “extreme altitude”. Oxygen level is roughly half than it was at sea level which results in slow breathing. In addition, you will dehydrate quickly at this altitude and you will need warm layers to keep you core temperature up. We will only spend a very short time at this altitude and descent immediately after reaching Uhuru Peak.