THE BEST TIME TO CLIMB KILIMANJARO
Let’s start with the good news: Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed all year long. But some moments are better than others. Certain months are wetter, others colder, and during some, there might be more snow on the summit than during others. So what’s the best time to climb Kilimanjaro? Keep reading, we have the answer for you!
MOUNT KILIMANJARO WEATHER
Mount Kilimanjaro basically has its own climate, as it’s such a large geographic structure. There are different zones that you’ll cross while climbing, each with their own habitat and temperatures. We’ll tell you more about them in a minute. But let’s start with the winds, that interfere with the mountain and have a huge impact on the amount of rain.
We don’t want to get too technical, but there are 3 winds that mainly determine Kilimanjaro’s weather. The first ones, called the South-east trade winds, occur between mid-March and mid-May and arrive from the south-east. They contain a lot of humidity, and when they ‘hit’ the mountain, they rise, cool and condense, and in the end form clouds and rain, snow, etc. This period from mid-March to mid-May is the first and heaviest rainy season. However, because these winds come from the south, this side of the mountain will be the wettest, whereas the northern slope is considerably dryer. If you’re thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro during this time, you might want to consider using the Rongai Route, which follows a trail on the northern side of the mountain.
From May to October occur what are called anti-trade winds. They contain little humidity, but blow strongly, strong enough to control the South-east trade winds and significantly reduce the rain. These months, from May to October, are the dry season. You’re likely to still encounter a bit of rain, but this is mainly limited to the lower slopes, below 3000 m / 9840 ft.
Finally, from November to mid-March occurs the North-east Monsoon, which brings some rainfall to the Northern slopes of the mountain. They contain a lot less humidity than the South-east trade winds though, especially in the second half of this period, from January to mid-March, making this an ideal time to climb.
The best time to climb Kilimanjaro
We distinguish 4 climatic zones on Mount Kilimanjaro, the rain forest zone, low alpine zone, high alpine zone, and the glacial zone. Rainfall in each of these zones is determined by what we described above, but temperatures vary throughout the year for some of these zones as well.
Rain forest zone (800 – 3000 m / 2620 – 9840 ft)
The first zone you’ll trek through, the rain forest zone is characterized by high humidity and light mist. Temperatures are highest in February, around 14°C/57°F, and lowest in July, when they’re around 7°C/45°F. They slowly increase and decrease in the periods between these two months.
Low alpine zone (3000 – 4200 m / 9840 – 13780 ft)
Once you pass the 3000 meters/ 9840 ft limit, the rain forest rapidly transforms into semi-arid grassland and moorland. You’ve entered the low alpine zone. This zone is a lot less humid and temperatures follow a similar increase/decrease pattern than the ones for the rain forest zone, although they are generally lower, from around 9°C/48°F in February/March to barely over 5°C/41°F in July. At night they can descend below the freezing point.
High alpine zone (4200 – 5000 m / 13780 – 16400 ft)
At approximately.3,000 meters the rainforest rapidly gives way to semi-arid grasslands and moorlands, this area is known as the low alpine zone. Heather and small shrubs cover the landscape, the weather is significantly less humid and temperatures can get to sub-zero in the evening. The most prominent flora features in this zone are the Senecios and Giant Lobelias, which look like deformed palm trees. Fauna is sparse; however, you will likely see crows overhead foraging for food.
Glacial zone (5000 – 5895 m / 16400 – 19340 ft)
With oxygen levels at almost half of what they are on the lower parts of the mountain, life in this area gets scarce. Temperatures are constant and average around -6°C/21°F throughout the day. Solar radiation is high during the day, but temperatures drop far below the freezing point during the night. And while it might not sound that cold, the wind will quickly make you change your mind about that. Add the fact that you get a stronger experience of the cold at this kind of altitude because your body’s already making a big effort to stay oxygenated. Long story short, the -6°C/21°F can easily feel like -20°C/-4°C, and the top of the highest of all mountains in Africa is probably not a place where you’ll want to stay forever.
THE BEST KILIMANJARO CLIMBING SEASON
Let’s gather all the information above and sum up the best moments for your Kilimanjaro trip.
January – March
The first dry season on most of the mountain, January to (mid-)March are great months to climb Kili. It might rain a little bit on the lower slopes but rain is rare above 3000 m / 9840 ft and the skies are likely to be perfectly clear. Temperatures at the top are the lowest of the year, and chances of snow in the upper areas are high.
June – October
During this time rain and snow are rare, making it a good time for your Mount Kilimanjaro hike. It’s the busiest season and less ideal for those who want quiet time but this also means chances of finding open groups to join are much higher, which can drastically lower the price of your climb.
April, May and November, December
These months are usually the wettest and generally less ideal for trekking. However, climbing on a northern route in April or May, or on a southern route in November and December is usually fine, due to the origin of the winds that cause the rain. December corresponds to school holidays in most countries, making this a very busy month as well.
Don’t forget to bring good rain gear and the right clothes to handle the very low temperatures at the summit.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE IT EVEN MORE SPECIAL…
You might want to think about planning your hike around the full moon. Of course, most of the hike happens during the day, but not your summit attempt. Imagine hiking up to the summit in the light of a full moon… magical! Check out this link for our package dates, and remember, you want the full moon to happen on the night of your summit attempt. Don’t hesitate to contact us for any kind of assistance.
HAVE YOU DECIDED WHEN YOU WANT TO GO?
Have a look at our trekking itineraries or other practical tips that will help you prepare for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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