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When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

The view that greets you at the top is an out-of-this-world experience.

But what time of year is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

Read on below.

NB: The guide below is a guideline only.

Kilimanjaro’s climate

Kilimanjaro’s location near the equator means that there are not four clear seasons, In fact, there are no major temperature fluctuations over the year, but the weather depends largely on the seasons and which vegetation zone you pass through on the way up.

Kilimanjaro’s seasons

There are two seasons on Kilimanjaro: one dry season and one rainy season, both of which come twice during the year.

The dry seasons extend from:

  • the start of December to the beginning of March
  • the end of June to the end of October

The dry season is generally characterised by mild temperatures, except from June to August, which may be cold. In addition, the weather is clearer and there is less rain than in the rainy season.

Due to the smaller amount of rainfall, these months are also high season, with more people visiting Kilimanjaro during these periods.

The rainy seasons extend from:

  • late March to early June (longest rainy season)
  • early November to early December

The rainy season is characterised by a larger amount of rainfall – the months of April and May are particularly hard hit. Most rain falls on the southern and eastern sides of Kilimanjaro. Rain means poorer visibility, but in the short rainy season, there is better visibility in the morning.

Due to the increased amount of rain, the rainy seasons are less popular than the dry seasons. So, you can expect to enjoy a more private trekking experience during these periods.

Below is an overview of the weather throughout the year.

January to March (dry season)

Between January and March, you get mild temperatures and clear weather in the morning and afternoon.

However, the days’ almost cloud-free characteristics may be accompanied by a little rain or snow on the top of Kilimanjaro.

The end of March to mid-May (long rainy season)

Between March and May, it is rainy season. This often means reduced visibility. The cloud can be heavy, producing heavy rain and snow at the top.

Trekking can be a major challenge during the rainy season, so if you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to trek at other times of the year. On the other hand, you enjoy a more private experience when you climb Kilimanjaro during this period.

June to August (dry season)

The British summer months can be cold in Tanzania.

The daytime temperatures are pleasant, but expect cold nights. Visibility is usually very good. What’s more, like September and October, these months are drier than the rest of the year.

September and October (dry season)

After a few cold months, the temperature slowly begins to rise again.

However, the warmer weather brings fog with it in the lower parts of the trek, but when you come higher up the mountain, the fog gives way to clearer weather.

November and December (rainy season)

In the last months of the year, you can expect afternoon rain showers and occasional thunder. But beyond that, visibility in these two months is good in the morning and at night.

Kilimanjaro’s vegetation zones

Besides the two seasons, the altitude also has an influence on what weather you can expect on Kilimanjaro.

On the way to the top, you pass through five different vegetation zones, each with unique weather conditions.

At the foot of the mountain, the temperature is around 21 to 27 degrees all year round, and the higher up the mountain you go, the colder it will be. At the top – at Uhuru Peak – night temperatures can drop to between -7 and -29 degrees.

Zone 1: Bushland or cultivated area (800–1,800 AMSL) is characterized by meadows, plains, farmland and settlements. It is one of the zones on the mountain with the most rainfall over the year.

  • Zone 2: Rainforest (1,800-2,800 AMSL) is home to a long list of unique African flora and fauna. The daytime temperature and humidity are high, and there is rain in the evening which can produce cold nights. It mostly rains at lower altitudes.
  • Zone 3: Heath (2,800–4,000 AMSL) is a more golden area where wild flowers, heather and grass, etc. grow. The humidity rises, the air becomes thinner and the temperature drops. It is in this zone that altitude sickness can begin to rear its ugly head. The higher you get, the lower the rainfall.
  • Zone 4: Highland desert (4,000–5,000 AMSL) is characterised by bright sunshine, thin air and high temperatures of up to 40 degrees during the day and freezing temperatures during the night. There is very little rainfall at these altitudes.
  • Zone 5: Arctic (>5,000 AMSL) is the top of the mountain. The area is characterised by snow, cold, rock and glaciers. There are no animals or plants living on this part of Kilimanjaro. During the day, the sun is extremely harsh, and at night, the cold and the wind are intense.

Which route should I choose when?

Generally speaking, all routes on Kilimanjaro can be climbed all year round.

The various routes are climbed from different sides of the mountain, which means that some routes are better than others at different times of the year.

  • The Machame Route, which starts in the south-west, is best to climb in the dry season. In the rainy season, the rain typically falls on the southern part of the mountain, where the Machame route is located.
  • The Marangu Route, which starts in the south-east, is good all year round, despite its southerly location. Although the rain typically falls on the southern part of the mountain, the advantage of Marangu is that you sleep in cabins at night.
  • The Lemosho Route starts in the west and is best to climb in the dry seasons, when you can generally expect better weather than in the rainy seasons.
  • The Shira Route, which also starts in the west, is best in the dry season.
  • The Rongai Route, which starts in the north, is the best route in the rainy season. The rain usually comes in from the south, and the Rongai Route is therefore sheltered from the rain, making it good all year round.

Summit Mt.Kilimanjaro on full moon

kilimanjaro full moon

Most of the climbing takes place during the day, but the final push to the top takes place in the middle of the night – in darkness – so you reach the peak at sunrise.

This is a very special (and popular) experience, either in the light of the full moon – without the use of head torches – or when it’s a new moon and the stars are extra clear in the sky.

So, you can also include the dates of the new moon and the full moon in your planning. Please note, however, that these are extremely popular times, so there are often a lot of people.

  • If you are on a 6-day trek, you reach the top on day 5 of the actual trek
  • If you are on a 7-day trek, you reach the top on day 6 of the actual trek
  • If you are on an 8-day trek, you reach the peak on day 7 of the actual trek

See an overview in the chart below:

2019,
New moon
2019
Full moon
2020,
New moon
2020,
Full moon
2021,
New moon
2021,
Full moon
January 6 21 25 10 13 28
February 5 19 23 9 11 27
March 6 21 24 9 13 28
April 5 19 23 8 12 27
May 5 19 22 7 11 26
June 3 17 21 5 10 24
July 2 17 20 5 10 24
August 1, 30 15 19 3 8 22
September 28 14 17 2 7 21
October 28 14 16 2, 31 6 20
November 26 12 15 30 5 19
December 26 12 14 30 30 19

*Please note that the dates are estimates. So you should double check both the date and time of the full moon/new moon before booking.

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