Mount Kilimanjaro, a world famous trekking destination is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Summits - the highest mountains in each continent. Thousands of trekkers a year come to take up the challenge of reaching Uhuru peak - Kilimanjaro’s summit. If you are considering a Kilimanjaro trek though, it’s important to know about Kilimanjaro’s climate. In this article we’re going to look at Kilimanjaro seasons and when the best time to climb Kilimanjaro is.
Kilimanjaro is actually a huge volcano with three cones and the world’s largest free-standing mountain, meaning it’s not part of a mountain range. Reaching 5,895 meters above sea level at the summit, its huge height and isolated position in the landscape causes it to create its own unique and rapidly changing weather. This is due to it interfering with trade winds at high altitude, it’s sheer bulk diverting their flow around and over the mountain. Five ecological zones on the mountain, approximately 1000 meters apart at different altitudes each experience different extremes of weather and temperature.
Kilimanjaro temperatures toward the summit can fall below freezing especially at night. In the daytime, the blazing sun can raise temperatures to over forty degrees celsius at lower altitudes in the height of the dry season. Because of Kilimanjaro’s position near the equator, the seasons do not affect temperature radically, instead these are more determined by your altitude on Kilimanjaro. Weather, however, changes based on seasonal conditions.
If you’re interested in what the weather forecast is like there right now - check out this website .
Kilimanjaro’s trekking seasons are December to March , and June to October . These coincide with the mountain’s two dry seasons - which run from January to March and June through October. December often has poor weather, but is included in the trekking season to accommodate winter holidays for tourists. The dry seasons are separated by months of rainy seasons. Whatever the season, be sure to carry the right gear for Kilimanjaro .
Let’s look at the months in more detail.
January/February - The start of the first dry season. These are also the warmest months on Kilimanjaro in the year, and peak trekking time - one of the busiest periods on the mountain. There is little rain and it generally falls on the lower slopes only in afternoon showers. You can still get snowfall on the summit, unlike the other peak trek time of June to October. Visibility of the mountain is generally good aside from cloud at lower altitudes.
March - The end of the trekking season. Temperatures start to dip slightly in March, but it’s still warm. For the first part of the month (or longer, if the dry season extends) the weather is very similar to January/February. By the end of the month though, the rainy season has usually begun, often starting around mid-March with heavy rains. Until the rainy season hits though, as this month is a quiet time on the mountain for trekking, it can be an ideal time to avoid the crowds but still enjoy good Mt Kilimanjaro weather.
April/May - The first rainy season is in full swing now. Dubbed “the long wet”, this is the wettest time of the year on Kilimanjaro with long rainfalls whilst temperatures continue to lower. Humidity rises with the massive increase in rainfall, which reaches its peak in April. These months see almost no trekking for obvious reasons. If you do decide to trek in these months and brave the rain and mud it will be super quiet, and one of the routes which takes the northern side of Kilimanjaro is recommended as there is less rainfall on those slopes, such as Rongai or the Northern Circuit.
The rainy season on Kilimanjaro is called the Big Wet. Photo by Mouser
June - The next trekking season kicks in, as this transitional month sees the end of the rains and a further drop in temperatures - making it one of the coldest months on Kilimanjaro (although at low altitudes this is still warm!). Nights in particular get very cold as you get higher. This month tends to be pretty dry once the rainy season has ended. Visibility of the mountain can be poor. From June to September snowfall on the mountain is rare.
July/August/September - The busiest time on Kilimanjaro, trekkers flock to enjoy the dry weather which reaches its driest period in the year during August and September. Temperatures hit their lowest point in July, before starting to slowly rise, but it doesn’t deter people on their summer holidays. Visibility is usually excellent in these months.
Uhuru Peak in the Dry Season. Photo by Gerald
October - The last month in this trekking season, temperatures continue rising and weather remains mostly dry, unless the wet season starts early - it sometimes begins from the middle of October. A quiet, off-peak month for visitors and another good time to trek to avoid the crowds but still get decent weather - Kilimanjaro operators usually recommended aiming for the first half of the month to avoid the risk of rain.
November - The next rainy season begins, called “the short wet” by locals. Rainfalls in November are far shorter than the April to May period, but are much more unpredictable, with the overall rainfall being much lower. Temperatures rise slightly. A quiet trekking month.
December - Trekking season begins again, usually in the middle of the month, but with it the rains continue. Rainfall is slightly less than November but it can still get pretty wet. Temperatures through the month carry on rising to hit their warmest levels in January/February. This month is popular with trekkers as it coincides with winter holidays, but they may have to contend with rain, mud and snow - so not much difference than back home for Westerners! Again we would suggest one of the northern face routes to reduce the amount of rain you might face.
Snow on Uhuru Peak Kilimanjaro. Photo by Demetrius
What’s the best time to hike Kilimanjaro? That will of course depend on your personal circumstances and your flexibility about when you can go.
We would recommend early March and early October as these are at quiet and off-peak times of the trekking season, but the weather is still really good. Prices will be cheaper and there will be a lot less trekkers on the mountain.
Other than that, January/February and July/August/September are great. It will be very busy but they are peak months for a reason - the weather is the best and they cover western holiday periods. If you want to avoid the crowds, opt for one of the quieter routes to the Kilimanjaro summit like the Rongai route or the Lemosho route .
Kilimanjaro can be climbed all year round. Photo by Carlos
If you’re going to trek in one of the wetter months, it will be cheaper and quiet. It’s only April and May that is a really bad time to trek, as there is so much rain it will make trekking miserable. In any of the other wet months, the rain isn’t as bad - November and December probably won’t have great weather but many trekkers still go in these months and get on fine. Shoulder months with the Kilimanjaro rainy seasons tend to be cheap and you may get lucky and avoid the bad weather altogether! People used to dodgy weather back home will probably shrug off rain showers anyway!
So basically you can trek Kilimanjaro all year round, if you’re willing to face the rains. Most people opt for the dry seasons and then you won’t have to worry too much about weather spoiling your trek, and visibility of Kilimanjaro will be better.
We hope you found this article useful, check out our other Kilimanjaro articles for other helpful information and tips for climbing Kilimanjaro!