We recommend climbing Kilimanjaro between mid December and March, or between mid June and October, to enjoy the best weather conditions.
An important part of anyone’s Kilimanjaro preparation is choosing a time of year to climb the mountain. In fact, the question of when is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro is at the very top of our list of climbing Kilimanjaro FAQs that we receive from our family of travellers.
When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
While you can climb Kilimanjaro any time of year, some months are just better than others. We aim to help you choose the best time of year for you to climb the mountain by offering our cumulative expert advice, which is based on many years of trekking Kilimanjaro.
- Kilimanjaro weather
- Kilimanjaro’s five climate zones
- Packing for each climate zone
- Full moon summits
- New Year’s Eve Kilimanjaro climb
What is the weather on Kilimanjaro?
Tanzania, home to the magnificent Mt Kilimanjaro, is located near the Equator, and so it won’t surprise you to learn that most of the country experiences some very hot months.
Yet Mt Kilimanjaro itself rises to 5,895 m above sea level, which gives its summit an arctic climate. This means Kilimanjaro trekkers can experience extremes of both heat and cold.
But when are you likely to avoid the worst of the heat as well as the worst of the cold? And furthermore, since some months experience more precipitation than others, when is the best time of year for climbing the mountain to avoid slopping around on a saturated path?
Our seasonal overview below can help you to choose the best time to climb Kilimanjaro from a weather perspective.
The short dry season: Mid December to March
Late December, January, February and March are great months for climbing Kilimanjaro. For starters, while there’s some rain during this season, it’s not extreme.
As you climb higher up the mountain, the weather is generally colder than it is during the other months, which means a higher probability of seeing snow on the summit. Snow on the summit is, of course, very beautiful. That said, trekking in snow doesn’t appeal to everyone, and that combined with the lower temperatures, means these months tend to be quieter than the others. This is great if you’re not too keen on crowds!
Please note that December generally sees the most snowfall on the summit. While it can be incredibly beautiful to walk in fresh snow, it does mean you might not have a clear view from the summit over the surrounding landscape if there’s snowfall.
If you want a quieter trek but to still enjoy decent weather conditions, consider climbing Kilimanjaro sometime between mid December and March.
The long rainy season: April and May
April, May and November are generally speaking the least comfortable months to climb Kilimanjaro in terms of weather. The days can be very hot (as well as humid in the rainforest). Further, these are the wettest months, and you could end up trekking through downpours.
All that said, you can still climb Kilimanjaro at this time, and one perk is that the mountain is less crowded.
April and May are arguably the least optimal months to climb Kilimanjaro, as the heat in the lower climate zones can be intense, and there’s lots of rainfall.
The long dry season: June to October
June to October are great hiking months as there’s little rainfall and it’s not so hot during the day. There’s also less cloud coverage at this time, which means you’ll be treated to sprawling views over the African plains!
The only downside,
June to October is a great time to climb Kilimanjaro from a weather perspective, as things aren’t too hot, there’s little rain, and the views tend to be magnificent!
The short rainy season: November to mid December
The short rainy season sees some intense downpours in the rainforest zone of Kilimanjaro. It can also be pretty hot and steamy. For these reasons we don’t consider November and the first half of December to be ideal Kilimanjaro climbing weather.
That said, the mountain can still be climbed at this time if you wish. You might like to read Arwa Mrad’s Kilimanjaro journal to see how she and her partner found hiking the Lemosho route during the short rainy season.
The mountain is pretty quiet during the short rainy season, which some find a plus. You might like to consider trekking the Rongai route at this time as that route receives less rainfall on average than the other Kilimanjaro routes.
Kilimanjaro’s five climate zones
When trying to figure out the best time to be climbing Kilimanjaro, it is helpful to know that on your journey, you will experience 5 distinct climate zones which are affected differently by the 2 different wind patterns that occur in Tanzania. Don’t worry though – you don’t have to be a climatologist to make sure you climb at the right time. Let’s make a start by having a look at each climate zone and what to expect.
Cultivation zone (800 m to 1,800 m)
The foothills of Kilimanjaro exist in the cultivation zone. They benefit from the water that travels down the mountain, and as such are perfect for growing bananas, coffee and potatoes. This area can be very hot during April, May and November, and is far more pleasant between January and March. But you don’t hike this section of the mountain – you drive through it to reach the next zone (the rainforest zone), and start your trek from there. The drive is a pretty one, and you should see many lovely flowers en route.
Rainforest zone (1,000 m to 2,800 m)
Your Kilimanjaro trek starts in the mountain’s rainforest zone. This is one of the most pleasant portions of the climb, as you’re walking along picturesque forest paths, passing moss-covered trees, gnarled trunks, vines, fern fronds and plenty more pretty sights. You should be able to spot blue monkeys and black-and-white colobuses, and hear birdsong and many busy insects.
The forest itself isn’t all of a kind, however. The lower half, whilst pretty, is less diverse than the upper half. The upper half, which starts at around the 2,000 m mark, is dense, old-growth cloud forest and contains over 1,800 species of flowering plants!
“I’m a real nature lover, so the rainforest was probably one of my favourite climate zones to trek through on Kilimanjaro. It was truly beautiful!” Frankie Strong
From January to March and June to October the rainforest usually receives only light rain and cloud coverage. November has the highest level of rainfall, so only come at this time of year if rain, mud and slippery paths don’t faze you.
Afro-alpine moorland zone (2,800 m to 4,000 m)
The Afro-alpine moorland zone (also known as the heath or upland grassland zone) is a fascinating section of the mountain! Here, the forest dissipates and in its place is spotted vegetation, notably consisting of three giants: giant lobelia, giant groundsel, and giant heather. These unusual trees usually take centre stage in everyone’s photographs, as they’re just so striking and surprising. Giant groundsels are also very slow growers, and some are around 200 years old. They are found on Kilimanjaro and nowhere else!
This zone also sees large fields of wildflowers and tufts of tall grasses among the rocks. As to wildlife, keep your eyes open for hyraxes, duikers and even occasionally elands.
In the moorland zone, temperatures can be very hot during the day but then dip below zero once the sun sets. If you want to avoid the worst of the heat, you should climb Kilimanjaro between January to March or June and October.
“When Chris realised I’d forgotten rain gear, he went out and rented some for me before we embarked the next day. This was super helpful as it rained often on our hike.” Alexandre Polise
Alpine desert zone (4,000 m to 5,000 m)
The alpine desert zone is a dry, cold and windy region. The terrain is rocky, harsh and dramatic. If you don’t like extreme cold, then you should consider climbing Kilimanjaro between June and October (summer).
The extreme fluctuation between the heat of the day and the cold of the night in the alpine zone means means there’s little in the way of vegetation and wildlife. Some mosses have adapted to the conditions and grow well, and you can find creatures like spiders and insects.
Trekkers can struggle in the alpine zone as the higher altitude makes breathing that bit harder, and your exposure to the sun is also heightened. Symptoms of altitude sickness regularly start to show up among climbers in this zone.
Arctic zone (5,000 m to 5,895 m)
The word arctic speaks for itself here! The conditions in the top portion of Kilimanjaro are icy cold. Temperatures range from -7 to -25° C. The start of this zone can be quite tricky to climb, as it consists primarily of loose gravel. And then, higher up, there’s ice, which can make your path slippery. But not to worry – take things pole, pole (slowly, slowly), and you’ll be just fine! Besides, with the air being so thin, you’ll find that slowly is all your body allows.
While the wind and temperature are fierce at the summit, the view is so very beautiful, and makes for an incredible reward. Note that the summit is at its very coldest in November and December, so it might be a good idea to avoid these months.
Packing for each climate zone
It’s said that climbing Kilimanjaro is like hiking from the Equator to the North Pole in a matter of just a few days! That’s why it is so important to know what to pack so that you’ll be comfortable and protected no matter what the climate and weather conditions.
In the video below Salo from Follow Alice talks you through the various items you need for climbing Kilimanjaro. We’ve put together a comprehensive Kilimanjaro packing list and suggest you reference this in your Kilimanjaro preparation.
Full moon summits
All Kilimanjaro trekkers start their summit attempt at midnight, but most do so by the light of their headlamps alone. The fortunate few, however, get to hike under the bright light of a full moon.
Kilimanjaro full moon climbs are a special and incredibly beautiful experience. Instead of trekking for hours in darkness, you see the dramatic, nighttime world of the mountain’s summit, something few ever will!
Please chat to us if you’d like to arrange to climb Kilimanjaro during a full moon!
If climbing Kilimanjaro isn’t already enough of an adventure in itself, picture yourself hiking to the summit under the light of the full moon!
2021 full moon schedule
- 28 and 29 January
- 27 February
- 28 and 29 March
- 27 April
- 26 and 27 May
- 24 June
- 24 July
- 22 August
- 21 September
- 20 and 21 October
- 19 and 20 November
- 19 December
New Year’s Eve Kilimanjaro climbs
Can you imagine a better – or more novel! – way to bring in the new year than from the highest peak in Africa? A New Year’s Eve climb takes place during the short dry season on Kilimanjaro, and so is one of the best times to climb Kilimanjaro.
“The summit is worth every tough step it takes, and it’s completely breath-taking to be the highest person on the African continent for a little while.” Stephen Hemmings