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Kilimanjaro Climate Zones – The Changing Landscapes Of Mount Kilimanjaro

Mark Whitman

There are four main Kilimanjaro Climate Zones, each with its own distinct temperature, fauna and flora. Hiking through the different zones on Kilimanjaro is part of what makes this experience unique.

Within a very short amount of time, you walk below giant ferns, pass alien-like Senecio plants and ascend slopes that could be mistaken for the surface of the moon. The varying temperatures at these different altitudes will affect how you dress on each day of the Kilimanjaro hike.

Let's dive in to the unique biomes found on the Kilimanjaro trekking routes;

rain forest kilimanjaro

Mount Kiliimanjaro Climate Zones

The four Mt Kilimanjaro climate zones are: 

  • Rain forest zone (~1,800 meters – 3,000 meters)
  • Low alpine zone (~3,000 meters – 4,200 meters)
  • High alpine zone (~4,200 meters – 5,000 meters)
  • Glacial zone (~5,000 meters to 5,895 meters)

Below we discuss each.

Rain forest zone

  • Altitude range: 1,800–3,000 meters (5,900-9,800 feet)
  • Day Temperature: 21-32 Celsius / 70-90 Fahrenheit
  • Night Temperature: 4-15 Celsius / 40-60 Fahrenheit
rainforest kilimanjaro

The rainforest zone of Kilimanjaro is the lower parts of the mountain covered in tall, green jungle-like vegetation.

From the earliest part of your trek you are going to be confronted with tropical rain forest. Humidity is high and light mist or sometimes drizzle is common. Various flora such as orchids, ferns, fig and olive trees cover this area of Mount Kilimanjaro.

You will likely see Blue and Colobus monkeys, and hear the calls of Turacos and tree hyrax high in the branches of the rainforest. A keen-eyed guide can sometimes point them out amongst the foilage. If you are trekking from the North-East Rongai route or Western Lemosho, Shira or Northern Circuit you may even see elephant, buffalo and large antelope (learn more about Kilimanjaro animals).  

As the temperature is fairly mild in these lower reaches, many trekkers wear shorts and t-shirts for the first day of the trek. Don't forget to pack your rain jacket and pants as well as waterproof backpack cover into your daypack. There are often rain showers in this zone. Keep your waterproofs close to you for the entire hike. 

Low alpine zone

  • Altitude range: 3,000-4,200 meters (9,800-13,800 feet)
  • Day Temperature: 10-27 Celsius / 50-80 Fahrenheit
  • Night Temperature: (-1)-15 Celsius / 30-60 Fahrenheit 
low alpine region kilimanjaro

At approximately 3,000 metres 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.

senecios kilimanjaro

The giant Senecio plants on the way down to Barranco Camp look a little like aliens and stand out against the barren landscape.

The most prominent flora features in this zone are the Giant Lobelias and Dendrosenecios, which look like deformed palm trees. Fauna is sparse; however you will likely see crows overhead foraging for food and sometimes spot a mouse scuttling between shrubs.

When the sun is out this zone is fairly warm but clouds usually roll in around midday and stay until late afternoon. Make sure you have your down or fleece jacket with you while hiking. In the early morning you will probably want to wear gloves. 

High alpine zone

  • Altitude range: 4,200-5000 meters (13,800-16,400 feet)
  • Day Temperature: (-6)-15 Celsius / 20-60 Fahrenheit
  • Night Temperature: (-12)-10 Celsius / 10-50 Fahrenheit
high alpine region kilimanjaro

This zone is characterised by an arid desert environment that is rather inhospitable. During the day temperatures are hot and solar radiation is high (make sure to apply lots of sun-cream).

At night temperatures plummet to below freezing. From this zone the slopes of Kibo and Kilimanjaro’s summit come into perfect view.

At these altitudes, even daylight temperatures are very cold. Time to put on more layers plus your outer-shell jacket! Remember that the sun is extra strong at this high altitude, be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin.

Glacial zone

  • Altitude range: 5,000-5,895 meters (16,400-19,340 feet)
  • Day Temperature: (-12)-4 Celsius / 10-40 Fahrenheit
  • Night Temperature: (-26)-(0) Celsius / -15-32 Fahrenheit
kilimanjaro climate

The final zone houses the upper reaches of Kibo and Mawenzi and consists of high altitude artic conditions. Life is very scarce in this zone as oxygen levels are near half what they were on the lower reaches of the mountain.

Fine glacial silt covers the slopes that reach up to Kilimanjaro’s summit and large glaciers are visible from Kilimanjaro’s crater rim.

Due to the high solar radiation during the day, freezing temperatures at night, gale force winds and low oxygen levels, this zone is not one where you want to stay too long!

When dressing for summit night, layering is key. Most guides recommend 5-6 layers on top (thermal, long sleeved, fleece, down and shell) and three layers on the bottom (thermal leggings, trekking pants, weatherproof outers). 

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Kilimanjaro Altitude zones

Mount Kilimanjaro can be classified into three altitude zones.

  • High altitude (2,500 – 3,500 metres) is the first zone you will experience. You will spend approximately 2-3 days in this zone. The onset of acute mountain sickness in this zone is low but increases as you breach the 3,000 meter mark.
  • Very high altitude (3,500 – 5,500 metres) is the second zone. Typically you will spend 2-3 days in this zone as well. It is recommended you have an acclimatisation day in this zone where you climb high and sleep low. Most people experience some degree of altitude sickness in this zone.
  • Extreme altitude (above 5,500 metres) is the zone you experience when you approach Kilimanjaro’s summit. You will likely only spend a few hours in this zone as you trek from the upper reaches of Kibo to Uhuru peak and back.
stella point kilimanjaro

An especially snowy day at Stella Point (about one hour from the summit).

The onset of AMS in this zone is high, particularly if you have not given your body enough time to acclimatise in the lower zones. Many people trekking Kilimanjaro experience mild to moderate AMS in this zone, but begin their descent before conditions escalate (see Kilimanjaro and altitude sickness).

Mount Kilimanjaro Climate FAQ

What is the climate of Mount Kilimanjaro?

The climate on Kilimanjaro is relatively hot and humid on the lower reaches of the mountain, but varies significantly as one ascends in altitude. Once above the cultivation zone, at around 1,800 meters, the climate on My Kilimanjaro can be split into four Kilimanjaro climate zones. The rainforest zone between 1,800-3,000 meters, the low alpine zone between 3,000-4,200 meters, the high alpine zone between 4,200-5,000 meters and the glacial zone between 5,000-5,875 meters. The daily and night temperatures between these zones varies a lot, from relatively temperate days (21-32 degrees Celsius) in the rainforest to freezing temperatures at night (0 to -26 degrees Celsius) near the summit. Discover when to hike Kilimanjaro

Is there a Kilimanjaro Climate Video?

This awesome video by Laurence Hills shows the four distinct climate zone.

More Kilimanjaro info:

Any questions about Kilimanjaro climate zones or altitude zones, feel free to leave a comment below and we will respond within 24 hours.

Mark Whitman

Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Climb Kilimanjaro Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro. This site is your one stop shop for everything Kilimanjaro. To date over 5 million people have visited Climb Kilimanjaro Guide, many of which have gone on to summit Kili! I hope you find all the answers you are looking for, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below!

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  1. Could u please provide a description of the landscape of the volcano. If the area covered in mountains? If it is densely populated?

    1. Hi Riya, not sure what you mean by your question. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano. The structure of the mountain is freestanding. It terms of the population, no one lives on Kilimanjaro. There are two towns in the foothills of Kilimanjaro – Arusha and Moshi. Hope this helps!

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