Kilimanjaro Weather

Because Mount Kilimanjaro is such a large geographic structure it essentially creates its own weather.

In this article we have provided an overview on the types of weather you can expect on Kilimanjaro, as well outlined historical weather patters for each of Kilimanjaro’s climatic zones.

Please use the quicklinks below to navigate through this article.

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Kilimanjaro Weather

Trade and Anti-Trade Winds

Kilimanjaro’s weather can best be understood by studying the the dominant trade and anti-trade winds that pass through the region.

Why?

Because winds carry moisture from the ocean. When they hit large objects, like mountains, they rise, cool and condense, forming clouds and precipitation (i.e. rain and snow).

There are two main winds that drive weather patterns on Mount Kilimanjaro – the South-east trade winds and North-east anti-trade winds. We explain the influence of each wind below.

kilimanjaro-weather-clouds

World map showing SE and NE Trade Winds

South-east trade winds

The South-East trade winds from the Indian Ocean arrive around mid March and last well into May (before being interrupted by the North-East Anti trade winds). These winds carry loads of moisture from the Indian ocean so when they eventually hit the massive structure of Mount Kilimanjaro and are forced upwards, they form large rain clouds and the ‘heavens open’.

Mid-March through to the end of May is therefore the wet season on Mount Kilimanjaro and not a great time for trekking.

That being said, as these winds blow from the South most of the rain falls on the southern side of Kilimanjaro. The Northern slopes tend to be buffeted from the winds and therefore receive considerably less rain during this time of the year.

If one wants to trek in March-May it is best to consider the Rongai Route which follows a trail from the North.

North-East anti-trade winds

Anti-trade winds from the North-East arrive between late May and last through to early November and don’t carry rain as they lose their moisture well before hitting Kilimanjaro. They generally blow quite strongly forcing their way through the Saddle (the valley between Kilimanjaro’s two peaks – Kibo and Mawenzi).

North-East Monsoon

Cross-section showing Kilimanjaro’s saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi Peak

As the strong anti-trade winds pass through the saddle they force the South-East winds down below them. Hence during the dry season (June through to October) cloud cover and some rain is common up to the 3,000 meter mark on the southern slopes but quickly disappears above this altitude.

kilimanjaro-weather-clouds

Common cloud cover below 3,000m with crystal blue skies above

The dynamic between the strong and dry North-east trade-winds and the less powerful South-east winds, means that late May through to the end of October is a great time to trek as rain is rare and usually confined to the lower southern slopes.

May through to October also coincides with the summer holiday periods of the Northern Hemisphere so the slopes of Kilimanjaro can be busy at this time of the year.

North-East Monsoon
The North-East Monsoon arrives around mid November and lasts through to February. These winds have travelled a long way over the continent and don’t have a high moisture content which means that the season is generally quite light on rain.

Most of this rain falls on the lower northern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, but is a lot lighter than the main wet season brought by the South-east winds in March-May.

The interaction of these winds with Mount Kilimanjaro mean that there are two main trekking seasons – January-March and June-October.

Best Trekking Seasons

January-March

January through to March is the first dry season on Kilimanjaro, making it a great time to trek. This time of the year tends to be colder than the June-October trekking season and you have a much higher chance of encountering snow on the upper reaches.

The lower slopes are usually covered in cloud during this time of the year, and if you encounter rain it will likely only be on the lower slopes.

Above 3,000m the skies are usually crystal clear and rain is rare.

June-October

June through to October is the busiest trekking season as it coincides with the European and N.American summer holiday period. Encountering rain or snow is rare.

As the slopes are busier at this time of the year it is quite easy to find tour companies that offer open groups that you can join to help save on costs.

April, May and November
April, May and November are usually the wettest months and not ideal for trekking.

December can also be quite wet and is usually very cold on the summit, but it is fast becoming a popular trekking month due to its coincidence with holidays in the West.

If you plan to trek during these months it is very important that you have good rain gear, and the correct layered clothing for the summit.

snow-kilimanjaro

Average snowfall in cm on the summit of Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Weather and Climatic Zones

Kilimanjaro weather is also heavily influenced by changes in altitude. So much so that there are in fact distinct climatic zones on the mountain, each with its own distinct fauna and flora.

Below we briefly discuss each.

kilimanjaro-temperatures

Average Kilimanjaro temperatures (Celsius) as measured at certain altitudes within the 4 climatic zones

Rain forest zone (~800 meters – 3,000 meters): 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 Kilimanjaro. You will likely see Blue and Colobus monkeys, and 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.

Low alpine zone (~3,000 meters – 4,200 meters): 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. 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.

High alpine zone (~4,200 meters – 5,000 meters): 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.

Glacial zone (~5,000 meters to 5,895 meters): 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!

9-Day Weather Forecast

Below is an example 9-day Kilimanjaro weather forecast that you can get access to on www.mountain-forecast.com.

You can also get forecasts from www.snow-forecast.com and the University of Massachusetts have been tracking climate change on Kilimanjaro since 2000. Have a look at their research and weather data here.

kilimanjaro-weather-forecast

FAQ

Still have questions about Kilimanjaro weather? Please leave a comment below and we will respond within 24hours.

29 thoughts on “Kilimanjaro Weather

  1. Hi , We are Planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjero during the first week of November, 1st to 7th.
    What is the weather going to be like ??
    Thanks.
    Seema.

    • Hi Seema, forecasting weather on Kilimanjaro is tough due to the altitude variation from the foothills to the summit. Generally November is a wettish month but you could get a great week of weather.

  2. Hi. We plan to climb Kilimanjaro via machame route from 9th Oct to 15th Oct 2016. What kind of weather we can expect?

  3. Hi. I have plan to climb Kilimanjaro from 9th sept to 15th 2016. What kind of weather i can expect? Which is the best route? Am alone so can I join with group?

  4. Hi, I am looking to climb Kilimanjaro with a friend November 29th – December 8th. What will the weather be like around this time and which routes would you suggest?

    • Hi Matthew, this is at the end of the short rainy season so you might experience some rain on the lower reaches of the mountain. December through February is also the coldest time of the year near the summit so it is not uncommon to experience snowfall at the summit and perhaps a heavy layer of snow there too. I would suggest the Rongai route for this time of year as the Northern side of Kilimanjaro is drier than the southern routes. Hope this helps!

  5. Hi,
    I am looking to climb Kilimanjaro with friends November 10th – 20th. What will the weather be like around this time and which routes would you suggest?
    Thanks

    • Hi Saleh, November is the short rainy season on Kilimanjaro. You can expect some rain on the lower reaches of the mountain and potentially snow on the summit. The Rongai route is generally good for the rainy seasons but in November the northern side of Kili is also prone to getting rain. I would suggest either the Rongai or the Machame.

  6. Hi, I am starting to plan my trip to Kili. Being a teacher, I need to go in June or July. What is your recommendation on dates and routes for this time frame?

    • Hi Ursula, June / July are good months to trek Kilimanjaro. I would recommend the 8-day Lemosho or the 7-day Machame. All the best!

  7. Hi, we will be at Machare Estate – coffee farm from the 30/10 – 06/11/2016,
    can you please let us know what temperature will be (more less).
    Thanking you in advance.

  8. Hello. We are planning to climb kili from Machame route between nov 26 and dec 3rd. What will the weather be like and what type of additional equipment we should consider

    • Hi Carla, It is very difficult to predict the weather on Kilimanjaro, but in general late November can be characterised by light rains on the lower reaches and colder conditions near the summit. Therefore I would definitely take good wet weather gear as a precaution and make sure you have lots of warm layers for summit night. Check out http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Kilimanjaro/forecasts/2000 for a more accurate snapshot of the weather just before you leave. Cheers!

  9. Hi

    We are climbing kilimanjaro from dec 10 to dec 18. Expecting to summit on dec 17. What should we expect the weather to be like and given that this is likely to be the coldest month, should we expect snow on the summit and thus bring our crampons along?

  10. Hi I would like to know daily day temperatures and night temperatures expected in Jan 2017 for the Lemosho route. Also, should we expect rain ? if yes how much ?

  11. Hi, I’m planning on climbing Kilimanjaro from December 5th-12th. what should I expect in terms of the cold and rain?

    How do you suggest that I ensure I stay dry and warm? I have a cover for my day pack. Should I get one for my North Face Duffel that the porters will carry?

    Do you recommend getting mid-weight tee shirts and mid-weight long sleeve shirts instead of the usual lightweight?

    • Hi Sarah, Check out http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Kilimanjaro/forecasts/2000 to get historical forecast of Kilimanjaro Weather by altitude. Yes, a rain cover for your daypack is a good idea. In terms of your duffle the porters usually have waterproof carry sacks so you should be good here. I would keep your gear separated in transparent plastic bags just in case, and it’s a great way to separate dirty / wet clothes. I prefer light-weight shirts and mid-weight fleeces. Cheers!

  12. Hi, we are hiking in Lemosho route from in Feb 2nd week. I see on Mountain Forecast lot of snow fall in the next week. Where exactly will that snow fall be? I see many inches (some times up to a foot of snow predicted). Will it be possible/safe to hike?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Most snow falls at the summit or near the top of the mountain. Generally it is safe to ascend Kilimanjaro when it is snowing.

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