Weather on the Mountain
One of the unique aspects of any Kilimanjaro climb is that trekkers get to experience five distinct climate zones on their way to the summit of the mountain. Kilimanjaro weather is different in each of these zones. Each of those zones offers its own type of weather, which is why is why hikers must be prepared not only for warm, sunny conditions, but also rain, wind, cold, and even snow.
At the base of Kilimanjaro is what is known as the Cultivation Zone. This is the region that surrounds the mountain that is mainly used as farmland. It receives plenty of annual rainfall and offers temperate conditions, but for the most part visitors will only be passing through this region on their way to the start of the climb, which begins in the Cloud Forest Zone. Here, conditions can be warm and humid, and it is not uncommon for mists to form under the dense canopy. At times, you’ll even see thick clouds moving overhead just above the treetops.
After hiking through the cloud forests, trekkers will emerge from the trees and find themselves in the Moorelands Zone. Here, the dense jungle has given way to tall grasses and giant heathers, leaving climbers more exposed to the wind and rain. Temperatures can remain warm throughout the day, but drop significantly at night, but the humidity begins to drop off and generally it is a more comfortable hiking experience than that found in the cloud forest. Rain tends to be minimal, although precipitation can occur pretty much anywhere on the mountain.
Climbing higher still, trekkers will next enter the High Desert Zone, which is arid, with only small, hardy plants managing to survive at an altitude where wind speeds continue to increase and there is little rainfall. Day time temperatures can continue to be quite warm, but in the evening the mercury drops quickly, with conditions often getting much colder. Here, it is not uncommon to be camped well above the clouds, which makes for an enchanting sight.
Last, but certainly not least, climbers will reach the Arctic Zone, which starts around 4875 meters (16,000 feet) and continues all the way up to the summit. Here, temperatures tend to be cold, winds tend to be blustery, and there isn’t much in the way of vegetation. Precipitation is usually at a minimum, but when it does fall it typically comes in the form of snow. Kili’s glaciers are on display here as well and the summit itself is often covered in powder too. While traveling here, you’ll definitely want to bundle up for the final stages of the ascent.
Of course, the weather can vary somewhat based on the time of year that you visit Kilimanjaro as well. For instance, during the months of April and May it is much rainier on the mountain than it is at other times of the year, while January through March it is a bit colder. Those conditions could have an impact on your trek, what you pack for the trip, or even when you decide to go. That said, for the most part, the weather is very stable, fairly predictable, and is simply part of the experience.
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 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.
Dry Season Rainy Season