Trekking to the highest point in Africa is a bucket list adventure for many travel enthusiasts, but when is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Making it up to the 19341ft summit will require plenty of determination, but it will also require a lot of planning, organization, and forethought. When planning a trek to the top of Kilimanjaro, one of the foremost things to determine is which time of year you will want to complete the adventure, as this can play a large role in whether or not you will successfully reach the summit.
The article below outlines the best windows for setting out on a Kilimanjaro trek (as well as those to avoid), in addition to a breakdown of the various ecological zones and their individual weather conditions. Continue reading if you are looking for the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or check out this complete guide to climbing Kilimanjaro if you are in search of some more general information about trekking up the “Every man’s Everest”.
- Mount Kilimanjaro: Top Climbing Seasons
- Ecological Zones on Mount Kilimanjaro
- Planning the Rest of your Mount Kilimanjaro Trek
- So When is the Best Time to Summit Kilimanjaro?
Mount Kilimanjaro: Top Climbing Seasons
Due to its location near the Equator, Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t really see any dramatic shifts in its weather, meaning there are several top climbing seasons to set your sights on. But while year-round trekking is possible to do, it might not always be recommended, as the rainy season can make trails on the mountain quite difficult to traverse. While it will likely be more populated with other adventure enthusiasts, your best chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro are during the dry seasons.
January to March Kilimanjaro Climbing Window
The ideal time to plan your Kilimanjaro adventure is between January and March. During this window, you will only experience occasional rain showers on the mountain (unless you trek towards the end of March), while clear views and mild temperatures will make for a pleasant experience. If comfort along the trail is your main concern, then this will be the time of year to sert out on your adventure.
Avg Precipitation: 69mm/2.7in
Avg Temperature: 26℃/79℉
Avg Humidity: 59%
Late-March to Early-June Window
As mentioned above, the rainy season is one of the worst times to climb Mount Kilimanjaro due to the poor trail conditions, and the late-March to early-June window sits right in the middle of it. Plenty of precipitation, cool temperatures, and high humidity also chip away at the level of comfort you will have while spending so much time outdoors. As such, it is best to avoid a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro during the late-March to early-June window.
Avg Precipitation: 186mm/7.3in
Avg Temperature: 23℃/74℉
Avg Humidity: 71%
July-October Kilimanjaro Climbing Window
Another great time of year to aim for a Kilimanjaro trek is the July to October window. It will likely be quite a bit on the colder side; however, this period will see the clearest skies and offer the amazing chance to witness animal migrations through the region. In addition to the stunning views, trekking up Kilimanjaro during the dry season will also increase your chance of successfully reaching the summit.
Avg Precipitation: 21mm/0.8in
Avg Temperature: 22℃/72℉
Avg Humidity: 63%
November-December Kilimanjaro Climbing Window
While it isn’t nearly as wet as the above mentioned rainy season, the November to December climbing window for Kilimanjaro is less than ideal. November will see higher amounts of rainfall and therefore less foot traffic along the trail. If you are dead set on avoiding the busiest climbing seasons, you can time your trek for the end of November and into December.
Avg Precipitation: 59mm/2.3in
Avg Temperature: 25℃/77℉
Avg Humidity: 59%
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to the weather, you might also want to consider lunar cycles when planning your trip. Summiting Kilimanjaro under the light of a full moon is one of the most magical experiences you can have during your trip, as the moon illuminates the glaciers and peaks of the mountain. If you can, time your trip to coincide with a full or nearly-full moon.
Ecological Zones on Mount Kilimanjaro
In addition to the various weather patterns that are present during the wet and dry seasons, trekkers will also encounter 5 different ecological zones as they work their way up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, each with their own characteristics:
Lowland/Cultivated Zone: As the name implies, this is the lowest of the five zones on Kilimanjaro in terms of elevation at 2625ft–5906ft. Here, you will find open grasslands and agricultural settlements, as the rich volcanic soil is perfectly suited for farming. This zone receives approximately 500-1800mm (19.7-70.9 in) of rain per year.
Rainforest Zone: Moving further up the slope of the mountain to the 1800m-9186ft range, the Rainforest Zone is a warm, humid, and densely forested ecosystem that receives a whopping 1000-2000mm (39.4-78.7 in) of rain per year. Here, you will find a diverse range of plant and animal life that thrives in the rich ecosystem.
Moorland Zone: After climbing through the forest, you will arrive at the Moorland Zone, a semi-alpine region at the 9186ft–13123ft mark. Here, some climbers may begin to face symptoms of altitude sickness due to the high elevation. Abundant plant life, such as blooming wildflowers, will be present here, as the zone receives roughly 530-1300mm (20.9-51.2 in) of precipitation per year.
Alpine Desert Zone: At a height of 13123ft–16404ft, you will certainly begin feeling the effects of the altitude as you work your way through the Alpine Desert Zone. Here, you will face high temperatures during the day and large temperature drops at night, due largely to the exposed nature of the terrain along the mountainside. The proximity to the Equator means that solar radiation in this zone is high, and will require constant protection with sunscreen or clothing. With approximately 250mm (9.8 in)of precipitation per year, this zone is quite dry and devoid of much plant life.
Summit Zone: Once you have broken the 16404ft barrier, you will enter the Summit Zone of Kilimanjaro, also known as the Arctic Zone. Temperatures here are very cold with strong winds, and the landscape is a blanket of ice and rock. The frigid cold and less than 100mm (3.9 in) of precipitation per year makes this a pretty inhabitable place for most life forms.
Planning the Rest of your Mount Kilimanjaro Trek
In addition to choosing the best time of year to climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in the most favourable conditions, there are plenty of other things that you will need to take into consideration if you want to successfully climb Africa’s highest peak. Depending on the season, you will need to consider what to pack for Mount Kilimanjaro in order to stay comfortable along the trail, as well as how to prepare yourself for trekking Kilimanjaro, both physically and in terms of travel requirements.
There are also several different routes leading up Mount Kilimanjaro that are of varying difficulty, so you will want to read up on how hard it is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to ensure that you choose the proper route for your skill level. Lastly, planning an unforgettable trek in an unfamiliar place can be a confusing and challenging experience. Whether you need inspiration for planning your Mount Kilimanjaro adventure or simply want to leave sorting out the details to experienced adventure travel professionals, check out these spectacular Kilimanjaro adventure tours for a once in a lifetime journey to the top of Africa’s highest mountain.
So When is the Best Time to Summit Kilimanjaro?
The only real answer to the question of which season is best to summit Mount Kilimanjaro comes down to your personal preferences and what the aim of your journey is. If you are determined to reach the summit of Africa’s highest peak and want everything to work in your favour, then you will want to aim for the January-March/July-October windows when weather conditions are the most favourable. If you want to sacrifice a little bit of personal comfort in order to avoid the heavier volumes of foot traffic, then there are several other periods during the year when the weather is less pleasant. No matter which climbing season you do end up choosing, you can rest assured that a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life!