You can expect equatorial to arctic conditions on Mt Kilimanjaro. Depending on the route chosen, you will begin your trek in dry plains or tropical forests with average temperatures between 25oC and 30oC. You will then ascend through various terrains and weather zones to 67 and arrive at the permanently snow-capped summit. Expect rainfalls and sub-zero temperatures on your trek.
Due to its proximity to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro does not experience wide temperature changes from season to season. Instead, the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are determined more so by the altitude and time of day.
At the beginning of the climb, at the base of the mountain, the average temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). From there, the temperatures will decrease as you move through Mount Kilimanjaro’s ecological zones.
At the summit, Uhuru Point, the nighttime temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius). Due to Mount Kilimanjaro’s great height, the mountain creates its own weather. It is extremely variable and impossible to predict. Therefore, regardless of when you climb, you should always be prepared for wet days and cold nights.
Is there snow on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro?
The long rainy season between March and May is a result of the trade winds from the south-east. These southerly winds from the Indian Ocean are laden with moisture, bringing rain to the lower slopes and snow on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro summit. During this season, the southern slopes get the most rainfall.
The ‘short rains’ in November are from a dryer wind coming from the northeast. As it hasn’t traveled across an ocean, the rains are shorter and less intense than during the long rains. Most of the rainfall during this season falls on the more northerly slopes.
Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t experience wide temperature changes from season to season due to it’s proximity to the equator, Instead, the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are determined more so by the altitude and what time of day it is. At the base of Mount Kilimanjaro where the the climb starts, the average temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). From the base when you ascent, the temperatures will decrease as you go through mountain’s 5 ecological zones.
At the Summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, which lies in the arctic zone the night temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius). Therefore, we recommend that you should always be prepared for wet and cold nights so please bring the necessary gear at all times.
As you head higher up, you’ll notice the weather changing through the climate zones.
Altitude: 2,600 to 6,000 ft (800 to 1,800 m)
Precipitation: 20 to 70 in (500 to 1,800 mm)
Surrounding the base of Kilimanjaro is the cultivation zone. Comprising mostly farmland thanks to the fertile volcanic soil, this area gets plenty of annual rainfall. Mostly temperate conditions, you’ll mostly be passing through this region on your way to the trailhead.
Altitude: 6,000 to 9,200 ft (1,800 to 2,800 m)
Precipitation: 79 to 40 in (2,000 to 1,000 mm)
We start our climb in the montane forest, a tropical rainforest that serves to absorb most of the moisture coming off the mountain, forming underground streams and springs. Conditions are usually warm and humid, with mists forming under the dense canopy. Thick cloud cover is not uncommon, and it can be muddy underfoot.
Altitude: 9,200 to 13,200 ft (2,800 to 4,000 m)
Precipitation: 51 to 21 in (1,300 to 530 mm)
After hiking through the forest, you’ll emerge from the trees into the Heath and Moorland Zone. The dense tropical forest gives way to tall grasses and giant heathers, and you’ll be more exposed to the wind and rain.
Temperatures can remain warm throughout the day but drop significantly at night. The humidity lessens, the trails are dryer, and generally, it’s a more comfortable hiking experience. Rain tends to be minimal, although it can occur pretty much anywhere on the mountain.
The sun’s rays can be harsh, so you’ll need your sunscreen, and temperatures at night can be bitterly cold.
Altitude: 13,200 to 16,500 ft (4,000 to 5,000 m)
Precipitation: 10 in (250 mm)
Climbing higher still, we’ll enter the High Desert Zone, arid, with only small, hardy plants surviving at an altitude where wind speeds continue to increase and there is little rainfall.
Daytime temperatures can still be quite warm, but in the evening the mercury drops quickly, with conditions getting much colder. Here, it is not uncommon to be camped well above the clouds, which makes for an enchanting sight on a clear, starlit night.
The views are far-reaching and dramatic, the trails dustier, and the air much thinner.
Altitude: 16,500+ ft (5,000+ m)
Precipitation: 4 in (100 mm)
Above 16,000 ft is the Arctic or Summit Zone. With very little rainfall (most precipitation falls as snow) this barren desert is characterized by huge rocky outcrops, volcanic scree, and glaciers.
Known as “extreme altitude”, this region has approximately 49% of the oxygen at sea level. It’s a bleak, inhospitable place.
It’s very cold here, with blustery winds and nighttime temperatures well below freezing. As you set off for your summit attempt, there may be ice and snow underfoot, it’s bitterly cold, even at midday and the sun’s radiation is harsh.
Sunscreen is essential on any exposed parts of your body, the dry air will dehydrate you quickly, and you’ll need warm layers to keep your core temperature up.
Read more about Kilimanjaro altitude here.
Kilimanjaro Weather Variations
The weather varies based on the time of year you visit Kilimanjaro. During the months of April and May, it’s much rainier on the mountain than it is during the dryer season of June to October. January through March tends to be a bit colder.