The best time to climb Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro’s trekking seasons
The mountain can be climbed all year round. The main trekking seasons on Kilimanjaro correspond with the mountain’s two ‘dry’ seasons. These are January to mid-March and June to October. Note that it will still probably rain on your trek during these months too – it’s rare to climb without getting rained on at least once. You can read more about the mountain’s seasons by visiting our weather page.
Of course you can take a climb in the rainy season. But there is a much higher chance you’ll encounter rain, and the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi are likely to be wreathed in thick cloud too. Indeed, several agencies even suspend their operations in November and December.
It’s true that visibility is less at this time though we take issue with those companies that say that your chances of reaching the summit are significantly lower too; that simply isn’t the case. True, once every couple of years or so there may be too much snow, blocking you from reaching the summit. But this is rare. So as long as you are dressed for the conditions then, in our experience, you’ve got just as good a chance of getting to the summit.
Curiously, Christmas and New Year, when the weather is far from perfect, are actually amongst the most popular times for climbing.
The following graphs give you an idea of the temperature and precipitation on Kilimanjaro at various times of year.
Average temperature chart at various altitudes on Kilimanjaro
As to the relative merits of the two trekking seasons, the differences are small though significant:
The January-to-March trekking season
The January to March season tends to be (slightly) colder and there is a much greater chance of snow on the path at this time. The days, however, are often clearer, with only the occasional brief shower. It is usually an exceptionally beautiful time to climb and is often a little quieter than the other peak season of June to October, which coincides with the main academic holidays in Europe and the West. In this latter season the clouds tend to hang around the tree-line following the heavy rains of March to May. Once above this altitude, however, the skies are blue and brilliant and the chance of precipitation minimal (though still present).
The June-to-October trekking season
Although the June to October season tends to be busier, this is not necessarily a disadvantage. For example, if you are travelling independently to Tanzania but wish, for the sake of companionship or simply to cut down on costs, to join up with other travellers for your Kilimanjaro trek, then the high visitor numbers in the June-October peak season will give you the best chance of doing this. September in particular is a very busy month – probably the busiest on the mountain.
But even if you do crave solitude when you walk, it can still be found on the mountain during this peak season. After all, the trails are long, so you can always find large gaps between trekkers to allow you to walk in peace. And besides, the mountain is just so huge that its presence will dwarf your fellow trekkers to the point where they become, if you wish them to be, quite unnoticeable.
Chart of snowfall throughout the year at the summit of Kilimanjaro
Our favourite time to climb Kilimanjaro
Personally, we like to trek in March and October. These are our favourite months. There are two main reasons for this:
1) The weather is usually good and the skies are often clear during these months.
2) Because they both fall just before the rainy seasons, they tend to be quieter than other months. People are probably afraid that the rains will come early, so opt to avoid these months. But in our experience, the rains are more likely to fail than arrive early. Thus the mountain is usually emptier, and quieter. And yet the weather is still lovely.
Note that June and late December, though they also fall outside of the rainy seasons, but only just, are not such good times to be on Kilimanjaro in my experience. The clouds tend to linger after the rainy season, even if the rains have largely finished, so views are restricted.
Full Moon and New Moon treks
We used to offer Full Moon Kilimanjaro treks – which many companies, as they usually do subsequently copied! We did it because we realised that the final push up the slopes of Kibo to the summit -a walk that is traditionally done at night – is best done under the light of a full moon. Visibility is that much greater, of course. There is also those who say that the weather during the full moon period is more settled and calm.
These full moon treks proved very popular – some would say too popular; and if you want to enjoy the advantages provided by the full moon, but want to avoid the (imaginary) crowds, then you can always choose to climb a day or two later or earlier.
If the Full Moon doesn’t appeal, then how about a New Moon Kilimanjaro climb? After all, one of the chief pleasures of a Kilimanjaro climb is to gaze up at the stars. The lack of light pollution and the height that you are sleeping at means the Heavens are just spectacular. By choosing to climb over a New Moon, the light reflected from the Moon to the Earth is at its lowest, allowing you to see the stars at their brilliant best!