How Cold Is It At The Top Of Mount Kilimanjaro

Tristan Balme How cold is it at the top of kilimanjaro

As an avid hiker and adventurer, I had always dreamed of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. After months of preparation and training, I finally embarked on my journey to the top of the mountain.

The summit of Kilimanjaro is typically between -7 and -1 when you are standing there. Crucially, this is often lower that the forecast temperature because you summit at night and reach the peak for sunrise (a.k.a the coldest time of the day!). Temperatures vary by season and can seem much much colder if there ismind chill added to the mix.

But it’s not all freezing temperatures on the hike. As you journey through the high jungle, moorland, the alpine desert, and the arctic zones, you’ll experience everything nature can throw at you!

In this post, I’ll share my experience and insight on the weather and temperatures you can expect while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

How cold is it at the top of mount Kilimanjaro?

Temperatures at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro can drop to as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius), regardless of the time of year. However, during the summer months (June to October), temperatures at the summit are generally milder, with daytime temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -1 degrees Celsius).

During the winter months (November to May), temperatures at the summit are colder, with daytime temperatures ranging from 0 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -6 degrees Celsius).

Tristan Balme uhuru peak on kilimanjaro

Best Time To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a challenging, but rewarding experience that can be accomplished year-round. However, the weather and temperature conditions vary greatly depending on the time of year. The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the dry season, which runs from late June to October and from December to early March. During this time, the weather is generally clear and dry, and temperatures are milder, making it easier to climb.

Kilimanjaro Temperatures By Month

The Short Wet Season: October, November, and December

During the short wet season, which runs from October to December, you can expect to encounter afternoon rain showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures at the base of the mountain are generally warm, ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius), but they can drop significantly at higher elevations.

The Short Dry Season: January to February

The short dry season, which runs from January to February, is one of the best times to climb Kilimanjaro. During this time, the weather is generally clear, dry, and mild, making it easier to climb. Temperatures at the base of the mountain are similar to the short wet season, ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius).

The Long Wet Season: March to May

The long wet season, which runs from March to May, is the rainiest time of year on the mountain. During this time, you can expect to encounter heavy rain and thunderstorms, particularly in the afternoons. Temperatures at the base of the mountain are generally warm, ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius), but they can drop significantly at higher elevations.

MonthTypical WeatherAverage Temperature (F)Average Temperature (C)
JanuaryClear and dry70-8021-27
FebruaryClear and dry70-8021-27
MarchHeavy rain and thunderstorms70-8021-27
AprilHeavy rain and thunderstorms70-8021-27
MayHeavy rain and thunderstorms70-8021-27
JuneGenerally clear and dry20-30-7 to -1
JulyGenerally clear and dry20-30-7 to -1
AugustGenerally clear and dry20-30-7 to -1
SeptemberGenerally clear and dry20-30-7 to -1
OctoberAfternoon rain showers and thunderstorms70-8021-27
NovemberAfternoon rain showers and thunderstorms70-8021-27
DecemberAfternoon rain showers and thunderstorms70-8021-27

Kilimanjaro Weather Through the Climate Zones

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro takes you through five distinct climate zones, each with its unique weather and temperature conditions.

Cultivation Zone

The cultivation zone is the lowest and warmest climate zone on the mountain, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). This zone is characterized by lush vegetation and is home to many villages and farms.

Tristan Balme safari in tanzania

Forest Zone

The forest zone is the second-lowest climate zone on the mountain, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 21 degrees Celsius). This zone is characterized by dense forests and is home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys and elephants.

Heath/Moorland Zone

The heath/moorland zone is the third climate zone on the mountain, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to 10 degrees Celsius). This zone is characterized by sparse vegetation and rocky terrain.

Tristan Balme kilimanjaro shira plateu

Alpine/High Desert Zone

The alpine/high desert zone is the fourth climate zone on the mountain, with temperatures ranging from 0 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -6 degrees Celsius). This zone is characterized by rocky terrain and sparse vegetation.

Tristan Balme porters trudging up kilimanjaro

Arctic Zone

The arctic zone is the fifth and final climate zone on the mountain, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 to -1 degrees Celsius) but sometimes as low as -25C. This zone is characterized by snow and ice and is home to only a few hardy plants and animals.

Tristan Balme the southern ice fields of kilimanajro
ZoneTypical WeatherAverage Temperature (F)Average Temperature (C)
Cultivation ZoneLush vegetation70-8021-27
Forest ZoneDense forests, wildlife50-7010-21
Heath/Moorland ZoneSparse vegetation, rocky terrain30-50-1 to 10
Arctic ZoneSnow and ice, few plants and animals10-30-12 to -1
Alpine/High Desert ZoneRocky terrain, sparse vegetation0-20-18 to -6

Kilimanjaro Weather Along The Hike (By Day)

Writing this guide, I realised that learning the different climate zones is all well and good, but it doesn’t address how you’ll experience the temperatures while actually doing the hike.

So, below I break down the climate and temperatures for each day of a standard Lemosho/Machame 7-9 day trek.

Mount Kilimanjaro Weather on Day 1 and 2

During the first two days of the climb, you will pass through the cultivation and forest zones. The weather during this time is generally warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) during the day and dropping to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) at night.

Mount Kilimanjaro Weather on Days 3 – 5

During days 3-5 of your climb, you will pass through the heath/moorland and arctic zones. The weather during this time is generally cooler and drier, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to 10 degrees Celsius) during the day and dropping to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) at night.

Mount Kilimanjaro Summit Weather

As you approach the summit, you will enter the alpine/high desert zone, where the weather is the coldest and driest on the mountain. Temperatures at the summit can drop to as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius), and wind chill can make it feel even colder.

Mount Kilimanjaro Weather on Days 6 -9

After reaching the summit, you will begin your descent through the same climate zones in reverse order. The weather during the descent is generally warmer and more humid, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 21 degrees Celsius) during the day and dropping to around 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celsius) at night.

Conclusion

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an incredible and rewarding experience, but it also requires careful planning and preparation. By understanding the weather and temperature conditions on the mountain, you can ensure that you are well-equipped for the journey ahead. Remember to pack appropriately for the climate zones you will encounter and be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

Kilimanjaro Temperature FAQ’s

Do you need oxygen at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro?

While it is not necessary to use supplemental oxygen while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, some climbers choose to use it to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness.

How cold is it at the top of Kilimanjaro in January?

Temperatures at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro can drop to as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius), regardless of the time of year.

Is it hard to breathe at the top of Kilimanjaro?

The high altitude can make it difficult to breathe at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, but most climbers are able to acclimate to the altitude with proper preparation.

How cold does it get at night on Kilimanjaro?

Temperatures at night on Mount Kilimanjaro can drop to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius), depending on the climate zone you are in.

What is the coldest month on Kilimanjaro?

The coldest month on Mount Kilimanjaro is typically January, which falls during the short dry season.

Can you shower on Kilimanjaro?

Most campsites on Mount Kilimanjaro do not have showers, but climbers can use wet wipes or take a sponge bath to stay clean

Kilimanjaro Travel Planning Cheatsheet

 

🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Tanzania?

100% YES! — Tanzania has now introduceed “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens! Tourists need travel insurance in case anything happens on your visit. Also be aware many policies won't cover high altitude hiking as it's a high risk activity!

(that's right, check the t&c's on your complimentary credit card insurance

I highly recommend World Nomads as you can get specific add-ons for high altitude hiking UP TO 6000m (Which most travel insurance companies don't offer!)

🎫 Do I need a visa for Tanzania?

Probably not — Tanzania now provide a visa on arrival (VoA) for most western countires which allows you stay for up to 90 days. However, some other countries do need a pre-approved eVisa (check here!). VoAs cost $50 USD for a single entry - Note, US Citizens are required to get a Multi-Entry visa which costs $100 USD. (View visa prices here)

If transiting through Kenya (a lot of people fly via Nairobi), you'll need a Kenyan visa too. Visa's cost $20 for a 3 day transit visa and $50 for a toursit visa

(By the way, on both my interactions with the imigration officers in kenya they tried to scam me, so know what your obliged to pay and BRING THE EXACT CASH for the visa!)

💉Do I need any vaccinations for Tanzania?

YES! Make sure you are up-to-date with all your vaccines. Common travel vaccines include Hep A/B + Typhoid, and Diphtheria + Tetanus.

A yellow fever vaccination isn't a requirment to visit Kilimanjaro but is for neighbouring areas in East Africa. In reality, you will might not be allowed back into your home country on your return (I was asked for proof of vaccination upon returning to Australia) so getting this jab prior made for good peace of mind. 

Rabies is an issue in Tanzania but the vaccine is expensive and ineffective as a preventative measure (it only lasts a few years and you'll need to get them again if you require treatment). If bitten by a stray dog seek immediate medical attention!

As always, talk to your GP or specialised travel doctor a few weeks BEFORE you leave.

🏩 What’s the best Kilimanjaro Tour operators?

Your only realy two options here are Kumano Travel and Booking.com. Its a complicated process so I wrote this guide here on the best kumano kodo accomodation options

If you don't want to figure it all out (it's meant to be a holiday after all) you can book a package tour. Here are my recommendations for both guided and self-guided.

🚌 What's the public transport like in Tanzania?

There is a good basic network of local and inter-city busses in Tanzania and travel this way is very cheap. Domestic flight are also very affordable and a far more comfortable option. Checkout Busbora for booking bus tickets online.

📲 How do I get internet/data/wifi in Tanzania and on the mountain?

This one needs a whole nother article, but the short version is prepaid SIM cards are cheap and availible to tourists and locals alike (You don't need a pricey tourst SIM!)

Your cheapest option is buying a physical sim card on the street corner once landed and getting the shop assistant to help you set it up. I went with Vodacom and had generally good coverage, even up on Kili!

Another option if you're visiting other African countries is the Nomad eSIM. This is a little more expensive but gives you connectivity across 14 neighbouring African Countries!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to Tanzania?

For finding cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner. Once you find the flight you're looking for, I'd then suggest booking directly with the carrier (even if it costs a few $$ more than with one of the agreggators/agencies).

💧Can you drink the water in Tanzania?

Safest not to — tap water in Tanzania may be OK (the locals drink it) but is generally untreated and not reccommended for tourists. Purchase bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing.

🏔️💧Can you drink the water on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Yes — Your tour company with ensure the water provided to you is safe to drink by either carrying in bottled water, or by treating stream water with purification tablets or by boiling it. If you want to drink water from the rivers and streams you generally can but should do so at your own risk. ALWAYS follow best practice and drink from fast flowing water as far up stream as possible. I'd also recommend a Brita Water Bottle for rehydrating on the trail safely. 

 

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