When is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Few experiences can compete with summiting the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro and standing at the top of the highest point in Africa as the sun rises in the distance!
Mount Kilimanjaro, located in the captivating, elusive, and vastly diverse East African country of Tanzania, is undoubtedly one of the most phenomenal natural wonders and breathtaking mountains in all of Africa.
So, you’re thinking about climbing the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro? That means you’ve officially been ‘bitten’ by the ‘Kili bug’ – good on you! In turn it also means that you most probably (yes, we’re totally stereotyping here) spend every waking hour researching everything there is to know about Tanzania’s most glorious natural wonder, daydreaming about what it would feel and be like to climb the highest mountain peak in Africa and largest free-standing mountain rise in the world, and even dreaming about embarking on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure experience. Let’s be honest, how could you not be? Plus, we know the feeling all too well. It’s a yearning for the Roof of Africa. An unstoppable hunger for conquering Uhuru Peak (the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro), and a craving for the raw, real, rugged, and bucket-list adventure that ONLY a Mount Kilimanjaro climb can provide.
To ensure you’re well equipped and acquainted with the globally-renowned, highly sought-after, tall standing natural gem that is Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as up-to-date with everything there is to know about climbing and conquering the Kilimanjaro summit, including when exactly the best time is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, what you need to do to prepare for the grueling, yet breathtaking climb, what you can expect along the way, tips and tricks that may come in handy, and SO much more, we’ve put together this ultimate Mount Kilimanjaro guide just for you!
Now, get your head in the game & go show Mount Kilimanjaro who’s boss – You’ve got this!
About Mount Kilimanjaro
Located in the East African country of Tanzania, inside of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, just south of the Kenyan border, the famed and wildly acclaimed Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, standing tall at a staggering +/- 5,895 meters / 19,341 feet above sea level. Mount Kilimanjaro is also the largest free-standing mountain rise in the world. This means that Kilimanjaro does not form part of a mountain range, but instead, stands entirely alone – Tall, grounded, strong, independent, fierce, free, captivating, with a commanding, yet elusive, intriguing, and all-consuming (in the best possible way) presence.
It’s safe to say that the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro is a true natural wonder and Mother Nature masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Also called a stratovolcano (a term used to describe a very large volcano made of ash, lava, and rock), Kilimanjaro is essentially a dormant volcano made up of three cones visible from miles away: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo is the summit of the mountain and the tallest of the three volcanic formations. While Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, Kibo is dormant, however, the possibility that it could potentially erupt again is there. Before your head starts spinning and you fall down a deep rabbit hole, to help set your mind at ease, scientists estimate that the last time Mount Kilimanjaro erupted was 360,000 years ago. So, while there is a possibility, the likelihood is slim.
The highest point on Kibo’s crater rim is called Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom.” The mountain is also known for its snow-capped peak; however, scientists warn that the snow might disappear within the next 20 years or so – which is nothing short of tragic! But, if there’s one thing that is, and will forever remain true, irrespective of everything, it’s the undeniable and breathtaking natural beauty of the one and only Mount Kilimanjaro along with its snow-capped peaks, lush forests, and sweeping views that are simply unparalleled. There truly is nothing quite like it – and we dare you to prove us otherwise!
**Interesting Fact: In 1973, the mountain and its six surrounding forest corridors were named Kilimanjaro National Park in order to protect its unique environment. The park was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site in 1987. The area surrounding the mountain is also home various wildlife, including the blue monkey, elephants, buffaloes, and leopards (to mention merely a few).
When is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an adventure of a lifetime, and one that should not be taken lightly. To ensure you have the best experience possible, it is important to know when the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is as it can have a major impact on your overall climbing experience.
While it is entirely possible to climb Mount Kilimanjaro right throughout the year, certain months and seasons are far better than others. That being said – The two main Kilimanjaro trekking seasons are between January – March and June – October (Dry Season).
Many deem the dry season (June – October) to be the very best time of year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as the weather is generally dry and sunny with clear views, blue skies and temperatures ranging from the low 50s to the low 70s. This makes for ideal climbing conditions, as the trails that lead to the summit are not muddy, largely due to the low rainfall during this time, and the temperatures are just right. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro during its dry season (June – October) is also a great time if you want to catch a glimpse of the Great Wildebeest Migration as well as enjoy uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape while you ascend.
**Tip: While the months of June – October are considered the best time of year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (as this period is the driest and warmest months of the year), it is important to note that the weather can be unpredictable. Due to the often-unpredictable weather patterns it is crucial to always be ready and prepared for all types of weather conditions that may come your way.
The January – March season is often colder and snowier than June – October, but it is less popular with tourists as the latter corresponds with summer holidays.
During the wet seasons (April to May and November to December), the mountain can be extremely slippery, with frequent rains / storms and mudslides, making the climb much more challenging and dangerous. However, some people still choose to climb the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro during the wet season as it can offer unique views and experiences. This especially applies to experienced and highly skilled climbers.
If you want to avoid the large crowds of people that climb during high season (June to September), make sure you book your trek between December and March. However, you will find that the weather is colder in the evenings during that period. You will also encounter snow on the summit as well as a little rain along the way.
Why is the dry season the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that requires careful planning and preparation. One of the most important decisions you will make is when to climb. The dry season from late June to early October is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the following reasons:
- The dry season is the most popular time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro because the weather is generally favorable. The days are sunny and the nights are cold, but not too cold. This makes it easier to acclimatize to the altitude and reduces the risk of altitude sickness. The dry season also has the least amount of rainfall, which means that the trails are less muddy and slippery.
- The dry season is the best time to take in the stunning views of the mountain. The clear skies and lack of clouds mean that you can see for miles in every direction. The sunrises and sunsets are particularly spectacular during this time of year. The dry season is also a great time for wildlife sightings on the mountain, as animals are more likely to venture out in search of water.
- The dry season is also the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro if you are looking for a more challenging experience. The trails are less crowded during this time of year, which means that you can enjoy a more peaceful and solitary experience. The trails are also less slippery, which makes them more challenging and rewarding.
- Finally, the dry season is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro because it is the most cost-effective time to do so. The cost of flights, accommodation, and other services are generally lower during this time of year.
In conclusion, the dry season from late June to early October is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The weather is generally favorable, the views are spectacular, and the trails are less crowded and more challenging. It is also the most cost-effective time to climb the mountain.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes
While the time of year and the associated weather conditions are important factors to consider as you start to plan your ascent of Africa’s highest peak, however there is SO much more to it.
One of the most crucial aspects (in fact, it may be the MOST important aspect) to a successful Mount Kilimanjaro hike / climb and triumphantly summiting one of the world’s Seven Summits (the highest mountain peaks on each continent), is choosing the perfect / right Mount Kilimanjaro climbing route that suits your needs, requirements, fitness, skill, and experience level. This may in fact be the ‘make or break’ as they say.
To ensure you choose the Mount Kilimanjaro Route that is right for you, here is a quick overview of the various climbing routes:
1) Marangu Route
- Time: 6 Days
- Distance: 72 km (45 miles)
- Stops Include: Mandara Hut, Kibo Hut, Uhuru Peak, and Horombo Hut
This is the most well-known route / most popular route that people take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Nicknamed the “Coca-Cola Route,” it is also the most crowded route thanks to its gradual slope. The route also runs two ways, which contributes to the crowds.
Although it is the most famous of the Kilimanjaro routes, the success rate is considered medium because the pace of the route is quite fast and does not allow sufficient time for acclimatization along the way. There are huts along the way that you can camp in which makes this route an appealing option for those looking to undertake this Kilimanjaro hike in comfort.
2) Machame Route
- Time: 8 Days
- Distance: 62 km (38.5 miles)
- Stops Include: Shira Hut, Barranco, Barafu, Uhuru Peak, and Mweka Hut
By far the most popular route is the Kilimanjaro Machame Route. The popular Machame Route offers hikers and climbers a shorter, but more challenging, trekking duration with the bonus being that it features the most magnificent views and stunning scenery on your ascent to Uhuru Peak.
Although slightly more difficult than the Marangu Route, it has a much higher success rate because it offers a better acclimatization profile over a longer period of time.
The Machame Route’s popularity has only grown over time, not only due to its higher success rate, but also due to it being a more picturesque route than the Marangu Route.
3) Lemosho Route
- Time: 8 Days
- Distance: 70 km (43.5 miles)
- Stops Include: Shira Plateau, Moir, Karanga, Uhuru Peak, and Mweka Hut
The Lemosho Route, despite being one of the least popular, is perhaps the most beautiful Kilimanjaro trekking routes that exists. It’s extremely diverse and you have the best chances of spotting some amazing wildlife along this route.
The Lemosho Route is a longer route, especially compared to the popular Machame Route. The longer / increased length of the route is primarily due to it being more of a gradual ascend to the summit – making it less challenging and strenuous. While the Lemosho Route is deemed less popular, it certainly isn’t any less beautiful or captivating, which is why several people highly recommend this route when taking on the incredible Mount Kilimanjaro challenge, especially for hikers and climbers who have limited trekking experience.
You’ll complete this hike in eight days, giving you plenty of time to adjust to the altitude. The Lemosho Route starts to the west of Kilimanjaro, making it a bit more remote and therefore more expensive than other routes. The Shira Route is a variation of the Lemosho Route, starting at a higher altitude a bit to the north. It joins the Lemosho Route after two days.
4) Rongai Route
- Time:7 Days
- Distance: 73 km (45 miles)
- Stops Include: Simba Cave, Mawenzi Tarn Hut, Uhuru Peak, and Horombo Hut
The Rongai Route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. Like the Lemosho Route, this makes it a bit more remote and therefore a less popular choice. It’s one of the easier route options, making it perfect for those who want to get off the more popular paths for a feeling of remote wilderness but still want the high probability of making the summit.
While it is a less popular route, it offers options of faster or gradual ascents. To top off your experience, you may be treated to amazing sightings of big game, such as antelope, elephant, and buffalo.
5) Umbwe Route
- Time: 6 Days
- Distance: 53 km (33 miles)
- Stops Include: Umbwe Cave, Barranco, Karanga, Uhuru Peak, and Mweka Hut
The Umbwe Route is the least popular route for Kilimanjaro trekking, and for good reason. The route is very steep and direct. Although it takes less time to climb than other routes, it offers a poor acclimatization profile, which leads to an overall low success rate.
If you do choose to hike this route, some kind of pre-acclimatization is recommended. Less than 1000 people climb Kilimanjaro on this route each year.