Climbing to Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is a fantastic experience. The landscape and the temperatures are as diverse as the cultures you come across on the African continent. When trekking, you cover about 5.000 meters of altitude. The differences in altitude between the lower slopes and the peak are so great, that you can divide Kilimanjaro into five different climates zones. Let’s have a taste of the five-course meal that is Mount Kilimanjaro.
If you look at Kilimanjaro from the side, you can see certain levels with its own characteristics. This gives you a very rough indication on the five different climate zones.
Now, let's have a more detailed look into the climates zones of Kilimanjaro.
Climate Zone 1: Farmlands
Zone 1 on Kilimanjaro is known as the cultivated zone. The altitude ranges between 800m and 1800m. In this zone you can find a lot of rivers that are formed by the run-off of the glaciers on top of the mountain. Many of the guides and porters are from this part of Kilimanjaro. The farms on which their families farm can be seen while driving to the starting point of your trekking adventure. The altitude ranges from 800 and 1.800m (2.600 to 6.000ft) and there is annual precipitation of 500 to 1.800mm.
Climate Zone 2: Rain Forest
A rainforest on the slopes of Kilimanjaro? Most certainly. Zone 2 is between 1.800 and 2.800m (6.000 - 9.200ft) and receives the most rain. If it’s going to rain on your trekking to Uhuru Peak, it will likely happen here. The temperatures here are usually mild and because of the vegetation, you are shaded from the sun. When hiking through the rain forest it is hard to believe that there is snow on the top.
Climate Zone 3: Heather and Moorland
The third zone begins with heather and ends with moorland. Talking altitude, you are between 2.800m and 4.000m (9.000 - 13.000ft). As you are gaining more altitude, temperatures can start to have a wider variety. During the day you can experience temperatures well over 35’C or 95’F and at night it can drop all the way to the freezing point. As you gain more vertical meters, you will reach Moorland. Here you will be more exposed to the merciless African sun and for that, you need to make sure to pack sunscreen.
Climate Zone 4: Alpine Desert
Alpine? Yes, you are at Alpine altitude. This is one of the most fascinating climate zones on Mount Kilimanjaro. Here, not a lot of vegeation grows. The differences in temperature between night and day are simply too big. Think a lot of rocks, sand, and nothingness. In the morning you can see frost and during the rest of the day you are very exposed. You start to see Kibo and the summit of Kilimanjaro. Use some extra sunscreen, so your selfie at the top won’t be a sunburned one. You are now between 4.000 and 5000m altitude (13.000 - 16.000ft). Cuddle up at night.
Climate Zone 5: Arctic Zone
The summit zone. Glaciers, snow and temperatures that can drop well below zero. This is the zone between 5.000 and 5.895m (16.000 - 19.340ft). That is high. Everest Base Camp would fit right into this climate zone. At the start of this climate zone you can find scree, which can be hard to trek on. Many summit attempts start in the night, when the surface is frozen. The higher you reach, the more ice you get to see. Temperatures are far below freezing point at night and the Tanzanian sun is blazing during the day. Get an idea of the latest weather forecast for Uhuru Peak at 5.895m.
Find out what the best season is for trekking on Mount Kilimanjaro. Want to polish up your Swahili skills? Do you have any more insightful information or do you have a question? Let us know in the comments.