Climate zones of mount kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro’s Climate

Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano in East Africa. It is a popular tourist destination in the country of Tanzania, and attracts nearly 50,000 climbers each year!

The mountain is nestled in the highlands of the country. The Mount Kilimanjaro climate is generally cool and temperate. As hikers climb from the base of the mountain to the peak, they will see a large amount of climate variety.

Mount Kilimanjaro is home to 5 unique climate zones – all of which hikers pass through on their climb up to the summit, Uhuru Peak!

  1. Cultivation Zone
  2. Rainforest Zone
  3. Heather and Moorland Zone
  4. Alpine Desert Zone
  5. Arctic Zone

Let’s look at each of these unique biomes in detail:

1. Cultivation Zone

Elevation: 2,600 feet to 6,000 feet (800m – 1,800m)

On your way to Kilimanjaro’s gates, you will drive through this zone and be able to view these farms and villages. Many of the porters, cooks, and guides live in these villages with their families.

The cultivation zone receives the most rainfall annually. This zone also contains many rivers which are fed by the glacial melt from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. These conditions mean this land is great for farming. Many small villages live on this land and cultivate: coffee, avocados, mangos, and bananas.

Farmers carrying crops along the roadside!

2. Rainforest Zone

Elevation: 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet (1,800m – 2,800m)

No matter which route you choose with Kopa Tours, your first day of hiking will take you through the rainforest zone of Mount Kilimanjaro. Be prepared with waterproof clothing as this zone is predictably wet. The mild temperatures of the rainforest make this portion of the hike enjoyable.

You will travel through thick, rich forests which contain every shade of green imaginable. The density of the tree canopy means catching a glimpse of the sky is rare. What isn’t rare is an animal sighting, out of all the zones, you are most likely to catch a glimpse of wildlife while in the rainforest zone. Be on the lookout for Blue monkeys and Colobus monkeys.

Porters hiking through the lush rainforest of Kilimanjaro!

3. Heather and Moorland Zone

Elevation: 9,000 feet to 13,000 feet (2,800m – 4,000m)

Your second day on the mountain will take you through the Heather and Moorland zone of Mount Kilimanjaro. The rainforest gives way to the heather and moorland zone quickly as you ascend the mountain, you will see tall heather shrubs as you leave the rainforest behind. The temperatures of this zone can be unpredictable, dependant on the time of year, the day time temperatures can rise above 100°F and at night time can drop to 32°F.

As you continue to ascend through this zone, the huge heather shrubs will give way to tall, green and yellow grasses which make up the Moorland portion of this zone. As you enter the Moorland zone of Mount Kilimanjaro, you are reaching an elevation where you will start to pass above the clouds. From here until the peak, you will have spectacular views of the bright blue sky and a wide-open view of the stars in the sky at night time.

Kilimanjaro’s peaks can be seen from the heather and moorland zone!

4. Alpine Desert Zone

Elevation: 13,000 feet to 16,000 feet (4,000m – 5,000m)

Your hike continues into the Alpine Desert zone – you will quickly understand why the term ‘desert’ is an apt name for this climate zone. The plant life, compared to other zones, is minimal and understably so. Any plants living here have to subsist through subzero temperatures at night and harsh sunshine during the day. Volcanic rocks in all shapes and sizes fill this zone – showing Kilimanjaro’s active past.

While in the Alpine Desert Zone, you are close enough to the peak of Kibo to view its glaciers and steep ledges. Make sure to pack warm clothing for this portion of the hike, temperatures are known to drop down well below freezing.

Beautiful views of Kilimanjaro’s peaks!

5. Arctic Zone

Elevation: 16,000 feet to 19,340 feet (5,000m – 5,895m)

The final zone of Mount Kilimanjaro is a brutal one – you will attempt this zone on your final push to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. You will start at base camp (either Barafu Camp or Kibo Hut Camp) and during the night you will attempt to summit the Roof of Africa.

You will climb through slopes of scree, which is loose dirt and gravel, to reach Uhuru Peak. One of the benefits of climbing at night is that the frost helps to meld the scree together. This forms a better footing base for you the climb upon. You follow the switchback trail up to the rim of Mount Kilimanjaro (either reaching Stella Point or Gilman’s Point) before making your final push to Uhuru Peak. Upon reaching your goal, you will see the sign for Uhuru Peak where you can stop to take pictures and commemorate your accomplishment.

This zone is known for being bitterly cold and open to all environmental factors. Wear warm, weather proof items of clothing to fight the elements – hand warmers are also a great idea if you are using hiking poles.

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