Imagine this… You’ve been dreaming of Tanzania for as long as you can remember, you’ve saved up for that safari-of-a-lifetime and finally you’ve arrived in Tanzania… only to discover it’s a week into the rain season or after the end of the great migration. Horror! But be reassured, after reading this article, that won’t happen to you! Here’s all my tips on the best time to visit Tanzania.

Of course not everybody comes to Tanzania for the same reason and the best time to practice your beach bum skills in Zanzibar isn’t necessarily the best time to see the great migration or climb Kilimanjaro, so this post mentions some of the different reasons why you might be coming to Tanzania and their best timing first and then gives you a month-per-month overview of factors to consider per month.

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TANZANIA: WHAT TO CONSIDER

The weather

Tanzania has 2 rain seasons and 2 dry periods in between. Each of these 2 rain seasons and each of these 2 dry periods are quite different from each other, so there’s a total of 4 pretty distinctive seasons. Of course like anywhere else in the world, the climate is changing and the timings of these seasons can change from what’s written below. Tanzania is also very big and altitude plays an important role so the information below gives general patterns but specific temperatures, rainfall etc. can vary for different areas. I therefore advise you to always check for your specific destination. Even between here in Moshi and Arusha, which is just 75 km, there’s a difference in temperature of a few degrees as Arusha is located at a slightly higher altitude. 

Heavy rain season: (mid-)March to (mid-)May

Long and very heavy rains that can last for hours. These rains are nothing like the rains you’ll experience in eg. Asia during rain season, you know, the ones that you’re actually kinda happy about because they create freshness for at least half an hour. Nope, that’s not what the rains in Tanzania are like. They’re much longer and can really ruin a trip. 

They can turn rough roads (there’s a lot of these in Tanzania) into mud-slides and even make them inaccessible. It happens that parts of national parks are inaccessible during rain season or that the drive to get there takes twice as long as planned. Animals hide from the rain so you’re much less likely to see them and a day at the beach in Zanzibar also sounds like less fun in the pouring rain. Day trips involving hiking in rural areas might also get cancelled, as it can simple become too dangerous to walk on the slippery paths. 

So all in all I’d recommend skipping this season if you’re traveling short-term and have a fixed schedule as it’s simply not the best time to visit Tanzania. If you’re here for longer and can be flexible, it might not be such a problem as there definitely are also many sunny days in between the rainy ones and it can even get quite warm on those days. I’ve done some amazing safaris and other trips during rain season so it definitely is possible.

The best time to visit Tanzania
The road from Moshi to Chemka hotsprings in rain season
The best time to visit Tanzania
Me in May 2019, on 1 of the (give or take) 5 days I wore shoes that year.
The best time to visit Tanzania
Also me in May 2019

Cooler dry season: (mid-)May to September

Once the heavy rains are over, the skies get clearer and the days quickly get warmer again but the evenings and nights can be cooler. Keep in mind the sun goes down around 6.30-7 PM every day in Tanzania so the night starts early. How cool exactly depends a lot on where you are exactly, as temperatures in Dar Es Salaam, where it’s basically too hot all year long, will be very different than those at Ngorongoro crater, eg. I advise to check for the activities that you’re planning to do, to make sure you bring the appropriate clothing and I’ll also share tips about this in relevant articles. 

I love this time of the year as the days are bearable and nature is super green after the rains and it might be MY best time to visit Tanzania. In places like Zanzibar you probably won’t need more than a light sweater at night which for me is perfect, but if you want hot hot hot, it might be better to come in the hot dry season instead. 

The best time to visit Tanzania
June is sunflower month. Yep, that's Kilimanjaro in the background.

Hot dry season: October-November & February

Sometime during September/October, temperatures start rising. The days go from warm to hot and the evenings become so pleasant that often you don’t even need a sweater. The skies are the clearest of the year and here in Moshi we get to see Kilimanjaro all the time (she often hides behind the clouds during the rest of the year).

High-season & low-season: how busy is it & what's the impact on prices?

The busy season in Tanzania coincides mostly with school holidays in Europe. July and August are super busy and so is the Christmas period, especially on Zanzibar and the north of the mainland. The south is much quieter all throughout the year. On the mainland, the Christmas period is still doable in terms of how many other tourists you’ll see but on Zanzibar you’ll see tons of tourists that come for just one week and only visit Zanzibar as it’s warm, there’s several direct flights from Europe and – contrary to some other warm ‘winter’ destinations – there’s almost no time difference. So Zanzibar really is evolving into that and hotels can be fully booked months in advance. 

Low-season is, of course, during the heavy rain season, so from March to May and you really won’t see lots of tourists in those months. All other times of the year are in between when it comes to how busy they are. 

When it comes to the price of accommodation, it’s not always uniform. A lot of the cheaper options offer the same price year-round so if you’re a budget traveler, your chosen time to travel will most likely not make any difference. The more expensive options will offer different prices in different seasons but the number of seasons they consider and their exact dates often vary. Some only have high- and low-season and in this case usually only March-May are cheaper. Others consider 3 or even 4 seasons. It also depends on where exactly you’re going. Eg. the lodges in the north of the Serengeti will be more expensive at the time of the great migration and the ones in the south often don’t have their high-season in July and August but in January and February as this is when the calving takes places over there and most tourists visit. Also, watch out for Holiday supplements that are typically applied by the more expensive lodges on 24th, 25th and 31st December and 1st January, as these can be quite high. 

The best time to visit Tanzania
The Serengeti in July. Don't be surprised if there's 10 or more other cars parked in the same spot.

The great migration

Let’s start with the good news: the great migration is a phenomenon that happens in the Serengeti and parts of Ngorongoro Conservation Area all year long. Eg. January-February is calving season and the calving happens in Ndutu area, which is the northern part of Ngorongoro and the southern part of the Serengeti. December, January and March are also good months to see the wildebeest in this area.

But what most people mean when they ask to see the great migration is the crossing of the Mara river in the northern Serengeti, and timing is much more important here. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to predict as it depends a lot on the weather and rainfall but generally, August is your best bet to see the migration from the Serengeti into the Maasai Mara in Kenya. They usually make the crossing again in the other direction in October.

I’ll be writing a full guide about the great migration as there’s other things to consider and will link it here when it’s ready.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

If you plan to climb Kilimanjaro, of course the weather is super important as it can make or break your climb or at least make it far more unpleasant than it should be. The dry and wet seasons on Kilimanjaro are the same as in the rest of the country but there’s quite a bit more to say about the climate on Kilimanjaro. I’ve already written a full guide about this on the website of my tour business which you can find here

Zanzibar & the coast

As for the weather in Zanzibar and on the coast of the mainland of Tanzania, you can follow what I’ve written earlier. Generally, these areas don’t get super cold at night in July, August and September so they’re perfect places to spend your summer holiday.

One specific point I’d like to mention about Zanzibar and the coast of Tanzania are the tides and the seaweed. Zanzibar’s west coast doesn’t have strong tides and not that much seaweed (on top of that the beach of eg. Kendwa gets cleaned) but this is not the case for the east coast of the island or the coast of the mainland. The phenomenon is most present at the end of the year, around November, so if you’re not a fan of big tidal differences and lots of seaweed, it might be better to choose a destination on the west side of Zanzibar during this period. 

Joining a group tour

If you’re traveling solo or in a small group, prices for private safaris and mountain climbs might very well be above your budget. To give you an idea, the price for a solo safari can easily be twice that of a group safari with a total of 6 people. And group safaris are already not cheap…

Several tour operators organize group tours and the availability of these groups of course depends on how many people visit the country during the requested time. So if you want to be sure to easily find a group, I’d say high season would be the best time to visit Tanzania for you.

TANZANIA PER MONTH

January

The beginning of January is high season so it might be busy and more expensive but once the Christmas Holidays are over, it quickly gets much quieter. It’s hot and you might experience some rainfall but this shouldn’t ruin your trip. 

Safaris: It’s a good time for safaris in the north, with the calving season as a highlight in the Ndutu plains. This month is not ideal for visiting the southern and western parks. 

Kilimanjaro: This is a great month for climbing Kilimanjaro but be sure to not forget your extra-warm jacket and sleeping bag as temperatures at the top are the lowest of the year and there’s a high chance of snow.

Zanzibar: Good time for Zanzibar with warm weather, although you might experience a bit of rainfall.

The best time to visit Tanzania
Kilimanjaro in January - the last stretch to the summit

February

Calm and hot, that’s Tanzania in February in 2 words. This is a really good time if you like the heath.

Safaris: Very good time for safaris in the north, with the calving season still present in the Ndutu plains. This month is also not ideal for visiting the southern and western parks. 

Kilimanjaro: February is usually even better than January so it’s definitely a yes for climbing Kili in February.

Zanzibar: The same as January but minus the rain, so perfect if you want to work on your tan.

March - May

The beginning of March can still be very similar to February but around mid-March, rain season starts and it’s generally not recommended to visit Tanzania if you’re only coming for a short trip and have a strict itinerary. 

Safaris: Animals hide from the rain, which can considerably reduce the number of sightings. Roads can get slippery or even inaccessible and parts of parks (or sometimes even entire parks) might be closed. 

Kilimanjaro: The southern routes are definitely not recommended as this is where it rains the most. The northern routes such as Rongai get a lot less rain so if you absolutely have to travel during these months, I’d strongly advise you to pick one of these routes.

Zanzibar: Only if you also want to get wet when you’re NOT swimming. 

The best time to visit Tanzania
Kilimanjaro mid-March. Rain every single day and a struggle to dry the clothes upon arrival at the camps.

June

The rains are usually over and vegetation is super green. June is part of the cold season so check the clothing recommendations for where you’re going.

Safaris: Animals are no longer hiding from the rain but the vegetation is lush so they might be more difficult to see. Other than that, June is an excellent month to visit most parks in the entire country.

Kilimanjaro: This is a good time to climb Kilimanjaro with little chance of snow. 

Zanzibar: Great time for visiting Zanzibar if you don’t mind temperatures that are just a little bit lower at night.

Photo guide - A safari in Tanzania - Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park in June. Of course when you're an elephant, it's a little bit more difficult to hide behind some high grass.

July-August-September

Vegetation gradually becomes less green and just like in June, nights can get colder. This is high season so prices for private excursions are high and there will be crowds in most places. Book early!

Safaris: Perfect time for safaris in terms of climate and animal sightings as the vegetation gradually gets more dry. These are busy months in the northern parks though, so if you want to avoid the crowds, it might be best to head to the southern parks. August is your best bet for seeing the Mara river crossing of the wildebeest in the Serengeti. They’ll be in Kenya the rest of this time but there’s still more than enough other animals to see. 

Kilimanjaro: This is a good time to climb Kilimanjaro with little chance of snow. 

Zanzibar: Great time for visiting Zanzibar if you don’t mind temperatures that are just a little bit lower at night.

October-November

The best time to visit Tanzania
Nungwi in July

Vegetation is now often very dry and it starts to get warmer and warmer, both during the day and at night. Days can be hot and nights are usually pleasant without having to wear many layers. The high-season is over.

Safaris: Perfect time for safaris in terms of climate and animal sightings as vegetation is now usually super dry. The wildebeest of the Serengeti come back from Kenya during this time. This is a great month for safaris in all national parks.

Kilimanjaro: This is a good time to climb Kilimanjaro with little chance of snow. 

Zanzibar: Great time for visiting Zanzibar, temperatures are usually hot during the day and pleasant at night. Pick the beaches on the west side of the island if you’re not a fan of big tidal differences and lots of seaweed.

Tarangire National Park in October. Keep scrolling to see how quickly it can get green again.

December

This is usually the start of the short rain season and of course the Christmas Holidays also fall in this month, making it an absolute high-season. My advice would be to book early, especially if you want to go to Zanzibar. This month is usually very hot, both during the day and at night.

Safaris: Perfect time for safaris in terms of climate and animal sightings, in almost all the parks of Tanzania. 

Kilimanjaro: The rain season has an effect on the mountain but during this time of the year, most of the rain falls on the northern part of the mountain. The much more visited southern part of the mountain gets a lot less rain so it’s usually not a problem at all to climb Kilimanjaro over one of these routes (eg. Marangu, Machame and Lemosho). It’s cold at the summit so bring appropriate clothes and gear.

Zanzibar: Great time for visiting Zanzibar, temperatures are usually hot during the day and pleasant at night. Pick the beaches on the west side of the island if you’re not a fan of big tidal differences and lots of seaweed.

Tarangire at the end of December
The best time to visit Tanzania

Have you been to Tanzania? When and what was it like? And what’s the best time to visit Tanzania for you? Let me know in the comments! 

3 thoughts on “THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TANZANIA”

  1. Hi, it’s very good information especially for a person love to travel abroad. I travel many times and visit different countries with joy and happiness. I didn’t travel to Tanzania but after seeing these details I make up my mind to travel to Tanzania. Thanks for sharing the details of such a wonderful place.

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