Above all else, Tanzania's two distinct rainy seasons determine the best (and worst) time to visit the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar. Whether you want to witness the Great Migration while on safari, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, or explore the spice-scented alleyways of Zanzibar, read on to find out more about the best time of year to visit Tanzania.

When should you visit Tanzania?

Because Tanzania is so close to the equator, with temperatures virtually unchanged year-round, it doesn’t have the four-season cycle of North America or Europe. Instead, it is marked by distinct wet and dry seasons.

Tanzania is subject to two rainy seasons. Heavy monsoons occur in April and May, and light rains fall in late October through early December.

For the vast majority of visitors, this will determine the best time to visit, regardless of what you want to experience. For example, the two rainy seasons determine the seasonal movement of wildlife, while the heavy downpours of April-May can make many roads impassable and it is difficult to get around. The short rains of November/December are lighter and less disruptive.

If Tanzanian culture is a prime interest, you might time your visit to coincide with major festivals. Most annual festivals are held at the same time every year. However, Eid al-Fitr, the celebration to mark the end of Ramadan, takes place in Zanzibar according to the lunar Hijri calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian 365-day solar year. Hence, they typically move forward 11 days with each subsequent year.

The following should be your main considerations:


Renowned for the greatest wildlife concentrations in Africa, the Serengeti plains lie at an altitude of 3,000 to 6,000 feet (900 to 1,800 m) and temperatures are therefore mild year-round. The great clockwise animal migrations for which the Serengeti is famous are driven by an endless search for food and water.

In June, the water holes start drying out and grass becomes scarce. Millions of wildebeest, accompanied by zebras, gazelles, impalas, and elands, start moving west then north to a lusher dry-season refuge in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. In October, the animals start drifting back to the eastern Serengeti timed for the November rains, to complete an annual circuit.

Wildlife viewing is possible year-round, but is best in the July-October and January-March dry seasons. See below for seasonal variations. April and May are best avoided.

Ngorongoro Crater

The world’s largest intact volcanic caldera is home to the highest density of big game in Africa. The wildlife mainly stays in the crater year-round, and the crater floor is busy with safari vehicles in every season except the April-May monsoon. Hence, if a more personalized experience is your desire, it is best experienced in the January-March low season. This coincides with the same calving as in the Serengeti, with a higher chance of viewing predation.

Southern game parks

The same seasonal factors affect the southern game parks, although these do not experience the great migrations. Nonetheless, they also don't experience the crowding that can affect the more popular northern game parks during dry season months.

Trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro

This popular trek is primarily a dry-season activity (July-September being optimal), although many trekkers make the journey during the ‘Short Rains’ of November-December. However, there is always the chance of weather changing suddenly and dramatically, regardless of season.

Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam (the capital) and the nearby tropical island of Zanzibar are good to visit at most times of the year, thanks to their balmy weather, consistent sunshine, and cooling ocean breezes. However, the coastal areas are hotter than the central plateau, with temperatures averaging between 75°F (24°C) in July/August and 82°F (28°C) in February, the hottest month. Although the best weather is during the June to October dry season, this coincides with safari high season when Zanzibar is popular as a post-safari add-on; hotels often sell out and prices are at a premium.


Season Pros Cons Best for Where to Visit
Jan - Mar (Dry-Season) Dry and sunny. Less touristy than the June-October dry season, with lower prices Zanzibar can be hot and humid Trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro. Viewing calving and predation in game parks. Excellent birdwatching Serengeti for calving. Zanzibar for Sausi za Basura cultural festival
Apr - May (Wet Season) Dry, sunny, and hot. Migration begins in the Serengeti Heavy, consistent rainfall. Many lodges close in Southern and Western Circuit parks Ngorongoro Crater at its least visited Dar e Salaam for Unification Day parade
Jun - Oct (Dry Season) Clear, sunny skies. Serengeti migration at its peak. Everywhere, wildlife easily seen at waterholes Busiest time of year, with highest prices. Ngorongoro Crater can be packed with safari vehicles Trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro. Zanzibar beach holiday and whale-watching Serengeti for the migration and Serengeti Cultural Festival. Mahale National Park for chimpanzees
Nov - Dec (Wet Season) Relatively uncrowded game parks and lower prices. Serengeti migration Rainy, but less so than April-May. Humid in Zanzibar. Christmas and New Year can be busy, with peak-season rates Southerly migration in Serengeti Zanzibar for scuba diving. Gombe and Mahale Mountain national parks for chimpanzees

Dry Season (January to March)

A herd of elephants with snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro as a backdrop

Wildlife Viewing: Although the Serengeti's peak migration months of July-August and October-November draw by far the largest number of visitors to Tanzania, January to March are fabulous and much quieter months, although temperatures and humidity are higher than preceding months (especially in March). While there’s a chance of rain showers, it’s also a fantastic time for birdwatching as migratory species arrive in their thousands.

By January, the migration herds are finishing their southward trek, and are concentrated along the eastern edge of the Serengeti. By February, the wildebeest calving begins in the southern Serengeti, signaling a feast for lions, hyenas, jackals, and cheetahs as about 400,000 calves are born here within a period of two to three weeks. It’s an excellent time to see predator action as the big cats aim for the newborns. This also holds true for the Ngorongoro Crater and other parks throughout the country.

Compared to the late “summer” dry season months, the vegetation is green and lush, making wildlife spotting somewhat harder. But don’t worry. There’s plenty to see! And by March the grasses are thinning, meaning the visibility of animals is better as they gather around waterholes. Plus, migratory birds are present in largest numbers January-March: bird watching is at its best, especially in the southern game parks.

Despite these draws, it's the touristic low season: the parks are less crowded, meaning lower hotel and safari rates, especially in March.

Trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro: January through early-March is a good time to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. The skies are clear (with great visibility), making for comfortable hiking. At higher elevations there is a chance of occasional showers and even snow above 14,000 feet. These months are popular with trekkers (although not as busy as the June-September high season).

Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar: This is a perfect season to explore the Indian Ocean coastline and the Zanzibar archipelago if you don’t mind the heat and humidity. The blue skies are perfect for sunbathing and swimming, with warm ocean waters at their clearest—a perfect time for snorkeling and scuba diving. By mid-March, the weather becomes more unsettled and humid with the approach of the monsoon rains.


Wanyambo Festival: Dar es Salaam, January. This festival offers a great immersion in traditional Tanzanian culture, with dancing, music and costumes, and food.

Sauti za Busara: Zanzibar, February. The Swahili cultural festival brings musical cultures from throughout Africa together for 3 days of song and dance spanning ancient rhythms to hip-hop, including parades and carnivals.

Kilimanjaro Marathon: Moshi, February or March. This triathlon at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro is open to anyone, including an easier half marathon, 5 km fun run, and a 10 km wheelchair marathon.

Nayama Choma Festival: Arusha & Dar es Salaam, March. The Nyama Choma (roasted meat in Swahili) barbeque festival showcases Tanzania’s lip-smacking roasted meats. 

Plan your trip to Tanzania
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Wet Season (April to May)

Ngorongoro Crater in wet season

This is the monsoon period of heavy, consistent downpours. Roads become mired by mud, and visibility is greatly reduced, grounding most safaris. Some northern circuit parks still get a few visitors, but in the southern and western circuit parks most lodges close for the ‘Long Rains’ low-season.

Even Zanzibar is no fun in the wet and humid conditions that prevail in April and May. And climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in late March, April and May would be a foolhardy and uncomfortable endeavor, with muddy trails, cloudy skies, and poor visibility, plus heavy snowfall at higher elevations.

Nonetheless, a few safari camps remain open for determined visitors. By May, columns of wildebeest have formed in southern Serengeti and stretch for several miles as the animals begin the migration cycle anew, accompanied by large herds of zebra and other ungulates. 


Unification Day: Nationwide, April 26. Tanzanians proudly celebrate the union of Zanzibar and Tanzania in 1964 with parades and cultural events.

Karibu Travel Market Tanzania: Arusha, May/June. This travel and tourism fair promotes Tanzanian tourism products and services, as well as everything from traditional crafts and jewelry to cuisine.

Dry Season (June to October)

Zebra and wildebeest at the Mara River

This is by far the busiest tourist season. Skies remain clear and sunny most days, and humidity is low. Nonetheless, nights and early mornings are surprisingly cold on the upland plains!

Wildlife Viewing: June is one of the lushest months following the end of the monsoons, bringing tall grasses and thickly-foliated bush that makes spotting game more difficult. Birdwatching is at a premium, as the parks are full of migratory birds, especially in the southern game parks.

By mid-June—wildebeest mating season—the waterholes and grasses are drying out and in the Serengeti, two million wildebeest are already on the move northward. This is the start of the peak season, with many safari vehicles gathered at the Guremi River crossing through July to witness the migrating wildebeest play Russian roulette with the waiting crocodiles. For the most spectacular elephant viewing, head to Tarangire National Park, where in July elephants gather in astonishing numbers.

By August to September, the migration action in Serengeti has moved north toward Kenya as visitors flock to the Mara River, snapping photographs as the panicked ungulates leap into the raging waters seething with hungry crocodiles. Since the “northern circuit” of Serengeti is very busy, you should plan to visit the southern parks during this time if you want to avoid the crowds.

By October, the Serengeti’s migratory herds are moving south, back into Tanzania, making the dangerous crossing of the Mara River once more. 

In Tanzania’s many other national parks (such as Katavi, Nyerere, Ruaha, and Tarangire), and away from Serengeti’s migration routes, the dense bush has dried out, the land is thoroughly parched by August, and game-spotting becomes easier as animals concentrate around scant waterholes. The southern parks are especially rewarding at this time of year, while the game viewing in central and southern Serengeti is still excellent.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro: This is the main climbing season thanks to the great weather. July and August are the most popular months, coinciding with North American and European summer vacations. Hence, the climbing route can be very busy. To avoid the crowds, opt for June or September, or even October if you don’t mind an elevated chance of rain (which means snow near the summit).

Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar: The dry season is a perfect time weatherwise for a beach holiday and for exploring Zanzibar Island. However, this is the busiest time for visitors, and prices are at their highest. Diving off the north coast of Zanzibar is especially good during these months. And by late July, herds of migrating humpback whales and their calves arrive in the warm tropical waters off Zanzibar. They can be sighted on whale-watching trips through the end of October.


Zanzibar International Film Festival: Zanzibar, early July. Films from the African diaspora and beyond are shown during two weeks of high culture.

Mwaka Kogwa Festival: Zanzibar, late July. Men playfully beat each other with banana stalks to resolve the conflicts of the previous year and begin a 4-day celebration of the Shirazi New Year, when Tanzanians dress in their traditional finery for song and dance.

Serengeti Cultural Festival: Serengeti National Park, July. A 3-day celebration of traditional art and dance, it makes a great complement to a safari experience.

Bagamoyo Arts Festival: Bagamoyo, October. Spanning the arts, this annual festival features everything from acrobatics to drama performances and poetry reading.

Wet Season (November to December)

Crystal-clear waters and sun-kissed sands of Zanzibar

The ‘Short Rains’ arrive in late October or early November and last for 3-4 weeks. Unlike the ‘Long Rain’ monsoons, rain during November-December tends to be overnight or short-lived by day.

It's an excellent time for a safari as the migratory herds are moving south along the eastern Namiri Plains (good for sighting cheetahs) of the Serengeti. November is another good month to witness the animals’ life-or-death crossing of the Mara River.

It’s also a great time to take advantage of fewer visitors and of low season rates. However, Christmas and New Year weeks can be very busy and you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. 

This also includes visiting Zanzibar, where the air can be humid in these months. Cloud banks often build up in the morning before bursting in afternoon showers followed by blue skies. Diving off the south coast is at its best during these months.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is very quiet during these months, although some hardy trekkers aren’t put off by the wet weather. We recommend the longer, northern circuit route to the summit at this time of year as it is somewhat more sheltered from the easterly rains (allow 8-10 days).


Zanzibar Beach and Watersports Festival: Zanzibar, November/December. A 3-day event to celebrate Tanzanian beach life, with beach volleyball, soccer, kite surfing, and traditional goat races, plus plenty of music and dance.

Planning a trip to Tanzania?

Find more advice about how to make the most of your time here.