Does it snow in Africa? It is one of the common questions all my ski bunny friends asked when I came back from visiting Kenya.
Considering how huge Africa is, stretching between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Northern Tropic, there is surprisingly little snow in Africa.
But, it does snow in Africa and people do ski in Africa in a whole bunch of countries. Mostly on the high mountains and in South Africa, which is as close to the South Pole as you can get in Africa. And the penguins.
As my ski bunny friends found very exciting, one of the best ski resorts in the world is found in Africa. But let’s see where exactly you can go to find snow in Africa.
Does it Snow in Africa?
Yes, it does snow in Africa. There are regions where snow is pretty reliable during the winter, mostly where the altitude is high such as high mountains and some parts of South Africa and Lesotho.
These are the places you should include in your itinerary if you want to include some skiing in your trip of a lifetime to Africa. Then there are places where snow comes so rarely that it created a saying ‘rare as snow in Sahara”.
It actually did snow a few times in the Sahara desert. The town of Aïn Séfra, located in the Sahara Desert in Algeria had a heavy snowfall in February of 1979.
It also snowed in Cairo, in Egypt in 2013 and instead of making snowmen, kids were making pyramids. It was on the TV, so it must be true.
When does it snow in Africa?
If it does come, snow in Africa comes in winter. But, winter comes at different times in Africa, depending on the geographical location. For example, winter in South Africa is from June to August.
During the winter it is usually dry and cool, and snow is falling at higher altitudes in the mountainous regions. On the other part of Africa, on Mount Kilimanjaro, it snows mostly during the winter months, which are in November and December.
Africa is vast and it covers a range of climates: the tropical monsoon climate, the equatorial climate, the tropical dry and wet climate, the semi-arid climate, the desert climate and the subtropical highland climate.
In all these climates, the weather is usually warm all year round. Average winter temperatures range between 27 and 21 degrees Celsius. It usually rains during the winter. It snows rarely and only at higher altitudes.
Mountains have their own climates and high mountains such as Kilimanjaro have different climates at different altitudes.
Locations in Africa where it snows
South Africa is located at the most southern part of Africa but even in South Africa it snows rarely and only a few places at high altitude get reliable snowfall every year.
Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, gets occasional snow. It is pretty chilly because it is located high, at an elevation of 1700 meters on the Highveld plateau and the winter temperature can drop to 2°C in June and July.
Snow is not common and the last time it snowed in Johannesburg was in 2007 when the city got about four inches of snow, and in 20112 when it was just light sleet.
The Drakensberg Park in the Drakensberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is shared between Lesotho and South Africa. It is located in the eastern part of the Great Escarpment around the central Southern African plateau.
The park’s highest altitude is between 6,562 ft and 11,424 ft (2000 to 3500 meters). The park gets regular snowfall every year.
Located in the park is Rhodes, a small village famous for the annual winter Rhodes Trail Run. The contestants have to run for 9 hours through the snow-covered steep terrain for 31 miles.
At times, the temperatures reached as low as -10 degrees Celsius. If you are into that sort of thing, that is the time to go for a visit. Find out where to stay and eat in Rhodes at their official website.
The 3,558 ft flat-topped Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town, gets some snow at the Front Table and Devil’s Peak every few years. The last snow at Table Mountain was recorded in September 2013.
Located in the Western Cape, Cederberg is a town of about 50,000 people. It gets some snow almost every year.
If you want to spend some time building snowmen, making igloos, and playing in the snow, you can stay at the Cederberg Wilderness center. There is a camp and small cottages.
Located in the western Roggeveld Mountains in. the Northern Cape, Sutherland is a small town known for sheep farming, regular snowfall in the winter and the nearby South African Astronomical Observatory.
Sutherland became a popular tourist destination and it now has a number of bars and restaurants. It is considered one of the coldest places in South Africa and it gets snow almost every year.
It is also famous for some of the best night-time stargazing in the world. Find out where to stay, eat and play at their official website.
Hogsback is a small village in the Amathole (or Amatola) Mountains in the Eastern Cape. Because of its altitude of 3638 feet, the village gets snow a couple of times a year.
The Amatola Forest in Hogsback is considered an inspiration for the Mirkwood forest in “The Lord of the Rings”. The village is very charming and during the winter is a pure winter snowy fairy tale. It has a number of hotels, guest houses, and camps.
Find out where to stay, eat and play at their official website.
Mountain Ben Macdhui, at an elevation of 9,846 feet is the home of Tiffindell Ski Resort, the best ski resort in South Africa. It receives only some natural snowfall every year, so the resort uses snow-making machines to provide enough snow for skiing and snowboarding.
It stays open from June to August. Ski Resort has ski lifts, a restaurant, a ski shop and a ski school. It offers private chalets, family chalets, en-suite luxury suites, or luxury 6, 8 or 10 person self-catering accommodation.
All towels, linen, and amenities are provided. Tea and coffee are included.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is one of the two islands in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean. It covers only about 17 square miles and the only inhabitants are research and conservation staff.
The islands have been declared Special Nature Reserves and access to tourists is prohibited. The islands have a cold climate with low temperatures year-round and can get snow any time of the year.
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest mountain. Because of its high altitude and the equatorial trade winds, Kilimanjaro is cooler than the rest of Africa.
The temperature ranges between -15 and -29 ° C (5 to -17oF) during the coldest period and averages 27 degrees C during the summer. Mount Kilimanjaro’s highest peak is permanently covered by snow.
It can snow any time of the year, but snowfall is most common during the region’s rainy season from March to May and November to December.
Permanent snow can be found also on Kilimanjaro’s glaciers. River Ruwenzori’s glacier has unfortunately been retreating lately due to climate change and rising temperatures.
Kilimanjaro is a very popular tourist destination and thousands of hikers come every year to climb its high peaks. Some prefer to come during dry months but hiking through the snowy trails has its own attraction.
The town of Moshi is the gateway to climbing Kilimanjaro. Check the available accommodation in Moshi and surrounding areas before booking your flight.
Snow in Morocco is not unusual but it is limited to the high elevation of the Atlas Mountain. The mountain is the home of the two ski resorts—one is Oukaïmeden near Marrakech and Michlifen near Ifrane.
Both enjoy fairly regular snow every year in January and February.
In Ifrane or Ifran, the summers are short, dry and warm, and the winters are cold, long and snowy. The temperature ranges through the year between 23°F and 90°F (-3 and 32 degrees Celsius).
The reason for such climate is the location of Ifran in the Middle Atlas Mountains, at an altitude of 1700 meters (5500 feet). The town and the resort are located about 70 km (40 miles) from Fez, a beautiful ancient royal city surrounded by the desert, sand dunes, palm trees and camels.
It is the beauty of Morocco that in a single day, you can enjoy desert, beach and snow. Ifran was originally established as a mountain spa resort and is known as the “little Moroccan Switzerland” because of its distinctly European feel.
Michlifen Ski Resort near Ifrane is a luxury five-star Suites & Spa hotel decorated like a luxury chalet Alpine resort. This ski resort has only two chair lifts and about half a mile of ski slopes.
It is surrounded by the magnificent forest and a lake, perfect for walks on the snow-covered paths under the stars.
Oukaïmeden is a popular ski resort near Jebel Toubkal, almost 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Marrakesh in the Atlas Mountains. Ski Resort offers superb skiing at an altitude between 8,500 and 10,500 feet.
It has six miles of ski slopes and seven ski lifts. Oukaïmeden Ski Resort is the highest-rated ski resort in Africa and is one of the top ski resorts in the world. To make a reservation and learn how to get there, check the resort website.
Lesotho is a small mountainous country at the border of South Africa. It is the only country in the world that lies entirely above a thousand meters, the main reason for the country’s cold climate. Temperatures range from -18°C (0°F) to 28°C (82°F).
The summer in Lesotho coincides with the rainy season and runs from October to April. The winter is from June to August, and the temperatures range from 0 ° C and 19 ° C (61 ° F).
Snow is rare but possible in winter in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, at times accumulating up to 13mm (0.51″). June is the coolest month of the year.
Highmoor Nature Reserve, located in the Maloti-Drakensberg Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Lesotho if you want to see snow.
Afriski Mountain Resort, the only ski resort in the country, is located in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho at an altitude of 10,571 feet. The base is located at 9,570 feet, so the slopes are only 1,000 feet high. Afriski’s longest slope is about a half-mile long.
The resort offers a range of accommodations for up to 350 people, a ski school, a range of ski lifts and a popular restaurant at the top of the ski lift.
To book a stay and learn more about Afriski, check their official website.
Kenya straddles the equator and it is difficult to imagine snow in Kenya. The only place where there is snow is Mount Kenya and even there only above 4500 feet. The mountain peaks are covered in permanent snow.
Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. The highest peak of the mountain is Batian (5,199 metres or 17,057 feet.)
It is located about 150 km (90 mi) from the Kenyan capital Nairobi. An area of 715 km2 (276 sq mi) of the mountain was designated a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Snow is common high on the mountain, above 4500 feet, mostly between March and December. The rest of the year it rains almost daily.
There are 11 glaciers on Mount Kenya. Mount Kenya is a popular hiking destination, but most hiking trails up Mount Kenya do not go high enough to reach the snow.
If that is your goal, you will need to bring full mountaineering gear. Only Point Lenana can be reached by normal hiking. Because of the glaciers, crampons and ice axes are necessary.
Accommodation in Mount Kenya National Park is very basic and consists of mountain huts and cabins. More information about booking one of them can be found on the SafariNow website.
Uganda is not known for its snow, but it does snow on the Rwenzori Mountain at a higher elevation.
Rwenzori Mountain is located on the border with the Central African Republic. The temperature ranges from 20 degrees Celsius to -5 degrees or even lower.
Because of its low temperature, the mountain has several glaciers. The highest peak of the Rwenzori reaches 5,109 metres (16,762 ft) and is permanently snow-capped.
The permanently glaciated peaks were expansive in the 1950s and it was possible to ski on them. Climate change is making them recede very fast and they are expected to disappear in a decade or two.
Rwenzori Mountain was named the “Mountains of the Moon” by the famous ancient geographer Ptolemy. Most of Mount Rwenzori is protected by the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
The park had a well-established tracking system that lead all the way to its glaciated peaks. The region depended on the tourists who were coming to see the lush mountains full of wildlife.
Unfortunately, many trails maintained by the park were seriously damaged by the recent landslide. Its repairs are underway.
Ethiopia has two seasons: dry and wet. The wet season is from March to September, and it rains heavily from June to September.
Do not expect to find enough snow to ski in Ethiopia, but occasional snow is possible on top of Ras Dashen, the highest peak at 14,928 feet (4550 meters) of Simien Mountain.
Located in northern Ethiopia the Simien Mountains are part of the Ethiopian Highlands. The mountains are declared a World Heritage Site and part of them is protected by the Simien Mountains National Park. The highest peak is Ras Dejen (Ras Dashen) at 4,550 m.
Because it is so close to the equator, temperatures in Simien Mountains National Park do not change a great deal throughout the year. But, the temperature changes drastically from day to night. Days’ average temperatures are at 18°C/64°F and nights at 6°C/43°F.
The snow, although rare, is possible during the rainy season, especially in July and August, at the high elevation.
Tracking is very popular on Simien Mountain and the tracks that reach the highest peaks take a week or longer. They are not for the weekend warriors and require a certain level of fitness and proper equipment. They are organized by the park authorities.
Snow is certainly not the best reason to visit Africa, but if you really wanted to know does it snow in Africa because you wanted to include snow in the experience, there are a few places where you can do it.
While there are a few ski resorts in Africa, in many places reaching the highest mountain peaks that are permanently snow-capped is quite a track and an adventure where you can enjoy roughing it.