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Climate - Uganda

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

See also the US version (°F - inches - feet)

Flag - Uganda

Map - Uganda

The majority of Uganda is occupied by a plateau, at a height of 1,000/1,200 metres, where the climate is pleasantly warm, with average temperatures ranging between 21 °C and 23 °C, and annual rainfall between 1,000 and 1,500 millimetres. The temperature variations throughout the year are little, however, there is a warmer period from December to March, more noticeable in the north, and a cooler period from June to September. In general, the temperatures are pleasant, although sometimes it can get hot during the day, especially from December to April, while at night it can get cool or even cold depending on altitude, throughout the year.
In the northwest, around Lake Albert, whose banks are located at 620 metres and along the Albert Nile River, the altitude drops below 1,000 metres, and the heat becomes more intense. Even the western part of the Victoria Nile River, where the Murchison Falls are located, flows at an altitude lower than 700 metres. On the contrary, in other areas the altitude exceeds 1,500 metres, and at night it can get definitely cold.
The period from December to March is the warmest, because the prevailing currents come from the north-east, originally from the arid regions of Sudan and Eritrea. On the contrary, from June to September, the relatively cool south-eastern currents from the Indian Ocean and from the highlands of Tanzania prevail, at least in the southern part of the country, while the north is dominated by the more humid currents from DR Congo.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

With regard to the rains, they occur in the form of downpour or thunderstorm in the afternoon or evening: even when they don't bring heavy rains, thunder and lightning storms can erupt throughout the year, especially in the south. Typically the least rainy period for the whole country is from January to February, which is an anomaly compared with tropical areas, where the dry season is usually the least warm. In the rest of the year, the rains are distributed in different ways depending on area: the south, crossed by the Equator, has two rainy seasons, from March to May (called long rains) and from late September to December (called short rains), alternating with two relatively dry periods (January-February and June-August). This happens because at the Equator the sun passes overhead twice a year (on late March and late September), and for the thermal inertia of the ground and the atmosphere, the effect continues in the following weeks.
For instance, here is the average precipitation of Kampala, where precipitation amounts to 1,250 mm per year.
Average precipitation Kampala
Kampala J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 70 65 130 170 120 70 65 95 110 140 150 90 1265
Days 5 5 10 12 11 6 5 7 9 9 8 7 94

In the centre-north instead there is a single rainy season from April to October, and a dry season from December to February.
Here for example, the average rainfall in Gulu, located in the north, at 1,100 metres above sea level.
Average precipitation Gulu
Gulu J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 10 40 80 170 200 140 160 220 170 160 90 40 1480
Days 1 3 6 9 9 9 10 12 10 10 6 3 88

The driest areas are the south-west, bordering North Kivu and Rwanda, and the north-east: precipitation drops in both areas below 1,000 mm per year, but the north-east, near the arid areas of Kenya, is more subject to the risk of drought.
Here is the average precipitation in Moroto, located in the north-east, at 1,400 metres above sea level, where 810 mm per year fall.
Average precipitation Moroto
Moroto J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 15 30 55 100 105 75 115 115 60 60 50 25 810
Days 5 7 9 14 14 11 13 13 11 13 11 6 127

The wettest areas are the north-central (Gulu District), and some shores of Lake Victoria, where rainfall reaches 1,500 mm per year. Lake Victoria, which is located in the south, at 1,100 metres above sea level, is large enough to affect the climate along its banks, reducing a bit the daily temperature range but increasing moisture. Another lake of some importance is Lake Edward, to the west, at 950 metres of altitude.

In the capital Kampala, which lies practically at the Equator, daytime temperatures go from 29 °C in the period from January to March, to 27 °C in the period from June to August; the night temperatures are even more stable, hovering around 17/18 °C throughout the year.
Here are the average temperatures of Kampala.
Kampala average temperatures
Kampala J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 18 18 18 18 18 18 17 17 17 17 18 18
Max (°C) 29 29 29 28 27 27 27 27 28 28 27 28

In Uganda there are mountainous areas, with volcanoes and high mountains. The Ruwenzori Mountains are located in the west, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and reaches its highest point in Mount Stanley, which is also the third highest peak in Africa (after Kilimanjaro and Kenya), with its 5,109 metres. In this and other peaks of the range, above 4,500 metres, glaciers are found. Other high mountains are located in the east: Mount Elgon, 4,321 metre high, Moroto, 3,083 metres high, and Kadam, 3,063 metres high. In addition, in the south, on the border with Rwanda, we find the Virunga Mountains, whose highest peak is Mount Muhabura, 4,000 metres high. Along the mountain slopes, cloud forests grow, where the air is mild or cool, moisture is high and the sunshine is scarce. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the south-west, between 1,500 and 2,500 metres above sea level, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosting the mountain gorilla, a species at risk of extinction.
Here are the average temperatures of Kabale, located near the park, at 1,900 metres above sea level.
Kabale average temperatures
Kabale J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 11 11 11 12 12 10 9 10 11 11 12 11
Max (°C) 24 24 24 24 23 24 24 24 25 24 23 24

As mentioned, the southwest is one of the driest areas of the country. In Kabale, about 1,000 mm of rain per year fall, although the only really dry months are June and July. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation Kabale
Kabale J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 65 80 115 140 100 30 20 55 100 110 115 90 1015
Days 8 10 13 16 10 3 2 6 11 13 16 10 116

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is significantly higher, since it is home to the aforementioned highest peaks of the range of the same name, and of all the country.

When to go

Since the temperature is quite stable and both the intense cold and the heat rarely occur, the best times to visit Uganda are determined by the rains. January and February have little rainfall almost everywhere, and therefore they are the best months, although some showers may still occur, especially in the south and along the western mountain slopes, while during the day it can get hot especially in the north and below a thousand metres. Recall that the equatorial sun requires appropriate protection, especially in the mountains.
June, July and August experience little rains, but only in the south, therefore, they are fine if you intend to visit Kampala, Lake Victoria and southern parks such as the Ruwenzori.
The rainiest months in the south are April, May, October and November, while in the north there is a single rainy season from April to October.

What to pack

All year long, for Lake Albert and at lower elevations, light clothing, a sweatshirt and a light jacket for the evening; for Kampala and Lake Victoria, light clothes for the day, sweater and jacket for the evening, light scarf for the breeze, light raincoat or umbrella. For the plateau, at higher altitudes, spring/autumn clothes, sweater and warm jacket, raincoat or umbrella; for the mountain peaks, warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves.

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