Zambia is a country located in southern Africa, almost entirely covered by a plateau, which tempers the climate, making the temperatures generally acceptable for most of the year.
In Zambia, the climate is tropical or sub-tropical, depending on altitude, with a hot humid and rainy season from mid-November to March, and a dry season from April to mid-November. In the dry season, there's a cool period from mid-May to mid-August, and a progressively hotter period from September to mid-November, when the heat becomes torrid, that is, intense but with low relative humidity. In fact, October is typically the hottest month of the year. On the other hand, moisture is high during the rainy season, which begins around the middle of November, and lasts until the end of March.
During the coolest period, from mid-May to mid-August, at night it can get cold, especially in the southern regions, where the temperature can drop to around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F). The driest months are June, July and August, when it practically never rains. During the dry season, weather conditions are generally very good: the sky is clear and the air is clean. Sometimes, however, due to the ancestral custom of burning harvest residues in order to prepare the land for crop rotation, the air may smell of smoke, and some scattered fires can be seen. Instead, in October and November, the first thunderstorms after the dry season can cause natural fires, when trees are struck by lightning.
In the rainy season, the rains occur mainly in the form of downpour or thunderstorm. In Zambia, floods caused by heavy rains are quite normal. The wettest areas are the northern ones, namely the North-Western Province, the Copperbelt Province and the Northern Province, where precipitation exceeds 1,000 millimetres (40 inches) per year, and in some areas it can reach 1,400 mm (55 in). The most arid area is the south-west, the southern part of Barotseland, where the Zambezi River separates Zambia from Namibia and Zimbabwe: in this area the annual rainfall is around 600 mm (23.5 in), or even a little below. On the border with Zimbabwe, the Zambezi River feeds the magnificent Victoria Falls, about 100 metres (330 feet) high, twice as wide and one and a half taller than the Niagara Falls.
The temperature in Zambia varies according to altitude and latitude. The plateau's altitude ranges mostly from 900 to 1,500 metres (3,000 to 4,900 feet), but some areas descend to almost 500 metres (1,600 feet), in the far south along the Zambezi River (and in Lake Kariba, created by a dam on the river), and also in the east, in the Luangwa National Park, where the Luangwa River flows. On the contrary, in the north the altitude reaches 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) near Mbala, while in the north-east, near the border with Malawi, where the cool grassland of the Nyika National Park is found, it reaches even 2,200 metres (7,200 ft).

Kafue National Park

The lowlands

In areas located below 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) in the north, and on the shores of Lake Kariba in the south, the winter climate is milder, especially at night.

Lake Tanganyika

In the far north, a small portion of Lake Tanganyika belongs to Zambia, and its banks are at 770 metres (2,500 ft). Here the temperatures remain high even in winter, also because we are just 8 degrees south of the equator. Here are the average temperatures of Mpulungu, on the shores of the lake.
Mpulungu - Average temperatures
Min (°C)202020191715141618202020
Max (°C)292930303029293032333129
Min (°F)686868666359576164686868
Max (°F)848486868684848690918884

Here, 1,200 mm (48 in) of rain per year fall, with heavy rains from December to March, and the rainy season is slightly longer than in the rest of the country, in fact more than 100 mm (4 in) fall even in April and November. From May to October it almost never rains.
Mpulungu - Average precipitation

The smaller Lake Mweru, located at no great distance from Lake Tanganyika, sits at 920 metres (3,020 ft); further south but still in the Northern Province, Lake Bangweulu is at 1,150 metres (3,770 ft).

The plateau

In the plateau, the night temperatures from May to August drop a lot, becoming very cool, and sometimes even cold.


The capital city, Lusaka, is located in the south-central, 1,250 metres (4,100 feet) above sea level. In December, January and February, at the height of the rainy season, here daytime temperatures hover around 28 °C (82 °F), while night temperatures are around 18 °C (64 °F). In these months, about 200 mm (8 in) of rain per month fall. On the other hand, in the coolest months, June and July, the temperature is around 25 °C (77 °F) in the daytime, and 9 °C (48 °F) at night; sometimes, however, the night temperature can approach freezing. At the end of the dry season, from September to November, the highest temperatures of the year are recorded, with peaks of about 35/37 °C (95/99 °F).
Here are the average temperatures of Lusaka.
Lusaka - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1818171511981115171918
Max (°C)282828272625252831323129
Min (°F)646463595248465259636664
Max (°F)828282817977778288908884

Rainfall in Lusaka amounts to 850 mm (33.5 in) per year, with a maximum from December to February, while from May to October it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Lusaka - Average precipitation

In Lusaka, and in general in Zambia, the sun shines regularly in the dry season, while in the rainy season the sun alternates with the clouds.
Lusaka - Sunshine

North of Lusaka, and north-east of the Kafue National Park, the Lukanga Swamp is a vast wetland area, at 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) above sea level.


Livingstone, a city named after the Scottish explorer who discovered the Victoria Falls, is located in the far south, 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level, just a few kilometres (or miles) from the falls. Here the heat is intense from September to November, with peaks of 40 °C (104 °F), while due to the more southern location, winter nights are cold, even though the altitude is slightly lower than in the capital: the cold record is -2 °C (28 °F).
Here are the average temperatures.
Livingstone - Average temperatures
Min (°C)191918151076914181919
Max (°C)303030302826262832343330
Min (°F)666664595045434857646666
Max (°F)868686868279798290939186

At Livingstone the rainfall amounts to 700 mm (27 in) a year: we are in one of the driest areas of the country.
Livingstone - Average precipitation

Tropical cyclones

Zambia is located at a certain distance from the sea, so it is not directly affected by tropical cyclones, however it can not be excluded that a cyclone coming from the Indian Ocean could penetrate inland, bringing heavy rains, as happened in January 1996 with Cyclone Bonita. The cyclone season in the Southwest Indian Ocean runs from November to mid-May, but the period in which they are most likely goes from late December to mid-April.

When to go

The best time to go to Zambia is from May to August: it's the coolest of the year, and it's dry and sunny. However, nights can be cold, especially above 1,000 metres (3,300 feet).
In September and October, the heat is intense, with peaks of 40 °C (104 °F), especially at an altitude of about 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) or less. During the rainy season, not only the weather is hot and muggy, but also the rains can cause flooding and make travelling difficult.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): light clothes for the day, but also sweater, jacket and hat for the evening; sun hat, sunscreen.
In summer (December to February): light clothes for the day, sun hat; a sweatshirt and a spring jacket for the evening; light raincoat or umbrella.

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