Tanzania is the perfect package. Filled to the brim with unparalleled experiences, this verdant corner of East Africa is a land of extremes.
Home to the tallest mountain in Africa, the largest wildebeest migration ever recorded and number of wildlife in one area, as well as the biggest unflooded caldera in the world; Tanzania sits on the corner of the Great Rift Valley where nature is bountiful and landscapes are unrivalled.
No trip to Tanzania is complete without a safari experience. The country is rammed with national parks, and each has its own merits. Whether it’s large concentrations of endangered black rhinos, flamingoes, lions or long-tusked elephants; spotting the Big 5 in Tanzania has never been easier, they are all present in large numbers.
For a real challenge, you can climb Kilimanjaro. Not for the faint-hearted -or the inexperienced- the snow-capped peaks of the mountain are a symbol of the country, attracting avid hikers from across the world.
When Tanzania’s treasures seem all too exciting, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar will ease you into the slow pace of life.
Both Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam have been at the centre of trading since the Silk Road. The island and the city are worlds apart, Zanzibar was its own country until 1964, however, they both have witnessed an amalgamation of travellers over the years, and show signs of German and British colonisation. What they have to offer you is completely different, with a heavy seasoning of refreshing beach time!
This Tanzania travel guide will lay out all that the country has to offer. You’ll fall in love with this bountiful country before you arrive! Read on to find out why;
When to Go to Tanzania
Tanzania enjoys an incredibly short rainy season, which lasts from March to May. All other times of year supply mild to hot temperatures and very little rain for your trip.
The Great Migration in Tanzania will see wildebeest running through waters from July to September, which coincides with the high season as this is one of Tanzania’s many draws. For the highest wildlife concentrations outside of this time, Tanzania safari tours are best in January and February, when water holes are at their most full.
Best Places to Visit in Tanzania
The Wonders of Zanzibar
Sitting just off of the coast of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar is Tanzania’s answer to paradise. A luxurious addition to all Tanzania tours, Zanzibar balances out beach time with immersive cultural experiences everywhere you turn and a penchant for spices, having been known as the Spice Island for centuries.
Zanzibar has something for everyone. The island was a colonial centre and hub for trading routes for centuries, resulting in a unique cultural melting pot that centres around Stonetown. You’ll be immersed in the history of the island while quickly establishing how different it is from Tanzania in many ways.
Away from Stonetown, you’ll discover little pockets of resort towns that still retain their distinctly Swahili feel interrupted by quaint fishing villages and quiet corners that offer an escape from the sunbeds and beach bars. Zanzibar is popular for its amazing snorkelling and diving opportunities; however, what draws travellers over from Tanzania to Zanzibar is the stand out beaches – which are easily some of the best in Africa.
Trekking the Mighty Kilimanjaro
The highest single free-standing mountain in the world and Africa’s tallest – Kilimanjaro is a dormant stratovolcano of legends.
Trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro is a rewarding challenge that all avid hikers should take on. Although the mountain is the highest in the world that you can walk up, this doesn’t come without the need for a little experience.
Mount Kilimanjaro’s highest peak sits at an impressive 5,895 metres making altitude your main enemy when tackling the trek. Your ascent up the mountain can take anywhere between five to nine days, depending on your chosen route and abilities.
Memorable Safaris in Mikumi National Park
Teeming with wildlife, Mikumi National Park is perfect if you are short on time. If you were hoping for a Serengeti safari tour and cannot make it, Mikumi is known for having a similar landscape and is the closest national park to Dar es Salaam.
Mikumi National Park is the fourth largest in the country and promises to be a memorable wildlife experience with the Uluguru and Udzungwa mountains as a backdrop. Sitting on the well-known Selous Game Reserve border, animals cross between the parks throughout the year, with Mikumi’s main draw, the Mkata floodplain welcoming large numbers of hippos and prolific birdlife.
Arusha and the Gems of the Northern Circuit
Vibrant markets, the bustling chaos of city life and the stark contrast of modernity with colonial structures make up Arusha tours. This is Tanzania’s capital of safari experiences and the gateway to the famed Northern Circuit.
The city is brought to life by its people, where a colourful art scene paints the streets and quaint outdoor culture is propped up by its cafes and restaurants. Despite Arusha’s lively atmosphere, travellers use the city as a stepping stone to the best Tanzania safari tours on the Northern Circuit.
Among the most popular national parks on the Northern Circuit are Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara and Serengeti; travelling between them is one of the significant draws of Tanzania, as you’ll see on this 7-day follow the Ngu trip. Ranging from acacia woodlands, African savannah and ancient calderas to great lakes, rivers, forests and microclimates, this is one of Africa’s most vibrant and diverse networks of national parks.
Relax in Dar es Salaam
Sitting on the tropical coastline of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is a confluence of cultures. As the former Silk Road trading hub for East Africa, Dar es Salaam has long connected with the Arab world and India which has formed the backbone of the city’s image.
The city is a cocktail of its Arab and Indian influences as well as its British and German colonial past, blended with balmy beachfront, modern developments and a laid back feel. As a new city, Dar es Salaam travel will ease you in comfortably to its unique take on a city vibe which makes it the perfect start for any trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar. With the beach never too far away, Dar -as it is known- will lull you into a grounded sense of belonging in the city.
Serengeti’s Wildebeest Migration
With their sandy yellow hues, vast savannah plains paint the picture of Serengeti National Park, one of the most sought-after safari experiences on the continent. Covering an impressive 1.5 billion hectares, a trip to Serengeti is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the world’s great safari.
The national park boasts impressive numbers of wildlife, including the Big 5; however, the most staggering is the Great Migration, a wondrous stampede of over 2 million wildebeest that might just be the last remaining natural wonder in the world. With volcanic grasslands and forests fed by following rivers, you don’t have to travel far to see nature play out in front of you.
Carving out a great big hole in the landscape, Ngorongoro is the largest intact, unflooded caldera in the world. It is one of the most unique parks in the world!
The crater is contained by a 600-metre wall made of montane forest and is home to an open plain of grasslands, swamp and Lake Makat filled with alkaline water. Collectively, these habitats attract an impressive variety of animal species making it one of Tanzania’s best places to visit. Ngorongoro is home to the largest concentration of big game in Africa.
Lake Manyara National Park
Sandwiched between the Great Rift Valley and Lake Manyara itself, this national park is bustling with birdlife.
Lake Manyara is an alkaline lake that acts as a magnet for flamingoes between November and April, among many others. Surrounding the lake, there are marshlands and acacia trees, home to the famous tree-climbing lions and the grounds of the long-tusked elephants, that are essential for all Tanzania tours and safaris.
With such a vibrant landscape, a game drive or walking safari in Lake Manyara National Park can often result in spotting most of the Big 5 in minutes.
How to Get Around Tanzania
Flying around Tanzania is the fastest and most convenient way of getting around. However, planning in advance and giving yourself lots of time around the flight is essential. Tanzania is known for constant flight delays, and some have experienced flights being advertised that do not exist.
The main airport is in Dar el Salaam, the capital, with connections from Zanzibar, Akusa and Kilimanjaro. When you visit Tanzania, it is often advised that you have the whole day free to prepare for flight time changes when flying domestically. Your Local Designer in Tanzania will arrange this.
From the cities like Arusha and Dar es Salaam, there is a range of transportation options ranging from taxis to boda bodas (motorbike taxi) and tuk tuks. Taxis are the safest option for Tanzania travel in the city as boda bodas and tuk tuks are known to be dangerous at night, many of these drivers are not legally registered. It’s best to negotiate a price before entering.
When driving in Tanzania, it’s best to err on the side of caution. While driving in the cities doesn’t come recommended, going between the national parks can be a truly liberating experience. Driving on your own African safari in Tanzania requires lots of experience and patience as getting to the national parks often involves a lot of off-roading.
When crossing the country, the roads are tarmacked, connecting you to all towns. However, you’ll need to be prepared with petrol, snacks and water as distances between destinations are long. It’s important to time your drive so that you are not, at any point, driving at night.
Where to Stay in Tanzania
Dar es Salaam
As a cornerstone in East Africa, Dar es Salaam is a city with panache. With that comes a wealth of accommodation options suited to all those who come to the city for business and leisure.
Luxury options in Dar es Salaam have the first pick of the city’s beautiful coastline, where you’ll see Zanzibar in the distance. Most of these luxurious options also have sunbeds on the golden sands of the city’s bays.
For mid-range and budget options, there is a wealth of options available just off the coastline. As the city has no centre, this is where you’ll find all the activity.
This little slice of paradise is heaven for beach lovers and adventurers alike. Zanzibar has many accommodation options all over the island. For the luxuries of resort town development and year-round clean beaches, head to the north coast, where you’ll find accommodation for all budget ranges. For culture, you can opt to stay in Stonetown, where you’ll learn about the colonisation of Tanzania and become immersed in local cultures and traditions.
Alternatively, the east coast is home to some of the islands’ best beaches; however, you can’t always enjoy them due to the tides. Check with our Local Designers in Tanzania to see when the beaches are at their best to make the most of this area.
Safari Lodges in Tanzania
As a true gem on the east coast, Tanzania has unrivalled safari lodge experiences, particularly if you choose a Serengeti national park tour, where you’ll find the Four Seasons amid the many accommodation options. However, Tanzania doesn’t stop at luxury.
From Ngorongoro to Lake Manyara, accommodation options in national parks range from rustic lodges to modern outposts and even mobile camps that will take you to the more remote corners of the country. No matter what you choose, you’ll be greeted with a host of welcoming comforts and panoramic views of the parks.
What to Eat When You Visit Tanzania
Comfort food lovers, get ready to find your most unexpected home in Tanzania!
Street food aficionados will rejoice when they first try chipsi maya. This is the perfect pick me up at any time of day – but not if you are trying to be healthy. Chipsi maya is made with chips (french fries) cooked with eggs into an omelette and topped with kachumbari salsa and ketchup. The final dish will be cut up and served with a toothpick.
A street food standard in any Tanzanian town is mshikaki, a grilled meat skewer. Mshikaki is typically marinated beef or mutton with some vegetables for extra flavour. Street vendors tend to set up early to start roasting their skewers before hungry punters arrive. The best bit about mshikaki is that the skewers are always slowly roasted to maximise flavour!
Ndizi Na Nyama
This hearty spiced stew is deeply rooted in Tanzanian tradition. Plantain and beef and simmered together with a mix of cayenne, curry powder and tomato to create a flavourful and wholesome dish typically served with ugali or rice.
Mchuzi Wa Samaki
No trip to Tanzania is complete without sampling mchuzi wa samaki!
With so much coastline to enjoy, it seems only natural that Tanzania is known for its fish and seafood. Mchuzi wa samaki is a grilled fish slathered in curried spices, tomatoes, garlic, onion and lashings of lemon! This is a truly Swahili style dish!
Festivals in Tanzania
Nyama Chomo Festival
Barbecues are lined in preparation for Arusha’s greatest food-based event – Nyama Chomo Festival!
Tanzanians and meat lovers alike rejoice; there is an entire day dedicated to nyama chomo, the humbled grilled skewer that is a favourite among locals. Throughout the festival, cooks from across the country come to Arusha to sell their take on nyama chomo, which translates to grilled meat. The skewers served here are a big mix of recipes that have been handed down through generations of families across the country – you can expect an impressive variety to try!
Every March, avid runners meet at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro for one of the most scenic marathons in the world. What this event lacks in culture, it more than makes up for in views.
Taking place in March, Tanzania’s coolest month is perfect for running. The event is family-friendly with a range of lengths that are suited to all running abilities. The event welcomes a great sense of community and is worth heading out to witness if you are in the area at the time.
Tanzania’s largest national holiday is by far the most important among locals.
Referred to simply as Union Day, the national holiday celebrates the coming together of Zanzibar and Tanganyika to make the United Nation of Tanzania in 1964.
The day is marked with great patriarchy in all of the country’s cities: flags are flown, and cultural performances take place, which is made all the more exciting by the great sense of unity that can be felt in the streets.
Sauti za Busara Festival
In Zanzibar, Sauti za Busara is a four-day festival that celebrates the diversity of music across East Africa, particularly in Swahili culture. During the festival, you’ll experience a mix of parades and carnivals where people from across the world gather to embrace the music of East Africa.
Things to Know Before Your Trip to Tanzania
Visa: Entry visas to Tanzania can range from US$50-100. It’s best to check your respective country’s requirements well in advance before travelling.
Currency: The main currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian shilling. At the time of writing, June 2021, 1 USD is equal to 2,319 Tanzanian shillings.
Language: Swahili is the official language in Tanzania. English is spoken among most Tanzanians as a second language.
Connectivity: Tanzania’s 3G and Wi-Fi are surprisingly very good.
Safety: Travellers are generally discouraged from walking in towns and cities alone. When travelling with our Local Designers in Tanzania, you’ll explore in groups among locals.
Intimacy: Avoid any displays of affection in public, it may offend locals.
Policing: Should you choose to do a self-drive tour, police often wait at checkpoints to pull you over. When you meet them, greet them politely and listen to what they have to say. Sometimes you will be asked to pay a bribe. This is a standard procedure.