Called the home of the “Big Five” – elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino – Tanzania is mostly famous for its lush wildlife. The vast wilderness covers most of this country, with the somber and sobering Mount Kilimanjaro standing sentry. There are lots of things to do in Tanzania. Safaris, trekking, and climbing are only a few among them. So, let us see today about the best places to visit in Tanzania.
- BookOnBoard’s Guide to Tanzania
- List of Top 10 Things to do in Tanzania
- FAQs about visiting Tanzania
BookOnBoard’s Guide to Tanzania
Remember the opening scenes from the Lion King? Where elephants walk on a vast plain with a Kilimanjaro backdrop? Yes, you guessed right. That scene was influenced by real-life scenery you can see in Serengeti. The actual view is shown below. These are the levels of natural beauty you will find in Tanzania. Many times over!
Read ahead in this guide to Tanzania to find out more details about this country. For example, Best Places to visit in Tanzania, Cheapest places to stay in Tanzania, Most popular places to eat in Tanzania, Fun things to do in Tanzania, Affordable hotels in Tanzania, Low-cost flights to Tanzania, Tanzania Holiday Packages, etc.
List of Top 10 Things to do in Tanzania
- Climb up the Kilimanjaro
- Go on a Serengeti safari
- Snorkel or sunbathe in Zanzibar
- Visit the Cradle of Civilization
- Remember Freddie Mercury
- Boat or hike in the Victoria Lake
- Ride a hot-air balloon
- Visit a Masai village
- Observe the Migration
- Get a Kanga and have a Pombe
Of course, this list is nowhere near complete. There is plenty of other stuff to do in Tanzania. But you’re probably short on time or cash. Or both. Since their main industry is tourism, you can expect Tanzania travel to be costly. However, we’ve also compiled a few ideas to visit Tanzania in a budget. Look for it near the bottom of this article.
Now, let’s see the details about the top 10 most interesting places in Tanzania.
How many films and documentaries have a shot of this great old volcano. Standing 5895 meters tall, it is the highest peak in the whole of Africa. The beauty of this snow-capped million-years old mountain is humbling and mesmerizing. It creates Tanzania’s most iconic image, inspiring awe, and wanderlust. Also, it is a UNESCO world heritage site, unsurprisingly.
Most of the visitors go to Mount Kilimanjaro to climb it. While it is said climbing Kili is relatively easy, don’t be overconfident. To reach the very roof of Africa and look out over the Furtwangler Glacier, you will have to encounter Kibo at last. That is the snow-capped crater at the top. This is where things become tricky. Because it is steep and freezing at best. You can climb Kilimanjaro at any time. However, it’s better that you go from June to October while the skies are dry.
Around Kilimanjaro, we have Mount Kilimanjaro, National Park. This area is very diverse in wildlife, for the presence of the mountain. Since the mountain rises from rainforest and farmland continue to alpine vegetation and go on to barren lunar grounds above. For this reason, during your journey from the bottom to the top of the mountain, you will see three different genres of wildlife.
Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Park
The crown in Africa’s jewel! Serengeti is the numero uno tourists’ destination in Africa. That’s for good reason too. You can’t see the end of the vast wild plains, with all five big games roaming around in staggering numbers. The Serengeti plains and jungle is home to a huge variety of wildlife.
Ngorongoro is a huge volcanic crater bursting with wildlife. From hordes of wildebeests and bison to prod lion families lazing in sun or hyenas on the prowl – you can see anything here. With so much to see, you will find not a moment dull! Do note though, Tanzania has other national parks as well and they are not inferior in any way. In fact, the Selous Game Reserve to the south is four times bigger than Serengeti and even wilder than Ngorongoro.
There are endless safari operators in the Tanzanian natural reserves. You have the option of choosing a few hour’s worths of a drive to days-long excursions. Thankfully, most of the longer safaris in Tanzania are all-inclusive. They vary in costs and freedom of the visitors as well, so you had better read up on some safari guide before choosing one. You can also stay in various lodges and resorts in the reserves.
Just off the coast of Tanzania, there is the Zanzibar archipelago, with its beautiful beaches and turquoise waters. Also called Unguja, the main island of Zanzibar is home to many top-grade beach resorts. Of course, because they front some of the best beaches in the world.
Besides sunbathing and other beach activities, the island offers many watersports and underwater activities as well. These will vary depending upon which side of the island you’re on. The surf may be strong on one side and mellow on the other side. So, you got different options for surfing, windsurfing, boating, swimming, and other activities. Also, the presence of beautiful coral reefs nearby will pull you in for a bout of snorkeling and scuba diving.
Not surprisingly, Zanzibar has been the location of many movies and fashion shoots. Because, this island creates the perfect beach images with swaying palms, white sands, boats with billowing sails. And for some reason, all the local people have big smiles on their faces all the time. Not only on land but underwater the picture is still perfect. With up to 30 meters visibility year-round over corals and sands and seagrass plains with colorful swarms of fish playing around, Zanzibar waters produce some of the most-liked underwater wallpapers for desktops.
For those of you who get excited about natural history, Olduvai holds a special attraction. Also called Oldupai, this area is called the ‘Cradle of Civilization’. And rightly so! Archaeologists have unearthed evidence such as fossilized remains and tools suggesting that this is the place where early mankind first began. The work is still going on.
Over two million years ago, a man, a woman, and a child walked over wet grounds in Laetoli. You can still see their famous footprints! This and other critical evidence found around the area are a major attraction here. Wander around Olduvai, you will feel the weight of a million years of hominid history weighing on your conscience. Let it awaken some primal instinct in you.
This is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury. Okay, so forgive a big Queen fan, but for me, this is the biggest attraction in Stone Town, tucked away in Zanzibar. Most tourists who have been there will disagree, saying that the historic port city with old Arabian townhouses is far more interesting than that one house. Also, the museums and landmarks dotted around the city. Eh, to each his own.
Though I would confess, the town has a lot to offer, especially for the lazy strolling types. Wandering around the old narrow stone alleyways, you will discover the famous Zanzibar doors on grand old Arabian houses. The town is so picture-perfect that UNESCO made it another world heritage site. The town is steeped in the old history of spices and slave trade, of inequality and wealth, of beauty and blood. I would be surprised if you don’t get overwhelmed.
One thing you should note – the stone alleyways get extremely hot under the merciless African sun. You should pack ample provisions to protect you from the sun. Also, try to find staying places with cool shades. You can get many cheapest places to stay in Tanzania here. If it’s too hot, dip into Mercury’s bar for a drink.
Have a refreshing break from the dust on the biggest lake in Africa. It is so large that it is bordered by three countries – Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is famous for being the genesis of the White Nile. The Tanzanian portion of this area contains the towns of Bukoba, Musoma & Mwanza, a few islands, lots of clear blue freshwater, and a lot of fun.
The most popular activities here include boating, kayaking, and fishing. Some of the islands are wildlife preserves and you can’t go there. Others offer freshwater beaches and secluded camping opportunities. The most important part is the Rubondo Island National Park in the southwest with a lot of smaller islands. You can find many trails around the lake. These offer plenty of hiking and biking opportunities.
Balloon Safaris in Tanzania
If the land is so gorgeous from the ground, how wonderful must it be from above? If you can splurge, definitely choose this lifetime-rewarding experience in Tanzania. Most balloon rides are concentrated in the Serengeti region because of the grand, unobstructed animal viewing. However, other places like Ruaha and Ngorongoro also offer balloon safaris. It’s unmistakable one of the top fun things to do in Tanzania!
Do mind that balloon safaris are pretty costly! It can cost you anywhere between $600 to $5000 depending upon the trip type. If it’s a Tanzania holiday package tour, then obviously it would cost more. But they would pretty much cover everything in this wondrous country. Isn’t that worth the spend? Hovering over a raging horde of wildebeests, while they run from a pride of lionesses on the hunt, is something you will never forget in your whole life.
Visiting a Masai Village
You can’t say you’ve been to East Africa if you haven’t been to a Masai Village. These proud warrior tribes have now opened their door to visitors from civilization, and have taken part in it as well. Many depend upon the tourism industry for their livelihood now.
There is no set location to visit Masais in Tanzania. You will find Masai people working everywhere near the jungles. You will also probably see Masai girls bringing souvenirs to sell at your Serengeti or Ngorongoro forest lodges. (Apparently, this isn’t legal and the forest rangers may chase them off from time to time.) You can talk to them to arrange a visit. Do make sure your official guide approves it, though. They would know what’s real and what’s not.
When you visit a Masai village, you will get to see the colorful tribal life still going on in real life in these times. For a group, the Masai warriors will perform the famous jumping dance. Also, barter for some great authentic Masai-made souvenirs! They are cheaper here than what’s available outside (and was probably made in workshops).
Do keep in mind, though, some of the ‘villages’ are just made-up tourist traps. You can sense it by the insane entry fees they will quote and the ridiculous prices. Also, you can take note of the details to see if they are made up. For this reason, make sure you hire a trusty guide who would know where the real tribal life goes on and where it’s just a show.
The Great Migration
One of the most iconic wildlife activities of Africa, you can observe the Great Migration in Tanzania especially well. Every year, over a million wildebeest, migrate over the great plains of Africa. Along with comes hordes of other herbivores like gazelles and zebras. (It’s ‘zebra’, not ‘zebra’, you uninformed west folk!)
The hordes attract predators and birds from all around the area they pass through, and sometimes the hunt begins, with breakneck jostling run and dust clouds and jumping over streams and streaming through gorges. If you watch nature documentaries on tv, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. But seeing it in real life – that’s a prized memory you will relish.
The best time to see the Migration is from April to July when the hordes come to the south and over the Grumeti River. In the north, see the hordes spreading over the vast plains in July to September. There are specific Tanzania holiday packages covering the Migration.
Immersing into Tanzanian Culture
Tanzania with its mixed tribal-Arabian-European past offers a unique blend of culture. You should never miss the chance to visit the Arusha Cultural Center. Here, you can see countless Tanzanian art and historic exhibits. Many African art and paintings are displayed here, which will surely eat up your whole day.
Don’t forget to get a Kanga! It is a traditional Tanzanian dress article. Basically a colorful rectangular piece of cloth, it indicates who you are with the patterns and colors and the way of wearing it. You can find them for sale in local markets all over the country. You should, though, be mindful of the Tangas that come with political meaning.
Local food and drinks bring out special, hidden meanings in any demographic, and Tanzania is no exception. Though it’s not as readily accessible as most other places. You’ll have to dig past the standard variation of grilled meat and rice served with curry to find out truly interesting and delicious dishes of Tanzania. To write about them, we need a whole other post. Also, you should sample the local hooch – banana beer and fermented sugarcane juice, generically called Pombe. There is also Gongo, a kind of gin, which is not for everyone, though.
FAQs about visiting Tanzania
1. Where are the cheapest places to stay in Tanzania?
- Stan Home Hostel
- Arusha Backpackers Hotel
- Arusha Budget Hotels
- Zion Care Homestay
- Hotel Verde Zanzibar
- Pongwe Beach Hotel
- Mafia Island Lodge
- Mbalageti Safari Camp
- Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti
- Kiota Camp
- Crater Forest Tented Camp
- Elewana The Manor
- Gibbs Farm
- Mount Kilimanjaro View Lodge
2. Which are the most popular places to eat in Tanzania?
- Archipelago, Stone Town
- Radha Food House, Zanzibar
- Che’s Place, Dar es Salaam
- Khan’s Barbecue, Arusha
- Coffee Shop, Moshi
- Patwas, Tanga
3. Are there low-cost flights to Tanzania?
Indeed, there are. You can find many cheap flights to Tanzania on many booking sites these days. Being a popular tourist place, this country is served by many local and international airlines like:
4. When is the best time to visit Tanzania?
That depends upon what you want to do here. If you are here just for the safaris and sightseeing, then any season is good. However, if you want to climb the Kilimanjaro, then you should try to avoid the rainy season and winter. On the other hand, if you want to observe the Migration, April to September would be a good time.
Here at BookOnBoard, we have tried to cover the intoxicating wild world of Tanzania. In this Travel Guide, you will find the top things to do here and the best places to go to. Don’t forget to check out our other travel guides about African places!
We will, of course, update this page with any more relevant information as we find. Till then, do let us know your thoughts about our site and the article. We would love to hear from you! Please use the comment part below to tell us your suggestions and thoughts. Till then, happy trails!
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