Scuba divers and snorkelers, who travel to Tanzania may be excited! As a matter of fact, they can head away straight to Pemba or Mafia Islands. Doing so, they get to experience the coral gardens, colorful fishes and the crystal-clear waters. Choose from among the best places to visit in Tanzania that you wish to place it on your bucket-list for your imminent travel plans to the wonderful country of the Maasai:
Here are some of the best places to visit in Tanzania which you must try out while you are there for a vacation:
- 1. Mount Kilimanjaro
- 2. Serengeti National Park
- 3. Zanzibar Beaches
- 4. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- 5. Olduvai Gorge
- 6. Lake Manyara National Park
- 7. Mafia Island
- 8. Tarangire National Park
- 9. Pemba Island
- 10. Stone Town
- 11. Selous Game Reserve
- 12. Arusha National Park
- 13. Ruaha National Park
- 14. Gombe Stream National Park
- 15. Katavi National Park
- 16. Lake Victoria
- 17. Mikumi National Park
- 18. Lake Natron
- 19. Matema Beach
- 20. Prison Island
- 21. House of Wonders
- 22. Jozani Forest
- 23. Old Fort
- 24. Mto Wa Mbu
- 25. Forodhani Gardens
1. Mount Kilimanjaro
The pride of Africa
A dormant volcano in Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the pride of the continent. It has three volcanic cones, namely Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The tallest mountain in Africa and also the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level, Kilimanjaro is every trekkers’ paradise.
- Spectacular views, indeed, of Kilimanjaro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Traverse through five different ecological zones on Mt. Kilimanjaro
- 6 to 7 different routes to choose to reach the top of Kilimanjaro
- Surprisingly, Kilimanjaro is a hotspot for birdwatchers, with approximately 179 species of birds
- Mt. Meru, Kinukamori and Kilasia Waterfalls, Lake Chala, Amboseli National Park are some other significant highlights of Kilimanjaro
2. Serengeti National Park
Playground for the annual migration
Undoubtedly, The Great Migration is the world’s longest overland migration. And yes, this is visible in Serengeti National Park, aka the playground for the annual migration. Offering sanctuary to an abundance of wildlife while attracting incredible opportunities, the pristine Serengeti National Park is an amalgamation of vast plains of savannah, rolling hills, and a network of rivers.
- Venue of the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth – The Annual Migration or The Great Migration
- Option of hot air balloon safari
- Home to the Big Five
- Over 4000 lions, 1000 leopards and 550 cheetahs in the park
- Memorable safari experience with options of staying at luxury lodges or just mobile tented camps
3. Zanzibar Beaches
A major holiday destination in Tanzania
The Zanzibar archipelago is also known as the ‘Spice Islands’ because of the profusion of produce, spice, and clove plantations. Besides, when it comes to the best beaches in Zanzibar, you’re very fortunate with the luxury of choice. The following beaches are the most popular beaches in Zanzibar:
- Nungwi Beach: one of the most popular beaches in Zanzibar
- Kendwa Beach: most appropriate for party vacations
- Paje Beach: best for water sports and excellent kitesurfing
- Pongwe Beach: arguably the best swimming beach in Zanzibar
- Matemwe Beach: the longest beach in Zanzibar
- Kizimkazi Beach: famous for dolphin safaris
- Michamvi Beach: a remote coral lagoon
- Bwejuu Beach: perfect for those seeking total relaxation, peace & privacy
4. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
One of Tanzania’s most popular wildlife viewing areas
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of Africa’s most important wildlife. People and wildlife likewise, share the swamps, grasslands, forests, and savannas of the NCA in Tanzania. In addition, this spectacular wilderness offers wild sensations, breathtaking panorama and composite perception into human history. Moreover, the area is home to a population of about 25,000 large animals. And also, the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa.
- Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera is the main feature of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
- The northwest region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is considered the starting point of the “Great Migration”.
- Ngorongoro Crater is the best place to view The Big Five, and black rhino.
- Ngorongo Conservation Area is an excellent birding safari destination in Tanzania, with over 550 bird species.
5. Olduvai Gorge
A significant archaeological site of human evolution
Olduvai Gorge is a spot that retains the earliest proof of the existence of human ancestors. The gorge is chiefly located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongo Crater and the Serengeti National Park. Enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it is also known as “Cradle of Mankind”.
- Remains of the earliest humans were found in Olduvai Gorge.
- Olduvai Gorge is an important fossil site that reveals a great deal about human past.
- A museum near Olduvai Gorge offers some nice perspectives and has an educational exhibition about the gorge and its long history.
- It is believed that the artefacts found in Olduvai Gorge date back to over 2 million years.
6. Lake Manyara National Park
Known for the tree-climbing lions
Lake Manyara National Park offers varied ecosystems, incredible bird life, and breathtaking views. Although it is the smallest park of Tanzania, visitors get to enjoy amazing Tanzanian wildlife safari viewings. It is also an opportunity to watch The Big Five in the wilderness on self-drive or a guided safari tour.
- Home to an incredible array of bird species that flourishes on its briny waters.
- The famous tree-climbing lions, particularly the only kind of species in the world, is an eye-catcher.
- A Tanzanian wildlife safari in Manyara is definitely an experience to cherish forever.
- Maji Moto springs is a magnificent feature for all visitors, especially if you get to take a dip in its hot waters.
7. Mafia Island
Divers’ and snorkelers’ secret paradise
Mafia is renowned as an excellent world-class diving destination. In addition, it has some of the richest reefs in the world. Whereas, the main town in Mafia is Kilindoni on the west coast. There are, of course, regular flights to this island from Dar es Salaam. Since Mafia has a tropical climate, August to October months are the best times to visit Mafia Islands.
- Visit Mafia Island Marine Park, the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean.
- Opportunity for scuba-diving, the most popular activity on Mafia.
- Visit the coral ruins on Chloe Mjini, a small island just off Hore from Mafia.
- Get to experience Mafia’s luxury resorts and dive centers.
8. Tarangire National Park
An excellent spot for birdwatching
Tarangire National Park lies in the Manyara region in Tanzania. The park is surprisingly famous for its high density of elephants and baobab trees. It is also home to more than 550 bird species. On a Tarangire safari, you get to see wildlife species such as buffalos, elands, wildebeests, gazelles, giraffes, and more.
- A wonderful opportunity to visit the land of elephants in any park in the northern circuit.
- Opportunities for guided walking safaris, birding, photographing, game-driving, cultural tours, wedding safaris, and more.
- A chance to witness the great Tarangire migration, a remarkable natural phenomenon.
- A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird as well as the largest bird – the stocking thighed ostrich.
9. Pemba Island
A popular place for mountain bikers and scuba divers
This phenomenal Island chiefly forms a part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Moreover, it is home to several dive sites, with sharp drop-offs, intact coral, and very plentiful aquatic life. Pemba has a tropical climate, yet somewhat milder than Tanzania’s mainland.
- Scuba-diving and snorkeling opportunities on Pemba, one of the 10 best dive sites in the world.
- The Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary, home to approx. 4,000 endemic flying foxes.
- Comprehensive ruins at Ras Mkumbuu and Chwaka.
- The Vumawimbi Beach, Pemba’s most popular beach whose idyllic waters and white sand stretch to the east of Kigomasha Peninsula and to the north of Ngezi Forest.
10. Stone Town
The cultural heart of Zanzibar
Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar city. It is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Due to its heritage. Stone Town is also a major visitor attraction in Tanzania. The island has a hot tropical weather all year round. The main attractions of Stone Town are Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserve, Prison Island, and Anglican Cathedral.
- Exceptional scuba-diving and snorkeling opportunities.
- Wonderful sunset cruises on a Dhow.
- Visit old monuments such as the Old Fort, Freddie Mercury House, First British Consulate, House of Wonders, the Arab Fort, Peace Memorial Museum, the Old Dispensary, and the Royal Cemetery.
- Tour around Forodhani Gardens, Jaws Corner, Darajani Market, Old Slave Market, Jozani Forest, and St. Joseph Cathedral.
11. Selous Game Reserve
The largest game reserve in Africa
Selous Game Reserve is located in the southern part of Tanzania along the southern Tanzania safari circuit. It is the largest protected game reserve on the African continent. The reserve has a new name of Nyerere National Park in honor of the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere.
- Selous is one of few places to enjoy land safaris combined with river safaris.
- Cultural tour to Mwaseni Village and visit one of the mud-houses, or a local school or shop to learn a little about the culture of local people.
- Encounter plenty of elephants, wild dogs, crocodiles, hippos, buffalos, hartebeests, zebras, wildebeests, elands, giraffes, and more.
- Bird watching tours, boat safaris, game drives, Selous fly-camping tours, hot air balloon safaris, and walking safaris.
12. Arusha National Park
The second highest mountain in Tanzania
Arusha National Park is one of the mysterious national parks located in northern Tanzania. It is home to Mt. Meru, the second highest mountain in Tanzania and the fifth highest in the African continent. The park is an outstanding birding safari destination with over 400 bird species.
- Breathtaking safari experience at different periods of the year.
- Game drives, canoeing, guided nature walks, bird watching, and horse-back riding.
- Visits to Momela lakes, Ngurdoto crater, the mini Serengeti, Ujambo Wa mbogo, Fig tree, Ngurudoto Museum, and Tululusia Hill.
- Climbing Mt. Meru is one of the popular activities in the park.
13. Ruaha National Park
Tanzania’s largest national park
Located south of the central midpoint of Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is the largest national park in Tanzania and the fifth largest in the African continent. The park predators feature lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, and wild dogs. Ruaha is also a bird lovers’ paradise with over 570 bird species. Ngalambulwa Mountain is the tallest point in the park, which is surrounded by grasslands and rocky terrain.
- Witness the largest collection of elephants, which is located here in Ruaha compared to anywhere else in Tanzania.
- Enjoy game drives and take a peek into the fantastic wildlife including giraffes, buffalos, hippos, zebras, warthogs, and sable antelopes.
- Enjoy bird watching tours to see hornbills, raptors, bee-eaters, rollers, and the rare Eleonora’s Falcon.
- Inspirational opportunities to have stunning views of the wildlife apart from the tradition vehicle safari.
14. Gombe Stream National Park
Off-the-beaten track with lot of chimpanzees
Lying in Kigomo District, Gombe is the smallest national parks in Tanzania that is accessible only by boat. The park has only protected land along the hills of the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Gombe Stream National Park is home to bushpigs and over 200 bird species. Blue monkeys and red-tailed monkeys have also been known to cross-breed in the area.
- Experience a true Tarzan-like location filled with monkeys and primates such as olive baboons, red colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and vervet monkeys.
- Guided hikes into the remote jungle to experience possible wildlife sightings.
- Unforgettable experience to swim out into Lake Tanganyika after a trek.
- The only way to get to Gombe is by boat from Kigoma town, which takes less than an hour.
15. Katavi National Park
Remote region with an unspoiled wilderness
Katavi National Park is the third largest national park in Tanzania. It is a very remote park and less frequently visited by tourists in comparison to other national parks. This national park is Africa at its most wild with unspoiled bush settings, spectacular views, and rich wildlife located far off the beaten track.
- The park is home to the rare roan and sable antelope species along with huge population of hippos and bird species.
- Experience the unspoiled wildlife viewing from Katuma River that lies within the park, which is one of the most untouched areas in the entire country.
- During the dry season, an estimated 4000 elephants, along with buffalos, giraffes, zebras, impalas, and reedbucks converge in the area.
- Experience walking, driving and camping safaris in the national park areas.
16. Lake Victoria
The largest freshwater lake in Africa and the source of Nile
Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes that was renamed after Queen Victoria. The world’s largest tropical lake is divided among three countries: Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. This lake is the principal source of the longest branch of the Nile River. Lake Victoria has more than 200 species of fish of which Tilapia is the most economically important.
- Victoria Lake is completed by the existence of a group of 84 islands within it, known as the Ssese group.
- Lake Victoria is close to Serengeti National Park and other renowned safari destinations in East Africa. Visitors can combine a holiday to Lake Victoria with a safari tour in Tanzania.
- Lake Victoria supports the largest inland fishing industry in Africa with species such as tilapia, haplochromine cichlids, Nile perch, silver butter catfish, elephantfish, and marbled lungfish.
- Lake Victoria has a substantial number of heritage sites as well as a significant archaeological site.
17. Mikumi National Park
Primarily a decent safari destination
Mikumi National Park is Tanzania’s fourth largest national park and most open from Dar es Salaam. Most tourists come to this park aiming to spot the ‘Big Five’. The national park touches the northern border of Africa’s biggest game reserve – the Selous Game Reserve. Mikumi is also an important education and research center.
- The park is surrounded by Mazunyungu hills, Madzini hills, Uluguru mountains, and Mbesera hills. Hiking to the top of any hill offers spectacular sunrise and sunset views.
- With confirmed wildlife sightings, Mikumi National Park makes a perfect safari goal and a major hotspot for the travel industry.
- Nicknamed as little Serengeti, Mikumi hosts large number of big games and large herds of elephants, buffalos, zebras, wildebeests, hyenas, leopards, and antelopes.
- Walking safari in the nearby Udzungwa Mountains National Park and the open horizons and abundant wildlife of the Mkata floodplain.
18. Lake Natron
A lake with very high pH levels
Lake Natron is an alkaline lake located in north Ngorongoro District of Arusha region. It is an important breeding site for lesser flamingos in the world and lies at the base of the active Ol Donyo Lengai volcano. The alkalinity of the lake can reach a pH of greater than 12. There are a number of campgrounds near the lake, which is also the base for climbing the Ol Donyo Lengai.
- Walks around the lake and to the streams and waterfalls make fantastic adventures off the beaten track.
- Overnight campings at the Empakai Crater in the Ngorongoro highlands, and on the edge of the Gregorian Rift.
- Watch the flamingos at Lake Natron walking in the Ngare Sero Gorge.
- Beautiful walk on the Great Rift Valley to the beginning of the Ngare Sero Gorge, where there are several waterfalls and springs.
19. Matema Beach
On Lake Malawi slightly off the tourist track
Matema Beach is a beachside town in Mbeya region. It is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Nyasa, and one among the most scenic tourist sites in Tanzania. Traveling to Matema offers beautiful views of the real African life of the local communities. The beach lies on the foothills of Livingstone Mountains.
- Canoe trips with fishermen over the lake to the nearby village where women specialize in pottery.
- Opportunities for water sports, ornamental fish viewing, and beachside recreations on the soft sands.
- Mt. Livingstone hiking and visits to potteries are some popular tourist activities in Matema.
- A tour of rice and cocoa farms in Kyela, a waterfall on Mt. Livingstone and special cultural programs.
20. Prison Island
Once an outback for convicted prisoners
Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island or Quarantine Island is located in the Zanzibar archipelago nearby Stone Town. The view of Stone Town from the island is breathtaking, especially during night time. The prison built on this island was never used to house prisoners, but to contain troublesome slaves brought by an Arab slave trader from the African mainland. It was also used as a quarantine station for yellow fever cases.
- Fishing experience in Prison Island.
- Exploration of the beautiful island, an ideal place for a walk, on a relaxing half-day excursion from Stone Town.
- Swim in the crystal water or explore the glorious coral reefs by snorkeling.
- See, play with, and feed the giant tortoises at the Giant Tortoise Reservation.
21. House of Wonders
Features enormous carved doors, probably the largest in East Africa
Also known as Beit Al Ajab or the Palace of Wonders, it is the largest and tallest building of Stone Town located between the Old Fort and the Palace Museum. The white palace was used as a government facility for decades before it was abandoned. Later, it was preserved and turned into a museum. It is now open to public, allowing visitors to walk through the corridors and rooms of the house.
- Witness the cultural and architectural influences of Zanzibar, Britain, Portugal, and Oman.
- The Palace Museum next to it holds many relics that offer a rare glimpse of the past era.
- The National Museum of History & Culture inside the building exhibits Swahili civilization and the people of Indian Ocean.
- The inner courtyard of the building has a huge sailing vessel and an old car believed to have belonged to Zanzibar’s first president.
22. Jozani Forest
One of the last remaining sanctuaries for colobus monkey
The Jozani Forest lies in the central east region of Zanzibar Island, and is the home to rare red colobus monkeys. It is the only natural forest in Zanzibar Island and a short drive from Stone Town. The forest contains about 100 tree species from a total of 43 families. One can walk in the forest independently, but when with a guide, you will get to know every interesting information of the plants.
- Explore a large mangrove swamp and a tract of natural forest, which is home to unique species including Skyes monkey, bush babies, Ader’s duiker, butterflies and birds.
- Walks on nature trails lined with eucalyptus and mahogany trees.
- Spectacular birdwatching opportunities of varied bird species.
- The forest is a natural pharmacy – an amazing source of natural remedies. Every plant or tree cures something.
23. Old Fort
The oldest building in Zanzibar
Also known as the Arab Fort, it is the oldest building and a major tourist attraction of Stone Town. It is located adjacent to the House of Wonders, facing the Forodhani Gardens. Over the centuries, the fort had various uses, from prison to tennis club. A modern feature of this fort is the open-air amphitheater, used for local shows and major events.
- The Old Fort has a Cultural Arts Gallery, connected to the Cultural Arts Center Zanzibar, where one can meet local artists at work.
- Major events such as the Zanzibar International Film Festival and Sauti za Busara are held in the amphitheater area of the Fort.
- The Old Fort has been modernized inside, notably with a line of souvenir shops and a pleasant café that turns into a bar in the evenings.
- Live dance and music shows are held most evenings in the open-air amphitheater area of the fort.
24. Mto Wa Mbu
A bright and vibrant village in the Arusha region
The name Mto Wa Mbu in Swahili meaning ‘the river of mosquitoes’, is located in the Arusha region. It is close to Lake Manyara, just at the foot of the Rift Valley. It is the busy gateway to Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park in the Great Rift Valley. This village has all the 120 tribes of Tanzania making it a real melting pot of cultures.
- A climb to Balaa Hill on the top of the Rift Valley for breathtaking views of Lake Manyara, Mto Wa Mbu village, the Maasai Steppe and beyond.
- Bike tour through some of the most scenic areas of Mto Wa Mbu village passing banana plantations and rice fields.
- Village walk and tuk-tuk ride to witness various attractions like the Mto Wa Mbu waterfall, schools, large farms, rice fields, and milling machines.
- A trip to the Miwaleni Lake and waterfall and view into the culture of the many different tribes living in the area.
25. Forodhani Gardens
A melting pot of cultures and cuisine in Stone Town
Also known by the name of Jubilee Gardens, it is a small park in the historical city of Stone Town. The garden is located just in front of the House of Wonders and the Old Fort. The seawall by the Forodhani Gardens is the best place in Stone Town to take sunset photos and probably a photographer’s paradise.
- Open-air night food market in Zanzibar’s Forodhani Gardens is a lively delight.
- Zanzibar pizza and seafood extravaganza including octopus’ tentacles, colossal lobster claws, and gaping fish are laid out on the tables every night in the garden.
- Witness local Olympics where local boys dive off the stone walls near Forodhani Gardens, into the oceans.
- Experience local culture with nice port view, good food and nice environment.
Before you leave this post
There is, indeed, so much to see and experience in Tanzania. There are lots of ways to do it, and apparently the country has never-ending visitors. It is perhaps very hard to narrow down the places where you must go. From the vast wilderness to lush green islands, and from the Big Five to colorful corals, Tanzania has it all!
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Amedeus Cyril Maro is dedicated to his work as a trekking guide having good communication, interpretation and leadership skills. He is a great entertainer and has led trekkers from around the world to Mt. Kilimanjaro and Tanzania’s other peaks numerous times.