Tanzania is the revered promised land at the end of the Great Rift Valley; a colossal cut-out of East Africa that’s really not like anywhere else in the region.
It ranges from the powder-sand beaches of glimmering white on the Zanzibar Archipelago to the cloud-beating, snow-topped summits of monstrous Mount Kilimanjaro in the north.
Elephants and leopards come face to face in its hinterlands; African wild dogs prowl under the shade of bulbous baobab trees.
Christians and Muslins share the cities, and there are even relics of voodoo-practicing shamans on the far-flung cays.
It’s a place tailormade for the safari goer just as much as the SCUBA diver; a picturesque country that’s perfect for budding trekkers and explorers (did we mention that this one has Africa’s highest peak?), just as it is for culture buffs and history lovers.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Tanzania:
Don’t knock us for ditching the safari parks and picking picture-perfect Unguja (the kingpin of Zanzibar) for the top spot! If only you could see just how aquamarine the waters were here (move over Cote d’Azur!), how soft the sands; how immersive those Swahili marketplaces, we’re certain you would have too.
Once trodden by sultans and British imperialists, the capital of Stone Town here bursts with coral-stone forts, Persian palaces, and European frontispieces.
And then there are the beaches, from seaweed-spattered Kendwa to whiter-than-white Nungwi and its salt-washed bungalows on the shore.
Hey, this little isle in the Indian Ocean really did earn its place as the byword for tropical perfection!
2. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park
A reserve that surely needs no introduction, the exotic reaches of the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park have been a symbol of Africa’s rich biodiversity and eye-popping backcountry since they were first inaugurated by the German colonists back in the 1920s.
Today, they magnetise backpackers and intrepid walkers, who flock to strap on the hiking boots and scale the summit of Africa’s highest peak.
There are oodles of options for those eager to get to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, ranging from the easy-going Marangu trek to the panoramic Machame route.
On top of that there’s game viewing to boot, with creatures like the hardy tree hyrax, colobus monkeys and elephants all roaming the wilds.
3. Ruaha National Park
Sprawled out over an area almost exactly the size of Wales, the Ruaha National Park has expanded and expanded over the years to become the single largest game reserve in the entire of East Africa.
Today, it ranges more than 20,000 square kilometers over baobab forests, gallery woods and acacia-dotted plains.
And despite its size, Ruaha’s relative inaccessibility ensures there are no booming crowds of safari-goers here.
Instead, the game experience is up-close-and-personal, with cheetahs and leopards and wild dogs all part of the action.
You can also expect a large elephant population, with estimated numbers putting the population at over 100,000 individuals.
4. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is nothing short of legendary on the safari circuit of East Africa.
A huge dustbowl of savannah and fig tree forests, undulating hills of mud-caked plains and dramatic cliffs, it’s delineated by the colossal caldera of an ancient volcano – the largest of its kind on the planet, in fact.
Hidden behind the serrated peaks that make the great crater, the wildlife here has been able to thrive and survive like nowhere else on the continent.
You’ll find rare crater lions and black rhinoceroses, blue wildebeest and the endemic Tanzanian cheetahs, all of which roam the lost hinterland between the peaks.
5. Stone Town
Okay, so historic Stone Town has already had a mention along with picture-perfect tropical Unguja, the Zanzibar island where it makes its home.
But this fascinating place is worthy of a listing in its own right too.
After all, there’s really nothing that can live up to its immersive patchwork of Omani forts and arabesque houses, the richly-adorned House of Wonders (once trodden by sultans) and Persian hammams left over from the Arabs.
There’s also an Anglican church that sticks out like sore thumb, and a palpability to the Swahili culture here that’s not on offer elsewhere in Tanzania.
6. Selous Game Reserve
UNESCO-attested and hailed by loyal safari-goers the world over, the Selous Game Reserve is a real monster of an area.
It encompasses no less than 54,000 square kilometers in the heart of south-eastern Tanzania, and boasts a biodiversity to match.
There are hippos in the ox-bow lakes, swaying baobab trees, wandering elephants at the mud fords, marauding wild dogs, and Cape buffalos to name just a few of the eye-catching fauna.
Come and explore this vast hinterland of miombo woodland and seasonal floodplains along the Rufiji River, and you’re in for a true experience of the African wilds!
Kigoma is beset by the deep blue waters of Lake Tanganyika, which encompasses the town on three sides.
Boats bob around its timber jetties, while larger ships graze against the shores here too.
In fact, the town represents one of the major ports on the water, and vessels still ferry passengers all the way from Kigoma to Zambia during the week.
The town is known for its ease-of-access to the chimp-dotted forests of the Gombe National Park, the trekking trails of the Mahale Mountains, and for the sandy beaches and lapping waters that make it a great place to kick-back and relax inland.
8. Tarangire National Park
The mixture of scrawny acacia boughs and the colossal outlines of baobab trees make the landscapes of Tarangire National Park ones to remember.
They sit on the edge of the northern Crater Highlands of the country, close to Ngorongoro and the sprawling city of Arusha.
Crisscrossed by countless herds of wildebeest and zebra, impala and bucks, the area makes for fine game viewing.
However, there are two more treats awaiting in the backcountry here worth of remark: the otherworldly termite mounds that pepper the plains, and the large population of wild elephants that can often be seen roaming.
Shrouded by the chipped and chiselled peak of Mount Meru, the fifth-highest in all of Africa no less, the hubbub of metropolitan Arusha does well to keep communion with nature.
It’s a town that still bears the hallmarks of its founders: the Maasai pastoralists.
They come out in the throbbing, colorful markets and bazaars, where prayer beads click and livestock squawks behind the emporiums.
There are immersive coffeehouses too, along with oodles of tour operators offering intrepid excursions out to conquer the top of 4,500-meter-high Meru; forever beckoning on the horizon.
10. Pemba Island
As of yet undiscovered Pemba sits out in to the swells of the Indian Ocean, picking up on the tropical beauty front where the white beaches of the Swahili Coast left of on mainland Tanzania.
A part of the same island chain as impossibly-beautiful Zanzibar, the spot comes imbued with some of East Africa’s most colourful coral gardens, each teeming with a kaleidoscope of marine life.
However, leave the diving dhows of the coast behind for a moment and go in search of Pemba’s curious past of voodoo witchcraft and medieval Ndagoni ruins, and you’re sure not to leave disappointed!
11. Mafia Island
Despite the somewhat unsavoury name of this little jewel in the Indian Ocean, its shimmering white sands and swaying palm tree groves are not the home of any cigar-touting fat cats out of Chicago by way of Sicily.
Nope, far from being a Mafioso stronghold, this one is actually a tropical paradise; a part of the Zanzibar Archipelago no less! Shaped like a jutting rhino horn, it’s surrounded by glowing beaches of alabaster white, and comes fringed with gardens of coral reef where the pygmy hippo sloshes in the water.
Unsurprisingly, SCUBA is top of the menu!
12. Serengeti National Park
For many, simply the world Serengeti is synonymous with the iconic wilderness of East Africa; places where the unmistakable outlines of long-necked giraffes drift against the rock-ribbed backdrop of Ngorongoro Conservation Area; where swaying savannah grasses camouflage the stalking leopards, and lazy lion prides recline in the acacias.
Serengeti has achieved its fame thanks to the presence of the so-called Big Five game, while luxury lodges mix with eco camps, drawing all sorts of safari goers to its climes.
Yep, this one certainly promises to be one to write home about!
13. Arusha National Park
Ranging from the alkaline lakes of Momella to the verdant hillsides of the Ngurdoto Crater, Arusha National Park is a place of such varied habitats and environments that it’s easy to see why there’s such a rich biodiversity between its borders.
Sat close to the city of the same name in the northern reaches of the nation, it’s a place where safari goers come to spy curious colobus monkeys in the boughs, or wonder at the moving pink wisps of flamingo flocks against the watering holes.
It’s not as famous as the country’s other big game sites, but it is off-the-beaten-track and less crowded during the high season.
14. Katavi National Park
The jewel of the Katavi Region of the west is a vast floodplain that reaches out to where the lands give way to Lake Tanganyika on the border with the DRC. It’s a wonderful destination for game viewers, made popular thanks to the predominance of mudholes and watering spots that appear when the rains hit.
Around these croc-infested rivers and pools, you should be able to spy out hippos and zebras, elephants and cheetah.
What’s more, thanks to its far-fling position in the west, Katavi receives just a fraction of the safari goers as Arusha or Serengeti.
15. Dar es Salaam
A whopping four million people call the seemingly endless metropolis of Dar es Salaam their home.
It’s a city that’s burst from its seams in the last couple of decades, with huge port districts popping up to receive all the cargo vessels from across the Indian Ocean.
Today, that mercantile boom has translated into a city of virtually boundless energy and character.
Fish markets sprawl around the Kivukoni Front, where the hawkers haggle for fish cuts and seafood.
Harbourside depots now dwarf the old church spires that stood here before the big change.
Daladala vans purr through the streets.
Enjoy the lived-in energy and excellent National Museum before making a beeline for the beautiful beaches and islands along the shore.