Best Tanzania Itinerary – 7 Places You Can’t Miss!
I have one regret about the time I spent in Tanzania… that it wasn’t longer!
This is such a rich and diverse East African country, with so much history and fascinating culture that you’ll struggle to absorb as much as you’d like no matter how long you spend there!
In fact, I got to spend 3 weeks there as part of my African overland trip with Absolute Africa – which I know is probably more than most – but still, I want to return and see more!
From the towering wonder of Mount Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar’s beautiful beaches from the rich culture of the Masai people to the beguiling Swahili coast, this is a dazzling land as wide-ranging and it is remarkable.
It’s definitely one of my favourite African countries, showcasing as it does, a good slice of everything I love about this part of the world.
So if you’re looking for adventure activities, beautiful beaches, curious cultures and some world-class safari opportunities, then look no further than my best Tanzania Itinerary and the places you can’t miss in this incredible country…
#1 The Serengeti
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This huge national park spans an incredible distance and offers a huge plethora of wildlife spotting activities, including the famous wildebeest migration and the Big 5… of course!
It’s also home to the indigenous Masai Mara communities, who are most recognisable due to the brightly coloured clothes they wear and are known for their highly unique and special culture.
I loved my time in the Serengeti, especially all the amazing wildlife snaps I got, including this female lion trying to pull a zebra carcase out of the mud for dinner!
You’re most likely to visit this incredible destination as part of a tour, as you’ll need a guide and a driver to visit the park, so arranging the whole thing as a package complete with accommodation often makes more sense.
Ideally, you need at least 2 days in this vast national park to even touch the surface.
During this time you can camp within designated areas with basic facilities (read. a toilet block) as the lions, hyenas and buffaloes prowl around your tent!
For last-minute tours, you can usually join a group by enquiring with a safari company in the nearby town of Arusha.
Alternatively, you can visit the Serengeti as part of a longer overland Africa tour, like I did with Absolute Africa.
Or finally, you can actually drive through the Serengeti on a public bus as the main road towards the Uganda border actually cuts through the park!
While you won’t have the specialities of a guide or a 4wd if you take this option, it’s certainly going to be the cheapest way to visit!
#2 Ngorongoro Crater
In between the city of Arusha and the Serengeti is the incredible reserve of the Ngorongoro Crater.
This dazzling place is actually giant crater and within it live a huge range of animals, delightfully concentrated by the walled topography of the area.
If it was possible, the Ngorongoro Crater is even more spectacular than the Serengeti, so get it on your Tanzania itinerary asap!
Most safari tours start at a breathtaking, elevated lookout point just before the reserve’s entrance gates.
Here you can get some incredible snaps looking down into this most dramatic of landscapes.
Specks moving in the distance come into focus as elephants and you gradually realise the magnitude of what you’re seeing!
But the real treasures begin when you drive into the crater and are treated to more of an African safari experience than you could ever hope for.
From lions to giraffe, buffalo to hyena, I got to see it all in this amazing reserve.
The great news is that many tours combine a trip to Serengeti with a day in Ngorongoro Crater, either beforehand or on the way back.
And I highly recommend picking up this sort of combination tour if you can.
Again, last-minute bookings are probably best arranged in the city of Arusha.
The tourism capital of Northern Tanzania and a hotbed for people heading to the Serengeti or Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha boasts lots of useful services and is a great point to base yourself in this part of the country.
It’s a bustling place with a great atmosphere and lots of friendly people around to occupy you for at least a few days between tours or if you’re heading into Tanzania from Kenya or visa versa.
#4 Mount Kilimanjaro
If hiking some of Africa’s most dramatic landscapes is on your list, then there’s not many bigger challenges than Kili (as she’s affectionately known).
With plenty of different routes up and down dependent on your timeframe and fitness levels, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to hiking the continent’s tallest mountain.
Do make sure you’re prepared for this one however – it’s definitely not the sort of challenge you can suddenly decide to do on an impromptu basis!
If you weren’t aware (!) hiking up to 5000m requires some serious training as the altitude alone proves a quite the ordeal!
In addition, you’ll need some serious gear to make this trek and the plunging temperatures it brings.
Come prepared however and this is bound to be a highlight of any Tanzania itinerary.
5 Essential Items You Shouldn’t Travel in Tanzania Without
#1 Tanzania Lonely Planet – I’m always a big fan of the Lonely Planet and their Tanzania edition is great for its accommodation and tour recommendations.
#2 Headlamp – Given the power outages you’re bound to experience in Tanzania, having a headlamp in your bag is an absolute must. I wouldn’t be without my Black Diamond one.
#3 Sarong – Whether it’s to wear on the beaches of Zanzibar or to protect yourself from a dusty safari ride in the Serengeti, there’s few items as versatile as the trusty sarong when it comes to Tanzania travel. I love the beautiful designs and great prices of One World Sarongs range.
#4 Insect Repellent – Much as I hate nasty chemicals, a good DEET repellent is essential for Tanzania travel where malaria is a real risk. I recommend a 30% DEET product to keep those pesky nippers at bay.
#5 Sun Hat – Located as close to the equator as it is, the sun is Tanzania is super strong and a sunhat to protect your face is highly recommend. I’m a big floppy hat fan and love this Hello Sunshine design.
#5 Dar Es Salaam
The commercial hub of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam is a bustling port city with a great atmosphere.
From crazy markets to ferry rides and some super sunsets, there’s plenty to do in this city to amuse you for at least a day on your Tanzania itinerary.
It’s also the departing point for the ferries to Zanzibar, so many travellers end up passing through Dar whether they want to or not!
#6 Stone Town, Zanzibar
The heart of Zanzibar life, the island’s capital Stone Town, is spellbinding!
In fact, it’s one of my favourite towns in Africa with a unique and friendly blend of cultures, that typify the steaming Swahili coast.
Whether you arrive into Zanzibar via ferry or plane, you’ll start your time in Stone Town, so don’t miss it and head straight to the beach, but take some time to explore this culturally rich town too.
From tiny, winding cobbled streets that echo with calls to prayer, to the rich collection of museums and crumbling, atmospheric architecture, it’s hard to not become enchanted by the sights and smells of Stone Town.
And that’s not to mention the giant tortoises you can see, the local food markets you can taste and the coffee you can savour.
UNESCO-listed, this place really is a must on any Tanzania itinerary!
THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR TANZANIA
I would never think of travelling to Tanzania without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used during my time in this country and throughout Africa.
I love their great coverage of safari activities – crucial for travel in a country like Tanzania – as well as their excellent customer service and ability to claim online, which is very handy if you’re travelling in remote places for a long time.
#7 Paje, Zanzibar
And, saving the best for last, the final the entry on my Tanzania itinerary is the beautiful beach of Paje on Zanzibar’s east coast.
Many people head to north of this island for their Indian Ocean fix, but trust, it really is all about the east!
A favourite for scuba divers and kite surfers alike, this long stretch of beach also boasts perfect white sands and paradisiacal turquoise waters.
There’s some lovely cafes to enjoy and some great hostels to meet other travellers in as well.
Otherwise, it’s all about swinging in a hammock and enjoying the view!