11 Best Places to Visit in Tanzania
From witnessing millions of wildebeest, zebra and other antelope traverse the plains of the Serengeti to ascending to the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro or sipping chilled drink on the white-sand beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania offers travellers some of the most diverse safari experiences in Africa.
A vibrant and beautiful country with exceptional parks and reserves, Tanzania is blessed with the winning combination of unparalleled game viewing and dazzling tropical beaches. Because Tanzania is so vast (almost 1.5 times the size of Texas), it helps to divide the country’s major holiday destinations into four areas:
- Northern Safari Circuit – the most popular Tanzania safari route comprising the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Kilimanjaro.
- Tanzania Coast and Islands – the country’s beaches, especially those on islands like Zanzibar, are breath-taking and very accessible.
- Southern Tanzania – includes the wonderfully wild and underrated Nyerere (previously Selous) and Ruaha, some of the best-kept Tanzania safari secrets.
- Western Tanzania – head to the far-flung corners of Katavi and Mahale for the ultimate off-the-beaten-path Tanzania safaris.
Where you go will depend on what you want to see and experience while on safari in Tanzania and the best time to visit Tanzania. While the Northern Safari Circuit provides is a favourite among first-time and experienced safari goers alike, both Southern and Western Tanzania are hidden gems of this multifaceted destination. Read our Tanzania safari guide to find out everything you need to know about planning your ideal Tanzania safari.
1. Serengeti National Park: A Safari Superstar
Synonymous with safari, the Serengeti is where to go in Tanzania for game viewing at its most dramatic. Hosting the lion’s share of the Wildebeest Migration (from about January to September), the Serengeti’s sheer size, accessibility, top-quality lodges and camps, and year-round abundance of wildlife make it one of the best safari destinations in Africa. It’s also a regular stop on the best Tanzania safari tours.
2. Ngorongoro Crater: Haven for the Big 5
Take about 30 000 animals and place them inside the crater of an extinct volcano. Add wetlands, forest, grasslands and some out-of-this-world cliff-top accommodation, and the result is the Ngorongoro Crater. This superb Tanzania safari destination offers excellent game viewing in an unbelievably unique setting. It’s renowned for delivering the easiest and most reliable Big 5 sightings in East Africa, and it provides what is arguably the best safari in Tanzania.
3. Tarangire National Park: An Elephant Empire
Close to Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire is worth much more than the usual day visit. During the June to October dry season, animal – especially elephant – concentrations along the Tarangire River are among the highest in the country. The park’s bird count of more than 500 species means that a visit here is one of the most rewarding Tanzania safaris for twitchers, while its full range of large predators complete the appeal. Tarangire is a beautifully diverse wilderness featuring riverine forest, huge swamps and open woodlands that include Africa’s iconic baobab trees.
4. Lake Manyara National Park: Home to Tree-climbing Lions
Part of Tanzania’s famed Northern Safari Circuit, Lake Manyara offers easy game viewing in a beautiful setting. The park is home to a good range of heavyweight species, including buffalo, hippo, giraffe, elephant, leopard, and its famous tree-climbing lions. Lake Manyara is an exceptional bird-watching destination. You’ll often see flocks of pelicans and flamingos in the middle of the lake, and the floodplains, woodlands and evergreen forests are equally vibrant.
5. Zanzibar and Tanzania Islands: Indian Ocean Bliss
Crown your East Africa safari experience with a stay on Tanzania’s Spice Island: Zanzibar. Perfect for both families and honeymooners, it’s where to go in Tanzania for glorious beaches and coral reefs, dhow (traditional boat) trips at sunset, and exploring fragrant back-street markets. Tanzania’s other Indian Ocean islands won’t disappoint either. Pemba, Mafia and Chole are superlative beach holiday destinations with superb diving, exclusive boutique accommodation and all the indulgent pampering you could wish for.
6. Ruaha National Park: A Hidden Gem
Ruaha’s wild and unbridled character is what sets it apart from other safari destinations. This hidden gem is Tanzania’s biggest national park and there are only a handful of safari camps despite its size. You won’t see other tourists around – only a plethora of animals like buffalo, giraffe, kudu, sable, roan, lion, cheetah and leopard. It’s home to Tanzania’s biggest elephant population and a stronghold for rare African wild dogs.
7. Nyerere National Park: A Wild Dog Sanctuary
Nyerere National Park (previously Selous) is Africa’s largest game reserve – bigger than Switzerland. Its lifeblood, the colossal Rufiji River, forms an intricate network of channels, swamps and lakes from which one of East Africa’s most magnificent ecosystems is born. Buffalo, hippo, crocodile and lion thrive here, while the reserve is also one of Africa’s most important sanctuaries for endangered wild dog. Don’t miss a boat safari, guided walk or fly-camping excursion is this breathtaking wilderness.
8. Lake Tanganyika: Rainforests and Chimpanzees
The world’s longest freshwater lake is hemmed in by the mountainous walls of the Great Rift Valley. It’s one of our planet’s most biologically rich habitats, not least due to the lakeside presence of the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks. These two far-flung destinations are worth the effort it takes to get to them, as both deliver some of Tanzania’s most unique safari experiences: tropical rainforest wildlife viewing and remarkable chimpanzee trekking.
9. Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa's Tallest Peak
Whether you’re content with standing in its mighty shadow or yearn to climb to its icy summit, the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro won’t fail to stir your soul. At 5 895 metres (19 340 feet), it’s Africa’s highest mountain and the tallest free-standing mountain on Earth. But its snow-capped peaks are far more accessible than you may think. If you climb Kili in the dry season between July and October or January and March, no technical climbing is required. But organising and executing a hike to the summit does call for a fair amount of logistical planning.
10. Arusha: A Gateway to Safari
The undisputed safari capital of Tanzania, the city of Arusha is on the itinerary of virtually anyone visiting the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara, as logistics often dictate an overnight layover in or around the city. Set in the shadow of Mount Meru, Arusha has its own international airport (Kilimanjaro International Airport) as well as the smaller Arusha Airport for charter flights to final destinations. If you spend some time in Arusha, you’ll have many opportunities to buy souvenirs, take in the cultural activities and visit local places of interest.
11. Dar es Salaam: Access to the Islands
Most visitors to Dar es Salaam are on their way to Zanzibar or the Indian Ocean coast, but this thriving city provides easy access to Tanzania’s lesser-known reserves such as Selous. High-quality accommodation is available if you need to overnight.