20 Unmissable Attractions in Tanzania

Tanzania | © imke.stahlmann/Flickr
Tanzania | © imke.stahlmann/Flickr
Photo of Gill Lange
29 January 2018

Although Tanzania is largely renowned as a world-class wildlife destination, there is so much more the country affords—from protected marine reserves to ancient sites of historical significance. Pristine beaches and turquoise waters make for a stunning and unique contrast to golden grasslands and game-filled plains, setting Tanzania up as the perfect location for a surf-and-turf kind of break. Here are 20 attractions you just can’t miss.

Matema Beach

Metema Beach on Lake Malawi is slightly off the usual tourist track and offers peaceful tranquility in a beautiful setting. Situated at the foothills of the Livingstone Mountains, this heavenly spot is great for swimming, and the more active can hike to the nearby waterfall.

Matema Beach, Tanzania

Matema Beach

Matema Beach | Clown23/WikiCommons

The Big Five

Undeniably one of Tanzania’s most popular attractions, the Big Five consist of the lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhino. Almost all of these are easy to spot in any one of the country’s amazing wildlife parks and reserves.

Male Lion in the Serengeti | © Mark Robinson/Flickr

Prison Island

Once an outback for convicted prisoners, today Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, is most visited for its resident colony of Giant Aldabra tortoise, an endangered species that arrived in Zanzibar as a gift from the government of the Seychelles. Some are over 100 years old and amble peacefully among other wildlife that includes colorful peacocks and butterflies, as well as shy buck.

Prison Island, Tanzania

House of Wonders

Also sometimes referred to as the Palace of Wonders, this remarkable structure overlooks the waterfront of Stone Town and features enormous, carved doors that are said to be the largest in East Africa. Inside the rise of striking tiers of both pillars and balconies, one will find the National Museum of History and Culture, showcasing Swahili culture and the people of the Indian Ocean.

House of Wonders, Sokoku St, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania, +255 754 710 807

House of Wonders

Inside the House of Wonders | © Moongateclimber/WikiCommons

The annual wildebeest migration

Famed the world over as one of the most spectacular natural shows on earth, the great wildebeest migration means thousands of visitors flock to Tanzania every year to witness this impressive event. The action takes place in the Serengeti National Park, as wildebeest and zebra follow age-old migratory paths in search of fresh grazing land.

Migrating Wildebeest and Zebra | © Vince Smith/Flickr

Jozani Forest

Forest, Park
Map View
This amazingly beautiful forest holds significance as one of the last remaining sanctuaries in the world for the red colobus monkey. It covers approximately 2000 hectares (4942 acres) of whole ground-water forest, coral rag forest, and a salt marsh area, and also incorporates a large mangrove swamp. Other animals that call this forest home include sykes monkeys, bushbabies (also known as galagos) and Aders’ duiker.

Mafia Island

Mafia Island is surrounded by a protected marine park and attracts the interest of scuba divers and snorkelers from around the world. The clear waters showcase an excellent coral garden that attracts scores of tropical fish and the island is also a traditional breeding ground for the green turtle, a species that is close to extinction.

Mafia Island, Zanzibar Archipelago, Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro

Natural Feature
Map View
Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro at sunset | © Roman Boed / Flickr
The snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro are a magnificent sight to behold. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, as the mountain rises, it changes from farmland to rainforest and alpine meadows, before finally transforming to a barren, lunar landscape at its peaks. The rainforest zone is where plenty of wildlife can be found, while birds of prey prefer the alpine region.

Mto Wa Mbu

Mto Wa Mbu, meaning ‘River of Mosquitoes’, is a bright and vibrant village in the Arusha region of Tanzania. It is a favorite pit-stop for travelers and offers everything from petrol to souvenir stalls selling trinkets, crafts and blankets. The village is also a good place to pick up fresh fruit, while the local inhabitants are said to represent just about all of Tanzania’s 120 tribal groups.

Mto Wa Mbu, Arusha, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater is over three million years old and the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world. Thousands of wild animals graze the verdant crater floor that is blessed with a permanent supply of water and abundant vegetation. Besides the animals, the natural panoramas that Ngorongoro provides are a treat for the eyes, and bird watching is superb in the area. Another highlight is the Olduvai Gorge, an archaeological site situated on a series of fault lines, where centuries of erosion have revealed fossils and remnants of early mankind.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Forodhani Gardens

These pretty gardens are located near the shoreline of historic Stone Town, and serve as a meeting point and melting pot of cultures and cuisine—especially when the sun goes down. Sunset sees the appearance of a highly popular food market, located in the main square, that serves up Swahili and Zanzibar delicacies, such as grilled seafood, samosas, cassava and sweet potatoes.

Forodhani Gardens, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania, +255 762 039 310

Pemba Island

This gorgeous island is adorned with lush, green hills and clove plantations, and presents visitors with picture-perfect sights. The Pemba Channel, with its coral reefs and abundant marine life, separates the island from mainland Tanzania and is a highly popular diving site. The main town of Chake-Chake keeps visitors busy with a ruined 18th-century fort and museum.

Pemba Island, Zanzibar Archipelago, Tanzania

Kitulo Plateau

The Kitulo Plateau is located within the southern highlands of Tanzania and referred to by locals as The Garden of God. The protected area of montane grassland holds much unique flora, such as orchids, and, in 2005, field scientists discovered a new species of primate on and around Mount Rungwe and in the Livingstone Forest area of the plateau.

Kitulo Plateau National Park, Makete, Tanzania

Isimila Stone Age site

The Isimila archaeological site is one of the most significant Stone Age finds ever identified, scattered amid a dramatic landscape of eroded sandstone pillars. Tools found on the site include hammerstones, axeheads, flints and scrapers that are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 years old. There is also a small museum on site.

Isimila region | © Ernst G. Ulz/WikiCommons

The Rock Restaurant

Restaurant, African, Seafood, $$$
Map View
This unique restaurant in Zanzibar stands amazingly on a rocky outcrop protruding from the middle of the Indian Ocean. It offers panoramic views of the surrounding ocean and has indoor and outdoor seating. You can walk up to the restaurant staircase at low tide, but high tide calls for a boat ride.