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.
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.
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.
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.
Located in the Arusha National Park, this mountain is the fifth-highest on the African continent and the second-highest in Tanzania. Its fertile slopes rise above the surrounding savannas and are covered in lush and beautiful forests where birds and monkeys thrive. Although leopards are also known to frequent the area, they are notoriously difficult to spot.
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
If you are willing to put up with the smell, then the Hippo Pool in the Serengeti National Park affords excellent hippo sightings, where hundreds of these large creatures vie for space in a relatively small, muddy pool while river carp jump around in the water.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, +255 27 250 3471
Housing a great selection of modern and antique art, the Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre is a place where Tanzania’s past mingles with its present. Explore the history of more than 100 tribes that inhabit the country and pick up carvings, books, gemstones and clothing to take home as souvenirs.
Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre, Arusha, Tanzania, +255 27 250 7496
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.
The Old Fort is the oldest building in Zanzibar and one of Stone Town’s most popular attractions. The edifice, with its pale orange ramparts, was built by Omani Arabs when they seized the island from the Portuguese in 1698. Over the years it has been used to house everything from a prison to a tennis club.
Old Fort, Mizingani Rd, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania, +255 659 788 828
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.