Whether you realize it or not, Tanzania has some of the world’s best-known attractions. Not only is this east African nation home to Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, but also Serengeti National Park. Loved by natural history film crews, it boasts the Great Wildebeest Migration. Then there are the beaches of Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean coast, as well as plenty of adventures on Lake Victoria. Here are 7 amazing things to do in Tanzania you won’t want to miss.
1. Mount Kilimanjaro
So high it’s summit often lies above the fluffy clouds of Tanzania’s bright blue skies, Mount Kilimanjaro reaches a high of 5,895 meters. Africa’s highest mountain, its glaciers provide a stunning backdrop to safaris in the plains below, but also much sought-after hiking opportunities.
There are seven different routes to the summit of ‘Kili’ and the roof of Africa. Taking close to a week and covering between 30 and 50 miles (50-80 kilometers), each provide something different as they pass through grassland and forest to alpine meadows.
Most allow you to reach the summit in time to experience the uninterrupted sunrise over the highest point anywhere in Africa.
2. Serengeti National Park
A name which instantly brings to mind thoughts of dramatic lion chases, Serengeti National Park is a Big 5 reserve which has the added attraction of the annual Great Wildebeest Migration.
One of nature’s greatest spectacles, and the largest migration of large mammals in the world, an estimated two million animals take part in a life and death search for fresh pasture. Of these, around 1.2 million animals are wildebeest, with another 300,000 zebra and 500,000 antelope.
Such large numbers of herbivores attract the attention of big cats including lion and leopard, while some of the most dramatic moments of this 600 mile (1000 km) yearly journey are crossings of the Grumeti and Mara Rivers. Here the wildebeest not only have to face off against lion, but also dodge crocs amid the strong currents.
Choose a multi-day safari in the Serengeti and you’ll agree its one of the things to do in Tanzania you just cannot miss.
3. Indian Ocean Beaches
Tanzania is blessed with almost 900 miles (1500 km) of gorgeous coastline on the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Offering soft white sand shaded by mature palms like a chapter in an adventure story, there are no shortage of secluded beaches where it would be possible to enjoy the sun, sea and sand. On the mainland, Kilwa Mosoko’s Jimbizi Beach has a great range of accommodation options on waters still crossed by traditional wooden boats called dhows.
However, when it comes to things to do in Tanzania, we also have to highlight the beaches of Zanzibar, a once-independent island that lies a short distance offshore. They range from Paje Beach in the south to Nungwi in the north, both of which have a number of places to eat and try your hand at water sports.
4. Lake Victoria
Shared with Tanzania’s neighbors Kenya and Uganda, Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest body of water and is so large it’s often not possible to see the opposite shore.
The main source of the River Nile, there are several reasons to make this one of your things to do in Tanzania. For one thing, it’s difficult to argue against its charming spread of villages, while if you head out onto the water you can try your hand at game fishing and a little wildlife spotting. The lake is home to large populations of both hippo and Nile crocodiles.
Head to Rubondo Island National Park, one of the country’s smallest, and there’s not only great birding opportunities, but also the chance to have encounters with rescued chimpanzees. Alternatively, head to Gombe Stream National Park, where visitors can witness chimps in the wild.
5. Olduvai Gorge
One of Earth’s most important sites, Olduvai Gorge isn’t known for its animal life but for its human history. Located within another of the top things to do in Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, discoveries have dated our ancestry back to 1.9 million years ago.
These discoveries include the footprints of a man, woman and child at nearby Laetoli, ancient hand axes and several science-altering bone fragments. The onsite museum helps to put the finds into context, and provides views over the site and its outcrop of rock.
Because of its location within Ngorongoro and its proximity close to the Serengeti, a trip is easily combined with a Tanzania safari.
6. Stone Town
Back on Zanzibar, Stone Town acted as the seat of government during the centuries of rule by its sultans (which only ended in the 1960s) and remains one of Tanzania’s most important cultural destinations.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its narrow medieval street layout is filled with atmosphere. But they also have several specific attractions which are definitely worth taking time to discover properly.
It won’t take you long to notice the intricately carved doorways of its coral stone buildings, which lead to structures including the Old Fort, royal palaces turned into fascinating museums and a grand Anglican cathedral with links to explorer David Livingstone.
7. Selous Game Reserve
Named after big game hunter and conservationist Frederick Selous, this game reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Africa. Known for its diversity of wildlife, its species list includes extremely rare black rhino, elephant, lion, wild dogs and Maasai giraffe.
Part of the reason for this range in species is the fact the reserve incorporates wetland, rocky canyons and miombo woodland as well as the grassland plains Tanzania is best known for. In addition to game drives, visitors are able to explore on foot or from the waters of the Rufiji River.
Our Pick of the Best Things to do in Tanzania
There is an incredible spectrum of things to do in Tanzania. It is a country with some of the best wildlife viewing around, Africa’s highest peak, breathtaking beaches and a culture that goes right back to the dawn of humankind. Modern visitors might need advice on what to take, in which case check out our recommendations for an African safari packing list.