Tanzania is one of those destinations that has been becoming more and more popular in recent years. Most people who travel to this East African gem are looking for a safari trip, but there’s so much more to Tanzania than lions and leopards. It has amazing island getaways, world-class scuba diving and, of course, one of the highest mountains in the world — and all that’s before we even take a look at the cities! Keep reading for the lowdown on this mesmerising African country.

Go on safari

Okay, okay, there’s really no other way we could start our list. Tanzania is one of Africa’s best destinations for spotting wildlife. There are a whopping 32 game reserves across the country, and between them, you can tick hundreds of different animals off your naturalist’s list. Tanzania is also home to all of Africa’s Big Five: leopards, lions, buffalo, elephants and rhinos. No one can ever guarantee that you’ll see a particular species while on safari, but you might well catch a glimpse of some of these elusive, majestic creatures if you’re lucky.

With so many options for a safari in Tanzania, it’s hard to know where to start. The Serengeti National Park is by far the most famous, stretching across an enormous area of almost 15,000 square kilometres. Within it, you’ll find the area known as the Serengeti Mara, which is a particularly good zone for seeing lions and cheetahs. If you want to see elephants in the wild, there’s no better place than Tarangire National Park, which is famous for its roaming herds of these gentle giants.

You can enjoy a safari at any time of year, but seeing the Great Migration in action is surely one of the best things to do in Tanzania. It starts in June each year, as thousands of wildebeest and zebras begin to move in search of fresh grass, encountering some unwelcome companions along the way. Predators like lions, leopards and crocodiles follow the moving herds, hoping to pick up some lunch. It’s a truly amazing sight. To see it at its best, check your dates carefully. As the name suggests, the Great Migration moves around and peaks in different parts of the country at different times.

Man riding on gray car during sunset.

Chill out on the Zanzibar beaches

Safari can be exhausting, so when you’ve finally had your fill of wild animals, it’s time to hit the beach! Yes, Tanzania is a great beach destination, too. As soon as you catch a glimpse of Zanzibar Island, you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to a tropical paradise. Who needs the Maldives?

A combined safari and Zanzibar adventure is a great way to see the best of what Tanzania has to offer. Lie back on the pristine white sands or take a dip in the crystal clear waters. Enjoy the views of the traditional fishing boats in the surrounding waters as you forget all about your problems. This is sheer bliss!

Rocky beach with white cottages under clear blue sky.

Take a walk through Stone Town

Can you bear to tear yourself away from the beaches of Zanzibar? We hope so! Because if not, you’ll risk missing out on one of the most interesting places to visit in Tanzania. Stone Town is the historic centre of Zanzibar City and has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There’s a good reason for that, as this is the oldest continuously inhabited Swahili city in all of Africa. It first became important during the days of the spice trade, and the streets still have that warm, unmistakable aroma of exotic spices.

Just wandering the streets of Stone Town is interesting enough that it earns a place on our list of the best things to do in Tanzania. You’ll see fascinating old buildings, which mostly still have their original, elaborately carved wooden doors. Markets, churches and an old hammam are all worth seeing in this stunning neighbourhood, which will definitely keep you busy for a day — and after that, yes, you can go back to the beach if you want!

Aerial photography of village near body of water.

Enjoy some Zanzibar street food

While you’re in Zanzibar, don’t miss the chance to try the best food in Tanzania! The island is famous for its amazing street food, particularly delicious seafood kebabs. Make sure you’ve got a taste for spice. After all, Zanzibar grew to importance as a prominent port during the days of the spice trade, and people here still love fiery, bold flavours.

For an authentic taste of the island, don’t miss the Zanzibar pizza. This wacky-sounding concoction has recently become a real hit, with visitors flocking to try it. Sorry, Italians! It’s not actually a pizza but rather a kind of crepe filled with cheese, chicken, beef, mushrooms and all kinds of other fillings. Of course, there’s also plenty of spice in one of these bad boys!

Dive into the waters of Mafia Island

While Zanzibar is attracting more visitors from around the world, the remote Mafia Island remains largely unknown. The island only has a tiny airstrip and can be difficult to get to, but it’s definitely worth the journey, especially if you’re into scuba diving. Above the surface, Mafia Island is a charming, sleepy tropical isle with golden beaches lined with palm trees. Below the water is where you’ll find the real magic, which is why a diving trip to Mafia Island is on our list of the best things to do in Tanzania.

In the waters around Mafia Island, you’ll find amazing, colourful reefs that are full of life. The creatures that live here range from minute nudibranchs and tiny fish to huge whale sharks, dolphins and octopus. The real highlight for many visitors is the sea turtles, as the sheltered island is a popular spot for female turtles to lay their eggs. Come between June and September for a chance to see tiny baby turtles climbing out of the sand and heading into the sea for the very first time. Even if you don’t have your diving certificate, you can still enjoy snorkelling in the spectacular waters.

A person swimming in the ocean with a shark.

Tackle Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing up almost 6,000 metres above sea level to the Kilimanjaro peak is no Sunday afternoon stroll. In fact, this is a feat best reserved for hardened adventurers with plenty of experience tackling lesser mountains. Nevertheless, there are expeditions throughout the year. If you’re tough enough, then you might join one and make your way up to the very roof of Africa. For would-be explorers, the best time to try an ascent is during the dry season, which starts in late June and continues to October.

Even if you’re not a mountain climber, Kilimanjaro is still one of the biggest attractions in Tanzania. There are several hiking trails on the slopes, which offer a great chance to see wildlife, as well as smaller peaks, like nearby Kibo Mountain. Elephants, buffalo and many kinds of monkeys call the slopes of Kilimanjaro home. The luckiest visitors may even catch a glimpse of leopards high in the trees. Bring your binoculars because Kilimanjaro is a paradise for birdwatchers, with a huge number of rare species dwelling in the dense forests that cover the slopes of the mountain.

A group of zebras grazing in a field with a mountain in the background.

Go inside a volcano at the Ngorongoro Crater

A trip to the Ngorongoro Crater is definitely one of the best things to see in Tanzania. This enormous crater is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the entire world. If you think of volcanoes as being lifeless, burnt husks covered in rock, think again. The Ngorongoro Crater teems with life and is, in fact, one of the best places in Tanzania to see animals.

The reason why so many creatures live in the crater is simple. In this remarkably fertile landscape, there is plenty of water all year round. As a result, the animals don’t need to migrate. It’s not necessarily a paradise for them, though. As well as vast herds of herbivores, the crater is home to lions, leopards and other predators that find it to be an amazing hunting ground.

You’ll see more than just animals when you explore the crater. Thanks to the amazing fossils that have been found here, it’s also a site of great interest to palaeontologists. Speaking of fossils…

See where our earliest ancestors came from at the Olduvai Gorge

Scientists believe that all humans evolved from East Africa. Tucked away inside the Ngorongoro Crater is the remarkable Olduvai Gorge, the site of some of the oldest human fossils ever found. The great palaeontologist Louis Leakey spent many years of his life here, searching for clues that would reveal where and how our ancient ancestors lived. He was handsomely rewarded — in the gorge, he found a human head dating back 1.75 million years and a set of fossilised, prehistoric human footprints.

A trip to the gorge should really be on your list of the best things to do in Tanzania. It’s one of the most remarkable places on earth. Visitors can trek through the gorge, which is a fun, thrilling activity in its own right, but when you couple that with the incredible paleontological history of the area, it’s sure to send a shiver of excitement down your spine.

Explore the majesty of Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is the second largest lake on the planet, pipped to the post by North America’s Lake Superior. It’s best not to go swimming in the waters, no matter how tempted you might be. Why? There are crocodiles and hippos lurking below the surface, which could put your exercise to an abrupt end! However, you’ll find more than enough to keep you busy above the waterline.

Some visitors like to stay on the side of the lake, trekking and birdwatching around the area. It’s also worth taking a boat trip across the water. There are 985 islands in the lake, and some are home to rare, beautiful animals. A visit to Rubondo Island National Park is a great way to see some wildlife. This remarkable sanctuary is home to elephants, many species of water birds, and even rare sitatunga antelope, which are notoriously difficult to see in other parts of the country.

Watch the flamingos in Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is yet another national park that functions as a game reserve, where you can see some of Tanzania’s incredible wildlife. The reason why it makes its way onto our list of the best things to do in Tanzania is simple — it’s amazing flocks of flamingos. There are two million flamingos in this park, and when you see huge groups of them, with the water around them reflected bright pink, it’s a truly spectacular sight.

While the flamingoes are the main attraction here, this wetland park has plenty more animals to keep you entertained. As well as elephants, zebras and all kinds of antelope, Lake Manyara is home to an unusual group of tree-climbing lions. As the name suggests, these big cats have decided that life on the ground is pretty dull and have taken to the treetops. Unlike leopards, they don’t do this for hunting. Instead, they hang out in the trees to protect themselves from rampaging elephants or charging herds of buffalo — and to defend against the ubiquitous insects in the national park. There are only two places in the entire country where you can see tree-climbing lions, so be sure to look up as you take a game drive around the park.

A flock of birds standing on top of a sandy beach.

Check out the markets in Dar Es Salaam

Can you believe we’ve gone this far without mentioning Tanzania’s largest city? Since 1996, the capital of the country has been Dodoma, but the former capital, Dar Es Salaam, is still the cultural hub of the nation and one of the top Tanzania tourist sites.

For centuries, Dar Es Salaam has been one of the most important cities in Africa, thanks to its privileged location on the coast of the Indian Ocean. This means that the city has some great beaches where you can chill out, but the biggest attractions are its bustling markets. In particular, it’s worth paying a visit to Kariakoo Market, which stocks everything from food to homewares, along with plenty of great souvenirs. Don’t forget to haggle — battling over the price is an essential part of the culture here!

See the sights of Dar Es Salaam

When you’ve finished in the markets, it’s time to go sightseeing! The former capital has a number of buildings and monuments that are worth taking a look at, including St Joseph’s Cathedral, the State House and the Askari Monument, a memorial for the Tanzanian soldiers who died in the First World War. There’s also the National Museum, which is a great place for exploring the history of Tanzania. It includes everything from exhibits on the sad history of slavery to the story of how Tanzania gained independence. You’ll even find prehistoric fossils that were unearthed in Olduvai Gorge.

Many visitors don’t bother with Dar Es Salaam, focusing their attention on the more natural parts of the country, but this fascinating, historic city certainly deserves a couple of days. Much of it can be explored on foot, as it’s a very walkable city. Stay there at the start of your trip to beat jet lag before you head out on safari!

Are you ready to explore this remarkable East African country? Check out our Tanzania adventure tour, which will take you from the heart of the savannah to the island paradise of Zanzibar. All this while meeting people and making new friends along the way! Come and join us for a trip you’ll never forget.

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team