Arusha Travel Guide
Introduction to Arusha
Situated in Northern Tanzania, the city of Arusha is best known for being the home base for those looking to view or climb Mount Kilimanjaro. While this is the primary motivation of visitors, there are many things to do that do not involve Africa’s most iconic mountain.
From charitable schools to a national park filled with iconic wildlife and Tanzania’s second largest peak, you’ll be tempted to stick around for longer than you originally planned.
Cultural Attractions to Arusha
Start your time in Arusha by paying a visit to the Cultural Heritage Centre. Visited in the past by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, this futuristic-looking facility is home to a number of exhibits that give the visitor an idea of the artistic abilities of the local population in the Arusha area.
If you like what you see, you will have the opportunity to purchase some works of art and the jewelry on display. Finally, if all that shopping worked up an appetite, there is a restaurant on site that serves traditional African dishes alongside international favourites.
While certain segments of the population in Arusha are doing rather well for themselves, many others subsist on just a few dollars per day. Determined not to leave the economically disadvantaged children of this city behind, Australian Gemma Sisia opened the School of St Jude with charitable funds in 2002.
Running largely on charitable donations from abroad, children from economically disadvantaged families get a basic but well-rounded education and are permitted to stay on the premises in boarding facilities.
Their efforts have been rewarded in recent years, as their first graduating class finished in the top ten percent in all of Tanzania in 2015. The school is open to visitors with a donation, giving you a chance to see the difference that a few dollars per month can make in the lives of real people.
Although it may not sound like a cultural hotspot based on its name, Meserani Snake Park has more to offer than just serpents. Although you will have a chance to watch snakes such as pythons and black mambas in action, there is also a living history open-air museum that is set up on the property.
Complete with Maasai warriors, you’ll gain an insight into village and bush life in the years leading up to the present day.
Other Attractions in Arusha
While much of your time in the Arusha area will be taken up by Mount Kilimanjaro, make time to visit Arusha National Park as well. Established to protect Mount Meru, Tanzania’s second largest peak at a not shabby 4,566 metres above sea level, there is plenty to see and do within the bounds of this nature preserve.
Ngurdoto Crater, an extinct volcanic feature, it’s home to its fair share of wildlife (giraffes, zebras, lions, and more), with its most unique resident being the flamingo. Found in brackish lagoons throughout the park, it will be a photographic experience you didn’t expect to have in Africa.
Not quite ready to tackle Kilimanjaro, but still want bag a challenging peak during your time in Arusha? Challenging the steep slopes of Ol Doinyo Lengai will be an experience that you won’t want to miss.
An active volcano that is home to some of the most unusual magma in the world, the sight of watching it harden in mid-air will be as impressive as the views you’ll get from the top. The climb starts at midnight, as it is a very physically challenging undertaking.
Those that are afraid of heights should think twice about doing this, as the top of this peak is completely exposed, and the steepness of the slope near the top will give you some serious vertigo on the way down.
Finally, be sure to take in the Tanzanite Experience if you are interested in learning about one of Tanzania’s most unique gemstones. Said to be a thousand times rarer than diamonds, the glow of this ethereal blue rock will pierce your soul on first sight.
In this museum, you will learn how this gem got its name, and you will also see how it is cut and polished before being put up for sale.