Arusha Travel Guide: Things to Do in Arusha, Tanzania

Nestled in the scenic foothills of Mount Meru, lies the vibrant city of Arusha – a hub of cultural diversity and natural wonder. Known as the gateway to Tanzania’s northern circuit, Arusha serves as a base for exploring the iconic Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak.

With its bustling markets, lively nightlife, and rich history, Arusha offers a unique blend of urban and rural charm. The city boasts a wide array of museums, galleries, and cultural centers, highlighting the region’s storied past and dynamic present. Visitors can sample local cuisine, browse artisanal crafts, or immerse themselves in traditional dance and music performances.

Arusha’s proximity to some of Africa’s most breathtaking natural wonders makes it an ideal destination for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. From the rolling plains of the Serengeti to the lush forests of Mount Meru, the region is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, including the “Big Five” – lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalos.

Whether you’re seeking a thrilling safari experience, a cultural awakening, or simply a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Arusha is the perfect place to embark on your next journey.

Arusha Travel Guide: Things to do in Arusha, Tanzania

Arusha City Guide: A Brief History Of Arusha, Tanzania

Arusha, Tanzania, is a city with a rich history that dates back centuries. In pre-colonial times, the area was inhabited by various indigenous tribes, including the Maasai and Meru. These tribes were semi-nomadic, with a way of life based on animal husbandry, hunting, and gathering.

The city of Arusha was founded in the late 19th century by the German colonial administration, who established a military post in the area. The post was named after the local river and was initially used as a base for colonial expansion and suppression of local uprisings.

In 1916, during World War I, British troops seized control of Arusha from the Germans, and it became part of British East Africa. The city then became an important center for trade, with agriculture and mining being the primary economic activities.

After Tanzania gained independence in 1961, Arusha became an important hub for diplomacy and international cooperation. In 1967, the city hosted the Arusha Declaration, which established Tanzania as a socialist state and paved the way for land reform, nationalization of industries, and other policies aimed at promoting social justice.

Today, Arusha continues to thrive as a bustling city with a vibrant economy and a rich cultural heritage. The city is known for its bustling markets, vibrant nightlife, and proximity to some of Tanzania’s most beautiful national parks, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

Arusha Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Tanzania

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.

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 Cultural Attractions: Trip to Arusha, Tanzania

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.

source: DW Travel on YouTube

Top 10 Things To Do in Arusha, Tanzania For Visitors

Arusha, located in northern Tanzania, is a city with a rich culture and breathtaking natural beauty. With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to plan your visit. To make it easier, here are the top 10 things to do in Arusha:

  1. Visit Arusha National Park: This park is famous for its diverse landscapes, from rainforests to savannahs, and is home to many animals such as elephants, giraffes, and buffaloes. Take a guided tour to make the most of your visit.
  2. Explore Mount Meru: This dormant volcano is the second-highest mountain in Tanzania, and its scenic trails offer stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside.
  3. Take a Cultural Tour: Arusha is home to several Maasai communities, and taking a cultural tour is a great way to learn about their traditions and way of life.
  4. Shop at the Maasai Market: Located in the heart of the city, the Maasai Market offers a wide range of locally made crafts, jewelry, and clothing.
  5. Visit the Natural History Museum: Learn about the history and culture of Tanzania at this museum, which features exhibits on the country’s geology, wildlife, and human history.
  6. Explore the Arusha Coffee Plantations: Tanzania is famous for its coffee, and the Arusha region is home to several coffee plantations. Take a tour to learn about the coffee-making process and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
  7. Take a Hot Air Balloon Safari: For a truly unforgettable experience, take a hot air balloon safari over the Serengeti plains, where you can see herds of wildebeest and zebras from above.
  8. Visit Lake Duluti: Located just outside the city, Lake Duluti is a beautiful crater lake that offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of Arusha.
  9. Go on a Wildlife Safari: Arusha is the gateway to some of Tanzania’s most famous national parks, including Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Take a guided safari to see lions, elephants, and other iconic African animals.
  10. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro is a challenging but rewarding climb. With several routes to choose from, it’s important to plan your climb in advance and choose a reputable guide.

Nyama Choma is traditional Kenyan food you can try in Aruma

What To Eat and Drink in Arusha, Tanzania

Arusha offers a variety of culinary delights that reflect the diverse cultural influences of the region. Here are some must-try foods and drinks:

  1. Nyama Choma: This is a popular Tanzanian dish consisting of grilled meat, usually beef, goat, or chicken, served with a side of ugali (maize porridge) and a tomato and onion salad.
  2. Pilau: A delicious dish made with rice, spices, and meat or vegetables. It is similar to biryani and is a popular meal in the region.
  3. Chips Mayai: A popular street food, chips mayai is a combination of fries and an omelet. The fries are mixed with beaten eggs and fried together to make a crispy and satisfying snack.
  4. Mishkaki: These are meat skewers that are grilled over an open flame and marinated in a blend of spices, including chili, garlic, ginger, and cumin. They are often served with a side of kachumbari, a tomato and onion salad.
  5. Ugali: This is a staple food in Tanzania and is made from maize flour cooked with water to form a thick, starchy porridge. It is often served with stews, curries, or grilled meats.
  6. Zanzibar Pizza: A unique twist on the traditional pizza, this street food is made with a dough filled with a variety of ingredients such as eggs, cheese, vegetables, and meat, and is then fried until crispy.
  7. Tea: Tanzania is known for its high-quality tea, which is grown in the nearby Usambara Mountains. Enjoy a cup of locally produced tea while taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding area.
  8. Coffee: Tanzania is also known for its coffee, which is grown in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Sip on a cup of freshly brewed coffee and savor the rich, bold flavors.
  9. Banana Beer: This is a traditional Tanzanian beer made from fermented bananas. It has a slightly sweet taste and is often served in local bars and restaurants.
  10. Fresh Juice: Arusha is home to a variety of delicious and refreshing fresh juices made from tropical fruits like mango, passionfruit, and pineapple. Be sure to try some during your visit.

Top Restaurants In Arusha, Tanzania

Arusha offers a diverse range of restaurants that cater to both local and international cuisines. With an array of choices to pick from, it’s hard to know where to start.

  1. Georges Tavern: This restaurant serves delicious pizza, Mediterranean cuisine and barbecue dishes.
  2. Spices & Herbs Ethiopian Restaurant: This Ethiopian restaurant serves up tasty cuisine and great coffee.
  3. Onsea House Arusha: This French and Belgian restaurant serves a tasting menu and it also a top hotel.
  4. Chinese Whispers This Chinese restaurant is known for its mouth-watering food and flavorful dishes.
  5. Hotplate This Indian restaurant serves excellent food at fair prices. Visitors have appreciated the good food in a simple setting.
  6. Fig & Olive This Lebanese and Mediterranean restaurant comes highly recommended.
  7. Sazan This Asian and Japanese restaurant is a surprising treat.
  8. Khan’s BBQ This Indian restaurant is famous for its barbecue dishes.
  9. Pablo Picasso Cafe This Italian bar offers a nice ambiance for dining with friends.
  10. Hot Tandoor Village Indian cuisine This Indian restaurant serves up tasty dishes that will tantalize your tastebuds

Tours For Visitors To Arusha, Tanzania

Here are some tours that visitors to Arusha might be interested in:

  1. Safari Tours: Arusha is a gateway to some of the most spectacular safari destinations in Tanzania. You can book a safari tour to explore the famous Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Lake Manyara National Park, among others.
  2. Cultural Tours: Arusha is home to many different ethnic groups, and you can experience their unique cultures through various cultural tours. Visit the Maasai village and learn about their traditional way of life or explore the local markets to see the vibrant colors and flavors of the region.
  3. Kilimanjaro Hiking: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can join a hiking tour to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. There are several different routes, each with varying degrees of difficulty, so choose one that suits your fitness level.
  4. Waterfall Tours: Arusha is also known for its breathtaking waterfalls. You can book a tour to visit some of the most stunning waterfalls, such as Materuni Waterfall or Marangu Waterfall.
  5. Hot Air Balloon Rides: For a unique and unforgettable experience, book a hot air balloon ride over the savannahs of Serengeti or Tarangire National Park. You’ll witness the stunning sunrise and get a bird’s eye view of the wildlife below.

No matter what your interests are, Arusha has something for everyone.

Arusha Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Arusha is a bustling city located in northern Tanzania, and it is the gateway to some of the most popular national parks in Africa, including Serengeti, Tarangire, and Ngorongoro. If you are planning a visit to Arusha, you will need a comfortable and convenient place to stay. Here is a guide to Arusha accommodations:

  1. The Arusha Hotel: This historic hotel is located in the city center and has been a favorite of visitors for over 100 years. It offers a range of room options, from standard rooms to suites, and amenities include a restaurant, bar, pool, and spa.
  2. Mount Meru Hotel: This hotel is located on the outskirts of the city and offers stunning views of Mount Meru. It has spacious rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar, pool, and fitness center.
  3. Four Points by Sheraton: This modern hotel is located in the heart of the city and offers comfortable rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar, pool, and fitness center.
  4. Kibo Palace Hotel: This hotel is located in a quiet neighborhood and offers spacious rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar, pool, and fitness center.
  5. Arusha Coffee Lodge: This unique lodge is located on a coffee plantation just outside the city and offers cozy cottages and villas with a rustic feel. Amenities include a restaurant, bar, pool, and spa.
  6. Green Hills of Africa: This lodge is located on the outskirts of the city and offers stunning views of Mount Meru. It has comfortable rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar, and pool.
  7. Legendary Lodge: This luxury lodge is located just outside the city and offers spacious cottages and villas with a traditional African feel. Amenities include a restaurant, bar, pool, and spa.

No matter what your budget or preference, you are sure to find an Arusha accommodation that suits your needs.

Day Trips From Arusha, Tanzania

Arusha is an excellent base for exploring the region’s natural wonders. Here are some recommended day trips from Arusha:

  1. Serengeti National Park: A visit to Tanzania is incomplete without seeing the famous Serengeti National Park. Known for its diverse wildlife, including the annual wildebeest migration, Serengeti is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.
  2. Mount Kilimanjaro: If you’re feeling adventurous, take a day trip to the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. You can go hiking or just enjoy the view of the tallest peak in Africa.
  3. Lake Manyara National Park: Known for its tree-climbing lions, Lake Manyara is a small but stunning park that is easily accessible from Arusha. You can also see elephants, baboons, and flamingos here.
  4. Tarangire National Park: Tarangire is one of Tanzania’s least visited parks, but it’s worth a visit for its vast elephant herds and unique baobab trees.
  5. Arusha National Park: If you’re short on time, Arusha National Park is a great option. It’s only a short drive from the city and you can see giraffes, zebras, and even Mount Meru.
  6. Maasai Cultural Tour: Experience the Maasai culture on a guided tour that takes you to a traditional village. You’ll learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life.
  7. Coffee Plantation Tour: Tanzania is known for its coffee and a visit to a coffee plantation is a great way to learn about the production process and taste some of the best coffee in the world.
  8. Hot Springs: Take a dip in the hot springs at Chemka, located about 2 hours from Arusha. The crystal clear water is surrounded by lush greenery and is the perfect spot for a relaxing day trip.

These are just a few of the many day trips available from Arusha. With so many natural wonders to explore, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful region of Tanzania.

Arusha Transportation Guide

Arusha has several transportation options available for locals and tourists. Here are some common ways to get around Arusha:

  1. Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Arusha, and they can be hailed on the street or booked through a phone call or mobile app. It is advisable to agree on a fare before starting the journey.
  2. Dala-dalas: Dala-dalas are local buses that are a cheap and popular way to get around Arusha. These minibusses can be crowded and uncomfortable, but they are a good option for budget-conscious travelers.
  3. Boda-bodas: Boda-bodas are motorcycle taxis that are fast and convenient for short trips in Arusha. However, safety can be a concern, and it is important to wear a helmet and negotiate the fare before getting on.
  4. Car rental: Several car rental companies offer rental services in Arusha. However, driving in the city can be challenging due to heavy traffic and poor road conditions.
  5. Private transfers: Private transfers are a more comfortable and convenient option for getting around Arusha. These services can be booked through hotels or tour operators and provide a hassle-free way to explore the city and surrounding areas.
  6. Walking: Walking is a good option for exploring the city center and nearby attractions. However, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to avoid theft and other risks.

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Arusha?

Arusha is a gateway to many other beautiful destinations in Tanzania. Here are some suggestions for places to visit after your trip to Arusha:

  1. Serengeti National Park: A world-renowned wildlife sanctuary, the Serengeti is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife sightings in Africa, including the annual wildebeest migration.
  2. Ngorongoro Crater: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ngorongoro Crater is a massive volcanic caldera that is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including lions, elephants, and black rhinos.
  3. Lake Manyara National Park: This beautiful national park is known for its tree-climbing lions and large flocks of flamingos.
  4. Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro is a popular destination for adventurous travelers looking to climb to the summit.
  5. Zanzibar: This beautiful island off the coast of Tanzania is known for its stunning beaches, historic Stone Town, and rich cultural heritage.
  6. Tarangire National Park: This park is famous for its large herds of elephants and beautiful baobab trees.
  7. Lake Victoria: The largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria is a beautiful destination for fishing, boating, and birdwatching.

These are just a few of the many beautiful destinations to explore after your trip to Arusha. Whether you’re looking for wildlife, adventure, or relaxation, Tanzania has something for everyone.

Mount Meru in Tanzania

Arusha Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Arusha is an incredible destination that offers a wide variety of experiences for travelers. From exploring the city’s vibrant markets to embarking on exciting safaris in the nearby national parks, there’s something for everyone.

One of the best things about Arusha is its location – it serves as a gateway to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in Tanzania, such as Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. Visitors can use Arusha as a base for exploring the surrounding areas or as a starting point for a longer journey through Tanzania.

Additionally, the people of Arusha are warm and welcoming, making visitors feel right at home. The city is also rich in history and culture, with many opportunities to learn about the local Maasai people and their traditions.

Arusha is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Tanzania. It offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and exciting adventures that are sure to create unforgettable memories.

Arusha, land of sun and sky Where wildlife roams and mountains rise high A place where adventure awaits And beauty surrounds in every state

From safaris to hiking trails To markets selling handmade wares Arusha is a land of diversity A melting pot of cultures, a place of unity

The people here are warm and kind Their hospitality will blow your mind They welcome all with open arms And share with you their many charms

So come and explore this African gem And let Arusha be your next travel gem With memories to last a lifetime Arusha will forever be sublime.

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