17 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Tanzania

Jul 22, 2021

Tanzania is rich in African history and culture, which, along with its spectacular wildlife and beautiful lakes, draws millions of tourists every year. In fact, there are some 67 million visitors to Tanzania annually, and that number is on the rise. This former British protectorate is one of the wildest, most beautiful, and least-developed countries on the continent.

With so much to do and see, Tanzania's top attractions for tourists are spread out over a wide area. A few of the most popular places are Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Ngorongoro Crater. Many of the best destinations in Tanzania, however, fall outside of the cities.

Glorious nature lovers can see massive elephant herds roam the grassy plains of the Serengeti Plain, which is the single greatest concentration of wildlife on earth. There are also extensive tropical forests and the highest diversity of wildlife of any place on Earth. Some 30 species of primates are found here, along with one-horned rhinos, lions, and other large African animals.

A much-anticipated attraction for some travelers are the people: the Maasai, and more than 100 ethnic groups inhabiting the northern highlands. The areas along Lake Victoria and the southern beaches are rich in history and colonial buildings that bring back memories of another era.

Find out what's most worth your time and money as you plan your itinerary with our list of the top tourist attractions in Tanzania.

Dar es Salaam

Photo of Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam: en.wikipedia.org

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's vibrant capital, is a vibrant city where life goes on no matter how bad the weather. It is Africa's largest city and its southern location makes it a popular tourist destination. Visit the market for spice blends, ginger-laced teas, and local herbs and learn about the regional cuisine, including the unique Tana meat. There are many museums to visit in the area, and a number of day trips you can make as well. First, explore the Great Mosque of Kitumbe Masowe, which is the largest mosque in Tanzania. It is a synthesis of architectural styles: Arab, Indian, Persian, Turkish, as well as classical African. Other top sights include the National Museum, the Nyerere International Center for Traditional Medicine, and the Tanzanite Mine. Before you fly out of Dar es Salaam, don't miss a visit to the 14th-century City Palace.

Ngorongoro Crater

Photo of Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro Conservation Area: en.wikipedia.org

Stretching across a mesa at the foot of the breathtakingly beautiful, red-dusted Ngorongoro Mountain range, the Ngorongoro Crater is arguably the most spectacular and spectacularly beautiful place on earth. The world's largest intact volcanic caldera hosts the Serengeti, an immense wonderland of Africa's greatest wildlife habitats: the forest-covered Ngare Ndare plain, the Ngorongoro Highlands, and the rift-fractured Ngorongoro Crater. The most famous of these attractions is of course the Serengeti, an expansive wonderland of plains and swamps teeming with thousands of wild animals, such as the epic migrating herds of the Wildebeest and Thomson's gazelles and the immense prides of lions, leopards, and hyenas. Indeed, the Serengeti alone makes Ngorongoro Crater a one-of-a-kind African destination. Ngorongoro Crater has an airport in Karatu and is connected to the capital, Arusha, by bus or road.

Lake Manyara

Photo of Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Bordered by the woodlands of Mount Hanang and Mount Mweya, Lake Manyara is an excellent stopover for wildlife-watchers. Endemic to Tanzania and the first national park in the world, the water is a true African ecosystem teeming with huge numbers of African wildlife. More than 100 species of mammals have been recorded, including a number of rare antelope species, many of them restricted to the region. It is also home to a rich diversity of bird life, including red-chested turaco, Hermann's turaco, wattled cranes, woodpeckers and swifts. In addition to the wildlife, the scenery here is simply breathtaking. Lush, tropical vegetation covers almost every hill and slope around the edges of the beautiful lake and the woodland encloses the villages on its shores. The water is crystal clear, the vegetation lush, and the game abundant. A 2,500-foot-long crocodile is reputed to roam the lake and around 50 crocodiles and hundreds of hippopotami have been recorded here, but they are elusive and rarely seen. Rent a boat to explore the lake at the lake village. The largest of its kind in Africa, it offers speedboat and pedal boat rides.

Serengeti National Park

Photo of Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park: en.wikipedia.org

While Tanzania's Serengeti National Park is famous for its wildebeest migration, also known as the 'great migration,' there are many other wildlife species you can see here. If you are lucky, you may spot crocodiles, a pair of lionesses, lion cubs, elephant bulls, and even the odd cheetah or leopard.

Pemba Island

Photo of Pemba Island
Pemba Island: en.wikipedia.org

A pristine island that is home to one of the few remaining populations of the great civet, Pemba Island is a great destination for a wildlife safari and offers a pristine slice of African nature. The Pemba Island Wilderness is home to elephants, rhinos and hippos, as well as great numbers of antelopes, antelope, giraffe and zebras, and you can also spot the elusive lions, leopards and pythons. On its steep-sided volcanic shores, beaches provide a good option for diving, snorkeling and swimming. Hawksbill turtle conservation programs on Pemba Island are also well developed, and are based around the Pemba Marine Reserve, which provides safe nesting habitat. The island is also considered to be one of the best places in the world to see civets. Travel to the island is generally best in the dry season (December to February), and Pemba Island is best reached by helicopter from Dar es Salaam.

Arusha

Photo of Arusha
Arusha: en.wikipedia.org

Arusha has the best-preserved historic center in the whole of East Africa. At the center is Nyarugunga, a district that was the seat of Arusha's ruling family and their mansions, as well as many old mosques. Arusha also has some excellent museums, many of them housed in large colonial buildings that were originally used as trading posts or British army barracks. Their displays of Maasai culture and displays of traditional crafts are particularly good. Activities in Arusha include hiking in the nearby mountains and rivers, visiting the numerous ancient buildings (some of them Roman) in the city center, a short drive away, as well as taking part in community activities. The region is also the home of the famous Mount Meru Safari Lodge.

Lake Victoria

Photo of Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria: en.wikipedia.org

A perfect blend of tropical forest and pristine Lake Victoria water, Tanzania is a beautiful destination and one of the best African countries to visit for safari lovers. The Northern Circuit is the most popular drive in Tanzania, but the Lake Victoria region is very varied and diverse. Famed for its wildlife, the Serengeti Plains (also known as the National Park) are home to thousands of wild animals, including more than 120 species of mammals, a wealth of birdlife, including flamingos, and more than 130 bird species, as well as reptiles and amphibians. A number of elephants, too, are often spotted in this area. Be sure to see the forest of giant baobabs. A visit to the southwestern regions of Tanzania is a must, however, as these areas contain the Bwabwata National Park, which has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the country, including up to 50,000 hippos. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also popular for the rare mountain gorilla. The northern areas are extremely peaceful and quiet, and offer great opportunities for camping and exploring. Some of the more famous villages are Musoma and Mwanza. Although you may wish to avoid Lake Victoria during the northern safari, an opportunity to visit is when the lake is full.

Morogoro

Photo of Morogoro
Morogoro: en.wikipedia.org

In Tanzania, Morogoro is one of the most interesting regions to visit. It is home to many of the country's customs, including the Polynesian-style women's ritual of "Morogoro mudikizi," which sees couples dance together in public to express their undying love. The capital city of Morogoro is on the coast of Lake Malawi and is famous for its surrounding lakeside sceneries and Nkhotakota Snake Park, which contains more than 20 different kinds of venomous snakes, including the legendary Nkhotakota Cobra. In addition to offering visitors the chance to see these reptiles, the park is home to the country's most impressive array of tropical birds. Other must-see attractions in Morogoro include the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Ruaha National Park, and Lake Victoria. The nearby districts of Songwe and Nachingwea are replete with hot springs and volcanic fumeroles and offer a chance to soak in their therapeutic waters.

Tarangire National Park

Photo of Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park: en.wikipedia.org

One of the most awe-inspiring wildlife parks in Africa, the 42,000-hectare Tarangire National Park lies in the Great Rift Valley in the southern part of Tanzania. It was established in 1977 in order to protect the beautiful scrubland and its rich wildlife, which include elephants, leopards, cheetahs, lions and rare species of antelope, rhinos and hippopotami. There are a number of wildlife-viewing trails in the park, including the Safari Trail to Tarangire Dam, which is excellent for seeing lions, elephants and leopards, and the Tarangire River walkway, which offers fantastic opportunities for spotting wildlife along the waterway. Alongside Tarangire are the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world's largest geological wonders. It is a sacred site for the Maasai and Masai tribes, who still maintain a strong connection with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Iringa

Photo of Iringa
Iringa: en.wikipedia.org

Nestled in a dramatic and sparsely-populated valley along the Iringa river in the middle of Tanzania's picturesque Usambara Mountains, Iringa is the perfect base for visitors looking to spend time in the area's lush, rainforested countryside. The regional city's name means 'place of return', a fitting description for a town that receives many visitors from East Africa and has only 5,500 permanent residents. Many of those residents are Tanzanian citizens from the area's German colony, who have incorporated traditional Swahili architecture into the city. The historic district is pedestrian-friendly with charming buildings and is notable for the Swahili courtyard/garden built in honor of the city's German colonists. The locally-made spirits mezani, known locally as whisky, are particularly popular.

Kigoma

Photo of Kigoma
Kigoma: en.wikipedia.org

When the news of the Kivu quake spread through the region last September, over half a million displaced people took refuge in nine camps, set up in large tents. Crammed into the 20-kilometer Congolese border area, the camps, as well as several others across the region, came under attack from Rwandan rebels in November. Their locations are reportedly secure now, but aid agencies continue to help displaced populations in Kigoma. Access to the region is difficult, requiring long-haul flights from the capital, Kinshasa, or overland travel to Lubumbashi or Mbuji Mayi, from where you can catch buses or minibuses to Kigoma. From Kigoma, there are numerous boat services to a wide array of islands, to the west and the northern coast of the Lake Tanganyika. To the east, in Rwanda, a railway now runs to the border. The old colonial town of Kigali offers a peaceful glimpse of colonial life in the east African highlands, with a view of Mount Merillats and Lake Kivu.

The Ruaha National Park

Photo of Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park: en.wikipedia.org

The Ruaha National Park, in the north-central part of Tanzania, has an area of 836,000 hectares (2,000 square miles). The main and most attractive area is the "Lake Zone" in the south, an extension of the Great Ruaha National Park of northwestern Tanzania, which covers the adjoining dammed Lake Victoria. The Dam and National Park can be visited in a day from Mwanza, but allow for three days. The Ruaha has two distinct and interesting parts: the Lake Zone, which has the Ruaha River, the Albertine Rift Valley and the lakes to the north; and the more inaccessible southern area. The park is made up of the drier lowlands to the north of the lake, and the swampy and dense forested mountains to the south. Both have a rich variety of plant and animal species, and the park is of significance to conservation. The most important tree species is the Acacia mearnsii, which was named after Colin Mearns, a Briton who worked for Nye Bevan in Zimbabwe in the 1950s. The work at this location was his first engagement with forest conservation, and the site was already being investigated in the 1950s by Dr. John MacKinnon, a forester and fellow of the Forestry Society of Scotland, for both research and to demonstrate conservation techniques. In the mid-1950s, Colin Mearns and Gordon Leigh Mearns started work on the early project at Rungwe.

Great Migration

Photo of Serengeti
Serengeti: en.wikipedia.org

The Great Migration is the largest annual bird migration on Earth and it takes place between May and October on Lake Natron in northern Tanzania. Thousands of flamingos migrate southwards in the face of the dry lake basin. Lakeside areas are very popular with birdwatchers, with professional and amateur birders alike flocking to the most favorable locations to enjoy the annual meeting of distant cousins. If you happen to be in Tanzania during the Great Migration, it's worth having a look at this once little known but now popular destination, a great spot to see up close the magic of nature.

Kilimanjaro National Park

Photo of Kilimanjaro National Park
Kilimanjaro National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is also the second tallest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest. Located on the Tanzanian border, the Kilimanjaro National Park covers a vast area, as much as 85% of which is rainforest. The rainforest contains some 2,000 different species of tree, plus large mammals such as elephants and rhinoceros. The most popular thing to do in Kilimanjaro National Park is the bush trek, which is guided and takes in all the sights from the rainforest, including a waterfall and a lakeside view of the mountain. Other than climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, visitors can also visit the nearby Talekare Sanctuary, with its selection of butterflies, geckos and reptiles. There is also a museum and a tea plantation, which attracts many of the visitors to the park.

Zanzibar's Stone Town

Photo of Stone Town
Stone Town: en.wikipedia.org

Zanzibar, known to local residents as Stone Town, is a unique island city in the Indian Ocean. Stone Town is one of the most exciting destinations in Tanzania, home to both a bustling daylife as well as a traditional Swahili lifestyle. Just walking along the main streets of Stone Town is a sight to see, with every avenue resembling a film set. It is also worth stopping off in the small neighborhoods where vendors sell handicrafts and seafood in small shops lining the street. For swimming and snorkeling, head to the many natural sand beaches, some with deep inlets perfect for kite surfing and diving. For sports, cricket and soccer are the sports of choice, with the season running from April through September. Swahili culture is found in the many Swahili streets, some of which resemble Indian or Pakistani districts, so visitors will also feel like they have stepped into the heart of an exotic city. For those not traveling to Tanzania for the year, there are some wonderful neighboring islands to explore in Zanzibar.

Tanga

Photo of Tanga, Tanzania
Tanga, Tanzania: en.wikipedia.org

Tanga, the third-largest town in Tanzania, is a well-developed trading center on the Indian Ocean coast, close to the border with Kenya. A major Indian Ocean port, it's an important center for tropical fruits and vegetables, spices, and medicines, as well as for phosphate mining. Fishing boats pull up on the quays, loaded with bags of fresh prawns and giant crabs, alongside brightly painted dhows from the Indian Ocean.

Gombe National Park

Photo of Gombe Stream National Park
Gombe Stream National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Gombe National Park is one of the few places in the world where the first humans to ever see the natural world in its untouched state can still be seen, as can various wild animals and birds that live in the region. There are three areas within the park which offer two different experiences, both of which are worthwhile. Kidepo Valley is the easiest of these, as visitors only need to walk a short distance to see the chimpanzees, gorillas, and bongos. Hikes range from a short walk to the waterfall to a full day with no camping involved. Prices range from 600 to 1,000 Tanzanian shillings per person, depending on the hike chosen. The second choice is the Nabue River area, where people can ride through a beautiful forest on an African safari, as well as see the gorillas, forest elephants, and more. When planning a trip, make sure to go with an experienced tour operator and agency. Although Tanzania is very safe, many safaris are tailored specifically to tourists, so guides who have been in the area for years and have first-hand knowledge of the terrain can be the difference between a good and fantastic trip.