The Ultimate Tanzania Bucket List Itinerary
Discover the Wonders of Tanzania in East Africa!
Tanzania, considered by many to be the crown jewel of East Africa, is located just south of the equator where much of the country enjoys warm, but not too hot temperatures year-round. A bucket list worthy magical land, full of amazing beauty and unmatched natural wonders, Tanzania should be on everyone’s must see and do list.
Stunning landscapes, spectacular wildlife, adventurous safaris, challenging mountain climbs, exhilarating watersports, barefoot beaches, cultural riches and so much more await you on your bucket list adventure in Tanzania.
With so many lodging and activity options to choose from, you can to relax in sumptuous self-indulgence or challenge yourself with a life-changing trek to the Rooftop of Africa!
Check out these nine reasons for visiting Tanzania and find all the inspiration you need to ignite your own sense of adventure. You’ll surely want to pack your bags and get going!
If you are at all concerned with safety when traveling, visit this article detailing the safest places to visit in Africa.
Visit Tanzania in late November and December and witness the annual wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park! During the migration, millions of wildebeests along with hundreds of thousands of zebras and antelopes brave the dangers of drought, grassland fire, and starvation on their epic life and death trek in search of food and water.
This breathtaking spectacle is the largest gathering of wild animals in the world and is celebrated as a unique natural wonder. View the plunging mass of heads and horns as the animals pour down river banks and across the seemingly endless grasslands.
During the migration, you’ll find elephants wherever the wildebeest herd isn’t. Elephants typically avoid the boisterous masses of wildebeest and zebras.
Pro Tip: If you would like to safari at the heart of the Wildebeest Migration, the best plan is to book one of the Serengeti’s mobile camps. Two in particular set themselves apart from the others for their commitment to keeping up with the herds – Nomad Tanzania’s Serengeti Safari Camp and &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas.
The Serengeti National Park is one of those rare places with a larger than life reputation, yet still somehow manages to surpass expectations and take your breath away. The Serengeti is the most celebrated wildlife reserve in the world, and rightly so. With mile upon mile of undulating grassland as far as the eye can see, there is absolutely nowhere else on Earth to match its stunning beauty.
The vast plains of the park are a safari mecca populated by the Big Five game. The Big Five comprise Africa’s most iconic animals: the leopard, lion, elephant, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo.
While originally grouped by the difficulty in hunting them, today avid tourists “hunt” these gorgeous animals with binoculars and cameras.
The Serengeti is home to all of the Big Five, although rhinoceros are a rare sight on the open plains.
Pro Tip: Since the drive from Arusha is many hours long, fly from Arusha Airport to the Serengeti. A number of Tanzanian carriers have daily flights in and out of the area. These flights land at multiple airstrips across the park.
Often called “Africa’s Garden of Eden,” the Ngorongoro Crater is a 12-mile-wide ecosystem within an ecosystem created by the massive collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. One of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the crater sits at 5,900 feet above sea level and fossil evidence suggests hominids lived in the wider conservation area for over 3 million years.
Ngorongoro Crater can be toured as a day trip if your time in Tanzania is limited. Departing from Arusha, one can book a short tour that gives visitors a chance to visit the famous crater, one of the most spectacular sights in all of Africa.
Like the Serengeti, all Big Five game animals reside in this spectacular caldera. Other resident wildlife include zebra, hippo, wildebeest, hyena and many varieties of birds.
Pro Tip: Spend at least three days on safari and Ngorongoro Crater should naturally be part of the itinerary, allowing you to spend more time taking in the sights on your game drive.
Zanzibar is everything you imagine a gem of an Indian Ocean island to be. With mile upon mile of magnificent beaches lined with palm trees and shimmering turquoise waters, you will experience the stress-free pace of island life that’s evident the moment you arrive.
The island’s activities are focused around the beach, with sunset cruises, snorkeling and diving trips offered from every lodge. Swim with dolphins at Kizimkazi, see the giant sea turtles of Nungwi, and at Jozani Forest, witness first-hand the conservation efforts at one of the last remaining sanctuaries of the endangered red colobus monkey.
Stone Town, the Zanzibar capital, is a city steeped in history. It’s a true melting pot of Arabic, European, Asian, and African cultures with a story to tell around every bend. Located on the shores of the azure ocean, Stone Town’s labyrinthine alleys, towering spires, and historic sites make it a living museum and a don’t-miss destination.
Pro Tip: Visit Nakupenda Beach, which means “I love you” in Swahili. Once there, snorkel and swim with dolphins on a wide stretch of white sand that gently slopes into turquoise waters. Rent equipment from the beach’s diving center and head into the crystal-clear waters to view colorful marine life.
Climb a Mountain
Majestic Kilimanjaro, a free-standing, snow-covered dormant volcano, is the highest mountain on the continent, often referred to as the Rooftop of Africa.
Upwards of 75,000 people, on a quest of the supreme personal challenge, attempt to climb Kilimanjaro every year so it is not the most untouched mountain. However, it certainly is a test of one’s endurance, with altitude sickness the main culprit resulting in a failed summit attempt.
Read about my own Kilimanjaro trek via the 7-day Machame Route. I published Solo to Seven Six More in the Wind: A Memoir of Kilimanjaro, a book recounting the entire experience!
Maintaining your energy is important to a successful summit attempt, so fuel up during your climb with these snacks.
For another inspirational look at a climb up Kilimanjaro, check out this account of a 5-day trek on the Machame Route.
Pro Tip: Mt. Kilimanjaro is located in northern Tanzania near some of the top safari parks in Africa. While making an ascent, it would be ideal to spend a few extra days after your climb to experience the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater or Tarangire National Park.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park, one of Africa’s little-known gems, is a must for any northern circuit itinerary. Often described as Tanzania’s most underrated national park, it still boasts a variety of wildlife just as diverse as its landscape.
Named for the Tarangire River which flows through it, the park is an excellent choice during the dry season when animals are forced to move closer to the river in search of life-sustaining water. Set against a backdrop of majestic baobab trees and twisted acacia, a visit here makes for an unforgettable experience.
Pro Tip: Tarangire is home to Tanzania’s largest population of African elephants. With four of the Big Five residing in the park, it’s a great spot for a day trip from Arusha or as an addition to a Serengeti/Ngorongoro itinerary.
The colorful attire and jumping dance of the Maasai have become synonymous with Africa, and it’s in Tanzania and neighboring Kenya where travelers can interact with these semi-nomadic people.
Whether you simply snap a photo of a wandering herdsman out on the savannah or spend a night at the Maasai operated Africa Amini Maasai Lodge, the opportunity to visit with these fascinating people should not be missed.
Pro Tip: Traditional looking jewelry and other trinkets are available for purchase but must go through a bartering process before the sale is complete. Be prepared to bargain very hard if you want to pay less than the outrageous price asked at the beginning of the process.
Traditional Tanzanian food features plenty of meat, especially beef, chicken, and fish, as well as rice and vegetables. It’s simple, hearty fare often accompanied by ugali, a flour and water-based dough similar to polenta and eaten by hand.
With fresh fruits such as mango, coconut, and pineapple widely available, and local dishes rich in vegetables, legumes, and rice, Vegetarians should also find plenty of meal options to their liking.
Pro Tip: For the most part, food in Tanzania is perfectly safe to eat. It’s advisable to avoid eating cold, pre-prepared foods. On the other hand, it is not safe to drink tap water in Tanzania. To avoid problems, use only bottled or filtered water for drinking and brushing your teeth.
Capital City: Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is considered the musical center of East Africa. The city’s beach bars play a mix of Tanzanian pop and the country’s unique take on hip hop called Bongo Flava, often late into the night. Those who would rather listen to something more old-school can dance into the small hours to the sounds of Afro-rhumba, a genre that came to Tanzania from West Africa via Cuba.
Visiting the busy Kivukoni Fish Market on the harbor front is one of the most popular things to do when soaking up a slice of local life. Fishing boats arrive early in the morning to unload their catch, where it’s auctioned to local restaurants and the public.
Expect to bargain if you’re in the market for some fresh-caught ocean delights. Crabs, snapper, and squid are among the many items on display, and you can also enjoy a seafood meal while you’re there.
Pro Tip: Try to arrive at the fish market early in the morning. Not only will you see the height of the action, you’ll also have fewer crowds to contend with.
Plan Your Trip to Africa
I rely on a few trusted websites that help save money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of my preferred partners below:
Flights to Africa: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
Travel Insurance: I ALWAYS travel with travel insurance and World Nomads offers flexible plans to fit every budget and destination.
Water: Much of the water in Africa is questionable at best. I recommend the Lifestraw Go Waterbottle to ensure safe drinking water.
Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice to have a real book in your hands when traveling. I recommend picking up a Lonely Planet travel guide to get you through the wireless nights.
Electricity: You’ll need this adaptor in East Africa.
Have you traveled to Tanzania and have other suggestions of things to see and do? Let me know in a comment below.Follow me on Social Media