Things to Do in Arusha
Mount Meru, Kilimanjaro’s more accessible cousin, is located east of the Great Rift Valley in the small but beautiful Arusha National Park. Recognized as the second tallest mountain in Tanzania and the fourth highest on the continent, its towering peak and fertile soil attract avid hikers because of the easy trails and diverse wildlife.
Travelers agree that Mount Meru offers incredible views of the summit crater and Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as access to numerous African animals. (The fertile soil surrounding this still active volcano is home to some 400 species of indigenous birds, several types of monkeys and a handful of Tanzanian leopards.) A trip to this less-traveled peak is typically done in conjunction with an excursion to one of Tanzania’s more popular destinations: Mount Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater or Mount Kenya. But this just means travelers looking to get back to nature can escape the congestion on the trails of Mount Meru.
Traveler to Meserani Snake Park can feed baboons, hold wild tortoises and get up close with dozens of slithering snakes. Expert guides explain the difference between each of the species protected at Meserani and explore the necessary steps to protect people from their poison.
In addition to lethal black mamba, spitting cobras and the impressive African python, Meserani Snake Park is also home to monitor lizards, crocodiles and other reptiles. Travelers can wander the grounds, explore the exhibits, and even venture to the nearby clinic that provides free medical services to the Maasai people. A popular cultural museum offers an opportunity to learn more about this iconic culture and the festive Snake Park Bar is a perfect spot to sip a cool drink and catch some serious shade after a day under the African sun.
Famed for its natural beauty, as well as the evidence it has produced about human evolution, Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge is also a popular stop for tourists. Also called Oldupai, the official name since 2005, the gorge is where Mary and Louis Leakey discovered evidence some of the oldest known human species here, and excavations continue to this day. In fact, it was one of the Leakey sons who would find a fossil fragment of the first human species in Olduvai Gorge in 1960.
Olduvai Gorge is known by some as the “cradle of humankind,” with evidence of human species inhabiting the area roughly 1.9 million years ago.
This stunning volcano is located in a remote region of Tanzania near the Gregory Rift, just south of Lake Natron. It’s known by the Maasai people as “Mountain of God” and its impressive lava fountains harden midair—a real geological oddity.
Ol Doinyo Lengai’s erupting hornitos—the fragile rock formations that surround active volcano vents—draw thrill-seeking climbers to its slopes each year. It’s also the only known volcano to spout carbonatitite—a low-temperature lava that is black like oil, moves quickly like water, and cools to a whitish powder.
Travelers have put this incredible volcano at the top of their bucket lists for a number of reasons—not the least of which is its truly unique way it erupts. Ol Doinyo Lengai is a scenic place for hiking and climbing and because of its rare lava, the textured hillsides look otherworldly.
Eager trekkers embarking on Mount Kilimanjaro’s less strenuous route will likely find themselves in the market town of Marangu on the eastern side of this iconic mountain. Its surrounding area is filled with lush green forests, incredible waterfalls, well-worn walking paths and quiet local farms that offer a taste of life in the Tanzanian hillside.
Travelers to Marangu will likely get an up-close look at local mountain culture in addition to some pretty spectacular scenery, but visitors agree that with thousands of travelers passing through this remote destination each year, the impact of tourism is increasingly noticeable–especially in the rising local prices. Still, the town's breathtaking beauty and close proximity to Africa’s highest peak make it an ideal stop for travelers looking to summit Mount Kilimanjaro or experience the beauty of rural Tanzania.
Small scale farms, lush banana fields and traditional mountain homesteads give this peri-urban town in near Arusha its distinct character. Travelers can visit old-world coffee farms and learn about the local production of this popular beverage or canoe out into Lake Duluti—a volcanic lake at the foothills of Mount Meru that’s home to some of the nation’s best fishing and bird watching. Several primary and secondary schools welcome travelers interested in learning more about Tengeru educational practices and even offer multi-day volunteer experiences for adventurers looking to give back to the communities surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro.
A trip to Tanzania puts travelers face-to-face with beautiful beaches, exciting cultures and incredible African wildlife. But a visit to Amani Children’s Home, just outside of Moshi, offers a unique opportunity for travelers to connect with some of the people who make this country so unique—children.
Since 2001 Amani has been providing food, shelter, education, medical care and counseling to Tanzania youth left homeless due to poverty and HIV/AIDS. The cheerful yellow building with a bright green roof typically houses between 70 and 100 kids, making it the perfect place to spend a day—or even a week—volunteering time, services or material goods for a greater cause with the breathtaking backdrop of the Tanzanian countryside.
Visitors to Mshiri Village can interact with the Chagga people and see first-hand the cultures and traditions of this mountain tribe. Travelers can wander the fertile fields of these traditional farmers and sample local foods cooked over a fire while they interact with residents of this rural Tanzanian escape. A walk through traditional thatched huts at Marangu Mtoni lets travelers connect with an age-old way of life that locals fear younger generations may never experience.
A tour of nearby Mshiri Vocational Training School puts visitors face-to-face with young artisans learning the age-old craft of woodworking through an innovative new community-based income-generating project. Travelers can purchase handmade items created by Vocational School students at the Village Crafts Shop and Café—a perfect keepsake for friends and family back home.
This national park, stationed in the northeastern region of Tanzania, is located an easy drive from the center of Arusha, making it a popular stop for travelers to this beautiful and diverse city. Despite its relatively small size, Arusha National Park offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore some of East Africa’s diverse environments, as well as gain access to many of the continent’s most famous mammals.
Visitors can explore the Meru Crater funnels in the Jekukumia River, hike to the apex of Mount Meru and enjoy breathtaking views, or embark on a wildlife adventure to grasslands of the Ngorongoro Crater. Though travelers won’t find the same number of animals in Arusha National Park as some of Tanzania’s bigger reserves, they’ll still get a taste of what makes this one of the country’s most popular destinations. The park may be lion free, but plenty of wild buffalo, giraffe, zebra and monkeys roam the land, as well as an impressive number of indigenous birds. Lucky adventurers may even spot one of the rare African elephants known to graze on grassy plains.
Ernest Hemingway called Lake Manyara National Park the most beautiful place in all of Africa. Today, the same winding roads, lush jungles, grassy floodplains and blue volcanic mountaintops that left this famous author with lasting memories, make it one of the most picturesque destinations in all of Tanzania.
Hundreds of species of birds glide through the air above Lake Manyara National Park, making it the ideal stop for international birders looking to check the rare and exotic off their life list. Travelers in search of bigger beasts will find wild buffalo, zebra and other African mammals wandering the grounds of this concentrated safari wonderland. Its compact size and close proximity to the Rift Valley escarpment mean Lake Manyara National Park offers plenty of wildlife for time-crunched travelers.