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Tanzania’s diverse natural environments have made it one of the best tourist destinations on the continent. Its 13 game reserves and national parks are home to a staggering range of African wildlife, with the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area accorded World Heritage Status.
But that’s not all Tanzania has to offer: top beach and coastal destinations are also a highlight of the Tanzanian tourism offering.
Central to most East African Overland experiences is a stay on that most evocatively named Indian Ocean island: Zanzibar. Home to long white beaches, teeming coral reefs and spice-laden markets, exotic Zanzibar offers an utterly different take on an African safari.
Zanzibar is 35km from mainland Tanzania and is connected to Dar es Salaam by ferries, hydrofoils, and flights. Founded on the back of the ivory, spice and slave trades and long a trading centre for Persians, Arabs, Indians, and Chinese, today’s Zanzibar is a place of Islamic culture, Arabian architecture, romantic white-sailed dhows and miles of sandy palm fringed beaches.
And happily, it’s very accessible: Zanzibar is easy to get around, whether on a public bus, hired car or minibus, and it’s not very big. You could race round the whole island in a day, but there is so much of an atmosphere that to absorb it deserves more time. Top places to visit include ancient Stone Town, Jozani Forest - home to numerous black and white Columbus monkeys - and beautiful & exotic Prison Island - just 30 minutes from the main island.
Why not check out our top Tanzania & Zanzibar overland tours for more ideas on where to go in Tanzania on your overland trip.
Tanzania’s top safari destinations of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park are fortuitously arranged in a cluster around the small town of Arusha, the country’s undisputed safari capital and logistics hub of the Northern Safari Circuit.
Lying 485km north-west of Dar es Salaam and only about 300km south of Nairobi, it’s also the halfway point between Cape Town and Cairo! There are plenty of handy amenities in Arusha - bureaux de change, internet cafes and booking agents - while 20 kms on the road to the Crater is the Meserani Snake Park - a mandatory stop for all overland trips on the way to the national parks.
Mto Wa Mbu
Conveniently located on the road between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater, this small village is a natural pit stop and chance to grab a cold drink and negotiate a price with the many souvenir and curio dealers who know a captive market when they see one.
If you’re lucky you might see one of the Maasai cattle markets that occur occasionally on the plains outside of town. This is a rare spectacle when thousands of colourful Maasai gather with their cows to trade.
Dar es Salaam
Any Overlander on their way to Zanzibar will dip into Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest and busiest city. It hardly resembles its translation - ‘Haven of Peace’ - but it’s a great place to restock, regroup and get a sniff of African urban life, both literally and metaphorically.
Wandering the streets of Dar is nowhere more rewarding than in the Asian business district: here the flavours and smells are of a little Bombay rather than Africa. The Kariakoo Market has a colourful atmosphere and the stalls are adorned with piles of fresh fruit, flowers and Zanzibar spices.