Use Arusha as a base camp for exploring Tanzania, and then search for herds of giraffe, hike a trail at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, paddle across hippo territory, and visit a volcanic crater. With three days in Arusha, save one to experience the city’s pulsing energy, diverse cuisine, and colorful markets. Here’s how to plan.
Day 1: Arusha National Park
Set out early on a day-long safari, and you could be snapping life-list animal photos an hour after breakfast. While some game reserves limit travelers to safari vehicles, Arusha National Park offers plenty of ways to get out of the car and into the landscape. One active option is a canoe trip in Momella Lakes, an important habitat for hippos, buffaloes, bushbuck, and a wide range of bird species. Walking safaris are another favorite, as the 213-square-mile (552-square-kilometer) park has a maze of hiking trails. Venture to the edge of Ngurdoto Crater, and you find big views of swamp and forest land. Throughout the day, watch for groups of giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions, and monkeys—since Arusha National Park sprawls along the slopes of Mt. Meru, it includes a broad diversity of habitat types and species.
Day 2: City Exploring
Now that you’ve seen Tanzania’s wild side, stick around for a day of city culture, natural history, and shopping. Make the first stop of the day Maasai Market Curios and Crafts, where a sprawl of stalls offers a treasure trove of carved masks, beadwork, colorful fabrics, and other Tanzanian handicrafts. Be prepared to bargain, and enjoy the chance to chat with local people. Next, head to the Old Boma Museum to learn about Tanzania’s natural history, from taxidermy big game to preserved plants and insects. Don’t miss an additional wing that’s devoted to Tanzania’s colonial period. After pausing for lunch in a local restaurant, continue to the Cultural Heritage Centre, which gathers high-quality art, craftsmanship, and souvenirs into a gallery-like space. Unlike the Maasai Market, shopping here means fixed prices; this is also a top shopping destination if you’re looking for tanzanite gemstones.
Day 3: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro
Hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro means a strenuous, week-long adventure, but you can get a taste of Africa’s tallest mountain in a day. Kilimanjaro day hiking tours generally follow the Marangu Route, one of the most beloved and historic routes to the summit. Dress for a day on the trail, and then set out through the lush environment, where trees are thick with moss from frequent mists. On most day hiking tours of Kilimanjaro, your turnaround point is Mandara Hut, a cluster of structures in a forest clearing where long-distance hikers spend the night. The most energetic hikers may have the option to add a side trip to Maundi Crater; clear days at the crater mean views that stretch to Kenya. After a day on the trail, return to Arusha for a well-earned feast of Tanzanian cuisine.