Tanzania is known for some of the greatest wildlife on the planet, and thus, safaris and Africa’s highest mountain – Kilimanjaro are the most visited attractions. Some people may know Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island with stunning beaches, right off the coast and most travelers will see at least Dar es Salaam’s airport. But other than these places, what does Tanzania offer? Which cities should you visit? I’ve asked some travel bloggers and expats and they recommended the following best cities to visit in Tanzania.
Cities are listed alphabetically
Going to Tanzania? Here are the most important things to know!
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If you’re on a road trip or if you feel like you’ve been in Dar es Salaam for too long, Bagamoyo is one of the best cities to visit in Tanzania. About a one-and-a-half-hour drive north of Tanzania’s metropolis, you will find this fishing town whose glory visibly diminished years ago. Whether its the Kaole ruins that date back to the 13th century or the more recently abandoned hotels and other buildings, this place surely has seen better times (but the ruins are still great to look at). Nowadays, it’s more of a pretty quiet village with travelers meeting at the Firefly bar/guesthouse, where they serve great food. To experience local life, stroll down to the fish market or through town.
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Mbeya is a city surrounded by mountains in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. It is quiet, peaceful, and feels more like a town than a city. While the city is worth a visit for the nice views and cafes (check out the Ridge for amazing coffee!), its position as a starting point to explore the wider Mbeya region is its real attraction.
Just a few minutes outside the city, Utengule Coffee Lodge is the perfect place to unwind, swim and drink great coffee. You can take tours of the coffee plantation and the views from the lodge are spectacular. From here, you can easily take a day trip to Lake Ngozi- a crater lake surrounded by forest. Kitulo National Park is also reachable in a few hours and is one of the least visited Tanzanian national parks. I visited in March and was the only tourist in the entire park that day. I spent the day hiking through dense fog and over green hills which eventually gave way to the Ruaha River. It felt like nowhere I had ever been in Africa before and for that alone, it’s worth a visit. Go between December and April to see the entire park covered in wildflowers. The last place I recommend in Mbeya Region, although tricky to get to, is Lake Nyasa a.k.a the Tanzanian side of Lake Malawi. I stayed at Matema Beach where you can go snorkeling, fishing or just relax and swim at the lake shore. I have no doubt that in a few years Mbeya will be Tanzania’s centre of tourism, so go now while you can still have it to yourself!
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Most visitors use Moshi as their stopover city for their Mount Kilimanjaro hike and/or safari. We had a few days between our hiking and safari activities and spent days exploring Moshi. The city is laid back and has a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. One of the popular activities is to take a day trip to a local organic coffee plantation, learn about the coffee-making process, and taste the delicious coffee. Coffee is one of Tanzania’s largest export crops.
Another activity is to visit the beautiful Materuni waterfall for a swim. Your guide will lead you through an easy walk through the stunning landscapes of the area until you reach the waterfall. If you’re interested in the cultural aspects, schedule a tour to visit a Massai village and learn about the culture and people.
The downtown area along Kibo Road/Mawenzi Road is a good place to relax. There are plenty of cheap eats along the main street from coffee shops to affordable restaurants that serve local fish and chips, Indian, Italian, and other cuisines. In addition, the area has many shops with beautiful wood carvings, jewelry, blankets, paintings, and more. These are perfect souvenirs made by locals. We hope you consider a visit to Moshi in the future.
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Stone Town is an old trade center located on Zanzibar Island in Tanzania. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is very unique due to the various cultures that have been brought together for more than a thousand years. You’ll find influences from Africa, Arab countries, India and Europe. One thing I noticed during our time there was the languages spoken by the local tour guides. It was amazing to hear them speak fluently in Italian, German, Romanian, French and many other languages. This is great for tourism since no matter where you are coming from, you’ll most likely find someone to show you around in your chosen language.
The Park Hyatt Zanzibar was our hotel of choice and it was perfectly situated. The hotel is on the beachfront and only a few minutes’ walk to all the attractions. You can take a boat to Changuu Island, also known as Prison Island, and spend some time with hundred-year-old tortoises, grab a bite or enjoy the gorgeous white sand beach.
The Spice Market is a must when visiting Stone Town, but be warned, if you are faint of heart you may want to skip the chickens and the fish market. The spices are the highlight, not only are they used to cook but the locals have a few secrets up their sleeves. Take turmeric, for example, it is said to keep your skin looking young. All you need to do is mix it with egg white apply it to your face and wash it off once dry.
We learned all about the region’s history on our visit to the Slave Trade Exhibit. This is where the abolition of slavery is commemorated and we were educated about this dark period in the region’s history. An absolute must when visiting Stone, it is a very eye-opening experience.
You can also grab a drink at Maru Maru, a rooftop restaurant overlooking Stone Town, and enjoy the sunset. Stone Town is rich in history and culture, has tons to offer, and is the perfect stop after a Safari in Kenya or Tanzania. I hope this inspires you to visit!