A Safari vacation from Arusha – Holiday travel experience of a lifetime!
Arusha town is the starting point for Tanzania’s Northern Circuit safaris, a gateway to Tanzania’s world famous national parks and game sanctuaries – Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. Arusha is one of the oldest towns in Tanzania, evolving from a small German garrison in the 1900s, Arusha has grown to become the tourist capital of Tanzania with a population of about 800,000 people.
At 1390 metres above sea level, Arusha enjoys a very agreeable climate throughout the year. Positioned at the center of Africa between the Cape and Cairo on the Great North Road and is the administrative seat of the East African Community made up of Tanzania, Kenya Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
Arusha offers an excellent opportunity for authentic souvenirs shopping, including the bold Makonde carvings, and the colorful Tinga Tinga works and batiks. Tanzanite, the native gemstone of Arusha, and one of the most beautiful and exciting gems to come from Africa, is sold in all gemstone shops in town alongside other locally mined stones like Ruby, Rhodolite and Tourmaline. Tanzanite was first discovered in 1967, some 40 kilometres to the southeast of Arusha at Mererani. To date Mererani remains the only commercially viable source for Tanzanite in the world. Tanzanite was named after Tanzania.
Arusha is at the heart of Tanzania’s safari industry – virtually everyone visiting Tanzania’s Northern parks will travel through Arusha town. The streets are lined with tour operators selling safaris, and 4×4’s seem to be setting off at every minute. However, Arusha is definitely more than just a safari town; it has superb views of Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and with a number of coffee plantations situated around the edge of town, it is a great place to stay for a day or two before heading out on the safari.
Arusha National Park is also a great distraction for a full or half day game drive. Although the park lacks predators, it is unquestionably beautiful. It is very quiet and has a wide variety of animals and superb birdlife. You can also spend an afternoon canoeing on the lake – a great thing to do if you have a late flight home! The main feature of the park is Mount Meru, which is much more of a technical climb than Kilimanjaro, and a great challenge for more experienced climbers.
When you plan to a Holiday is Tanzania, either a safari, Kilimanjaro climbing or Zanzibar beach relaxation then the best time to visit Tanzania is in the dry season from July – October when the weather is dry and sunny. As the wildlife parks dry out, the bushes become less dense and the animals are easier to spot because of this, but also because they are forced to congregate to the remaining water holes. With the beach, this is the only time of year which is pretty much guaranteed not to rain. There are short rains in November (which sometimes trickle through into December, January and March) before the long rains which come in April and May. However, December, January and February is great for wildebeests migration as they are in the greater part of Ngorongoro and southern Serengeti. Arusha town, being in the northern part of Tanzania is affected by the same weather patterns. Arusha is generally at it is hottest between the short November rains, and the long ones in April, however not by much, but the buildup of clouds could mean it will be humid if you are looking to spend a long time in the city. Generally, the months with the most numbers of rainy days is from November all the way through until the beginning of March. Then the rain becomes more constant in April and trails back down towards the end of May. By June through to the end of October the weather is clear and nice. In between the long rainy season of November and April/May there will generally be showers more than constant downfall. The only exception to this is March and December, which actually have quite a bit more rain than many.
Despite its proximity to the equator, Arusha’s elevation of 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) on the southern slopes of Mount Meru keeps temperatures relatively low and alleviates humidity. Cool dry air is prevalent for much of the year. The temperature ranges between 13 and 30 degrees Celsius with an average around 25 degrees. It has distinct wet and dry seasons, and experiences an eastern prevailing wind from the Indian Ocean, a couple of hundred miles east.
Visit to Arusha National Park or Climb Mount Meru
Situated in northern Tanzania is the little-known treasure of Arusha National Park that features a variety of ecosystems, such as grasslands, swamps, crater lakes, highland forest and a trek to Mount Meru.
Your point to start your Tanzania adventure
Gateway to all departures to the northern circuit Tanzania Safaris. Stay and or start your Tanzania adventures from here!
The heart of the rare Tanzanite gemstone
Tanzanite, the birthstone for December, is one of Tanzania’s proudest exports, and The Tanzanite Experience – the world’s only museum dedicated to this gemstone – can be found in the heart of Arusha.
Vibrant food market
Arusha’s Central Market is one of the best places to get a glimpse of Tanzanian life, and offers a total assault on the senses. Locals will try everything to be your tour guide (for a fee) and traders are intent on making a sale, so have your wits about you and prepare to barter.
Arusha’s population comprises more than 100 nationalities. It’s also a melting pot of Iraqw, Hadzabe, Maasai, Swahili and dozens of other indigenous and ethnic cultures. Muslim and Christian communities live peacefully side by side. Many cultural tourism programmes organise excursions to nearby villages to meet indigenous Wa-arusha and Maasai tribes
One of the top reasons to visit Arusha is it’s a great place for volunteering and doing charity work while you are travelling. You can organise this through a volunteer company such as VSO or Projects Abroad, or get in touch directly with organisations within the city such as KATz Volunteer Adventure,
Exciting food scene
Arusha spoils you for choice when it comes to no-frills street food. Pull up a chair beside Maasai men at Discovery Restaurant and chow down on Nyama Choma (roasted meat and maize), chapatti, pilau and biryani. Khan’s BBQ on Mosque Street attracts a cult following for its ‘Chicken on the Bonnet’ street food and plates piled high with Indian style chutneys, naans and salads. Roadside snacks can always be found in the city streets and the monthly Arusha Farmer’s market is popular with foodies.
Arusha Central Market offers many shops selling Maasai fabrics and hand-woven baskets. However, for the best in African souvenirs and curios, it’s worth heading to the Mt Meru Curios & Crafts Market (often referred to as the Maasai Market) on Fire Road. It will take some confident bartering and a keen eye to pick out the best items, but it has the widest selection of goods in the city offers a relaxed shopping experience.
Arusha has a pretty good selection of coffee shops serving up flat whites, iced lattes and other European style cups of Joe. Check out Africafe and Jambo Coffee House on Boma Road, Café Barrista on Sokoine Road or Fifi’s on Themi Road.
Arusha’s museums are a great place to start if you’re looking to find out more about Tanzania’s political, cultural and social history. The Arusha Declaration Museum by the Uhuru roundabout offers a look at the country’s fight for independence and illustrates the country’s colonial past. The National History Museum housed in a German fort. For a wide selection of African art, sculptures and artefacts, head to The Cultural Heritage craft mall.
There are hotels both inside the town centre and a number of coffee plantations set roughly 30 minutes drive outside. The Impala Hotel or African Tulip provides good budget accommodation. We prefer a more personal, atmospheric experience, and wholly recommend the four bedroom Onsea House, Rivertrees and Elewana’s luxurious, Arusha Coffee Lodge, Gran Melia Hotel