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Located on the foothills of Mount Meru, Arusha is a city in Tanzania known for its bustling atmosphere and famous attractions. It sits close to various national parks and reserves and is known as Tanzania’s safari capital for the Northern Safari Circuit.
Arusha has an intriguing culture where different nationalities meet with one another. The city also boasts unique architecture, historical monuments, beautiful landscapes, and delicious cuisine. It offers an interesting mix of safaris destinations, chaotic markets, cultural sites, and modern facilities. Whether you want to see animals on game drives, bask in the beautiful views of the mountains, or explore the city like a local, Arusha is the perfect destination to visit in East Africa.
Location: East Africa, Tanzania
Nearest Airport: The nearest airports to Arusha is the Arusha Airport (ARK) and the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA)
How to reach: From Kilimanjaro or Arusha by flight
Famous for: Safari capital of Tanzania’s Northern Safari Circuit
Best time to visit: January to December
WHAT TO SEE
Cultural heritage centre, clock tower, Masai Market, Museum
Arusha national park
It is base for Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Manyara national parks
It is closest big town to Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru
The first settlers of the current region of Arusha were the Arusha Maasai, belonging to the Arusha Chini community in the 1830s. In 1836, Arusha was captured by the Germans wherein they built permanent military forts and forcibly displaced local people from their ancestral lands. During World War I in 1916, the British took away Arusha from the Germans and the city soon had a growing population. While trade was supported, Tanzania was still in hands of a foreign power. However, throughout the years, power was slowly handed back to the local figures. In the late 50s, it was the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) who headed the country. In 2006, Arusha was officially declared as a city by the Tanzanian government.
Today, Arusha is an important trade center in Northern Tanzania and tourism is a major part of the city’s economy.
Approximately 100 nationalities reside in Arusha. It is safe to assume that the city is a melting pot of diverse cultures such as the Maasai, Swahili, Iraqw, and many other indigenous and ethnic groups. Religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism also contribute to the vibrant heritage of Arusha.
Places of interest
Arusha National Park – Arusha National Park covers the prominent volcano, Mount Meru. Although small, the park houses a variety of wildlife species and offers spectacular vistas of mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and grasslands.
Tarangire National Park – Set in the Manyara region, Tarangire National Park is famous for its high densities of elephants, baobab trees, and the mighty Tarangire River. The park is home to several species of animals and birds which can be seen through safaris.
Ngurdoto Crater – Ngurdoto Crater is found within the northern Tanzanian region of Arusha. This extinct volcano surrounds luscious rainforests and has a diverse wildlife.
Mount Meru – Mount Meru, situated within Arusha National Park, is a superb hiking spot. It is the second-highest mountain in Tanzania and has well-established trails.
Meserani Snake Park – The Meserani Snake Park is dedicated to an array of snake species such as the Egyptian Cobra, Back Mamba, and the Puff Adders. Visitors can get an educational tour of the different snakes living in the park.
Cultural Heritage Centre – The Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre is where the past and present of Tanzania’s more than 120 tribes can be seen. The center displays artifacts, books, ethnic clothing, carvings, and gemstones. The center aims to celebrate and explore the rich African culture.
Ol Doinyo Lengai – Known as the ‘Mountain of God’ in the Maasai language, Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only active volcano. For the adventurous travelers, climbs are organized to reach the mountain’s peak that provides astonishing views of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Natron, and Mount Kilimanjaro altogether.
Lake Duluti – Lake Duluti is a crater lake and is surrounded by green, lush forests. Visitors can enjoy various activities around the lake such as hiking, birding, canoeing, and swimming.
The Tanzanite experience – At the Tanzanite experience, visitors can learn about the history and rarity of the precious Tanzanite gemstone. It conducts interactive tours, visual exhibitions and even offers an opportunity to purchase tanzanite directly from the source.
Arusha Declaration Museum – The Arusha Declaration Museum showcases the history of the political economy of Tanzania. The museum has permanent exhibitions depicting pre-colonial and colonial history, the struggle for independence, and the development of Tanzania after the Arusha Declaration.
Mount Meru Waterfall – The Mount Meru Waterfall is an incredible natural wonder in Arusha. Visitors can opt for a full-day excursion or hike to the waterfall that leads through small villages and dense landscapes.
Lake Natron – Situated at the foot of Ol Doinyo Lengai is Lake Natron, an alkaline lake that attracts over 2.5 million Lesser flamingos.
Hot Springs – The region of Arusha is home to many hot springs such as Kikuletwa, Maji Moto, and the Chemka Hot Spring, all situated in beautiful surroundings.
Serengeti National Park – Serengeti is a large national park in Northern Tanzania, located entirely in the eastern Mara region. It is renowned for the popular Great Wildebeest Migration that takes place annually.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a caldera that has a rich biodiversity. During safaris, sightings of lions, leopards, wildebeest, and even the black rhino are expected.
Tengeru – The town of Tengeru is situated just outside of Arusha, near the eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley. Tengeru has scenic waterfalls and beautiful local communities.
Lake Manyara National Park – This park is nestled between the regions of Arusha and Manyara. It is known for its flourishing flora and fauna, particularly the flock of flamingos that feed alongside Lake Manyara.
Momella Lakes – Momella Lakes are the seven shallow lakes located within Arusha National Park. It is a tourist hotspot for canoe safaris and houses several species of animals and birds.
Clock Tower – The Arusha Clock Tower is a famous landmark that has a fascinating history. It is believed to be located at the midpoint between Cairo and Cape Town.
Arusha National Natural Museum- Opened in 1987, the museum displays planetological, paleoanthropological, and archaeological collections from various Tanzanian sites.
Maasai Market Curios and Crafts – This dynamic and bustling Maasai market is a haven for street shoppers. It has more than 100 stalls selling local arts, souvenirs, jewelry, and more.
Themi Living Gardens – This quaint and beautiful garden is led by a women’s community center and promotes sustainable gardening. It also has the first eco restaurant in the country that serves delicious cuisines.
Aranga Coffee Group – Supported by the local farmers, Aranga Coffee Group has a long tradition of coffee farming. Visitors can enjoy coffee tours conducted by the group that showcases the different stages of growing coffee.
Arusha farmer market – This market highlights the importance of farmers and their contribution to the country’s economy. It is particularly meant for people wanting to learn about the food processing industry of Tanzania.
Arusha has an exciting food scene. Local foods in the city include vegetables, fruits, and fresh meat coupled with natural spices and herbs. The best way to experience Arusha is by trying out food in the local style. Ugali is one of the most popular foods which consists of a thick porridge prepared from maize flour. Other foods to enjoy are grilled chicken, goat ribs, ndizi choma (deep-fried bananas), chapati (flatbread), mandazi (fried bread), mahindi choma (grilled corn), and nyama choma (barbecued meat). Aside from Tanzanian foods, Arusha also offers Italian, Indian, Chinese, and other international cuisines at various restaurants. The best places to eat in Arusha are Khan’s BBQ, The Fig and Olive, Vama restaurant, Abyssinia, and Fifi’s restaurant.
A visit to Arusha remains incomplete without a shopping trip. The best places to shop in the city are Shanga for handicrafts, Gohil’s for culinary staples, Sidai Designs for jewelry, and Maasai markets for various souvenirs.
How to reach
By air – Visitors can enter Arusha through the Kilimanjaro International Airport or the Arusha Airport.
By road – Arusha is a comfortable 4-hour drive from Nairobi, East Africa’s biggest international air hub.
Where to stay in Arusha
Some of the best places to stay in Arusha are:
The African Tulip – This luxury hotel is situated in the heart of Arusha. It has 29 rooms, including 7 suites, that are stylishly decorated with warm African tones. The hotel also has a lodge, a bar, a restaurant, a swimming pool, and gift shops.
Fun Retreat Resort – Fun Retreat Resort is a recreational resort neighbored by a lush landscape. It has standard rooms, lavish cottages, an in-house spa, a restaurant serving all types of cuisines as well as fun activities.
Mount Meru Game Lodge – Set in the tranquil surroundings of Mount Meru, this lodge is nestled between a river and a sanctuary. The lodge features 17 spacious guestrooms, an outdoor dining area, a restaurant, a swimming pool, and a beautiful garden. Guests can embark on activities like cultural visits, canoeing safaris, mountain biking, and many more organized by the lodge.
Arusha Coffee Lodge – This lodge is located at the foot of Mount Meru, hidden among the country’s largest coffee plantations. It has modern yet homely suites and rooms, restaurants, a spa, and various activities including coffee tours.
Gran Melia Arusha – Gran Melia Arusha is sprawled on 18 acres of tea and coffee plantations. This luxury hotel has sophisticated rooms that oversee Mount Meru and come equipped with all modern amenities. The hotel also has a bar, an outdoor heated pool, conference facilities, and restaurants.