Kyle Taylor

photo: Kyle Taylor

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Overview

The self-styled safari capital of Tanzania is one of the busiest tourist centers in equatorial Africa, thanks to its status as the springboard the country’s northern safari circuit, whose centerpiece is the legendary Serengeti National Park. It is also an agreeable town it its own right, forming a climatically pleasant introduction to the region because of its location at an altitude of around 1,250 meters (4,100 feet) in the fertile southern rain shadow foothills of Africa’s fifth-highest mountain, the 4,556-meter (14,950-foot) Mount Meru. The town center, with its miscellany of faded colonial architecture, has the typical feel of an East ...

The self-styled safari capital of Tanzania is one of the busiest tourist centers in equatorial Africa, thanks to its status as the springboard the country’s northern safari circuit, whose centerpiece is the legendary Serengeti National Park. It is also an agreeable town it its own right, forming a climatically pleasant introduction to the region because of its location at an altitude of around 1,250 meters (4,100 feet) in the fertile southern rain shadow foothills of Africa’s fifth-highest mountain, the 4,556-meter (14,950-foot) Mount Meru. The town center, with its miscellany of faded colonial architecture, has the typical feel of an East African agricultural service center, except that it is a lot more bustling and economically buoyant, thanks largely to the lucrative safari industry based there. Attractions in the town center are limited to a few mediocre museums, but there is no shortage of trendy eateries to enjoy, as well as some excellent craft shops and markets. Out of two, pretty Lake Duluti, set in an old volcanic crater, is popular for birdwatching and canoeing, and a number of cultural tourism programs set up by pastoralist Maasai and agriculturist Wa-Arusha communities offer visitors the opportunity to interact with these proudly traditional people.

The closest safari option to town is Arusha National Park, where wondrously lush forests support a variety of colorful forest birds and monkeys, while a set of open lakes is home to buffalo, waterbuck, flamingoes and other waterbirds. Improved roads also mean that the superb Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara National Park are within day tripping and overnight excursion distance. Longer safaris out of Arusha usually continue to the more distant Serengeti, and the town is also a base for climbs of Mount Kilimanjaro, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the east.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Arusha, a major international diplomatic hub and gateway to the popular Northern Safari Circuit, is a city in northern Tanzania. Despite its proximity to the equator, Arusha's elevation of 1,400 m keeps temperatures relatively low and alleviates humidity.
  • Language: Kiswahili or Swahili, English and Arabic
  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Often unexpectedly cool and cloudy, this gateway town has an inoffensive climate throughout the year, and your timing is most likely to be influenced by seasonal factors in the nearby game reserves and mountains.