Picking the best things to do in Arusha can be a bit challenging.
With so many tourist attractions, both natural and cultural in and near the city, you need to carefully examine the options in relation to your interests.
Every so often, a new activity in Arusha becomes available. Eager operators jump at a new activity and gamble some trips into it.
Some of those gambles crush it while others end up into a disappointment.
As each year brings a few of these activities, the circle keeps repeating itself and as a result, Arusha has over 50 things to do as I am writing.
In this post, I will outline 10 best things to do in Arusha and I will focus on the proved activities that have always been the top priorities to most visitors.
While Arusha might have up to 50 activities, expect to see 10 best among them all. And if you’re looking to visit Arusha in future then this guide might be exactly what you need for your trip to meet your expectations.
At the end of this post you will have a detailed knowledge on;
- Arusha city
- Weather in Arusha
- Getting to Arusha
- Best things to do in Arusha
Known by many as Geneva of Africa, most people in Tanzania like to refer it as a tourist city. Its welcoming weather and its beautiful scenery were enough for US former president, Bill Clinton to baptize Arusha as the Geneva in Africa.
Most safari trips start in Arusha.
As a country, Tanzania is blessed with top attractions in almost every corner of the country.
I won’t claim that the whole country has unique attractions but yes, it’s hard to figure out which part of Tanzania that won’t give you a positive vibe.
Among all angles of the country, the Northern zone is the most spoilt when it comes to attractions, and Arusha, in particular, is the starting point to almost all safari tours of Northern Tanzania.
The culture of Arusha
United States of Arusha
The culture of Arusha is unique, youths in the city like to call Arusha USA to mean United States of Arusha. The uniqueness of this beautiful city isn’t only in its stunning scenery, but the Arushans themselves are simply unique and joy to watch as well as to listen to their accents.
An encounter with Arushan, boys to be exact will automatically prompt you to stare them at least twice while smiling.
Their outfit never disappoints.
The outfit in an extremely oversized shirt or t-shirt & shoes only to be complemented by small size trousers will simply tell you that you have seen Arushan boy commonly refereed as ‘machalii or chalii’ plural and singular respectively.
In General, Arusha culture is so diverse.
Apart from tribes of Arusha like Meru, Maasai, Chagga, Pare and others, Arabs, Indians and Europeans also dwell in Arusha enjoying this fantastic weather that Bill Clinton once confused it to Geneva’s.
Arushans won’t mind what you believe.
The people of Arusha, just as the rest of the country believes in whatever they decide and no one gives bothers. Although Christians & Muslims are dominant, Hinduism is also another important religion in Arusha which has a population of over 1,694,310 people.
Arusha is an important international diplomatic region as it is the headquarters for East African Community.
Again, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was hosted in Arusha for about 21 when the operations were ceased in 2015.
Weather in Arusha
This is what makes most visitors fall in love with the city. The cool dry air prevails almost the full year. It is one of those few regions on the planet where the cold is moderate while the hot weather doesn’t prevail very aggressively.
With temperature usually ranging between 5 and 30 degrees, in most occasions 25 degrees annual temperature is recorded, Arusha has the most rewarding weather in Tanzania.
Getting to Arusha
Arusha can be reached both by flight and bus depending on where you are coming from. If travelling from somewhere oversees, a flight to Dar-es-salaam then an approximately 10hr drive to Arusha should on the way give you some test of Tanzania.
Alternatively a flight to Kilimanjaro International airport which is just a few minutes’ drive to Arusha will save you some time to go and explore the best things to do in Arusha that I am about to uncover for you.
Before I forget, there are visitors who prefer to fly to Nairobi, Kenya which is neighbouring to Tanzania, Arusha specifically and there fly to the Arusha airport to immediately start their Tanzania safari.
10 best things to do in Arusha
Now as we already know something about Arusha, its weather as well as how to get to Arusha, I think there is no better time to explore the best things to do in Arusha as now;
1: A Day trip to Arusha National Park
Among smallest parks in Tanzania but rich in sightseeings
Departing from Arusha city to Arusha national park will only take you about 1.5 hour and immediately you will be in the home of Mount Meru, the second-highest mountain in Tanzania only after Kilimanjaro
Treat yourself with a good view of buffaloes, warthogs, elephants, birds, and some varieties of monkeys all in Ngurdoto crater commonly known as mini Ngorongoro, in your day trip to Arusha national park.
One thing I like most in this park though is its nearly 7 alkaline lakes where the beautiful flamingos’ view is just best to nowhere else. These lakes are called Momella lakes.
A 4 day climb to mount Meru can be one of the best decisions you can do in your Arusha safari but nevertheless, a partial day hike to this beautiful mountain will treat you with a spectacular view of the waterfall and the Ngurdoto crater.
To sum up, these are the best things to do in Arusha National Park;
- Game drives
- Walking safaris
- Canoe safaris
- Mount Meru climb
2: A day trip to Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is the land of wonders if you will.
Have you ever imagined a 57-year-old elephant giving birth?.
Usually, an elephant will continue to mate up until about the age of 50, but in Tarangire things are different.
A 57 years old elephant did not only give birth, she rather gave birth to the twin calves in 2017.
This makes this Tarangire elephant mom the most known oldest elephant to ever give birth to the twin calves.
A 3-hour drive from Arusha city to Tarangire national park which is in the neighbouring region to Arusha is an experience you will always cherish.
Colm McGill my friend from South Kerry Ireland considers Tarangire as his favourite day tours trip in Arusha. ‘If you’re pressed with responsibilities while in Arusha and yet wants a big game view, Tarangire is the perfect escape’ claimed Colm.
With guided walking safaris, game drives and cultural visits near the park, Tarangire should simply be in your top best things to do in Arusha.
The Big 4 view in the park plus up to 500 species of birds not to mention a stunning view of the Baobab trees in Tarangire won’t leave you bored.
3: Day trip to Manyara National Park
Talk about beautiful flowering scenery
Lake Manyara national park is actually beautiful when it comes to flora. With more than 600 flowering plants in the park be sure to take a good camera because you won’t afford to miss the shots of this heaven like land.
However, it isn’t only flowers that take the most attention in Lake Manyara national park, but flocks of flamingos around Lake Manyara.
Flamingos are the dominant birds in the lake but you’ll be surprised the way they are unselfishly down to the Earth. They share the lake with other birds like kingfishers and herons just to name a few.
Mind you, more than 400 species of birds have been recorded in Manyara as I am writing.
Visiting Manyara will surely give you an array of top things to do in Arusha simply by doing day game drives, night game drives, canoeing, mountain bike tours as well as cultural tours.
Manyara is home for tree climbing lions
With a good number of elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, warthogs and waterbucks, Lake Manyara National park will give you a unique opportunity to see the tree-climbing lions that are commonly referred by Tanzanians as ‘Simba Mbarara’ to mean small-sized lions.
4: A day trip to Kilimanjaro National park
The fella likes to stand alone, he is absolutely a loner and guess what…he likes it.
Standing 5,895 meters above the sea level, this is the highest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
It is said free standing as it isn’t in form range like let say Everest Mountains, no! Kilimanjaro stands majestically on its own.
This highest volcano outside America is the dormant volcanic mountain with three cones of Kibo (the highest peak), Mawenzi and Shira.
The amazing scenery of Mount Kilimanjaro will without doubt give you the outstanding options when it comes to the best things to do in Arusha.
A partial hike to this mountain will give you an opportunity to enjoy beautiful vegetation where you will get a stunning view to both Mawenzi and Kibo peaks while at the same time treating yourself with a close view of the likes of black and white colobus.
There is also a small crater known as Maundi. A short walk to this crater won’t be a bad idea either.
Day Hike on Shira Plateau
In case you ask me though, I will advise you to forget everything and do a day tour to Shira plateau where you’ll see the true remains of molten lava, and the deep caldera that expired about half a million years ago.
An adventure walk to this land which is a world heritage site will give you all sorts of a great view of the stunning rocks and valleys while starring the two peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro
I won’t lie, but if I was asked to pick only one thing among many best things to do in Arusha then a day hike to Shira will be very unlucky not to come as my top choice.
5: Cultural tourism & City Walking
If you want to experience Tanzania at the local level, then you need to try cultural tourism in your time here.
It is at this time you will be able to experience the Tanzania local foods, local public transport mostly known as ‘vipanya or dalla dalla’ or you can explore other options like motorcycles that are mostly refereed as ‘bodaboda’ here in Tanzania.
If you like some safari options, then cultural programs may well, save the day as they are simply among the best things to do in Arusha.
Apart from visiting families in Maasai bomas for example, a visit to the two museums in; Arusha Natural history museum & Arusha declaration museum both in Arusha will bring you Arusha and its history & culture up close and personal.
6: Chemka hot springs
Do you like swimming?
Ok, I bet I couldn’t ask my question very well. Do you like to swim in the warm water? You probably do. Chemka hot springs give you just that opportunity.
Originating from underground of Mount Kilimanjaro, the springs are naturally warm and they form a beautiful pond of up to 10 meters in some places.
The unique thing about Chemka hot springs pond is that even at the point where the pond reaches 10 meters, you may clearly see its bottom with a clear stunning view.
Many tourists like to pick this beautiful pond as their top among best things to do in Arusha simply because it is unique but yet affordable.
7: Meserani Snake Park
Located just 25km west of Arusha Meserani offers best things to do in Arusha for those who are snake lovers and at the same time have just few hours to spend on the tour.
The park has one of the best snake based guides in Africa and they will guide you to learn a thing or two about some of the deadly snakes on the planet like Black and green mamba, Egyptian cobra and puff adder.
Crocodiles are also available for you to have the closest view you need. You may even touch the baby crocodile if you will like to.
8: Themi Leisure Park
If there is one best area to visit in Arusha for a family tour, Themi should be one of them.
Themi Leisure Park has one of the best things to do in Arusha from viewing waterfalls, a mountain hike, partying and picnicking nature walk and birding without forgetting hiking for site seeing.
In under 5 hours, you will have already visited this amazing park, see and do whatever you like and off you take your next adventure.
9: Materuni Water Falls
I will really struggle to remember myself seeing the greener and very good looking nature in Tanzania than the one in Materuni village.
Materuni village which hosts 80m+ high waterfalls can be reached in less than 2hrs from Arusha town and there you will enjoy among the best things to do in Arusha.
In Materuni, enjoy
- Swimming in the waterfall pool
- Local foods experience
- Experience the traditional coffee processing ways and you may even participate.
10: Vijiji Coffee tour
Vijiji is a Swahili word that translates to villages
With this day tour at less than 10km from Arusha city centre, you will find plenty best things to do in Arusha.
In this day trip or a semi-day trip if you will, prepare yourself for about 3hr guided walking safari to the neighbouring Meru village where you will have a unique opportunity to visit small locally owned coffee farms on the slopes of Mount Meru.
Time to recap. So, there are a number of the best things to do in Arusha.
You can decide to do only wildlife-based day tours to Arusha, Tarangire, Manyara & Kilimanjaro national parks.
Or you may as well decide that you need to get the closest of Arusha culture and tradition as possible as you can through Cultural tourism and city walking tour. Here again, you will have a lot of options to choose from.
The only question is, which trip are you going to pick?
Let me know in the comments.