Arusha, Tanzania is often the first and/or last place people visit on their Serengeti safari. Many international flights land late in the evening and weary travelers are quickly ushered to their hotels in Arusha only to catch an early morning flight into the Serengeti. Some safaris give people to end their safari with several hours in Arusha, where they can visit local markets, get a day room and freshen up before their return flight home later that evening.
Arusha has evolved substantially over the last 10-15 years and it certainly merits more than just dayroom status. Whether you’re seeking pampering and tranquility or if you wish to be within walking distance to markets and restaurants, Arusha has you covered.
EAST OF ARUSHA:
Located about 10 minutes outside of Arusha, Onsea House offers gorgeous vistas in an intimate setting. Guests can opt to stay in one of five rooms at the house itself, or stay in the country inn, which has two double suites and a family suite overlooking the Meru valley. There is also a self-contained guest cottage where each room as its own balcony. It can accommodate up to six people. In addition to the fine dining options and tranquil vibes, guests can also enjoy the spa and wellness facilities of neighboring Machweo, which shares the same owners as Onsea House.
Kigongoni is only about a 20-minute drive from Arusha and offers some stellar views of Mt. Meru. The individual chalets are nicely spaced and bright and airy.
The views from the pool are what keep us going back—the vistas and proximity to Mt. Meru means people often mistaken it for Mt. Kilimanjaro. Best of all, Kigongoni won’t break the bank.
Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge
Although this lodge is just a few more minutes down the road from Kigongoni, it feels like it’s hours away. From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel completely isolated from the surrounding environs.
To access the lodge, you’ll need to cross over a quaint bridge and then go up a flight of stairs to the main reception area. Ngare Sero offers yoga (private and group classes), mountain biking and even croquet.
Arumeru River Lodge
Arumeru is the furthest out of town of our picks but it’s also the closest to Kilimanjaro International Airport. The chalets here are nicely spaced out and, while the rooms are simple, they are adequate in size and have nice, high ceilings.
The pool area is relaxing and the central dining room is a nice place to unwind and chat with fellow travellers.
NEAR THE CENTER OF ARUSHA:
If you’d rather have easy access to markets and local restaurants, both the African Tulip and Destination 3 Degrees City Lodge Arusha are great options.
African Tulip has modern, air conditioned rooms and a nice, albeit smallish, pool you can lounge by.
Its proximity to several good restaurants and markets means you don’t need to get back in a vehicle once you’ve arrived.
The name of this lodge may be large but the lodge itself is quite intimate. Comprised of 15 rooms, this lodge is clean, quiet and comfortable. Its restaurant serves some delicious, local fare and its central location means you can also walk to nearby restaurants and markets.
WEST OF ARUSHA:
Just a few minutes outside of the city center is the Arusha Coffee Lodge. The chalets are set in a coffee plantation and are nicely spaced out.
The rooms are decorated to a high standard and some offer outdoor tubs and showers. This lodge’s close proximity to Arusha Airport also make it an ideal choice for those with early morning flights.
How to get to Arusha
Arusha NP is only a 45-minute drive away from the town of Arusha, the starting point of any safari in northern Tanzania. There are several ways to get to Arusha. The easiest is to get a direct flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. Alternatively, you can fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), near Dar es Salaam and get a connecting domestic flight to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport and take care of further transportation.
Airlines & Ticket Prices
Please check Skyscanner to see which airlines can take you to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), Arusha Airport (ARK) or Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) and what tickets would cost.
What to Expect in Arusha
Arusha is not a place most people know and, if we’re being honest, most people will never go there. But they should. Arusha is a frontier city, it’s a place of excitement, it’s a place of opportunity. It’s from this unlikely place that people from every corner of the planet converge, all there to partake in travel experiences so amazing and so unique that they truly live up to the moniker of once-in-a-lifetime.
What to Expect when Visiting
Overall though, Arusha is a great place to do very little. Whether you’re fresh off a flight, at the end of your safari or dirty and exhausted from Mt. Kilimanjaro, you will undoubtedly be in need of some down time. Both before and after our safari Arusha was our home base and I personally came to regard it affectionately.
I got to know the hotel, the staff and where to find a quiet corner to read a book and decompress. There’s plenty of nightlife all around town if that’s your thing and if you find yourself staying for a few days in Arusha, there are some amazing national parks nearby. If you’re willing to sacrifice a full day to the experience, there’s nothing better than trekking out to Tarangire National Park, famous for its elephants.
If you don’t have that much time there is also Arusha National Park, although I’m told that the wildlife experiences there pale in comparison to not only Tarangire, but all of the other amazing national parks throughout Tanzania.
One popular must-visit in Arusha is the 137km² Arusha National Park just north of town. The park offers great safari experiences and features habitats ranging from open savannah to acacia scrublands, rainforest to alpine vegetation and also the golden Mount Meru. The wildlife in Arusha National Park is also incredibly diverse, with leopards and hyenas being the major predators in the area. Bird twitchers will also not get disappointed as the park is home to a world-class avifauna of 400 bird species.
Aside from the taste of authentic safari within the outskirts of town, Arusha also provides ample opportunities for cultural immersion, local villages tour, farms, markets and so much more!
When it comes to receiving an influx of tourists, Arusha holds a large influx every year. It has a domestic airport which provides direct flight link to Dar es Salaam and it is also very near Kilimanjaro International Airport, where most safari-bound travelers arrive.
But, even though a lot of tourists often find themselves with a day or two to spare, Arusha always have something in store for them.
The Cultural Heritage Centre is the perfect place to begin your history expedition in Arusha. The building itself is a spectacle of beauty that beckons to be photographed. It is structured as a sword and shield. It serves as a symbol of the Masai people’s heritage.
Inside the centre, you will find artwork, statutes, and artifacts representing the past and present of over 120 tribes in Tanzania. You can explore gemstones, traditional dresses, carvings, masks, sculptures, and much more to learn about the way of the tribes.
The Arusha Declaration Monument is a landmark that represents the Arusha Declaration. The monument was constructed in 1977 (ten years after the declaration) when Chama Cha Mapinduzi was the ruler. The declaration represents African Socialism, known as Ujamaa. The towering structure is beautiful to capture, especially when the lighting and timing are proper.
Arusha is a captivating place for its location and historical significance in Tanzania. It represents the Tanzanian culture and the values of the 120+ Tanzanian tribes. Keep your camera gear ready to capture memorable shots.
Mount Meru (4,566 m) is an active stratovolcano and forms the centrepiece of Arusha National Park in Tanzania. The mountain is often referred to as Mt Kilimanjaro’s ‘little brother’. Although the mountain is not as high as Kilimanjaro, it is just as challenging. Known for its huge cliffs, beautiful green surroundings and abundant wildlife, Mount Meru is the sixth highest mountain in Africa and the second highest in Tanzania!
Climbing Mount Meru requires more technical climbing skills than the routes on Kilimanjaro. What Mount Meru ‘lacks’ in height, it makes up for in difficulty. Therefore, it is important to have some climbing experience.
Still, Mount Meru is sometimes used as warm-up for climbing Kilimanjaro, especially to acclimate the body to greater heights. If you have the time and budget to climb Meru, it is definitely worth it. The mountain isn’t climbed as often and it provides a truly unique experience.
Since Meru lies in Arusha National Park, there’s a great chance of seeing various animals while trekking. You’re likely to encounter giraffes, buffalos, antelopes and baboons.
The 5 Arusha must do’s
Looking for gifts or fabrics for family and friends? Arusha is a great place to start. Spend a morning at either the Central Market or the Maasai Market for some world-class bargaining. The farmer’s markets are amazing, too.
This is by far the best museum in the city. If no travel is complete without a museum visit, look no further. The Natural History Center boasts an excellent exhibit on human evolution, among other things. Tanzania is the geographic center of the human story, so this is pretty powerful!
No place in Arusha warms your heart like Shanga, a nonprofit employing over 70 Tanzanians with disabilities. Each worker performs tasks such as glassblowing, weaving, and textiles. Come meet the talented folks who work here and leave with some memories.
Legend has it, one day a local Masaai saw a bolt lightning strike and turn some nearby stones a magnificent blue, and now we have this: Tanzanite, a blue gemstone “a thousand times rarer than diamonds. Though the more scientific reason has to do more with tectonics and continental uplift than lightning, this much is true: you won’t find Tanzanite native to anywhere else on the planet so you better seek it out while in Tanzania. This ultra-rare (ultra-expensive) gemstone can be found at jewelers and stores in Arusha. The Tanzanite Experience offers the best tour in town.
Bird and boat lovers take note! Located only 10 miles from Arusha, this lake is set to a gorgeous backdrop of forest and volcanoes. Witness dozens of bird and reptile species, from lounging monitor lizards to nose-diving kingfishers. Renting a canoe is highly recommended.