Best of Tanzania Tour: Kilimanjaro Trekking, Serengeti Safaris, & Swahili-Infused Zanzibar

A 17 day trip to Tanzania 
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Few tours will better expose you to the wonder and variation of the African continent. Beginning with a trek to the ‘roof of Africa’, watch the continent’s best sunrise from the glacial peak of Kilimanjaro. Descend to the savanna of the Serengeti embarking on the ultimate safari in Tanzania, across the golden plains stippled with migrating wildebeest and ominous predators. Descend further to the floor of the world’s largest caldera, the Ngorongoro Crater, for a contrasting, yet equally magical, safari experience before you drift away into the Indian Ocean on the shores of Zanzibar. This tour leaves no highlight untouched – it is, quite simply, the most epic and adventurous tour of Tanzania possible.  

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Reserve, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Arusha, Moshi, Olduvai Gorge, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Kendwa 

Departure Dates 

Date are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to Tanzania! Arrival in Moshi and Final Preparations for Kilimanjaro Hike

Karibu! Welcome to Tanzania! Today you will fly into the city of Moshi in central Tanzania, which thrives in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. After a long international flight, today will be spent relaxing and adjusting to the time difference. A portion of the afternoon will be spent reviewing final preparations in anticipation of the hike tomorrow. Spend time around the lodge in Moshi, enjoying a final restaurant-style meal and a glass of wine in the evening, before retiring early to bed. Tomorrow will be the first of a series of physically challenging and stimulating days!

Day 2: Begin to Ascend the Rainforested Slopes of Kilimanjaro, Camping at Mandara Camp

Today, the first Tanzanian adventure begins in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Arriving at the Marangu Gate in the early morning, we will complete a few final pieces of paperwork before setting off into the lush rainforested slopes. Today’s climb will gently weave and wander alongside rivers and waterfalls as we cover eight kilometers over three to four hours on well-trodden paths. You will stop frequently to admire this stunning jungle, often said to be the most beautiful of all the forest routes on Kilimanjaro. Pick the perfect place for your first African picnic, and keep an eye out for colobus monkeys and prolific birdlife.

As the forest thins and lichen becomes more prevalent, you will know you are reaching the end of the day. Tonight we will camp at the ever-popular Mandara Huts (1,860 meters), where you will have the option of camping or staying in a small cabin. For those who arrive with energy to spare, there is a pleasant detour from the campsite to the Maundi Crater, which will give you your first look at the Mawenzi peak – one of Kilimanjaro’s three volcanic cones.  Tonight you will enjoy a fire-cooked dinner prepared by our expert chefs, while porters organize logistics for the coming days.

Day 3: Hike Through Heather and Moorland on Route to Horombo Hut

This morning, porters will pack up camp as you begin today’s hike through the second climactic zone: the alpine moorland. Shockingly different from the jungle below, this landscape is fringed with lichen, heather, lobelias and giant senecios. Vast open spaces, with plants that grow over three meters high, makes for a prehistoric looking landscape that is fascinating to both hike through and learn about. As you climb along the rocky trail, you will catch your first glimpse of Kili’s second volcanic peak, Kibo. The view of this second summit only builds further excitement for the moment when you will finally lay eyes on Uhuru, the third peak and your ultimate goal. 

In the late afternoon, you will reach the Horombo Huts (3,720 meters) – tonight’s destination. If you reach the huts on a clear afternoon, you may be lucky enough to see right down to the town of Moshi below. Tonight you will again have the choice of a tent or hut on this mountain campsite. Gather round the fire tonight with fellow hikers to exchange stories. Horombo is a destination for both those ascending and descending, giving you a taste of the wonder that lies ahead.

Day 4: Hike Into the Alpine Desert as you Near the Peak of Kilimanjaro

Today’s hike carries you out of the moorland and into the alpine desert, located on the saddle between Kibo and Mwenzi peaks. Temperatures drop and winds intensify at this high altitude – a sure sign that the summit is near. Today’s hike often takes between five and seven hours, covering a total of nine and a half kilometers. Water is increasingly sporadic at this high altitude, and in the late afternoon, you will pass an exciting landmark: the final water source before the summit! From here, hikers traverse the dramatic and blustery saddle between the peaks, ultimately finding refuge at the Kibo Huts. From here, you will catch your first perfect view of Uhuru, which you will summit in only a few short hours. Tonight you will head to bed as early as possible, since the journey to the peak begins roughly around midnight.

Day 5: Summit Uhuru Peak, Soaking in the Best Sunrise on the Continent Before Descending Halfway Down

Just after midnight, your guides will lure you out of your tent with hot tea and biscuits. You and your team will join the procession of flashlights beginning the ascent towards the summit, in anticipation of catching the best sunrise on the continent. Excitement courses through the hikers as you follow a rocky path towards Hans Meyer Cave and Gillman’s Point. Snow begins to appear on the ground around you as you approach the glacial summit, and the first glimpses of daylight begin to appear. Pause atop Uhuru Peak as the sun reveals the landscape below, before beginning your descent to the base of the mountain.

Running off the elation of having summited the highest peak in Africa, you will descend quickly back to the Kibo Huts. Here, a warm breakfast awaits you that will fuel you back down to Horombo. Indulge in a soft drink or beer on arrival, and begin to exchange stories with fellow hikers at the camp before falling asleep early.

Day 6: Descend to the Base of Kilimanjaro and Return to Moshi for Rest and Relaxation

Remarkably, by your sixth day in Tanzania, this first epic adventure will have ended. This morning you will wake up to descend back through the moorland and jungle, retracing steps from the days earlier. This final 20-kilometer stretch takes a mere five to six hours to cover, eventually leading you back to the main gate. Here, you will be presented with a certificate for having summited the mountain. You will then return to Moshi in a private vehicle, where an afternoon of warm baths, delicious meals and celebratory drinks await you. 

Day 7: Drive from Moshi to Arusha

Given the challenges and adrenaline of the previous days, today will be a relaxing and easy trip from Moshi to the neighboring city of Arusha. You will drive out from the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, and towards Tanzania’s third highest peak, Mount Meru. You will stay just outside the town of Arusha for the night, where you will have the option to indulge in a much-deserved massage or spa treatment. Enjoy a day of leisure on the lodge grounds since tomorrow, the second portion of the adventure kicks off!

Day 8: Drive to Lake Manyara National Park and Search for Tree-Climbing Lions

Having explored Tanzania’s mountainous region, today you will begin explorations through the African bush. This portion starts in the tranquil and serene Lake Manyara National Park.  You will drive to the park from Arusha over the course of the morning, arriving in time for lunch, followed by an afternoon game drive.

The park itself revolves around a sparkling alkaline lake, which is frequently coated by pink flamingos. These soda lakes are characteristic of the Great Rift Valley, and attract phenomenal populations of both resident and migratory birds. Ornithologists will want to do little more than set up under an acacia tree with a pair of binoculars, gazing at the skies above. The woodlands that surround the lake are also fascinating, largely because they house a population of rare tree-climbing lions. Found in only a handful of parks in Africa, these nimble lions are often seen swinging their tails from the branches of a tree. Drive along the escarpments and valleys, tracing the Tarangire River that feeds into this lake. These stunning vistas will stand in contrast to those seen as you ascended Kilimanjaro, revealing another facet of Tanzania. 

Day 9: Drive to the Serengeti via Olduvai Gorge, the ‘Cradle of Mankind’

This morning, excitement will build as you depart Lake Manyara and begin your journey towards the Serengeti. This region is significant for much more than solely its wildlife, which will become apparent over the coming days. We will first detour through the town of Mto Wa Mbu, where a number of Tanzanian tribes assimilate. Dominated by Masai warriors, this community has organized a cultural tourism program that shares the rich and varied local cultures with visitors. Take a tour through an authentic Masai homestead, or stop to peruse the crafts and beadwork made by local women. Be sure to sample a few different varieties of bananas, as these are the main export of the region. Intrepid eaters may even wish to sample a local stew, if curious about the flavors of local cuisine.

Carrying on, you will also detour past the Olduvai Gorge, one of the world’s most important paleoanthropological sites. It was here that Mary and Louis Leaky discovered some of the oldest known hominid remains in the 1960s. These Zinjanthropus bosei remains date back over 1.75 million years, while fossilized footprints date back over three million years. Few areas provide greater insight into human evolution than this particular gorge. Swing past the visitor’s center for additional information, before continue on westwards towards the Serengeti. You will emerge onto the golden plains in the late afternoon, with just enough time for an evening cocktail and bush dinner, before you sleepily collapse into bed.

Day 10: Spend a Full Day Traversing the Serengeti in Search of Intimate Wildlife Encounters

For many, today will be filled with the archetypal African imagery: a safari across the sprawling savanna of the Serengeti. Rise early and hop in your vehicle with a packed picnic breakfast to explore the wilderness while it is at its most active. Venture out across the plains with an expert local guide, who will spend the day helping you locate the coveted cast of the Big Five. Watch as elephants tear leaves off acacia trees, while giraffes look onward from above the treetops. Seek out a lion lazing quietly in the shade, while rambunctious cubs circle the pride. You will undoubtedly find yourself perpetually surrounded by herds of ungulates, including countless zebra, gazelle and buffalo. If timed correctly, you may even be lucky enough to drive through the epicenter of the Great Wildebeest Migration. Spend time along rivers and beside watering holes, observing the species that come by for a drink. Keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles and hippos, which are often found lazily bobbing and lounging along the shore.

Spend the entire day exploring as much of the park as possible, or, return midday for some indulgence and relaxation at the lodge property. No matter how you choose to structure your day, be sure to seek out the perfect sundowner location where you can enjoy a local cocktail as the sunset fills the sky with color around you. Drift asleep tonight to the sound of the wild, keeping an ear open for the cackle of a hyena or the grunt of a buffalo, as that will be a perfect conclusion to this magical day.

Day 11: Drive to the Ngorongoro Crater, Exploring the Plateaus of the Collapsed Volcano

Rise before the sun in order to squeeze in a final safari before you depart the Serengeti. Spend a few final hours traversing the plains in search of your favorite species, and those yet to be seen. For those craving a new perspective on the terrain, this may be the perfect opportunity to embark on a romantic and luxurious hot air balloon ride over the savanna, complete with a champagne picnic breakfast as you descend. Floating high above the plains is one of the few ways to truly grasp the expansiveness of the area – and to experience the total tranquility of it all.

In the mid-morning, you will return to the vehicle to drive back through the Ngorongoro Crater. You will stop at a lodge perched on the edge of the crater, with phenomenal views of the crater floor below.  Ngorongoro was formed an estimated two to three million years ago, when an ancient volcano collapsed in on itself, creating this expansive caldera. Today, it is the largest inactive caldera worldwide and is home to vibrant populations of wildlife. The crater floor is often stippled with ungulates grazing on the lush grasses, while one of the world’s densest populations of lions looks onward. Sitting on the edge of the escarpment at sunset with a sundowner in hand will make for yet another epic conclusion to a day. Before the sun disappears entirely and the sky is engulfed with stars, peer down to the crater floor, in anticipation of tomorrow’s adventure. 

Day 12: Explore the Floor of the Ngorongoro Crater before Returning to Arusha

This morning you will rise early in order to explore the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater. Weave down the rainforest lined slopes of the caldera, peering through the tangled trees for signs of leopards. The lush vegetation of the crater will contrast the days prior, drawing back memories of your early days on Kilimanjaro. As you approach the crater floor, the landscape shifts to vast grassland with a large lake in the center. Unsurprisingly, these fertile fields seasonally attract large herds of zebra, wildebeest and impala as part of the Great Migration. As the day wears on, begin your journey back up the opposing slopes to the surrounding highlands. Here, you will have impressive views of this volcanic landscape, with Mount Lengai looming off in the distance. Soak in a few final moments looking out across this stunning caldera over a picnic lunch in the bush, before returning to Arusha by road. This evening, a local family will host you for dinner. This opportunity will give you a chance to sample authentic Tanzanian food, and to experience the warm and unparalleled Tanzanian hospitality.

Day 13: Fly from Arusha to Stone Town on the Island of Zanzibar

This morning you will board a flight in Arusha that will fly you across Tanzania, out over the ocean, descending on the tropical shores of Zanzibar. Arriving at the airport in the historic Stone Town, the remainder of the day will be spent exploring the cobbled streets and winding roads of this unique city. In Zanzibar, you will begin the third radically different portion of the trip. The following days will revolve largely around culture, cuisine and deep relaxation in this tropical paradise. With few structured activities, the days will be largely yours to design, ensuring the perfect finish to this unbelievable vacation.

Day 14: Spend a Full Day Exploring Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Today will be spent entirely at your leisure. Stone Town has played a significant role in east African development, acting as a meeting ground for Arab, Persian Indian, European and African merchants and traders. Swahili culture emerged as a result of this vibrant fusion, and remains a protected pride of the island today. Architecture, culture and cuisine are markedly different from that of the mainland, and today will be your chance to explore it. Whether you opt to explore the historical monuments of this Swahili town, dive into the spices and flavors that characterize the island, or simply wander the cobbled streets poking in stores and alleyways, today will be yours to design.

That said, some of the highlights of Stone Town include a visit to the Palace of Wonders, an opulent former Sultan’s residence, since converted into a museum for Swahili and Zanzibari culture. Having played a significant role in the slave trade, a tour through the city’s Old Slave Market is another worthwhile endeavor. Navigating the tiny underground chambers provides a chilling and unforgettable insight into the horrors of the island’s dark history. Restaurants are rich and varied throughout the town, with endless opportunities to taste local flavor. While Mercury’s Restaurant is a favorite given its famous ownership (Queen lead vocalist, Freddy Mercury), The Café at Emerson Spice serves some spectacular Zanzibari fusion cuisine. Take the day to lose yourself in the history and culture of this singular city, ensuring of course that you migrate to an oceanside bar for the sunset.

Day 15: Drive to the Northern Beach of Kendwa, Stopping at a Spice Plantation on Route

While Stone Town is truly special, the beaches outside the city brought the island international fame. Today you will head northwest towards Kendwa, detouring through a spice plantation on route. The spice trade has been fundamental to the island’s development, and remains an important feature of life today. Set out on a guided tour that exposes your senses to fields of cloves, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon and lemongrass. Pause in fields of breadfruit and jackfruit to sample the island’s fresh tropical fruit, before carrying on north towards the island’s beach capital. You will arrive on the idyllic shores of Kendwa in the late afternoon, leaving just enough time to sample impossibly fresh seafood as a starry night sky explodes above. Listen to the sound of the ocean washing up in front of a beachfront restaurant, as a soothing evening breeze blows past.

Day 16: Spend a Full Day Relaxing on the Aquamarine Shores of Kendwa

Today, this unbelievable adventure draws to a close on the tropical shores of Kendwa. Having explored all the major destinations in Tanzania, today will be the perfect opportunity to unwind and reflect upon the your journey. There is no better place to do this than from the shade of a palm tree on a soft white sand beach. As turquoise and teal waters lap up around your feet, enjoy a final day with a great book and a cocktail in hand. Of course, if you happen to be an underwater enthusiast, forget the day of reflection and hop on a local dhow for a snorkeling, diving or sailing trip! You still have one more day to squeeze in a few final activities, and a sailing trip through the smooth Indian Ocean on route to sublime diving and snorkeling spots is an absolute must.

Return to the island as the sun sets, and sip on a final mojito while you order an impossibly fresh seafood feast. Fall asleep to the sound of waves splashing up on the shore, as a warm tropical breeze blows through your room. From this tropical paradise, memories of the chilly morning atop Kilimanjaro will feel somewhat unbelievable.

Day 17: Return to Stone Town in Time for your Outbound Departure

This morning you will drive back to Stone Town in order to catch a flight off the island. Flying either to Dar es Salaam or back to Arusha, you will arrive at the connecting airport in time to catch your international flight. On the heels of nearly three action-packed weeks, we can safely assume that you will be ready to enjoy your pictures and share your stories with friends and family. However, if you are keen to extend the adventure just a little bit longer, we will gladly recommend a few other destinations to round out your trip to Africa. Take a look at reviews of Tanzania luxury vacations for some ideas and traveler experiences.

Price

Starting Price 

$7,645
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.