Day 1 - Arusha - Karama Lodge / BB
Day 2 - Car delivery, drive to Mto Wa Mbu (2h). Afternoon game drive - Migunga Forest Camp / HB
Day 3 - Optional morning activity, Wayo. Drive to Karatu (1h) - Octagon Logde / BB
Day 4 - Ngorongoro Crater (2h). Full day game drive - Octagon Logde / BB
Day 5 - Drive to Usa Mt Meru (3h). Relax at lodge or explore surroundings - Meru View Lodge / BB
Day 6 - Drive to Western Usambaras (5.5h) - Irente Farm / BB
Day 7 - Explore Usambaras (driving, walking, cycling) - Irente Farm / BB
Day 8 - Drive to Ushongo (4-5h) - Beach Crab Resort / BB
Day 9 - Enjoy the Ushongo beaches - Beach Crab Resort / BB
Day 10 - Drive to Pangani (1h) - Peponi Holiday Resort / BB
Day 11 - Enjoy the Pangani beaches - Peponi Holiday Resort / BB
Day 12 - Enjoy the Pangani beaches - Peponi Holiday Resort / BB
Day 13 - Drive to Northern Usambaras (6h) - Mambo View Point / BB
Day 14 - Explore Northern Usambaras - Mambo View Point / BB
Day 15 - Drive to Mt Meru (full day 7-8h) - Meru View Lodge / BB
Day 16 - Relax at lodge or explore surroundings - Meru View Lodge / BB
Day 17 - Depart or spend extra day. Dayhike Meru, coffee farm & waterfall tour, pool
Day 1: Welcome to Arusha, Tanzania!
Today you’ll arrive in Arusha. Whether you come by bus, plane, bike or train, we’ll make sure you’ll get a transfer to your lodge in Arusha. For first time visitors to Africa, Arusha is an agreeable introduction to urban Africa. It is an organized, green town, with a skyline dominated by the imposing Mount Meru. Depending on the hour of your arrival, you may be able to explore the sights in and around Arusha.
You will be welcome at Karama Lodge & Spa, a lovely eco-friendly lodge located just southeast of Arusha town. Your accommodation is in a wooden bungalow on poles on a mountain slope surrounded by peaceful forest. Your room has a private balcony with a great view on Kilimanjaro and Meru on the clearer days. The restaurant serves tasty food. The lodge has a lovely garden and a small salt water swimming pool. Your stay at Karama Lodge will on the basis of Bed & Breakfast.
Day 2: Start of your road trip: Arusha - Mto wa Mbu
Today you’ll start your road trip through Tanzania. You’ll receive the car and a brief explanation in the morning and after breakfast you’ll be ready to hit the road towards Mto wa Mbu. The road is tarred and in perfect condition and the journey takes around 3 hours. After lunch at Migunga Forest camp or in the village you’ll have plenty of time to go on a game drive in Lake Manyara National Park. You can also save this for tomorrow and use the afternoon to explore the village or do a Wayo activity.
Mto wa Mbu, the gateway to Lake Manyara National Park, is a lively village that sees a large volume of tourist traffic. It’s well stocked with various tourist paraphernalia and offers various tourist activities. It is said to be the only place in Tanzania where representatives of 120 Tanzanian tribes are resident and is well worth spending some time! The main entrance gate to Lake Manyara National Park is at the outskirts of the village.
Tonight your accommodation will be at Migunga Forest Camp underneath the canopy of an acacia forest, just off the Mto wa Mbu – Karatu main road and a five minute drive from the park entrance. You’ll sleep in a safari tent on a raised platform with private veranda and bathroom. Your stay at Migunga Forest Camp will be on the basis of half board (Breakfast & Dinner).
Day 3: Lake Manyara National Park & Drive to Karatu
In the morning you have plenty of time to do a game drive at Lake Manyara National Park. The shallow soda lake is set at the base of the Western Rift Valley Escarpment. The northwestern lakeshore and its hinterland are protected in a scenic national park. Manyara is one of Tanzania’s smallest parks, yet boasts very diverse flora & fauna - savannah, acacia woodland, rocks, grassy floodplains and tropical rainforest. An exciting aspect of the Lake Manyara area is the opportunity to stretch your legs. The park offers suburb birding and guided walking safaris along the shore to the hot springs and flamingo lookout point. Best to go early in the morning. If you went on a game drive already on day two, you can also choose to visit the village or do a Wayo activity in the morning.
In the afternoon you’ll drive to Karatu, a convenient base for visiting Ngorongoro and the Crater Highlands (Lodware gate is 14 km ahead). Karatu town lies about 30 km from Mto wa Mbu on a smooth asphalt road.
The next two days you will stay at Octagon Lodge. This cozy lodge is located in leafy suburban area of Karatu town, the gateway to the Ngorongoro Crater & Highlands. Octagon Lodge is set in a beautiful garden with swimming pool, a cozy restaurant and an Irish pub. You’ll sleep in a spacious and stylish bungalow with en suite bathroom. Your stay at Octagon Lodge will be on the basis of half board (Breakfast & Dinner).
Day 4: Ngorongoro Crater self drive safari
Today you will visit the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the flagship of Tanzania's tourism industry and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The crater is the world's largest intact volcanic caldera and is the only place in the world where you have a very high chance to see the 'Big 5' in one day. Read more about the Ngorongoro Crater and how to organize and pay for your crater permits.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the main focal point of tourist attraction in the NCA, but the highlands boast other, less visited extinct volcanoes and calderas, such as Empakaai crater and Oldupai Gorge. Trekking in the crater highlands is an adventurous, off the beaten track activity. Read more here.
Day 5: Drive to Arusha
After breakfast it’s time to drive to Meru View Lodge. Allow 3 hours for the drive to your accommodation, a stone's throw away from the Arusha National Park. In the afternoon you can visit the park or relax at the pool.
You’ll spend the night in a cozy bungalow at Meru View Lodge. The comfortable bungalows are dotted around the flowering gardens and there is an inviting swimming pool. As the owners are German, a small beer garden can’t be missed, and the restaurant has the feel of a cozy modern mountain cabin, with the Bavarian decor replaced by Maasai blankets. Your stay at Meru View Lodge will be on the basis of Bed & Breakfast.
Meru View Lodge is located higher up the hills, off the main road, 40 minutes from Kilimanjaro International Airport, halfway to Arusha at 1 km from the entrance to Arusha National Park.
Day 6: Drive to the Western Usambaras
It’s a very scenic 6 hour drive from Meru View Lodge to Lushoto, the principal town of the Westerm Usambaras. Roads are in good condition, with hardly any traffic, but be alert for the many speed bumps. You will pass through extensive sisal plantations with the Pare Mountains towering on the left. From Mombo, the road starts climbing to Lushoto.
The next two nights you will stay at Irente Farm, around 5 km from Lushoto town. It doubles as an orphanage, organic farm, biodiversity reserve and retreat. They are known, far beyond Lushoto, for their scrumptious farm breakfast, consisting of homemade bread, jam, cheeses and muesli. Your accommodation is basic and clean. Your stay at Irente Farm will be on the basis of half board (Breakfast & Dinner).
Day 7: Explore the Usambara's
Lushoto resembles a Swiss Alpine village, yet set in an African context that is. The town peaked during colonial times and many of the buildings on the main street date back to the early 20th century when Lushoto, then known as Wilhelmstal, provided weekend relief for German settlers farming the dry, dusty Maasai Steppes below. The area is fantastic for (multiple) day hikes and biking, passing through villages, colourful markets, farmland and some scenic lookout points. Some farms, mostly still run by Germans and Swiss, cater to day visitors and provide delicious, homegrown food.
Day 8: Drive to the Indian Ocean - Uchongo
We are going to the Indian Ocean! From African Alpine villages to Swahili coastal towns - what a change. It’s around a 4 hour drive from Lushoto to Ushongo. The road from Lushoto to the tiny village of Pongwe is tarred and in good condition. From there, you turn off the main road onto a minor road which is dusty and rocky, so drive carefully.
In Ushongo you will stay right at the beach at the Beach Crab Resort for 2 nights. Owned and managed by a lovely German couple, the Beach Crab is a laid back and low-key resort, perfect for friends and families, with many games on offer, like beach volleyball, pool, several board games and even jeux de boule. There are also plenty of activities available, like wind surfing, diving, snorkeling or safari trips to Sadaani National Park. You will sleep in a coconut bungalow with en suite bathroom at a beautiful long deserted stretch of white beach. Your stay at the Beach Crab will be on basis of half board (Breakfast & Dinner).
Day 9: Enjoy the Uchongo Beaches
Plenty of things to do on the beach besides sipping on cocktails and relaxing...
- Dhow cruise
- Diving & Snorkel trips
- Game fishing
- Windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking
- Sunset cruise up the Pangani River
- Community-run walking tours
- Safari to Sadaani National Park
- More details on our Pangani/Ushongo page
Day 10: Drive to Pangani
In the morning you will drive one hour to your next destination on the Indian Ocean coastline.
The next three nights you will stay at the Peponi Holiday Resort, nestled in a tropical garden overlooking the Indian Ocean. Peponi Holiday Resort is a very friendly, owner managed place, right on the beach. Peponi has a good seafood restaurant, beach bar and small swimming pool. You will sleep in a banda with en suite bathroom and veranda. Your stay at Peponi will be on the basis of half board (Breakfast & Dinner). Tip: Get the best pizza in Tanzania for lunch at the neighbouring Capricorn.
Days 11 + 12: Enjoy the beaches of Pangani
Pangani used to be an important trading port in the days of slavery, noticeable from a number of crumbling colonial buildings, and it has a profound traditional Swahili culture. Whilst the town itself remains little developed, the surrounding coast has witnessed a strong growth in beach resorts in recent years. Zanzibar becomes overcrowded, so people are increasingly looking at the unspoiled mainland coastline, with its endless white beaches, coconut palm trees and blue waters.
Day 13: Drive to the Northern Usambara Mountains
Be prepared for a full day of driving, so wake up and leave very early. You’ll be heading back to the mountains, but this time the Northern Usambaras.
The far North is undoubtedly the most scenic part of the Usambaras, where the high escarpment offers breathtaking views over the Mkomazi Plains deep down (1.3 km!) below. There is hardly any tourism and chances are slim you'll find a local person who speaks English.
The next two nights you’ll stay in Mambo Viewpoint Eco Lodge situated on a cliff at an altitude of 1,900m on the outskirts of Mambo village.
Day 14: Explore the Northern Usambara Mountains
The Dutch owners of Mambo Viewpoint Eco Lodge are a great source of information on culture, birding, hiking and biking possibilities in the region. They have developed a number of itineraries, which can be undertaken on your own with a GPS or with a guide. Also, the grassroots organization Friends of the Usumbaras, and the Bradt Travel Guide that comes with the Roadtrip car, provide detailed information about the region.
Day 15: Return to Meru View Lodge
Today you’ll return to Arusha. Keep in mind that it’s a full day's drive to Meru View Lodge. Make sure you depart early and go prepared (packed lunch). The drive will take 7-8 hours.
You’ll spend 2 nights in a cozy bungalow at Meru View Lodge. The comfortable bungalows are dotted around the flowering gardens and there is an inviting swimming pool. As the owners are German, a small beer garden can’t be missed, and the restaurant has the feel of a cozy modern mountain cabin, with the Bavarian decor replaced by Maasai blankets. Your stay at Meru View Lodge will be on the basis of Bed & Breakfast.
Day 16: Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is the most accessible park of Tanzania’s Northern Circuit, yet the most neglected by the safari industry, largely because it does not contain much big game like elephants or predators, such as lions. What a pity to skip Arusha National Park, we think here at Roadtrip Tanzania, as the park offers plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and get out of that car!
Arusha National Park is a perfect park for outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to game drives, there is also the option to do hikes, canoeing, mountain biking and of course climbing Mount Meru. A highlight of any visit to Arusha National Park is the Mount Meru Crater Drive and Hike. The first part up to Kitoto at 2,500m is a scenic road trip; a climb through a beautiful stretch of forest. From the car park at Kitoto, it’s a 2 to 3 hour hike through the crater. You need to take an armed ranger from the entrance gate if you want to hike. Wayo organizes cycling trips and canoeing at Lake Duluti. They have good bikes parked at the Rivertrees Country Inn.
Day 17: Arusha & Departure
Today will be the last day of your tour. Depending on the hour of your departure, you may be able to explore other sites in and around Arusha. There are plenty of trendy cafes, restaurants and gift shops catering to expatriates, tourists and wealthier locals, which can be a welcome relief after spending a few days in the bush. Check our Arusha & Surroundings page for recommendations on what to do and where to eat here. If necessary we will transfer you to the airport.
Get inspired and read more about the Bush to Beach Circuit