It’s no secret that Tanzania’s tourist attractions are flooded with a lot of Tanzania Hidden Gems to visit. Home to many of Africa’s most illustrious destinations: the dramatic oasis of the Ngorongoro Crater such an important Tanzania hidden gem and an amazing destination to visit, the wildlife-jammed Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks, Paradise-like beaches of Zanzibar, the gateway city of Arusha and the soaring and majestic Kilimanjaro. Beyond its famous treasures, Tanzania is still home to an array of fewer favorite charms that intensify the glory of the few who discover them. Here are a few Tanzania Hidden Gems to visit when in Tanzania.
- Historic sites of Kilwa
- Mount Hanang
- Lake Natron
- Mount Oldonyo Lengai
- Rubondo Island National Park
- Mount Meru forest
- Mafia Island
- Lake Chala
- Usambara mountains
- Olpopongi Cultural Village
- Selous game reserve
- Mahale Mountain national park
HISTORIC SITES OF KILWA
The Island of Kilwa is Located about 300km south of Dar es Salaam, a short boat ride from the mainland. This Hidden gem is an authentic historical town in Real South. Kilwa was once a thriving seaport; from the eleventh century, the sultans of Kilwa grew affluent from the control of the gold trade.
The historical Site of Kilwa grew in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and is mentioned by several early chroniclers. The most significant standing ruins from this period are the Great Mosque and the Palace at Husuni Kubwa. This Tanzania hidden gem was unrivaled in East Africa for its architectural sophistication and splendor.
A quick visit to Kilwa gives a thrilling memory when discussing the rich history of the Swahili coast that extends along the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean in Tanzania. Despite the beauty of this Island located in Kilwa District, Lindi Region, memories of the past civilization and early settlements could be a memoir of a lifetime for any tourist venturing into this part of Tanzania.
It is the most significant historic site along the Swahili coast of Eastern Africa which makes it top our list of hidden gems you must visit when in Tanzania. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. In addition, investments have been made to improve visitor infrastructure on the Island, including installing a new restroom facility to encourage tourism.
A few kilometers north of Dar es Salaam, situated on the East African coast, Bagamoyo was a center for missionary activities. The town’s most important industry is the dhow sailboat building. Historically, the city was a terminal point on the coast for Arab trading caravans.
It was also used as a holding point for slaves brought from the interior and awaiting transportation to Zanzibar. Though declining, the combination of Arabic influence on local architecture and architecture of European origin is still the best thing to take a look at in this beautiful historic town.
Situated in the Hanang District in the Manyara region, a few miles from the city of Arusha. Mountain Hanang is the third highest mountain in Tanzania after Kilimanjaro and Meru mountains, with an elevation of 3,676 m above sea level. The reserve has steep slopes with declining vegetation as you go up.
A Tanzania Hidden Gem on the western side, most part is occupied by rocks on steep slopes. Ridges and valleys continuously intercept the forest on the Western side, and the forest is found in valleys while on the South and Eastern side ridge and valleys are covered by forest. The mountain is nestled right close to the great rift valley, a significant game viewing and photography site.
Found in the northern part of Tanzania. Lake Natron is one of the fascinating Tanzania Hidden Gems to visit. It is a soda lake at the base of the active Mount Ol Donyo Lengai. The area around Lake Natron is often described as having a desolate and almost lunar beauty. Proximal to Arusha in Tanzania and Magadi in Kenya, Lake Natron is the most important breeding site for Lesser Flamingos in the world.
Walks around this hidden gem, streams, and waterfalls along the nearby escarpment make for a fantastic adventure off the beaten track. Several campgrounds near the lake are also the base for climbing Mount Ol Doinyo Lengai.
MOUNT OLDONYO LENGAI
Stratovolcano rises majestically about 2000m from the East African Rift Valley depression to 2890m. It is located in northern Tanzania, lying just south of Lake Natron in the Rift Valley, in the heart of the Maasai community, and is locally regarded as a sacred mountain.
Oldonyo Lengai is the only volcano known for its nitro-carbonatite lava, highly fluid lava that contains almost no silicon. The local Masai respect it as the Holy Mountain of God and home to their God Ngai. Geologists study the mountain for its unique lava, and travelers attempt to capture its mystic aura in photographs.
RUBONDO ISLAND NATIONAL PARK
Rubondo Island National Park is one of two Tanzanian National Parks located on an island in Lake Victoria. This amazing Tanzania hidden gem attracts a small number of visitors each year, mainly game fishers and bird enthusiasts. About 150 km (93 mi) west of Mwanza Rubondo Island National Park is an unspoiled paradise sided by Lake Victoria, Africa’s biggest lake.
While its shoreline supports masses of hippos and crocodiles, the Island’s interior forests and woodlands are sanctuaries for chimpanzees, monkeys, rhinos, giraffes, and elephants. Rubondo’s emerald heart is a papyrus swamp, home to more than 200 bird species, almost 70 species of butterfly, and 40 species of orchid.
MOUNT MERU FOREST
Meru forest plantation is among the 22 plantations owned and managed by the Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS), located in the Arusha region about 5-10 km from Moshi- Arusha- Nairobi highway Northern Side. The forest lies between 3015’-3018′ South and longitudes 36041’-36042′. The forest borders the Arusha National Park to the North while all of the Southern parts border the local villages of Olgilai, Sura, Kilinga, Ngongongare, Sikila, Oldonyo sambu, Olmotonyi, and Tombolo.
Visiting mount Meru forest is such a wild experience, guides of the forest will brief you about the forest plantation and the community living around the area. Here are a few of the activities in this amazing Tanzania hidden gem. Read more about Mount Meru Forest Reserve
- Birds Watching
- Mount Meru forest nature walk
- Cultural experiences in surrounding Villages
- Be part of the carbon offsetting project: A tree for every visitor
- Hiking to the waterfalls
- Sambasha Hill Hiking
- Mount Meru forest cycling activity
While Zanzibar is probably the most popular Island off Tanzania’s coast, Mafia Island has remained under the radar for decades. This classic Indian Ocean hidden gem to visit in Tanzania lies 200 kilometers south of Zanzibar and displays a genuinely serene tropical feel. It’s home to one of the world’s best diving sites, the Mafia Island Marine Park, and the perfect place to live out your castaway fantasy.
Lake Chala is a unique caldera lake and is thought to be the deepest inland body of water in Africa. The lake gets its waters from the underground springs from Mt. Kilimanjaro. This Tanzania hidden gem has a great diversity of life, from lush lake shore forest to stunning volcanic savannahs; from river beds marvelously carved through ancient rock to a thick bush or open ‘mbuga.’ Walking at Lake, Chala is a magical experience that will put you back in touch with nature.
Depending on the time of year, it ranges in color from deep blue to turquoise and green. Surrounded by a 100 meters high crater rim, Lake Chala has a wide variety of unique trees, grasses, and plants; some are unique to the area. According to the time of year, hundreds of species of butterflies and birds, including spectacular birds of prey.
With its haunting techniques, the African Fish Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Augur Buzzards, and many other species of birds can be seen around the crater walls. A variation of Blue Monkeys, Colobus Monkeys, baboons, dik-dik, kudu, and elephants can also be spotted in the area. Chala is a natural part of a genuinely ancient land and a must-visit place. Activities at this lake can well be walking safaris, canoeing, swimming, fishing, and bird viewing.
The Usambara Mountains are located in northeastern Tanzania, near Mkomazi National Park, just about 3 hour’s drive (110 km) west of Tanga. Usambara is a beautiful mountain range with grassy plains and virgin tropical rainforests. The area has many colorful villages you can visit during your stay.
It is one of the undiscovered places in Tanzania. And this is what makes this Tanzania hidden gem a true paradise for nature and hiking lovers. The lush green mountains have a cool climate that is ideal for walks and hikes.
But one of the best reasons to hike the Usambara mountains is the fantastic view. You’ll see sweeping hills, mountains, valleys, farmland, picturesque villages, colorful markets, and plantations everywhere you go.
OLPOPONGI CULTURAL VILLAGE
An authentic Maasai Village with Museum and overnight facilities, “Olpopongi” provides a unique Maasai and Wildlife experience in the West-Kilimanjaro Maasai land, just 74 km from Moshi and 85 km from Arusha. Truly is one of the best Tanzania Hidden Gems to visit.
They aim to share the authentic Maasai life and culture in a 100% traditionally built village (Boma). A visit to “Olpopongi” does support local Maasai families with water, food, employment, personal income, medical treatments, and education. Experienced English-speaking Maasai-Guides perform all Museum-Tours and Walking Safaris. You can expect cultural experiences, Bush-Cooking Courses, Maasai Survival training, and Maasai Jewelry Workshops.
HOW TO GET THERE
Coming from Moshi (74 km), follow the Main street up to Boma Ng’ombe, turn right to Sanya Juu Pass Sanya Juu, and follow the rough road until you see the red “Olpopongi” sign on your left(same exit as Ndarakwai Camp and West Kilimanjaro Airstrip). Follow the rough track and our six signs approx. 17 km to the direction of Longido After passing the first Maasai-Bomas, turn left and follow the red signs for another 2 km.
SELOUS GAME RESERVE
Speaking of Tanzania Hidden Gems, you can never leave Selous reserve behind. The Selous Game Reserve is a natural game reserve that offers raw nature, beauty, and endless wildlife. Even during the peak season, the reserve is never crowded. It provides a high level of privacy, and you’ll see more wildlife than humans on your game drives. Well known for its large population of African wild dogs, which are critically endangered.
The hidden gem also has a high concentration of elephants. The Selous Game Reserve is Africa’s largest game reserve, home to Africa’s Big Five and an extraordinary amount of wildlife. A game drives around the reserve during the dry season; you’re likely to spot some of the 120,000 buffaloes that inhabit the region, along with the 4,000 lions, one of the largest populations in the world. The park can also be explored on foot with an exhilarating walking safari. This is the most unpopular game reserve and yet one of the worth Tanzania hidden gems to visit.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN SELOUS GAME RESERVE
Africa’s Big Five and an extraordinary amount of wildlife
One of the few destinations in Africa to see African wild dogs.
Excellent lion population and sightings.
Boat & Walking safaris
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit the Selous Game Reserve is during the dry season of July to October. Even though this is peak season, you still won’t encounter the usual crowds of the more popular northern parks. With thinning vegetation and retreating water sources, you’ll have prime wildlife viewing opportunities. However, the heaviest rains fall from March to May, and many lodges and roads close during this period due to its remoteness.
MAHALE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Extending along the shore of Lake Tanganyika, at the country’s western edge, this verdant, jungle, roughly 600-square-mile preserve encompasses not just dazzling scenery but also the country’s largest population of wild primates.
Mahale Mountains National Park is just another of Tanzania’s off-grid destinations. It is accessible only by boat and protects the rainforest-covered mountains that tumble down to the echoing shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Most notable is the thriving resident community of almost 1,000 chimpanzees, red colobus, red-tailed, blue, and vervet monkeys, some of whom safarists might spot along the way.
Check out the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro