Arusha is the main safari hub for travel to the popular national parks of Tanzania's Northern Safari Circuit, as well as being a convenient base for treks up Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
One of the cheapest options for getting to Arusha from abroad, is to fly to Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya. From Nairobi you can take a shuttle or bus (about a 5 hours' drive) to Arusha in northern Tanzania, crossing at the Namanga border (check visa requirements for Kenya and Tanzania). Another way to cut costs is to fly to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam (southern Tanzania) and then travel north to Arusha by road, but this drive is longer (12 hours) and not as cheap as driving from Nairobi.
There are two bus stations in Arusha where you can get cheap public buses on African time, but be prepared - the stations are frenetic and rife with opportunists and petty thieves. A step up would be to take one of the private bus companies (Royal Coach, Scandinavian or Dar Express), which are more expensive but also more comfortable, less crowded and easier to use.
If you prefer to fly straight to Arusha there are a few direct international flights to the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), located about 50km (31mi) east of Arusha city. There are flights connecting the Kilimanjaro International Airport with Nairobi, Europe (Amsterdam), Addis Ababa and some domestic stops, like Zanzibar. One option is to fly from your departure point via Dubai to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and then to Kilimanjaro Airport. Other options include flying from Bangkok or Mumbai to Nairobi and then Kilimanjaro International, a 45 minute drive from Arusha. From the Kilimanjaro International Airport you can either take a shuttle (free or cheap) with one of the airlines, or a taxi (about USD50) to Arusha.
Then there is the Arusha Airport (ARK), which handles domestic flights, including connections to/from Dar es Salaam, and chartered flights to the national parks on the Northern Circuit. The Arusha Airport is serviced by two airlines and is located 8km (5mi) from Arusha.
Between the two airports there are daily flights from/to Arusha and Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Nairobi and several game reserves. There are cheap domestic flights available, so you can fly instead of taking the bus if you don't mind spending more. Arusha is about 325km (202mi) from the Serengeti National Park - a rough, yet scenic, drive that takes about 8 hours. The drive is usually tackled over two days with an overnight rest and some game viewing along the way. You can rent a car and drive to the Serengeti and other game parks, but 4x4 vehicles are recommended; which means that this is neither your cheapest nor easiest option.
It takes about an hour and a half to get from Arusha to Moshi, a town located closer to Kilimanjaro for treks up the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. The cheapest is to take a local shuttle and there are also buses running between Arusha and Moshi, alternatively check with your tour operator for transfers.
The Arusha Airport (ARK) lies just 8km (5 mi) west of Arusha city in northern Tanzania. This small airport handles domestic flights between Arusha and Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar, as well as charters to several of the game reserves in Tanzania. There are two airlines operating flights from/to Arusha Airport and three cities in Tanzania (Mwanza, Dar es Salaam and Stone Town). Charter flight options include flights to Serengeti National Park and Lake Manyara National Park on the Northern Safari Circuit.
Arusha serves as the gateway to the much-loved Northern Safari Circuit in Tanzania, making it a travel hub for the region. The nearby Kilimanjaro International Airport (45 minutes drive from Arusha) operates some international flights from a handful of destinations, including Amsterdam and Nairobi. The Kilimanjaro airport is a more popular access point than the Arusha airport given that the latter offers domestic flights only, from/to cities and towns including Dar es Salaam.
Kilimanjaro International Airport is the only international airport in the region of Tanzania's Northern Safari Circuit. The Kilimanjaro Airport is conveniently located between Mount Kilimanjaro and the travel hub of Arusha. The Kilimanjaro airport lies about 50kms (45 minutes' drive) southeast of Arusha city in northern Tanzania, providing access to the legendary Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Tarangire National Park and Mt Kilimanjaro.
Direct international flights connect the Kilimanjaro International Airport with Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Otherwise, one needs to fly via other major airports to Kilimanjaro International Airport when travelling from abroad. There are flights running between the Kilimanjaro Airport and the African cities of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Entebe (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Mombasa (Kenya) and Nairobi (Kenya). Within Tanzania there are flights to and from Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Zanzibar Island. Two of the most popular routes for international connecting flights are via Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
Enjoy world-class game viewing near Arusha in top Tanzanian game parks on the Northern Safari Circuit, as well as in neighbouring Kenya's Masai Mara and Amboseli National Parks. Famous game parks that Arusha serves as the travel gateway to include Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park. Also visit the archaeological gem of Olduvai Gorge, known as “The Cradle of Humankind” in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Hiking up the over 10,000 foot high “Mountain of God” as the Maasai call it, is not for the out-of-shape. The challenging hike up the active Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano is well worth the beautiful views over the Rift Valley.
Spectacular views of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, as well as breathtaking views over the lush Ngurdoto Crater inhabited by a plethora of wildlife, from gnus and zebras to elephants, lions and rhinos. Located about 45 minutes' drive from Arusha, the compact Arusha National Park is home to rich birdlife and plenty of antelopes, primates and other wildlife.
The 4566m high Mount Meru lies in Arusha National Park, with hikes up Tanzania's second highest mountain taking a rewarding few days of trekking.
Hike through the rainforest to the Mandara or Horombo huts on Mt Kilimanjaro. Hiking up for a few hours, you stop for lunch at one of the huts before turning and descending the slopes. This day hike gives you a taste of trekking up the 'Roof of Africa' with qualified guides.
To see reptiles up close head to Meserani Snake Park, just outside of Arusha. Other than the scaly, slithery and leathery creatures you can take a tour of the little Maasai Museum and ride a camel.
Walk beside the beautiful Lake Duluti or take a canoe trip on its tranquil waters, taking in lovely views of Mount Meru National Park and Serena Mountain Village. You can also go mountain biking and bird watching at Lake Duluti Forest Reserve, around 15 minutes from Arusha.
Visit the Natural History Museum set in the German Boma, a military fort built back in 1901. To shop for local art head to the Arusha Declaration Museum, also housing exhibits of Tanzania's pre-colonial history and tribes.
You can also browse local arts, jewellery and crafts at the Cultural Heritage Centre or walk through the Central Market for all sorts of goods, from fresh vegetables to fabrics.
Meet the welcoming Masai in one of the local villages and try some homemade banana beer. A cultural village tour provides insight into how the rural Masai live today - a unique and interesting experience.