A jigsaw of world-famous national parks, mountains and lakes, the landscapes (and wildlife) of Northern Tanzania are legendary, and combine to form a northern circuit of epic proportions.
Making up a large portion of the puzzle is the Serengeti National Park, arguably the most famous park in the world today, thanks largely to the millions of wildebeest, which migrate across it every year. It is, quite literally, a paradise and in safari terms, if you have not experienced the magic of the Serengeti's vast, sweeping plains, then you have not truly experienced Africa. Epitomising the Africa of wildlife documentaries, the Serengeti is sure to impress whether you’re in the thick of the migration, watching thousands of wildebeest ford the Grumeti River, or mesmerised by fluffy cheetah cubs tumbling amongst the grasses. Our favourite way to see it? It’s got to be from the basket of hot air balloon, watching the sun rise over the park.
Also dominating the region, both in reputation and in size, Mount Kilimanjaro is where explorers congregate in order to don their hiking boots, lift up their backpacks and follow the trails up to the highest peak in Africa. Though the trek is tough and will take at least six days, believe us when we say the views are worth it. Ascending from tropical rainforest, through alpine desert, and right up to the glaciers that still cover 'The Roof of Africa', the climb does not require any technical skills - just a spirit of adventure and a little stamina.
Though Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti are the most famous destinations in Northern Tanzania, they are only the starting points. Few things in Tanzania compare to the breathtaking natural beauty of the Ngorogoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site widely regarded as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". A collapsed volcanic caldera, Ngorongoro Crater contains an impressive 30,000 animals – including the famed ‘Big 5’ – and the greater Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to one of the most iconic tribes in Africa - the Maasai - who were moved here from the Serengeti. With their nomadic lifestyle, the Maasai co-exist with relatively minimal impact on their wild neighbours, helping to preserve this unique African treasure. Often used as the base from which to visit the national parks in Ngorongoro Crater, Karatu is a charming little highland town well worth a stop in its own right. The cool highland air makes it a wonderful spot to recharge your batteries and appreciate rural Tanzania.
If you interested in visiting Tarangire National Park, Northern Tanzania’s hidden gem, then consider a stop-over along the flamingo-lined shores of Lake Manyara. Home to the famous tree-climbing lions and one of our favourite lodges, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, spend the day watching pods of hippos cluster in the lake, and elephants stand out like boulders against the barren shores before heading off the beaten track.
Lying quietly just south of Lake Manyara, Tarangire National Park may hide in the shadow of its more glamorous neighbours, but is THE park to visit during the months of the dry season. In September and October huge herds of elephant gather in the park, numbering as many as a hundred at one time. Vast bulbous baobab trees stretch upwards into the skies and leopard slink amongst the grasses. Birders will be glued to their binos, watching eagles soar overhead and water birds flitting through the reeds in the natural wetlands, as well as spotting the largest bird in the world, the ostrich and the heaviest bird that can fly, the Kori Bustard.