3 week Tanzania | the ultimate one way road trip from Bush to Beach

Where can you combine world-class safaris with visiting tribal villages, hiking in lush mountains and swimming in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean into one epic trip? The bush-to-beach Tanzania safari is the ultimate one-way road trip and righteously our most popular! Because of its diversity, this is also a great Tanzania self-drive itinerary for families. 

  • Start in Arusha and hand over your car in Dar es Salaam (or vice versa).
  • Enjoy plenty of self-drive safaris in Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. 
  • Explore the lush and fertile surroundings of West Kilimanjaro.
  • Trek Rhino's Mkomazi National Park.
  • Enjoy suburb birding, walks, waterfalls and highland villages in the Usambara Mountains.
  • Take a road trip along the undiscovered coast of Tanzania.

Scroll below to see the day-to-day itinerary with realistic driving times, route directions, and travel tips for Tanzania. Need advice on accommodation? We've compiled a Hotel Guide for all road trippers, which includes our favourite lodges and hotels in Tanzania and Zanzibar from budget to luxury. 

Great impression from a self-drive & camping trip through Tanzania & Zanzibar safari, surf, sushine & love.

Day-to-day itinerary | Bush to Beach

Day 1

Day 1 of 22

Welcome to Arusha

Arusha town is a pleasant introduction to East Africa. It is a green, orderly town with several nice coffee bars and restaurants. Being considered the safari capital of Africa, it's bustling with Landcruisers, safari guides and the like, but you're a trendsetter when going on a self-drive bush-to-beach Tanzania safari!

Day 2

Day 2 of 22

Start: Arusha
Destination:
Tarangire National Park
Drive: 150 km | 2,5 hours

It's an easy 2-hour journey on a smooth asphalt road, so you can still bite some dust for your first afternoon self-drive safari in Tarangire. The game viewing tracks are well signposted, and the public facilities like toilets and picnicsites are well maintained. There are even food trucks (bush baristas) nowadays. Tarangire is famous for its large herds of elephants, giant baobabs and scenic landscapes. 

Day 3

Day 3 of 22

Enjoy: Tarangire National Park

The amount of wildlife in Tarangire is world-class. We recommend a minimum stay of 2 nights. If time is not on your side, you can shorten your stay by one night. Check our Tarangire Destination Guide for the best time to visit and tips on what to see and do. 

Day 4

Day 4 of 22

Start: Tarangire 
Destination:
Serengeti - Seronera section
Drive: 260 km | approx. 6 hours. 

On your way to the Serengeti, you first transit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The entrance permits for the NCA must be reserved in advance; this can't be done on arrival at the gate. Roadtrip Africa can help you with this. 

From Tarangire to Loduare Gate, the entrance to the NCA, is a scenic journey on a smooth tarmac road. You'll pass Mto wa Mbu, the touristy gateway town to Lake Manyara National Park, and Karatu, the last town before entering the NCA and the Serengeti. In Karatu, you'll find several hotels in all price ranges, and it's a good place to refuel your car and stock up on supplies. 

Day 5

Day 5 of 22

Enjoy Serengeti.

We have written a visitor guide to the Serengeti. Feel free to check it out here

 

Day 6

Day 6 of 22

Start: Serengeti, Seronera section
Destination:
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Drive: 140 km | approx. 3,5 hours. 

There are bigger and wilder parks, but if you want some of the easiest and most rewarding game viewing in East Africa, a safari in the Ngorongoro Crater will not disappoint.

The NCA permit is valid for 24 hours. If you want to keep your time inside the NCA limited to one permit, we advise you to enjoy a morning game drive in the Serengeti, enter the NCA in the afternoon, do your Crater safari the following morning, and exit the NCA within the 24-hour time frame. Consult our National Park blog for detailed information about entrance fees & how to arrange your permits. 

Day 7

Day 7 of 22

Enjoy: Ngorongoro Crater or surrounding areas.
Sleep: NCA or Karatu town

In half a day, you can cover most game-viewing tracks in the Crater. Check our Ngorongoro Destination Guide for more travel tips. 

Karatu is the gateway town to the NCA, where you find a lot of accommodation options in all price ranges. Inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you only find lodges in the upper price segment and a public campsite must be reserved in advance. Roadtrip Africa can arrange this for you.

Day 8

Day 8 of 22

Start: NCA or Karatu
Destination: 
USA River / Arusha National Park / West Kilimanjaro 
Drive: 3-5 hours, depending on which area you choose. 

It's time to say goodbye to the safari parks. Before we continue to the Switzerland of Tanzania, we first drive to the foothills of Kilimanjaro, a great base from which to undertake several outdoor and cultural activities. Or, enjoy some chilling beside the pool of your lodge. Hence, the Kilimanjaro Foothills is a fine place to linger around a bit longer if you have the time. 

Day 9

Day 9 of 22

The foothills of Kilimanjaro are a great starting point for outdoor activities like mountain biking (offered by Rivertrees Inn) and canoeing at Lake Duluti (offered by Wayo). Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru in Arusha National Park are perfect for walking and hiking. Simba Farm offers one-day hikes up to the Kili. Moshi town is a nice place to visit and also a good place to arrange cultural tours such as visiting a coffee farm or banana plantation. If you like scenic drives, drive around Kilimanjaro and visit small, lively towns.

Day 10

Day 10 of 22

A magical day or overnight trip to include in your Tanzania self-drive itinerary is a visit to the Kikuletwa Hot Springs (Maji Moto). When Roadtrip Africa first discovered this site 15 years ago, it was not plotted on Google Maps, and it was a real challenge to find! Nowadays, the hot springs are plotted, so more people come to visit.

Maji Moto is best visited during weekdays. From Boma Ngombe town, it's approximately a 30-minute ride on a very rough road with no signposts. If you get lost, ask a local. 

When you travel with our camp gear,  you can stay for the night and pitch your tent. Not many people do this, but we think it's highly recommended. Campfires are allowed, and before anyone arrives the following day, you can be the first to make a morning dip. 

Day 11

Day 11 of 22

Start: USA River / Arusha National Park / West Kilimanjaro or Hot Springs
Destination:
Mkomazi National Park
Drive: 250 km | 4-5 hours

It’s a scenic drive on smooth tarmac, but be cautious of the numerous speed bumps. Mkomazi National Park is surprisingly little visited. It's a scenic safari park, the rangers are enthusiastic and friendly and last but not least, you can visit the Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary. This is the only place in Tanzania where you can trek the rhinos. 

Day 12

Day 12 of 22

Start: Mkomazi
Destination:
Lushoto - Western Usambara's
Drive: 75 km | approximately 90 mins 

In the morning you can track the rhino and then continue your Tanzania road trip to the Usambara Mountains. You will pass extensive sisal plantations with the Pare Mountains towering on the left. From Mombo, the road starts climbing to Lushoto. Traditional safari tourists less visit this region. You will find many affordable places to stay in Lushoto. 

Day 13

Day 13 of 22

Enjoy: Western Usambara's

Lushoto resembles a Swiss Alpine village, yet set in an African context. The town peaked during colonial times and many of the buildings on the primary 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 14

Day 14 of 22

Stay another day in Lushoto to explore the Western Usambara. Or, if you have the time, make a detour to the Northern Usambara's and extend your Tanzania travel itinerary for 3 days. 

Start: Western Usambara's
Destination:
Northern Usambara's
Drive: 65 km | appr 3 hours. 

If you think the Western Usambara were beautiful - eat your heart out. The Northern Usambara's are even more scenic, where the high escarpment offers breathtaking views over the Mkomazi Plains deep down (1.3 km!) below. Be prepared for off-road driving - windy roads, cliffs and no other traffic. 

Day 15

Day 15 of 22

Enjoy: Northern Usambara's

The owners of Mambo Viewpoint Eco Lodge are a great source of information regarding the culture, bird-watching, hiking, and biking in the area. They have developed several itineraries that can be followed independently with the assistance of a GPS or a guide. Additionally, the grassroots organization Friends of the Usumbaras and the Bradt Travel Guide, which is included with your Roadtrip Tanzania car, offer detailed information about the region. It is worth noting that there are only budget-accommodation options in the Northern Usambara, of which Mambo Viewpoint bis the best.

Day 16

Day 16 of 22

Start: Mambo Viewpoint or Lushoto 
Destination:
Tanga
Drive: 5-7 hours depending on the starting point. 

Exciting day ahead – we are going to the Indian Ocean! From African Alpine villages to palm trees, tuk-tuks and Swahili coastal towns - what a change. When starting from Mambo Viewpoint, return to Lushoto. The road from Lushoto to the tiny village of Pongwe is tarred and in good condition.

Day 17

Day 17 of 22

Tanga, a historical fishing town, remains unaffected by tourism. We relished our time at the public beach, observing the local communities' daily activities. If you want more barefoot luxury, beautiful beaches, and quietness, stay at Fish Eagle Point, a special place tucked away in the mangroves. 

Day 18

Day 18 of 22

Start: Tanga
To:
Kigome Beach or Ushongo Bay 
Drive: 2-3 hours

We are personally big fans of doing a road trip along the Tanzanian coast instead of flying to Zanzibar. The coastline is untouched, which is a rarity nowadays. Prices are very low, it's authentic and quiet, with a handful of lovely small-scale lodges and campsites.

If you like to do a Tanzania beach road trip and hand over your car in Dar es Salaam, we recommend 2-3 nights in Tanga (Fish Eagle), followed by Pangani, Bagamoyo (1 night) and Dar es Salaam. 

Day 19

Day 19 of 22

Enjoy: the beach

Time for some relaxing after constantly being on the move - it is vacation after all. You can consider spending some nights at Kigombe, north of Pangani town and some time at Ushongo (south of Pangani, taking the ferry to cross the river) or utterly relax in one place.

Day 20

Day 20 of 22

Start: Pangani
Destination:
Bagamoyo
Drive: 300 km | 5,5 hours

Today you’ll drive to Bagamoyo, your next destination on the Swahili coast. During the second half of the 19th century, Bagamoyo was one of the most important settlements on the East African coast. The town was the terminus for the slave trade caravan connecting Zanzibar to Lake Tanganyika ( Burundi). After the long and dangerous journey, reaching Bagamoyo felt like coming home for the traders. Legendary explorers like Livingstone, Speke, Burton and Stanley started and ended several of their journeys in this historic town.

Today, it remains a genuinely traditional town and a good place to absorb Swahili culture. If you arrive in the afternoon, one night will be enough. If you enjoy traditional culture, spend two nights. 

Day 21

Day 21 of 22

Enjoy: Bagamoyo
The best way to explore and appreciate Bagamoyo’s rich history is through a guided city tour by foot and bajaj (tuk-tuk). The tourist office can arrange reliable guides to show you all the historic sights. Bagamoyo is a small town and the tour will not last more than an hour or two. 

The beaches in Bagamoyo are lively and a great spot to enjoy the Swahili coastal culture, but not a place for sunbathing in your bikini. The mix of fish auctions, football, children, fishermen, hawkers and tourist are a lusty sight, and the busy Dow traffic in the port and along the shores still gives you a pretty good feel of what was going on back in the day. 

 

Day 22

Day 22 of 22

Start: Bagamoyo
Destination
: Dar es Salaam International Airport
Drive: 75 km | approx. 2,5 hours 

If you have an evening flight, we advise staying in Bagamoyo and driving to Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam the next day. Allow for ample time, as the traffic in Dar can be dreadful. 

If you have a day flight, spend the night in Dar es Salaam and reserve some time to explore the city. It is Tanzania’s largest city and is fundamentally a Swahili city. The centre is historic, traditional and bustling, surrounded by up-market peninsulas with shopping malls, upmarket restaurants and beaches. Move around by taxi or tuk-tuk. 

Tanzania Bush to Beach | This is what you need to know

Travel time and road conditions

We recommend 21 car rental days to follow this one-way Tanzania itinerary. 

Is time not on your side? Skip the Northern Usambara's (3 days), and/or Tanga (2 days) and/or the additional day in Tarangire and USA River/ Kilimanjaro area - and safe up to 7 days.

At Roadtrip Africa, we believe less is more when designing a good travel itinerary, so it is better to skip destinations than to squeeze on the number of nights at one location. At least spend two nights at a location to have time to undertake non-car-based activities, enjoy your hotel (some lodges are a destination in their own right), and factor in time for the unexpected - especially on a self-drive rental. 

Do you have a limited budget or don't like driving a manual car? When you skip the Serengeti, you can follow this route in our RAV4. 

Road conditions are good on the Bush to Beach route. You can expect a lot of speed bumps and the occasional pothole. Only the road along the coast is in a poor state. 

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How to compose your Tanzania beach road trip

When doing a one-way Bush to Beach road trip, there are many ways to compose your beach days and end your trip.

We are personally big fans of taking a road trip along the coast instead of flying from Arusha to Zanzibar. Zanzibar is beautiful but has become very touristy and turned into a resort-like destination. The Tanzania coastline is still untouched, which is a rarity nowadays. Prices are very low, it's authentic and quiet with a handful of lovely, small-scale lodges and campsites.

If you like to do a Tanzania beach road trip and hand over your car in Dar es Salaam, we recommend 2-3 nights in Tanga (Fish Eagle), followed by Pangani, Bagamoyo (1 night) and Dar es Salaam. 

Alternatively, you can consider handing over your Tanzania rental car at Tanga, from where you take a ferry to Pemba Island. Or you take a speedboat from Pangani to Zanzibar (arrange with Emanyani Beach Lodge), or you catch a ferry or aeroplane from Dar to Zanzibar.

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Create & book your Tanzania self-drive adventure

Explore the Bush to Beach on your terms and drive your own adventure. 

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