Northern Circuit - off the beaten track

Northern Circuit - off the beaten track

This exciting circuit combines the premier safari parks in Tanzania with hidden gems via roads less traveled. It contains scenic driving on back roads, the ability to do walks and hikes, and cultural encounters. You'll explore Tarangire, Lake Eyasi, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, and West Kilimanjaro. It's also a great itinerary for family holidays, because of the variation.This route is among our favorites! 

We recommend a minimum of 11 -14 days / 10-13 car rental days.

Scroll down below to see the day-to-day itinerary for this suggested road trip, including distances and driving times. 

Check the day to day itinerary

Day 1 of 14

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 Landcruiser's, safari guides and the like, but you're a trendsetter when going on a self-drive safari! 



Day 2 of 14

Start: Arusha
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 picnics sites 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. During dry season, Tarangire has, after the Serengeti, the highest wildlife density of any Tanzanian National Park. Animal concentration peaks between July till November and January to February. Between March and early June, much of the wildlife has migrated and you might want to consider visiting Lake Manyara National Park instead. 

Tip the Tanapa public campsite in Tarangire is at a scenic location, and as opposed to the campsites in the Serengeti, it feels like a bush camping experience. 


Day 3 of 14

Enjoy: Tarangire National Park

The amount of wildlife in Tarangire is world-class. We recommend a minimum of 2 nights. If time is not on your side, you can consider skipping this day and continue to Lake Eyasi. 

Day 4 of 14

Start: Tarangire
Lake Eyasi
Drive: 140 km | appr 3,5 hours. 

Lake Eyasi is a seasonal shallow salt lake at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley and the habitat of large populations of flamingos and pelicans in the breeding season. Besides the scenery, people visit this area to get acquainted with the life of the Hadzabe and Dagota tribes. They are nomadic bushmen and live from what nature provides: they collect wild fruits and hunt with bows and arrows. You can join the Hadzabe and engage in other community tourism experiences. 
We know great community guides and can connect you with them.


Day 5 of 14

Start: Lake Eyasi
Karatu town/ Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Drive: 55 km | appr 90 mins

After a day of unique cultural experiences at Lake Eyasi, you drive to Karatu in the afternoon. Karatu is the gateway town to the NCA where you find a lot of accommodation options in all price ranges. Inside the NCA, you only find lodges in the upper price segment and a public campsite which needs to be reserved in advance. We can arrange this for you.


Day 6 of 14

Start: Karatu / Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Serengeti - Seronera section
Drive: 166 km | appr. 3,5 hours 

The Ngorongoro Crater is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The crater is the world's largest intact caldera and is the only place in the world where you have a very high chance of seeing the 'Big 5' in one day. In half a day, you are able to cover most of the game-viewing tracks. Consult our Ngorongoro Travel Guide for more practical information. 

Approximate driving times to the Serengeti are as follows:
-Loduare Gate (NCA entrance) to Naabi Hill Gate (Serengeti entrance): 2.5 hours
-Naabi Hill Gate to Seronera: 1 hour

The main entrance road from Naabi Hill gate to Seronera is a challenging road, with a rocky surface and washboard ribbons. Drive at limited speed (25 km/h), or else you'll risk losing control instantly. 
The public campsites in the Seronera section have a large setup and can be crowded with overland trucks and budget safari operators. It comprises the bush camping feeling. 



Day 7 of 14

Enjoy: Serengeti

Enjoy game drives in the Serengeti. It's great fun to drive yourself. We personally like to spot the wildlife ourselves and be surprised and rewarded ( that's why it's called '' game drive'') instead of following the other tour guides with their radios, as then you can be certain you shall be lined up with other vehicles when watching the game. Serengeti is rattling with wildlife. If you nevertheless find it hard to spot predators or have a specific interest, you can always decide to hire a ranger to help you spot wildlife better. You can arrange this at one of the gates. 

Day 8 of 14

Start: Serengeti - Seronera section
Serengeti -Lobo section
Drive: 70 km / full-day game drives

The Lobo section lies in the northeast corner of the Serengeti, you'll enter/ exit via Kleins Gate. Lobo public campsite is a little visited campsite. Lobo Wildlife Lodge is a rather out-of-place lodge with its grand set up but it's a great place for a sundowner with endless views over the Serengeti.In case you're camping, good to know they also cater to dinner walk-ins. 

Day 9 of 14

Start: Serengeti Lobo 
Engare Sero, Lake Natron 
Drive: 160 km | appr 4 -5 hours. 

A visit to Lake Natron is an out-of-space experience. Visit this area for its remoteness, spectacular scenery and the possibility to do a challenging night hike up to Oldoinyo Lengai, an active volcano.
It's a tarmac road from Klein's gate to Wasso town. From Wasso to Sonja is an all-weather gravel road. The last 20 km before Engaresero is a rough road. Natron lies in a Wildlife Management Area. These are countrywide conservation areas, established to benefit and help local communities throughout Tanzania. You can arrange your WMA permits at Engaresero town. 



Day 10 of 14

Enjoy: Lake Natron 

After some intens days of driving and moving from one place to another - we recommend a break in Lake Natron. If you enjoy walks and hikes, we recommend 2 to 3 nights.

You can walk out across the baked mud to the shores of the great soda lake itself, in which algae and zooplankton thrive – which in turn attract the flamingos that line the lake’s shore.

You can walk up to the Engero Sero Waterfalls. After a few hours, you’ll reach a beautiful natural swimming pool surrounded by steep rock walls and palm trees. The fit and brave might like to try and climb Oldoinyo Lengai, an active vulcano. 

We know great community guides and can connect you with them.


Day 11 of 14

Optional: enjoy another day at Lake Natron 

The fit and brave might like to try and climb Oldoinyo Lengai, an active vulcano. This climb usually starts at midnight, to avoid the heat, and you climb for around six hours, through the night, to reach the spectacular views of the top by sunrise. Oldoinyo Lengai is not a climb to take lightly, it's tough.

Day 12 of 14

Start: Engare Sero, Lake Natron 
Matadi, West Kilimanjaro
Drive: 300 km | appr 7 hours. 

It's a scenic drive on tarmac back roads and all-weather dirt roads from Engare Sero to West Kilimanjaro, via Longido, Oldonyosambu and Engare Nanyuki. 


Day 13 of 14

Enjoy: Kilimanjaro area

The foothills of Kilimanjaro are a great base from which to undertake outdoor activities such as mountain biking (offered by Rivertrees Inn) and canoeing at Lake Duluti ( offered by Wayo). Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru in Arusha National Park are fantastic for walking and hiking. Simba Farm offers 1-day hikes up to the Kili. Moshi town is nice to visit and a good place from which you can arrange cultural tours such as visiting a coffee farm or banana plantation. Still enjoy being on the road? It's a scenic drive around Kilimanjaro thereby crossing small, lively towns. 

Hence, if you have the time, the Kilimanjaro Foothills is a fine place to linger around a bit longer. 

Day 14 of 14

Start: Matadi, West Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro International Airport
Drive: 60 km | appr 90 mins


What to expect on this self-drive adventure in Tanzania?

Travel time and road conditions

11 to 14 days / 10-13 car rental days are recommended to follow this route.

We recommend a minimum of 2 nights in Tarangire, 3 nights in the Serengeti, 2 nights in Lake Natron and 2-3 nights for the West Kilimanjaro region. 

Besides the game drives inside the parks, there is also off-road driving from Karatu to Lake Eyasi and from Kleins Gate to Lake Natron. These are all-weather dirt roads, and although these roads considerably increase your travel time, they are not technical to drive. 




Go to Travel time and road conditions


Low season (March-May + Nov): from € 1442 / vehicle 

Regular season: from € 1702 / vehicle 

Peak season (July + Augustus, 20 Dec - 5 January): from € 1832 / vehicle 

Price includes 13-day Landcruiser rental, unlimited mileage, 24/7 backup support, accommodation tips and Ngorongoro reservation quote. 

Fuel is at your own expense. 

Like to discover the Northern Circuit - off the beaten-track route with the company of a driver-guide? Add € 520 to your total trip amount. 

Create & Book

Make this road trip yours. Hire a 4x4 and Drive Your Own Adventure.

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What's included in your roadtrip package?


  • Car delivery to your hotel or airport
  • Roadmap and Bradt Travel Guide
  • Comprehensive car insurance


  • Electrical fridge
  • Driver-Guide
  • Camping gear