2 weeks Tanzania | Northern Circuit - off the beaten track

This circuit combines the top safari parks in Tanzania with undiscovered treasures. It involves picturesque drives on lesser-known routes, opportunities for walks and hikes and cultural experiences. Due to its diversity, this is also a great Tanzania self-drive itinerary for families. 

  • Explore Tarangire, famous for its abundance of elephants and baobabs
  • Get acquainted with the life of the Hadzabe and Dagota tribes. They are traditional nomadic bushmen who live around Lake Eyasi. 
  • Enjoy world-class game viewing and easy safari tracks in the Ngorongoro Crater.
  • Discover plenty of wildlife spotting on your self-drive safari in the world-famous Serengeti.
  • Drive to remote Lake Natron via scenic back roads, spot flamingos that line the lake’s shore and walk up to the Engero Sero Waterfalls.
  • Travel via scenic back roads to West Kilimanjaro a lush and fertile environment, and a great spot to end your Tanzania road trip. 

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. 

Day-to-day itinerary | Northern Safari Circuit off the beaten track

Day 1

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

Day 2

Day 2 of 14

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 14

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 14

Start: Tarangire
Destination:
Lake Eyasi
Drive: 140 km | approx. 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 on a hunt and engage in other community tourism experiences.
Tip: We know great community guides and can connect you with them.
Day 5

Day 5 of 14

Start: Lake Eyasi
Destination:
Karatu or Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Drive: 55 km | approximate 1,5 hours

After a morning of unique cultural experiences at Lake Eyasi, you continue your road trip to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 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 6

Day 6 of 14

Start: Karatu or Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Destination:
NCA or Serengeti - Seronera section
Drive: 166 km | approx. 3,5 hours 

Wake up early to make the most of your Ngorongoro experience. 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. 

In half a day, you can cover most game-viewing tracks in the Crater. 

Consult our National Park blog for detailed information about entrance fees & how to arrange your permits. Check our Ngorongoro Destination Guide for more travel tips. 

Day 7

Day 7 of 14

Enjoy: Serengeti

Serengeti is rattling with wildlife. Enjoy plenty of game drives on your self-drive safari in the Serengeti.

Check our Serengeti Guide for more travel tips. 

Day 8

Day 8 of 14

Start: Serengeti, Seronera section
Destination: Serengeti Lobo, Kleins Gate.  

We recommend two to three nights in the Serengeti. Travelling from central Serengeti (Seronera) to Lake Natron in a day is not advisable or feasible. The best option is to break up the journey and first camp or stay at a lodge near Kleins Gate, in the northeastern corner of the Serengeti. It's another 4-5 hour drive from Kleins Gate to Lake Natron. 

Day 9

Day 9 of 14

Start: Serengeti Lobo, Kleins gate. 
Destination:
Engare Sero, Lake Natron 
Drive: 160 km | approximate 4 -5 hours. 

It is a scenic drive on back roads from Serengeti to Lake Natron.There is 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, the gateway town to Lake Natron, is on 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. Check our Lake Natron Travel Guide for more driving directions and tips. 
Day 10

Day 10 of 14

Enjoy: Lake Natron 

After some intense 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 a 2 to 3-night stay. 

You can walk out across the baked mud to the shores of Lake Natron, where flamingos 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.

Day 11

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 volcano. 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

Day 12 of 14

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

It is 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

Day 13 of 14

Enjoy: Kilimanjaro area

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 14

Day 14 of 14

Start: Matadi, West Kilimanjaro
Destination:
Kilimanjaro International Airport
Drive: 60 km | approx.1,5 hours

The Kilimanjaro Foothills are a fine place to linger around a bit longer. There are some fine lodges in the area, ranging from guesthouses to five-star luxury lodges, all covered in our Hotel Guide. 

From West Kilimanjaro, its only a 1.5-hour drive to Kilimanjaro International Airport.   

2 weeks Tanzania | This is what you need to know

Travel time and road conditions

We recommend 14 days / 13 car rental days for the Northern Circuit off-the-beaten-track itinerary, spending two to three nights at each location.

The main road from Arusha to the entrance gates of Tarangire and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is smooth tarmac. The game-viewing tracks within Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater are well-marked, non-technical, and provide a gentle introduction to self-driving in Tanzania.  

The gravel road from Karatu to Lake Eyasi and from Naabi Hill gate to Serengeti has a rocky surface and washboard ribbons. Drive at a limited speed. Check our Driving in Tanzania blog for more tips and advice. 

The Northern Circuit is possible to travel year-round. 

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