3 weeks in Tanzania | Bush to Beach - Northern Route

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

  • Start in Arusha and hand over your car in Dar es Salaam (or vice versa).
  • Enjoy various self-drive safaris in Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. 
  • Travel to West Kilimanjaro and stay at an authentic Masaai camp
  • Enjoy suburb birding, walks, waterfalls and highland villages in the Usambara Mountains.
  • Take a roadtrip along Tanzania's less-discovered coast.

Scroll below to see our day-to-day itinerary with realistic driving times, route directions, and travel tips for Tanzania. The trip includes airport pick up & drop off, car rental, park permits, and hand-picked accommodation.

Explore the best of Tanzania & Zanzibar. Watch our Bush to Beach road movie.

Day-to-day itinerary | Bush to Beach

Day 1

Day 1 of 21

Welcome to Arusha

You shall be picked up from Arusha or JRO International Airport and brought to your hotel.

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! 

Our preferred choice: 

Ilboru Safari Lodge (mid-range with swimming pool)

Day 2

Day 2 of 21

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

As Tarangire National Park is conveniently located near Arusha, it is a wonderful first safari stop on your Tanzania self-drive roadtrip. It's an easy and scenic 2-hour journey on a smooth asphalt road. 

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. 

During the dry season, Tarangire boasts the largest concentration of elephants in the world! Additionally, the park is known for its abundance of baobab trees and beautiful stands of acacia tortilis trees - those flat-topped acacias you'll probably know from films like 'The Lion King' or 'Out of Africa'. Check our Tarangire Destination Guide for more information and tips on what to see and do. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection:

  • Luxury: Tarangire Baobab Tented Camp (furnished en-suite safari tent, inside Tarangire) 
  • Combo: set up your roof te
  • Comfort: Burunge Tented Lodge (cottage, swimming pool - inside Wildlife Management Area, close to Tarangire gate)
  • nt or ground tent at a campsite within Tarangire National Park. There is a fenced dining mess, a basic sanitary block, and a ranger who can also help you start your campfire.
Day 3

Day 3 of 21

Start: Tarangire 
Destination:
Karatu or Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)  
Drive: 100 km | approx 2 hours. 

Relax by the pool of your lodge, undertake a leisurely walking safari, or go for more game drives in the park. 

Drive to Karatu where you are booked in a lovely lodge with pool, 15-30 mins from Loduare Gate, the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. When you opt for our Combo Tour, you enter the NCA in the late afternoon to set up your camp at Simba public campsite, at the Ngorongoro Crater Rim. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection 

Day 4

Day 4 of 21

Start: Karatu / Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Destination:
Serengeti - Seronera 
Drive from Naabi Hill gate:  70 km | approx. 2 hours. 

Few safari destinations deliver the same experience as the Ngorongoro Crater. 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. It 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 can cover most of the game-viewing tracks. Check our Ngorongoro Destination Guide for more travel tips. 

Today involves a lot of driving and game drives. We advise entering the NCA very early morning for your Crater safari. You exit the NCA at Naabi Hill Gate. From there, it's another 2 hours to your lodge in the Serengeti. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection: 

Day 5

Day 5 of 21

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 6

Day 6 of 21

Enjoy Serengeti: 

We recommend 3 nights / 2 full safari days inside the Serengeti. Seronera is the heart of the Serengeti and is most accessible from Arusha and most suitable for self-drivers. 

Day 7

Day 7 of 21

Start: Serengeti - Seronera
Destination:
Mto wa Mbu, Lake Manyara
Drive: 200 km | approx. 5 hours. 

Drive to Mto wa Mbu, the gateway village to Lake Manyara National Park. En route, you can enjoy game drives in the Serengeti. After the dusty savannah plains, we are sure you can appreciate the lush environment and the pool of your lodge or camp ground. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection 

Day 8

Day 8 of 21

Enjoy: the premises of your camp and Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is one of Tanzania’s smallest parks, 1 day of game drives is enough. Nevertheless, Manyara boosts a very diverse flora & fauna. The park offers suburb birding and guided walking safaris along the shore to the hot springs and flamingo lookout point. The walking safari can be arranged on the spot at the gate. Find more info and tips in our Lake Manyara Travel Blog

But perhaps you feel you have done enough game drives. Then it's good to know that the lodge or campsite you're staying, offers a wonderful place to utterly relax and reflect on your safari memories by the pool or campfire. Therefore, we don't include entrance permits to Lake Manyara in the Tour, so you can decide in the moment if you feel like another safari day. Tickets can simply be arranged on arrival at the gate. 
Day 9

Day 9 of 21

Start: Mto wa Mbu, Lake Manyara
Destination: 
USA River / West Kilimanjaro 
Drive: 3-4 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. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection: 

  • Luxury: Rivertrees Country Inn - USA River, close to Arusha National Park. Cottage, pool.
  • Comfort & Combo: Africa Amini Life - West Kilimanjaro, for an authentic stay at a well-managed Masaai lodge.  
Day 10

Day 10 of 21

Enjoy: Kilimanjaro area

Get acquainted with Masaai culture through your stay at an authentic Maasai-managed Lodge. The foothills of the Kilimanjaro are also a great starting point for outdoor activities and further exploration; 

  • Simba Farm offers one-day hikes up to the Kilimanjaro
  • You can rent good mountain bikes at Rivertrees Country Inn
  • 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 11

Day 11 of 21

Optional: if you opted for the Combo (camping) tour, we advise adding an extra night to this itinerary (making it 21 days), and visit the Maji Moto hot springs. 

The hot springs, also known as the Chemka Hot Springs, are a surreal environment adorned with date palms and pleasantly warm waters. You are guaranteed to have a fun afternoon by swinging on the ropes, relaxing in the sun-dappled shade of the trees, and chatting with the friendly locals. 

The hot springs can be pretty crowded over the weekend, but hardly anyone stays for the night. If you camp, you can enjoy starry nights and an early morning swim whilst having the hot springs to yourself. Magical. 

Day 12

Day 12 of 21

Start: USA River / West Kilimanjaro 
Destination:
Lushoto
Drive: 320 km | 6-7 hours 

It’s a very scenic drive on smooth tarmac, but be cautious of the numerous speed bumps. You will pass extensive sisal plantations with the Pare Mountains towering on the left. From Mombo, the road starts climbing to Lushoto town, a lively mountain village.

A visit to the Usambara Mountains is not featured on the standard safari itinerary. As a result, there are no luxury hotel options available in the region.

Our preferred accommodation: 

The Lawns Hotel, a mid-range hotel in a charming colonial building, with extensive grounds and a swimming pool.

Day 13

Day 13 of 21

Explore: Lushoto town and the 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 21

Optional: Stay another day in Lushoto to explore the Western Usambara.

Next to the Lawns Hotel is a good local tourist office. They can recommend and organise various activities to do in the region. A popular day trip is a walk to the waterfalls and Irente Viewpoint for a view across the Momazi plains, and to enjoy a terrific lunch at Irente Farm Lodge. 

Day 15

Day 15 of 21

Start: Lushoto 
Destination:
Tanga
Drive: 220 km | 5 hours 

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. The road from Lushoto to the tiny village of Pongwe is tarred and in good condition.

You shall be staying at a small-scale, owner-managed eco-lodge. They have a nature campground amidst the mangrove forest, right at the sea. If you booked the combo tour, that is where you will be pitching your tent. A unique wilderness experience! 

Our accommodation selection: 

  • Comfort & Luxury: Fish Eagle Point, a barefoot eco-lodge, stay in a cottage. 
  • Combo: wilderness camping in the mangrove forest, on a slice of wild coast, at Fish Eagle Point
Day 16

Day 16 of 21

Relax by the sea, at an untouched piece of wild coast

Day 17

Day 17 of 21

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

Drive from Tanga to Kigombe and Ushongo Bay, via coastal back roads lined by dozens of palm trees. 

We are personally a big fan 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.

Our preferred choices: 

Day 18

Day 18 of 21

Enjoy: the beach

Time for some relaxing after constantly being on the move - it is vacation after all. 

Day 19

Day 19 of 21

Start: Kigombe Beach or Ushongo Bay 
Destination:
Bagamoyo
Drive: 300 km | 5,5 hours

Bagamoyo is 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. 

A visit to Bagamoyo is not featured on the standard safari itinerary. As a result, there are no luxury hotel options available in the region.

Our preferred choices: 

Day 20

Day 20 of 21

Start: Bagamoyo
Destination
: Dar es Salaam International Airport or Hotel 
Drive: 75 km | approx. 2,5 - 3 hours

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. 

If your flight is in the evening, you can continue to Julius International Airport after the city tour and hand over your car. Be sure to allow for ample time as traffic in Dar can be terrible. Otherwise, spend a night in Dar es Salaam and hand over your car to our colleagues at the hotel./

Our preferred choice: 

Hotel Slipway

Day 21

Day 21 of 21

Explore Dar es Salaam. 

Dar es Salaam 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. A city tour by bicycle, organized by Afri-Roots is great fun and you learn a lot. 

3 weeks in Tanzania | This is what you need to know

Travel time and road conditions

We recommend 20 days to follow this one-way Tanzania itinerary.

Is time not on your side? Depending on your flight times, you can reduce this tour to a minimum of 16 days. At Roadtrip Africa, we believe that less is more. We, therefore, recommend skipping highlights rather than squeezing in every location. Make sure to spend at least two nights in each location 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. 

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

Road conditions are good on the Bush to Beach route. You can expect a lot of speed bumps though, and the occasional pothole. Do note that the coastal road is in a poor state and extra caution is required. 

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Where do I sleep?

Our Tanzania Bush to Beach tour can be booked in three options:

Comfort (budget and mid-range lodges): This is your best option for comfortable, self-contained ('en suite') accommodations set in beautiful locations which do not cost a fortune.

Luxury: When opting for luxury, we seek out barefoot luxury resorts that offer a high level of intimacy, top-notch service, and attention to detail. Not every stop in this itinerary allows for a stay in a luxury lodge, so also mid-range hotels are included. 

Combo - Campsites & Lodges: Experience the best of both worlds: travel with camp gear and alternate camping in the bush and at the beach(!), and combine it with stays in lovely comfort lodges. 

We handpick outstanding small-scale and eco-conscious lodges. To view some of your accommodations, click the orange arrow and scroll through the pictures. 

Let's go!

Ending your Tanzania road trip at the beach | Various options

When driving a one-way Bush to Beach roadtrip, there are various ways to compose your beach days and end your trip.

We prefer taking a road trip along the coast instead of flying from Arusha to Zanzibar. Why? Even though Zanzibar is beautiful, it has become a very touristy and resort-like destination. The Tanzania coastline, on the other hand, 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. 

After completing your safari, we recommend 2 - 3 nights in Tanga, 2 - 3 nights in Ushongo Bay, 1 night in Bagamoyo and finishing off in Dar es Salaam, where you hand over your car back to us.  

Do you wish to extend your Bush to Beach road trip with a stay at Zanzibar? You can easily catch the passenger ferry or a domestic flight from Dar to Zanzibar. We are happy to share our Zanzibar Hotel Guide with our favourite places to stay. 

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Bush to Beach | Indicative prices

The price is per person, based on two people sharing a car. The luxury and comfort trip includes 19 hotel nights with a meal plan and 18 car rental days.

   *Low season  Rest of year  *Peak 
Luxury - mid-range & luxury lodges € 5023 € 5828 € 6148
Comfort - budget and mid-range lodges € 4481 € 5012 € 5297
Combo - campsites & comfort lodges  € 3851 € 4358 € 4658

Low: April - May + Nov. * Peak: July - August + 20 Dec - 5 Jan.  

Do you prefer a private guided tour? Travel with a driver-guide (€ 50/ day). This is an option you can select in the online booking form. 

Do you have a limited budget or don't like driving a manual car? When you skip the Serengeti, you can also follow the Bush to Beach in our RAV4 and save on car rental costs.

Planning to visit Tanzania during peak season? Book your tour several months in advance! 

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Included in your Tanzania roadtrip

Included

  • All park entrances fees (932 USD)
  • Hotels (Full Board and Bed & Breakfast)
  • Car rental with unlimited mileage. Fuel own expense
  • Electrical fridge
  • Airport transfer
  • Car insurance
  • 24/7 roadside assistance
  • Tanzania driving manual, Bradt Travel Guide, Roadmap

Optional

  • Driver - Guide

Create & book your self-drive itinerary in Tanzania

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

Let's go!