2 weeks Tanzania | Northern Circuit - Off the Beaten Track

This off-the-beaten-track itinerary combines Tanzania's top safari parks with undiscovered treasures. It involves picturesque drives on lesser-known routes, beautiful hikes and unforgettable cultural experiences.

  • Explore Tarangire, famous for its abundance of elephants and baobabs
  • Get acquainted with the life of the Hadzabe and Dagota tribes - 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 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 waterfalls.
  • Travel to West Kilimanjaro via scenic back roads and lush surroundings - stay at an authentic Masaai camp and visit the Maji Moto hot springs, a magical spot to end your Tanzania road trip. 

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.

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! 

Our preferred choice: 

Mtoni River Lodge (mid-range/luxury with swimming pool)

Day 2

Day 2 of 14

Start: Arusha
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. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection:

  • Luxury: Tarangire Babobab Tented Camp (furnished en-suite safari tent, inside Tarangire) 
  • Comfort: Sangaiwe Tented Lodge (cottage, swimming pool - inside Wildlife Management Area, close to Tarangire gate)
  • Combo: set up your roof tent 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 14

Enjoy: Tarangire National Park

Attention elephant lovers - 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. 

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 stay 1 night and continue your travels to Lake Eyasi. 

Day 4

Day 4 of 14

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

Lake Eyasi is a 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.
We can connect you with good community guides. The various activities can be arranged on arrival at the local community office. 

Our lodge selection:

Day 5

Day 5 of 14

Start: Lake Eyasi
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 last village before entering the NCA and the Serengeti. Karatu is a good place to refuel your car and stock up on supplies. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection 

  • Luxury: Pakulala Safari Camp, a tented lodge on the Ngorongoro crater rim, with an amazing view of the crater!
  • Comfort: Baghayo Garden Suite, furnished lodge overlooking the coffee plants, including a great pool. 
  • Combo: Camping at Simba public campsite A 
Day 6

Day 6 of 14

Start: Karatu / Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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 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.  

Travelling from central Serengeti (Seronera) to Lake Natron in a day is not advisable. The best option is to break up the journey and stay near Kleins Gate, in the northeastern corner of the Serengeti. Enroute, you can enjoy plenty of game drives in this beautiful corner of the Serengeti. From Kleins Gate, it's another 4-5 hour drive to Lake Natron which you cover the following day. 

Our accommodation selection: 

Comfort and Combo: Africa Safari Masaai Boma, cottage and pool. 

Day 9

Day 9 of 14

Start: Serengeti Lobo, Kleins gate. 
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.

Check our Lake Natron Travel Guide for more driving directions and tips. 

Our accommodation selection: 
Comfort and Combo: Masaai Giraffe Eco Lodge, cottage or self-camping. Pool. 
Day 10

Day 10 of 14

Explore: Lake Natron 

You can walk across the baked mud to the shores of Lake Natron, where flamingos line the lake’s shore. And you can enjoy a 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.

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 11

Day 11 of 14

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

Today involves picturesque drives on lesser-known back roads. The dry Msaai plains and remote villages of Longido, Oldonyosambu and Engare Nanyuki make way for the fertile landscapes of the West Kilimanjaro foothills. 

Our lodge selection:

For an authentic, cultural experience, we recommend a stay at Africa Amini Lodge. This well-run lodge is entirely managed by Maasai.

Day 12

Day 12 of 14

Enjoy: Kilimanjaro area

Get acquainted with Masaai culture through your stay at this 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 13

Day 13 of 14

Visit Moshi town and stroll around the market, souvenir shops and coffee bars. There are several guides / tourist offices who can arrange a banana or coffee plantation tour, or enquire at your lodge.  

If you opted for the Combo ( camping) tour, we advise a visit to the Maji Moto hot springs and stay for the night.

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 14

Day 14 of 14

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

From West Kilimanjaro, it's 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.

Time is not on your side? Depending on your flight times, you can minimize this tour to 9 days. 

Road conditions from Arusha to the entrance gates of Tarangire and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are good - you'll find smooth tarmac here all the way. 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 roads from Karatu to Lake Eyasi, from Naabi Hill gate to Serengeti and the last stretch to Lake Natron are challenging. They have rocky surfaces and washboard ribbons. We advise you to drive at a limited speed. Check out our Driving in Tanzania page for more tips and advice.

The Northern Circuit is possible to travel year-round. 

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Where do I sleep?

The Northern Circuit - Off the Beaten Track Tour can be booked in two options and price categories:  

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.

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

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

Let's go!

14 days Northern Circuit | Indicative prices

The price is per person, based on two people sharing a car. The luxury and comfort trip includes 13 hotel nights and 13 car rental days.

   *Low season  Rest of year  *Peak 
Luxury - mid-range & luxury lodges € 4879 € 5409 € 5644
Comfort - budget and mid-range lodges € 3073 € 3559 € 3794
Combo - campsites & comfort lodges  € 2737 € 3115 € 3310

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

Easy and secure online payment to our Roadtrip Africa Bookings office in the Netherlands. 

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. 

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

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Included in your Tanzania roadtrip


  • All park entrances fees (841 USD per person)
  • 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


  • Driver - Guide

Create & book your off-the-beaten-track experience in Tanzania

Explore the Tanzania Northern Safari Circuit in a 4x4 and drive your own adventure.

Let's go!