10 days Tanzania | The Northern Safari Circuit

Tanzania is truly gifted by Mother Nature, but its northern region is the spoiled kid. One legendary safari park after the next; the Northern Circuit is the classic safari self-drive circuit of Tanzania. 

This is an ideal itinerary for Tanzania first-timers who primarily come for safari, have limited time, or want to combine their road trip with a Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar add-on. 

  • Explore Tarangire, famous for its abundance of elephants and baobabs.
  • Do plenty of wildlife spotting during your self-drive safari in the world-famous Serengeti.
  • Enjoy easy game tracks in the Ngorongoro Crater, an ideal destination for first-time safari visitors, families, and self-drivers. 
  • Enjoy birding and guided walking safaris in Lake Manyara National Park. 

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

Day 1

Day 1 of 9

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: 

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

Day 2

Day 2 of 9

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 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 9

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 a swimming 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 A public campsite, at the Ngorongoro Crater Rim. 

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 4

Day 4 of 9

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 9

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 9

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 9

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. 

A glimpse of our lodge selection 

Day 8

Day 8 of 9

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 in 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 at the moment if you feel like another safari day. Tickets can simply be arranged on arrival at the gate. 
Day 9

Day 9 of 9

Start: Mto wa Mbu, Lake Manyara
Destination:
Airport (late afternoon flights only), or Arusha 
Drive: 200 km | approx. 3,5 - 4 hours.

If you have a later afternoon or evening flight, you can spend a relaxing morning at the premises of the camp, and hand over your car at Arusha Airport or Kilimanjaro International Airport. Otherwise, you are booked in a beautiful lodge, close to the river and JRO International Airport. 

10 days Tanzania | This is what you need to know

Travel time and road conditions

We recommend 10 days / 8 car rental days for Tanzania's Northern Circuit itinerary, spending two to three nights at each location.

Time is not on your side? Depending on your flight times, you can minimize the Northern Circuit tour to 8 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, Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater are well-marked, non-technical, and provide a gentle introduction to self-driving in Tanzania.  

Do note that the gravel road from Naabi Hill gate to Serengeti is challenging. It has a rocky surface and washboard ribbons. We advise you to drive at a limited speed. Find more tips and advice in our Driving in Tanzania blog.

The Northern Circuit is possible to travel year-round. 

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Where do I sleep?

The Tanzania Northern Circuit Tour can be booked in three options and price categories:  

Comfort (budget and mid-range lodges): This is your best option for comfortable, self-contained ('en suite') cottages or furnished safari tents, 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. 

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 your accommodations, click the orange arrow and scroll through the pictures. 

Let's go!

Northern Circuit | Indicative prices

The price is per person, based on two people sharing a car. The luxury and comfort trip includes 9 hotel nights with a meal plan and 8 car rental days. 

   *Low season  Rest of year  *Peak 
Luxury € 3626 € 4239 € 4399
Comfort - budget and mid-range lodges € 2598 € 2841 € 2961
Combo - campsites & comfort lodges  € 2146 € 2373 € 2493

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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Experiences from fellow Roadtrippers
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One of the best experiences of our lives

Rui from Portugal

Since the first day you start planning your safari until the moment you deliver your rental car keys back to Roadtrip Africa, you are provided with all the tools required which will allow you to create your own Safari experience. We were 12 days o...
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Commitment and customer satisfaction are top priority

David from Spain

If you are considering to visit the most famous national parks in Tanzania definitely Roadtrip Africa is your partner. They have all detailed information and the local contact person they have in Arusha (Yusuf) is been super nice and helpful. For...
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Self drive Safari is the best way to have a big adventure in your own rhythm

Barbara from Germany

Yusuphu the boss from Road trip Africa in Arusha was so helpful and the Landcruiser double cap was like a big mothership for us and never broke. We met helpful people and saw many animals. The trip through Tanzania's north lasted 14 days and we ar...
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Included in your Tanzania roadtrip

Included

  • All park entrances fees (932 USD per person)
  • Hotels (Full Board and Bed & Breakfast)
  • Car rental with unlimited mileage. Fuel at your 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 safari in Tanzania

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

Let's go!