40 days backpacking in Tanzania

When I leave for a trip I never have an itinerary in mind nor everything booked (just the first night). I can’t organise my trip in advance, nor do I want to do it. I might have a generic idea of the places I want to see, but then I let the people I meet and the feelings I have guide me. The same was when I traveled for 40 days in Tanzania.

I knew I wanted to see a bit of the continental part of the country to get an idea of how Africa is, and later Zanzibar, where I wanted to spend a few weeks relaxing at the beach, that I imagined wouldn’t have been the typical Africa. So the first part was a bit in a rush, in some places I arrived at midday and the following morning I left for the next destination (but there wasn’t much to see anyway, it was just to get the vibe), so that I could enjoy the last weeks in Zanzibar, that I considered a reward for the difficult travel I would have to face in the first part of the trip.

dar es salaam
Dar Es Salaam, playing checkers in the street


I arrived in Dar es Salaam on a flight from Milan, and stayed in town a couple of days to acclimatise.

Next I took my first local bus to Moshi, at the feet of the Kilimanjaro. I would have liked to do the hike to the top of one of the highest mountains in the world, but I could only do that with a guide and I didn’t want to pay.

From Moshi I went to Arusha, where I spent a couple of days looking for a safari at the prices I was able to pay. The safari was not in my original plan, but during the first days in Tanzania I met various tourists that told me how amazing their experience in the Serengeti had been, so I decided to go. I am glad I did, it was truly beautiful.

After the safari I moved to Babati, a small village where there’s a guy that organizes overnight stays at a Barbaig family hut; the Barbaig are a local tribe, and it was really interesting to see how they live and learn a bit of their culture and habits.

Barbaig family in Tanzania
The Barbaig family that I stayed with

From there I went to Dodoma, the capital city, that is roughly in the middle of the country. Then I headed South to Iringa, Songea, and East to Masasi and Mtwara, on the Southern Coast, at the border with Mozambique.

I would have liked to visit Lake Victoria, it must be really nice, but it will be for another time. Tanzania is really big, it’s impossible to see the most important attractions in one month. Unless you fly, but I’m for slow and road travel.

From Mtwara onwards I slowed down because I was along the coast and even though there were no attractions it was nice to spend time at the beach reading or talking to locals.

From Mtwara I followed the coast directed North, towards Dar es Salaam. The first stop was Mikindani, not far from Mtwara, because it seemed an interesting village and it was. In Mikindani I took advantage of a lift on a car to Lindi, where I stayed longer than planned because I loved it. There was nothing to see, but life in a fishermen village is very interesting.

Afternoons at the beach in Lindi

It was hard to leave Lindi to go to Kilwa, then Dar Es Salaam to take the ferry to Zanzibar.

I also considered going to Mafia, an island South of Dar Es Salaam, but I didn’t have enough time, I prefered to spend more time in Zanzibar.

Stone Town is a place that I love, for the architecture, the white houses, the maze of alleys, for the food, and in particular for the people. I didn’t want to leave, again. I stayed 5 days, then I forced myself to go to other parts of the island. So I first went to Kendwa, in the North-West coast. This part of the island is very touristic, and everything takes place in the resorts, while villages stay small and poor. I liked Kendwa too anyway, a few days doing nothing at the beach are not to dislike.

beautiful light in stone town
Stone Town

After Kendwa I headed South-East to see a different part of the island, in Jambiani. And I fell in love with this too. There are resorts and luxurious hotels, but also smaller and family-run hotels, where you are welcome as if you were home.

Still, it was nice to go back to Stone Town for the last days. Because at these villages by the beach it was difficult to find local restaurants where you can eat for little money, unless you eat the same thing every day (see my previous article Backpacking in Tanzania); the only other options were the restaurants at the resorts, that offer different dishes but were a bit expensive (well, 9 or 10 dollars is not expensive, but I couldn’t afford to spend that money for food every day). In Stone Town I could eat amazing food for 2-3 dollars.

Jambiani Tanzania

As I often do when I travel, I kept the part that I knew would be more challenging and tiring at the beginnig, with many hours of traveling and little known places; relax, beach and few movements I keep for the final part of the trip. I am happy I did this itinerary, I could confront a little touristy Tanzania with Zanzibar. And it was interesting.