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11  Days

Highlights of the Northern Circuit

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Tour Overview

The Northern Circuit is the most visited area of Tanzania. Beginning and ending your journey in Arusha, you will visit Tarangire, Lake Manyara, the Serengeti and the king of the food chain: the Ngorongoro Crater. A cultural highlight of the Northern Circuit is a visit to the Hadzabe tribe in Lake Eyasi, the last hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. This circuit is ideal for those who primarily come to Tanzania for wildlife watching, want modest driving hours a day, have limited time or want to combine their road trip with a Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar add-on.

These are the recommended lodges we like to stay in when we are road-tripping ourselves; small-scale, good price-quality ratio, and owner-managed when possible

Day 1

Arrival Arusha or Kilimanjaro airport

  • Outpost Lodge or Venus Premier Hotel

Day 2

Start: Arusha

Destination: Tarangire National Park

Drive: 150 km approximately 2.5 hours

  • Baobab Tented Camp or Burunge Tented Lodge

Day 3

Start: Tarangire National Park

Destination: Mto Wa Mbu/Lake Manyara National Park

Drive: 110 km approximately 1.5 hours

  • Migunga Tented Camp or Manyara Safari Lodge

Day 3

Start: Tarangire National Park

Destination: Mto Wa Mbu/Lake Manyara National Park

Drive: 110 km approximately 1.5 hours

  • Migunga Tented Camp or Manyara Safari Lodge

Day 4

Enjoy: Lake Manyarai National Park

  • Migunga Tented Camp or Manyara Safari Lodge

Day 5

Start: Mto Wa Mbu/Lake Manyara

Destination: Lake Eyasi

Drive: 80 km approximately 2.5 hours

  • Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge or Tindiga Tented Camp

Day 6

Start: Lake Eyasi

Destination: Ngorongoro Crater

Drive: 40 km approximately 2 hours

  • Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge or Ang’ata Ngorongoro Camp

Day 7

Enjoy: Ngorongoro Crater

  • Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge or Ang’ata Ngorongoro Camp

Day 8

Start: Ngorongoro Crater

Destination: Serengeti National Park

Drive: 40 km approximately 1-3 hours

  • Mawe Tented Camp or Tukaone Serengeti Camp

Day 9-10

Enjoy: Serengeti National Park

  • Mawe Tented Camp or Tukaone Serengeti Camp

Day 11

Start: Serengeti National Park

Destination: Arusha

Drive: 300 km approximately 5.5 hours

  • Outpost Lodge or Venus Premier Hotel

Price from US$ 1850 per car – max 4 people in a car

Price includes: 11 days Toyota Land Cruiser or Toyota Hilux Double Cabin, airport pick up, delivery & drop off in Arusha.

Price excludes: fuels, accommodations, park fees, drinks, driver guides, travel insurance and items of a personal nature

  • NOTE: We can arrange accommodation, park fees and driver guide if you require.

Travel time and road conditions

11 car rental days are recommended to follow this route.

By East African standards, road conditions in the northeast of Tanzania are very good. All primary roads connecting Arusha to the national parks in the west of Tanzania are smooth asphalt. Only the last stretch requires driving on gravel or dirt roads to get to your lodge or park entrance.  Inside the parks it’s off road driving on dirt roads. Road conditions are the most challenging during the rainy season, but in general off road driving is not technical in the parks of the Northern Circuit – the Serengeti being the big exception here. Therefore, a proper 4×4 is required for driving in the Serengeti. The main gravel road has a rocky surface with washboard ribbons. Drive at limited speed (25 km/h), otherwise you will lose control instantly, with a single vehicle rollover as a result. Consult our on the road section for more Tanzania travel advice.

When is the best time to visit Tanzania?

The hottest time of the year in Tanzania is from November to March. The coolest months are from May to July, when it gets cold in the evenings at higher altitudes (Ngorongoro, Arusha). The long rains in Tanzania are from March to May when there is less tourism (low season), but that can also have its advantages. Lodges drop their prices, the parks are far less crowded with 4x4s and there’s still lots of game viewing in the national parks. Peak tourist season in Tanzania is around Christmas, July and August. Book your Road Trip rental car well in advance. 

The most accessible part of the Serengeti from Arusha is around Ndutu and Seronera, where wildlife activity peaks between early November and end of May. If you want to time your visit to the Serengeti around the migration, depending on the season, you will either stay one night in the central Serengeti and two nights in the northern Serengeti (June – October) or the southern Serengeti (January – March), or you stay all three nights in the central Serengeti (November – December & April – May).

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