Last updated October 2018
When you think of Africa, it’s probably Kenya and Tanzania that are the Africa of your dreams. Between them, they pretty much have everything you could want from an African adventure and a lot of people want to see both countries… in a two week vacation.
But both Kenya and Tanzania are huge and the distances between the main destinations are long. To cover the main highlights in both Kenya and Tanzania, I’d say you need at least 4 weeks in total and to see both countries properly, I’d say you need 2 months altogether.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t go to both if you only have a couple of weeks. You’ll just have to pick and choose the places you go and flying between destinations will also save you some time.
The Kenya & Tanzania itinerary below would be too much for a 2-week trip to Kenya and Tanzania (I do a similar route with my Rock My Kenya & Tanzania Adventure tour) but you could manage it in 2 and a half to 3 weeks! If you only have 2 weeks, I’d maybe miss out one of the beach towns in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is small enough that you can get anywhere on the island easily within an hour or two.
However, if you have longer, or you just want to stick with 1 country, take a look at my individual itineraries for Tanzania and Kenya (coming soon), as they go into much more detail!
For this trip, I’d suggest that you start your Kenya & Tanzania vacation in Nairobi, working your way down to Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. I like to leave Zanzibar for last as it’s beautiful and a great place to relax at the end of your trip!
The Perfect Kenya and Tanzania Itinerary (Plus Things To See & Do)
Nairobi, Kenya: 2 – 3 Days
Masai Mara, Kenya: 3 – 4 Days
Arusha, Tanzania: 2 Days
Serengeti, Tanzania: 2 – 3 Days
Ngorongoro Crater: 1 – 2 Days
Bagamoyo, Tanzania: 2 – 3 Day
Stone Town, Zanzibar: 2 Days
Paje, Zanzibar: 3 – 4 Days
Kendwa, Zanzibar: 2 Days
Nairobi may seem a bit intimidating for a first timer to Africa, but it’s actually a great city. To be honest, the first time I visited I wasn’t that impressed. I was passing through on an overland tour and it just seemed crowded, busy and congested.
It’s still all of those things, but it is also vibrant, exciting and full of adventure, I just didn’t see it.
Nairobi is one of the most hectic of all the African cities I’ve been to (Kampala and Dar es Salaam are up there too), so if you can handle this, the rest of the continent will be a breeze! Just be patient and try and relax into it.
You can either head straight out of Nairobi and come back later or spend a few days there first before you go on safari.
Nairobi also has some amazing restaurants and is known for having excellent Ethiopian food (try Habesha or Abyssinia) and nyama choma (grilled meat – usually goat). One of the most famous places to get your meat fix is Carnivore and if you go, try the signature Kenyan ‘Dawa’ cocktail.
Where to Stay in Nairobi: I usually stay at either Wildebeest Eco Camp which is a great place for groups and families. They have dorm tents too so perfect for solo travellers. If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, Anga Afrika is a great choice. Their beds are super comfy and they even bring you a hot water bottle. If you want to stay in the city centre, try After 40 for a mid-range option, or treat yourself and stay in Villa Rosa Kempinski (city centre) or Hemingways Nairobi (Karen). Check out some other options here.
Cool Things To Do: Visit the Nairobi Giraffe Centre, see the baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, visit the markets (there are plenty), visit Nairobi National Park and do a walking tour of the city.
Time Needed: 2 – 3 Days. If you are flying in, I would spend 1 night here, then have the next day to explore Nairobi and then stay another night in Nairobi before heading to the Masai Mara. Or maybe a day after the Mara.
READ MORE: My 5 Week Kenya and Tanzania Budget
Masai Mara, Kenya
Only a 6 hour of so drive from Nairobi you’ll find land safari dreams are made of, the Masai Mara! With pretty much every animal you could wish to see on an African safari, including the Big 5. You can even take a balloon ride and see it all from above, especially cool if you time it when the Great Migration is passing through – this varies slightly from year to year.
But it’s not all about safari. Just outside the Masai Mara is the town of Sekenani, where you can find some cool places for dinner. I would also recommend spending some time with the Maasai tribe.
Where to Stay in the Masai Mara: I always stay at Mara Explorers Camp, they offer a whole host of activities and also do some joining safaris, some of which are multi-stop, so you could visit places like Lake Nakuru and/or Amboseli. They can arrange your pick up from Nairobi, either in their safari van or by taxi, which for a 6 hour ride is very, very reasonable. If you’re looking for something more upmarket, I would recommend Fig Tree Camp, Mara Siria Luxury Tented Camp or Kilimara Camp. Check out some other options here.
Cool Things To Do: Go on safari, bush camping, spend time with the Maasai, go hot-air ballooning, horse riding, and visit the Sekenani township.
Time Needed: 3 – 4 Days. It takes at least half a day to get to and from the Masai Mara by road, so I would suggest to spend 3 nights here. You can save a bit of time by flying into Keekorok Airstrip and I believe they are considering making this an international airport… watch this space.
Travelling from Kenya to Tanzania
The cheapest way to cross from Kenya into Tanzania overland is to get a bus to go from Nairobi to Arusha. However if you want comfort, I suggest getting a shuttle bus which takes around 6 or 7 hours. The Impala and Riverside Shuttle companies are the most popular. These cost around $15 – 20 and can be organised by most hotels, tour companies, travel agents or directly at their offices.
If you are self-driving or on a tour, you may be able to go from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti, via the Isibania border on the west side of the parks, without having to go back via Nairobi and Arusha. Unfortunately you can’t go straight from one park to the other – which would be super convenient (despite how it appears on Google Maps – there is no border control inside the parks)! You might also be able to do this by public transport too, but as I’ve not done it before, I wouldn’t like to advise!
Alternatively, you could fly between the two. Flights from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Kilimanjaro International Airport are relatively frequent and take less than an hour, but again, expensive compared to buses. I always use Skyscanner to find flights and usually fly with Kenya Airways.
Arusha is the gateway for the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, but it’s also a great place in itself to regroup before carrying on with your adventures. It’s pretty easy to get around and about as laid back as an African city can get, plus there’s lots of nice cafes where you can get a good piece of cake and a decent cup of tea or coffee. It’s pretty too, with purple jacaranda trees lining many of the roads.
If you are climbing Kilimanjaro, this is one of the start points, along with Moshi which is around an hour away.
Where to Stay in Arusha: Arusha doesn’t have an abundance of great places to stay, considering it’s such a tourist hub. But there are two hostels I like, Waka Waka House and The White House of Tanzania. Both are run by nice people and they can help organise any other activities you’d like to do. If you want something a little fancier, I’d suggest the Tulia Hotel & Spa or the Mount Meru Hotel. Outside of Arusha in Usa River, try the fabulous Rivertrees Country Inn. Check out some other options here.
Cool Things To Do: Climbing Mount Meru, book a safari (if you haven’t already), swim and chill at the Mount Meru Hotel, party at the bars and clubs, eat chips mayai and chicken from one of the street vendors (Arusha has THE best chicken), get clothes made at one of the excellent local tailors, go shopping at the Maasai Market and eat nyama choma at Khan’s BBQ (I love the Mr Khan’s – it’s run by 3 brothers). You can also visit some of the places closer to Moshi from here too. Popular activities include, visiting the Maasai villages near Boma Ng’ombe, swimming at the Kikuletwa Hot Springs or taking a coffee and waterfall tour in Materuni village.
Time Needed: 2 Days. I’d spend at least 2 nights in Arusha, maybe 3 if you can stretch to it, so that you have 2 full days for activities.
The Serengeti, Tanzania
If you only have a short time, you can do a 2 night, 3 day safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
Serengeti National Park is one of the best safaris you will ever go on and has been my luckiest place for lion spotting, and it’s the only place I’ve seen a leopard.
Where you stay will depend on your safari operator. Some will use the basic camping within the park and others will be super luxurious tented camps or lodges. The prices can vary wildly from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand for a 2 – 3 day safari.
I would suggest to go on an organised safari. You’ll get a lot more out of it is you do.
Where to Stay in the Serengeti: There are a number of basic campsites (all pretty much the same) that are right in the park which you’ll most likely stay at if you book a budget safari. At night, the beer truck sometimes pays a visit. If you don’t want to camp, try Serengeti Simba Lodge a beautiful mid-range lodge with great views and a pool or Grumeti Migration Camp. Check out some other options here.
READ MORE: Finding the Lion King in the Serengeti
The Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
You can combine your trip to the Serengeti with a Ngorongoro Crater safari. It’s on the way, so it would be a massive shame not to see it and it is stunning, so the views alone make it worth it. This is the one place where I’ve seen an endangered black rhino. Make sure you start early to catch the animals being active in the morning!
Where to Stay in the Ngorongoro Crater: Pretty much all of the camping safaris stay at Ngorongoro Simba Campsite. If you want to sleep in an actual bed, try the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: A beautiful lodge with great views over the crater. Or the Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge. Check out some other options here.
Time Needed: 1 – 2 Days. If you spend the night at on the crater rim, you will usually do a game drive in the crater in the morning, then head back to Arusha around lunch time, arriving in the early evening. So you only really need 1 night on the crater rim and half a day in the crater.
READ MORE: A Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater
If you’re looking to see a bit of the less touristy, off the beaten track Africa, then I definitely recommend heading to Bagamoyo.
Bagamoyo is full of history, as it was once the major port of Tanzania and played an important role in the slave trade. Bagamoyo also has a specialist arts college, so it’s a really cool place with a lot going on. There’s a chilled out hippy vibe and lots of Rastafarians, however most people still live very traditionally and it is, above all else a fishing town.
Be sure to take a trip to the beach in the morning to watch the sunrise and see the fishermen bring in their catch, walk around the town admiring the (crumbling) architecture and shopping at the Bagamoyo Art Market. I recommend the food at Corner Bar or Poa Poa.
Where to Stay in Bagamoyo: One of my favourite hostels in Tanzania is Firefly in Bagamoyo. This is a cute place, perfectly situated in the main part of town, near the beach and close to Poa Poa restaurant. Check out some other options here.
Cool Things To Do: Visit the Bagamoyo Art Market, hang out at Firefly, visit, taking a cycling tour of the old town, visit the fish market (go very early in the morning or late afternoon), take a Swahili cooking class, go to an event at the Bagamoyo College of Arts, visit the Kaole Ruins and chill on the beach.
Time Needed: 2 – 3 Days. Bagamoyo is a great place to stay and I much prefer it to Dar es Salaam. I’d give yourself at least 2 nights.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
Finish your trip on the magical island of Zanzibar. Actually, ‘Zanzibar’ is made up of lots and lots of islands, but the most famous one, which people usually mean when they refer to Zanzibar is Unguja. The capital of Unguja is Zanzibar City, and the most famous section of Zanzibar City is called Stone Town.
Stone Town is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating places in the world, a true melting pot of cultures. With winding alleyways, unusual buildings and a tons of things to do. Spend time getting lost, taking a tour with my pal Farid, watching the local boys doing acrobatics on the beach and eating delicious foods (like a Zanzibar Pizza above) at Forodhani Gardens, or take a day trip to Prison Island or on the famous, Safari Blue boat.
Where to Stay in Zanzibar: In Stone Town, I usually like to stay at either the Dhow Palace Hotel or Lost & Found Hostel. They are both on the same street, in a very convenient place in town and easy to find.There’s also a newer hostel called Ten to Ten, I haven’t stayed there yet, but it looks very nice. If you want Indian Ocean views, try the Zanzibar Serena Hotel. I also love Emerson Spice and Emerson on Hurumzi. Check out some other options here.
Cool Things To Do: Relax, shop, take a walking tour of Stone Town, go on a spice tour and visit Forodhani Gardens.
Time Needed: 2 Days. Although I love Stone Town and could spend the best part of a week here.
If you only have 2 weeks, it will be difficult to get two Zanzibar beach destinations into your itinerary, so if i were to choose, I’d probably choose on of the beaches on the south east coast and I would most likely choose Paje as it’s pretty, but lively.
Paje, famous for windsurfing and white sandy beaches. There’s plenty of good nightlife to be had too. From here, you’re in a good place to get to The Rock, a restaurant on a rock in the Indian Ocean, as well as Jambiani, another beautiful village and beach.
Cool Things To Do: Kiteboarding, village tour, Jozani Forest, relaxing on the beach partying at the beach bars and going on a snorkelling trip on a traditional dhow.
Time Needed: 3 – 4 Days. You could do less, but there’s quite a lot to do on this side of the island.
READ MORE: 40 Amazing Things To Do in Zanzibar
Nungwi & Kendwa, Zanzibar
If you have time, I would definitely try and squeeze in Nungwi or Kendwa. These are two of Zanzibar’s loveliest beaches, up in the far north of Zanzibar. Whichever you go to, you will have a great time and the party tends to move around, with various bars holding the main party on different nights of the week. Saturdays at Kendwa Rocks are legendary.
Whilst you’re there, try the delicious fresh seafood and if you like being on the water, you can go snorkelling or diving around the Mnemba Atoll or take a sunset cruise on a traditional dhow.
Where to stay in Kendwa: I like Kendwa Rocks and they now have a pool – yay! Not that its necessary as they’re right on the beach, but a pool is always nice. I had a private room last time, but they also have a dorm, although it’s not really advertised anywhere. Next door is Sunset Bungalows, which tends to cater for a lot of the overlanders. I’ve stayed there too. In Nungwi, the Makofi Guest House looks pretty nice.
Cool Things To Do: Swimming, snorkelling, Kendwa Rocks Full Moon Party, sunset cruises, village tours and beach volleyball.
Time Needed: 2 nights minimum. 3 – 4 nights ideally.
Like this post? Pin it for later!
Plan Your Trip to Kenya & Tanzania
Getting There: I always search for flights on Skyscanner. The main airports are; Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi), Moi International Airport (Mombasa), Kilimanjaro International Airport (Arusha/Moshi), Julius Nyerere International Airport (Dar es Salaam) and Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (Zanzibar).
Resources: I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks and usually travel with one wherever I go.
Tours: Don’t fancy going it alone? Join a small group tour and come on one of my Rock My Kenya and Tanzania Adventure tours.
What To Pack: See my comprehensive Africa Packing List.
Read More Kenya:
- The Perfect Kenya and Tanzania Itinerary (Plus Things To See & Do)
- The Best Backpacker Hostels & Campsites in Kenya
- My 5 Week Kenya and Tanzania Budget
- How to Travel to the Masai Mara on a Budget (under $500)
- Cool Stays: Anga Afrika Luxury Tented Camp, Nairobi
See all Kenya posts here.
Read More About Tanzania:
- The Perfect Tanzania Itinerary (Plus Things To See & Do)
- Finding the Lion King in the Serengeti
- A Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater
- Backpacking Zanzibar: Everything You Need to Know
- Things To Do in Stone Town (when you only have two days)
- How to Prepare for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro & Top Tips for Reaching the Top
- The Perfect Tanzania Itinerary (Plus Things To See & Do)
- Highlights of the Rock My Tanzania, Zanzibar & Sauti za Busara Festival Adventure
See all Tanzania posts here.
Enjoy your trip to Kenya & Tanzania – you’re going to love it! If you have any extra questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you asap!
Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!