Why You Should Visit Usambara Mountains and Lushoto

by Sinke Car
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Home to some of Africa’s most famous national parks and the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is the perfect destination for tourists who want to take a break, go hiking, or spend some time soaking in the sun.

While the Serengeti and other renowned national parks remain the top places to see, we also recommend our guests to explore some of the country’s less traveled destinations. Not only will you enjoy more privacy due to lesser crowds, but also experience local cultures in a whole new way says LeadwoodExpeditions.

One of these off-the-beaten-path destinations is the serene and beautiful town of Lushoto. Known as Wilhelmstal during the German colonial rule, Lushoto is nestled in a fertile valley at about 1200m and bordered to the northeast by Kenya, and to the northwest by the Kilimanjaro Region. It boasts a rich hinterland that is ideal for farming different varieties of crops, including peas, pumpkins, potatoes, apples and lots more.

Lushoto Tourism

source:tripadvisor.com

Lushoto is a great place to set up base to explore the magnificent hilly and lush Usambara region. It is located in the centre of the western Usambaras and makes for an optimal base for guided hikes into the surrounding hills. The region thrives in a hazy state of astonishing natural wonders and stunning scenery, while also providing a breath of fresh air for tourists. Its sweeping landscapes, towering peaks, breathtaking views and endless greenery are a must see for adventurers and tourists alike.

The nearby rainforest is known as one of the most bio-diverse places in Africa and is now a centre for one of the best cultural tourism programs in Tanzania. Here, you can explore the hills and mountains and  schedule cultural visits to the nearby local communities. The people of Lushoto are friendly and live a more traditional lifestyle. They are genuinely happy to see tourists visit, greeting everyone with big smiles on their faces. The good news is that it is quite easy to get here. From Dar es salaam, simply take any bus to Moshi/Arusha and alight at Mombo, then take a dala to Lushoto.

Exploring Usambara Mountains

Dubbed the “Galapagos” of the plant world, the Usambara Mountains are an ancient Eastern Arc chain located just about 5km from Lushoto town. The incredibly beautiful and lush area is a welcome retreat from Tanzania game parks and cities, plus the climate is pleasant and was favored in the past during the colonial times as evidenced by the numerous historic buildings situated nearby. These mountains are also the most accessible and are more densely populated with more than 300 people per sq km.

From a distance, the mountains are a colorful mosaic and are ideal for hiking as well as some spectacular driving. The viewpoints on the southern and western side of the Usambara are well known for the stunning views of the plains of Mkomazi and Handeni. Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen on the horizon, and at the end of the day, the sunset turns the area into an awe-inspiring pallet of unforgettable colors. Some of the most popular activities and nearby places to visit while in Lushoto include:

Irente Viewpoint

source:mamaafricatours.com

This is the most famous viewpoint in the Usambara mountains and is just an hour walk from Lushoto. Here, you can see the Mazinde village and the Maasai plains almost 1000 metres below you. On your way back, you can have lunch at the biodiversity farm, pass through the Irente juju village where you can visit the crossbreeding and soil conservation projects carried out at Mr. Mwindadi’s hamlet. Visits to the nearby Mkuzu waterfalls and viewpoints of Kambe and Kwa Mkeke are also a must see.

Usambara Farm and Flora

From Lushoto, you can walk through one of the most fertile parts of the Usambara mountains to the Vuli village, where many of the soil conservation and irrigation projects are just starting. You can also visit a cheese factory on your way, as well as learn about the different species of trees and plants in the area.

Growing Rock

source:flickr.com

Kwa Mongo, one of the easiest mountains to climb in the area, rewards hikers with views of colourful variety of butterflies on the mountain, while overseeing the southern Usambara mountains including Soni, Lushoto and Handeni plains. From there, you make your way to the Growing Rock where you can meet with the local farmers and schoolteachers who will tell you all the ins and outs of their development projects and also explain why the rock is growing.

Western Usambara Mountains

The viewpoints on the western side of the west Usambaras Lushoto mountains are renowned for the spectacular views of the Handeni plains, Mkomazi and Mount Kilimanjaro on the horizon. It is home to numerous endemic species of flora and fauna, as well as birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, and reptiles. Tourists come here to enjoy unspoiled nature and just relax. You can also take walks through the arboretum, hike in the forest and gaze at the breathtaking waterfalls around the mountains.

Magamba Rainforest

This involves hiking through villages and farmlands to the lush rainforest where you can spot black and white colobus monkeys. Located not too far away is the historic royal village of Kilindi (the Washambaa ruling clan). You also get to see the remains of an old German bunker dug during World War I.

Bangala River Tour

This tour requires you to walk along river valleys, sometimes wading through the water as you descend to the village of Bangala. The journey is filled with scenic views of the beautiful, lush Maasai plains spread below. Don’t worry, you need to hike back up the way you came, as you can easily take a bus or walk back via Vuga hill.

While Lushoto is no Dar Es Salaam or Arusha, it still features some pretty good accommodation options including, The executive lodge, Mullers lodge, Irente cliff lodge, Mzuki creek resort and many more. It promises to be an exciting and memorable experience and well worth a visit, especially if you are looking for a less visited destination in Tanzania.

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