Dar Es Salaam Tourist Attractions
Dar es Salaam tourist attractions are many and varied. Some of the more common attractions include the Botanical gardens, St.Joseph’s Cathedral, The Old Boma (oldest surviving building in Dar), the Askari Monument, and the State House. Here’s a selection of the some of the best, less known, and truly unique Dar es Salaam tourist attractions:
• National History Museum: Not the biggest of museums but it hosts some rare exhibits such as the Laetoli footprints from Olduvai Gorge as well as ethnographic displays on traditional culture and craft. The splendid gardens also play host to concerts and art events while offering a great hideaway during the day to eat or just read a book. Just a short and pleasant walk North of the city centre.
• Village Museum: located about 8km North of the city, this Dar es Salaam tourist attraction represents over 100 ethnic groups of Tanzania by showing off full size replicas of their traditional dwellings. In over 15 acres you can get lost amid the homesteads while viewing traditional painting, weaving, carving, and even cultural music and dances. Highly recommended.
• Islands trips: Sinda, Mbudya, and Bongoyo Islands and others are all a short boat ride away from Dar es Salaam and offer a break away from the busier mainland. Zanzibar can count almost as a separate holiday but is highly recommended. Sinda Island is an ideal day trip and easily reached from Kipepeo Beach. See more on our “Best Islands off Dar es Salaam” blog feature.
• Kunduchi Wet n’ Wild Water Park: Also host to Tanzania’s first go-kart track, this is the largest water park in East and Central Africa. Popular with families, you will find a colorful mix of pools, playgrounds, fast-food restaurants, and twenty-two water slides.
• Oyster Bay & Msasani Peninsula: The Coco Beach area is the home of most ex-pats and the best regular nightlife of any Dar es Salaam Tourist attractions, featuring a plethora of popular pubs and restaurants like George and the Dragon, and the Slow Leopard, as well as luxury resort hotels like Sea Cliff.
• Charity Goat Races: The Green in Dar es Salaam hosts charity goat races every September on a uniquely designed track, raising around $25,000 a year for local schools and charities. This is a uniquely Dar es Salaam tourist attraction, not to be missed.
• Mzalendo Halisi Music Festival: More than 100 traditional Tanzanian music and dance performers participate in this event at the Posta Grounds in Kijitonyama. During the day, visitors can shop at a culturally-inspired market and view a multitude of art exhibitions.
• Fashion Week: Every November, top regional designers come together at Dar Es Salaam’s National Museum for Swahili Fashion Week. The event showcases local talent, colorful African styling, and it offers networking opportunities for the East African fashion industry.
• Diwali: With a large Indian population, Diwali is an important Hindu festival but also serves as a unique Dar es Salaam tourist attraction. Symbolic lamps and fireworks fire up the night sky to symbolize the triumph of good over evil while Dar es Salaam’s city center becomes a party zone consumed by the festival colours.
Best Islands off Dar Es Saalam
Kipepeo Beach is a well known gateway for getting to one of the best islands off Dar es Salaam: Sinda Island. Sinda actually consists of “Inner” Sinda and “outer” Sinda islands that are part of a larger coral reef formation. The formation makes Sinda one of the best islands off Dar es Salaam for snorkeling, surrounded by patch reefs that harbour a variety of species such as tiny clownfish and huge moray eels. Sinda Island is also famed as a quiet spot favoured by honeymooners and people just enjoying a day trip with a picnic. It is about 15km offshore but getting there is simple, with boats departing daily from Kipepeo beach and a chance to see dolphins on the way.
Some of the other best islands off Dar es Salaam include Mbudya Island, which is one of four islands in the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve. It that can be reached via a 10-minute motorboat ride from Kunduchi and seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dar es Salaam with white-sand beaches and some great snorkeling. You can rent thatched huts on the beach, called Bandas, for the day and dine on some fresh seafood barbequed by locals on the island.
Also in the Reserve is Bongoyo Island off the Msasani Peninsula just north of the city centre. There are no bandas here but you can catch the shade under thatched umbrellas after glimpsing the abundant sea life among the coral including starfish and clownfish. There are also some great nature trails to explore behind the beach where you can navigate your way to the other shore. Bongoyo is well served with a snack bar that serves cold drinks and freshly caught seafood.
Aside from Sinda Island, the best island off Dar es Salaam has to be Zanzibar. Zanzibar is actually a big tropical autonomous archipelago over 25km North-East of the city, but the main island Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar) is easily reached by ferry or plane from Dar es Salaam. The famous “Spice Islands” are unforgettable, offering some of the best tropical beaches, snorkeling, and diving in the world. If you don’t want to stay the night, in a day trip it is possible to either see the UNESCO Heritage Site of Stone Town or head straight to the beach but you cannot come to Dar es Salaam without getting out to see Zanzibar for a recommended couple of days.
across the Kurasini Creek the spectacular bridge connects Dar es Salaam’s main city districts to Kigamboni, a fishing village and new district ward just South of Dar es Salaam harbor.
Previously this link was only crossable by the Kivukoni ferry but with Kigamboni Bridge, commuters now have 6 lanes to make the crossing by car, drastically reducing traffic and wait times in the congested city centre and reliance on the small ferry. The bridge also has two cycle and pedestrian lanes, and operates a toll plaza of 14 lanes that allow quick and easy passage.
Kigamboni Bridge is a distinctly modern cable stay suspension design and the first of its kind in East Africa, with 400 meters of its weight supported by cable and the rest being held by support columns. Its construction also involved 2.5km
of approach roads on either side, joining the Mandela expressway to other junctions through free interchange, as well as a slipway to the TAZARA Railway Bridge which passes underneath.
At a cost of $136 million to Tanzania’s government and social security fund, the importance of Kigamboni Bridge to Dar es Salaam should not be understated. Not only does it serve to reduce commuting time and relieve Dar es Salaam’s infamous congestion problems, but the modern style and magnitude of the structure is a sign of Tanzania’s rapidly growing economy that serves as a counter to the stereotypes of Africa. Indeed, Kigamboni Bridge, like much of Dar es Salaam is one of the many attractions that change Western attitudes toward Africa when they see it.
Many tourists visiting Africa for the first time come with pre-conceived and ill-informed notions of a completely undeveloped continent. Sights like Kigamboni Bridge and the bustling central business district of Dar es Salaam show that Tanzania is far from the stereotypical backward nation but instead boasts a fledgling infrastructure and rapidly expanding modern economy.
Dar es Salaam South Beach is often described as the best beach in Dar es Salaam. It is known by a lot of names: Kipepeo Beach (including our bar/restaurant), South Beach, Kigamboni – but every name stands for a beautiful beach experience. Commonly known as South Beach, it is a popular destination for Dar es Salaam’s residents wishing to escape the heat, hustle, and bustle of the city. At Kipepeo Beach and Village, our guests love relaxing on our beach chairs and enjoying the spectacular view. Why? Just imagine the tropical turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean gently rolling on to the smooth white sand as the afternoon sun kisses your skin and the cool breeze blows gently through your salt-sprayed hair. So, whether you are at Dar es Salaam South Beach just to take a break from the city, a full relaxing holiday, or as a launch pad for safari, you are sure to find what you are looking for.
Nestled away from the polluting industry closer to the city and further South, Dar es Salaam South Beach is perfectly placed to provide a bounty of clean tropical waters, fresh air, and natural life including birds, butterflies, mongooses, and monkeys. What’s more? There are no rocks or sea urchins as you bath in the calm waters, making it an ideal and safe beach for swimming even at low tide! On top of that, there is great snorkeling to be experienced while enjoying a ride on a Dhow sailing trip to the nearby Sinda Islands or, closer to shore, a mangrove forest exploration adventure. So, pop along to Dar es Salaam South Beach – watch the fishermen sail by in their dhows, take a walk on the sand, cool down and just have a relaxing time.
One of the best things about Dar es Salaam South Beach is that it is almost forgotten by the city, but that means it’s a little harder to find. It is good to have a specific idea of how to get there from the city centre:
- Grab the Kivukoni/Kigamboni ferry which crosses the mouth of Dar-es-Salaam harbour. Kigamboni is a fishing village 5 minutes south of the harbour.
- At Kigamboni, pick up a taxi or Dala Dala bus (the motorbikes and Bajaj/tuktuks are cheapest but less safe). Follow the coastal road south for approx. 9km.
- About 20m before the Oilcom Petrol Station near a Y junction, you will see a sign on your left (seaward side) for Kipepeo Beach and Village. Follow that road down towards the sea for about 1km until you reach us where you can get a full experience of South Beach.
- Karibu (Swahili for welcome) Dar es Salaam South Beach!
Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) is the largest airport in Tanznaia and the easiest route for getting to Dar es Salaam. The airport is located just outside Dar es Salaam and it offers flights to and from many major global destinations. Direct flights are served to Blantyre, Lilongwe, Arusha, Kigoma, Moroni, Mwanza, Tabora, Zanzibar, Entebbe, Juba, Nairobi, Harare, London, Johannesburg, Kilimanjaro, Addis Ababa, Anjouan, Cairo, Lusaka, Dubai, Amsterdam, Maputo, Pemba, Muscat, Musoma, Shinyanga, Doha, Kigali, Zurich, and Istanbul. Generally, its an easy airport to get a flight to.
From the airport, take a taxi to the city for about $20 minimum. It’s a good idea to know exactly where you need to go, and even have a map to show the driver. The drive into the city is about 20 minutes but during rush hours this can literally take hours. Unfortunately, Dar es Salaam’s rapid economic growth has created major traffic problems, so this extended drive time can happen anywhere in the day and should be taken into account if you’re under pressure for time.
However, if you plan on visiting Zanzibar first as many tourists do, there is a ferry option for getting to Dar es Salaam. This is cheaper ($35 single) than flying from Zanzibar but takes two hours whereas the plane takes 20 minutes. However, the ferry takes you right into the city centre while the road from the airport is almost constantly congested with traffic. So, the ferry is actually usually a wiser choice for getting to Dar es Salaam from Zanzibar unless you only need to reach the airport.
Another option for getting to Dar es Salaam is the train from Zambia. This is actually a great tourist attraction in itself where you get a chance to view the Tanzanian countryside in all its glory and diversity. Kapiri Mposhi, just North of Zambian capital Lusaka, begins a two-night train ride for getting to Dar es Salaam. This Zambia-Tanzania train is commonly referred to as TAZARA Railway. It operates scheduled services twice a week, leaving in both ends of the line on Tuesdays and Fridays around 4:00pm, arriving on Thursdays and Sundays at 9:30am in Zambia, but in the afternoon for Dar es Salaam.
Unlike Zanzibar, if you’re travelling from elsewhere within Tanzania, most areas of the country usually requires a number of Dala Dalas (public busses) for getting to Dar es Salaam which take a long time and are not very comfortable. However, there is a coach from Arusha and other major cities at a cost of about $15 that will take about 10 hours. Generally though, the fastest option for getting to Dar es Salaam is to get to the nearest regional airport (Mbeya, Arusha, Tabora) and take a one hour flight to Dar es Salaam.
Dar es Salaam literally translates from Arabic as “residence of peace”. Indeed, Dar es Salaam’s history is defined by external influences, including its Arab foundation, as well as its indigenous African heritage. The original, tiny fishing settlement on Africa’s East Coast was originally known as Mzizima, meaning “Healthy Town” in Swahili.
However, with the rise of the Omani Sultans in Zanzibar, which even replaced Muscat as the Omani capital in 1840, Mzizima was drawn into their reign with the construction under Sultan Majid of a new city to be called “Dar es Salaam” that would eventually grow to replace the fishing village in 1862 with what is today the largest city in East Africa. Under Sultan rule, Dar es Salaam played a major part in the lucrative spice and slave trades centered on Zanzibar, just North-East of the Dar es Salaam coast. Thanks to its coastal position and fledgling harbor close to Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam’s history of rapid growth is tied closely to its ocean going trade with Zanzibar as a global hub. Zanzibar remained the center of power and commerce in the region.
However, as the British established control over Zanzibar in the late 18th Century Dar es Salaam really came into its own with the arrival of the German East Africa Company who used the city as their administrative and commercial hub for all of colonial German East Africa. The construction of the Central Railway Line also gave Dar es Salaam a kick-start for industrial expansion and an influx of South Asian traders saw the population and economy diversify yet again.
With the seizure of German East Africa by the British following the 1st Word War, this part of Dar es Salaam history saw it become the commercial and administrative center of “Tanganyika” which would become the mainland of modern day Tanzania. Under the British, new areas such as Oyster Bay sprung up to house European colonists while places like Kariakoo emerged to house the local African population. The city in this period grew away from the center extensively.
Again, The post-World War II era saw another rapid population and economic growth in Dar Es Salaam history. This, coupled with the global trend of decolonization, led to the formation of Tanganyika’s political identity and ultimately independence in 1961. With the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam continued to serve as the capital despite Zanzibar’s historic position as the Swahili capital.
But, in 1973 the Tanzanian government decided to relocate its political capital to Dodoma, closer to the nation’s physical center in an effort to prevent over-centralisation and disparity between the national regions. However, with the end of socialist economic policies in the 1980’s Dar es Salaam history was again subject to a rapid economic growth with an influx of rural migrants. Incredible growth in the last 15 years has seen Dar es Salaam rise to be considered one of Africa’s leading cities alongside the likes of Nairobi and Johannesburg, boasting a highly developed central business district with skyscrapers and cable bridges. While the political move to the official capital Dodoma continues, Dar es Salaam history still defines it as the political heart of Tanzania and, one of the fastest developing cities in all of Africa, Dar (as it is commonly known) is unlikely to be overtaken as Tanzania’s commercial and cultural capital.