Oh how I’ve missed these little ABC’s of best things to do in… They’ve always been my favorite way of giving a fun twist to boring lists and still are. This time I want to tell you all about my favorite things to do in and around Moshi, Tanzania. All thoroughly tested by yours truly, as always!
If you ask me for a list of amazing things to see in Moshi town, I’ll probably have to disappoint you. There’s no architectural treasures or perfectly maintained parks. No shopping malls or hip restaurants for a fancy dinner. But there’s a vibe. A laid-back atmosphere that I can’t quite manage to define. Streets full of people, lively markets and bars playing reggae music all day long. Coffee plantations, waterfalls and little local villages just 30 minutes out of town. Unexpected encounters whilst driving along bumpy roads, and views out of a dream. The smell of a homemade meal, and the pride of your local guide when he tells you all about his tribe culture.
Nope, there’s not much to see in Moshi… but there’s thousands of things to experience. So don’t just make it the starting point of your safari or Kilimanjaro climb, but stay a few days before or after. I promise you won’t regret it!
[A] The first item on my list is probably not gonna help with your good impression about me, but alcohol. Try the local beers that all have the most original names (Serengeti, safari, Kilimanjaro…) or the local liquors such as K-vant or Konyagi. These are gin-like drinks (with a bit of imagination) that are mostly mixed with tonic or other soft drinks. Cheers!
[B] Cross the town in a bajaji or on the back of a bodaboda. Both are local means of transport and you can read all you need to know about them in my guide to local transport in Tanzania.
[C] Take a coffee tour. Kilimanjaro region has its own coffee and coffee tours are a fun way to learn more about it. I recommend to go to Materuni or Shimbwe but Marangu is also an option.
[D] Do not – I repeat DO NOT – leave Moshi or at least Tanzania without a night of dancing. The moves of the locals will make your head spin and the ‘bongo’ beats won’t allow you to sit still. It’s really a great way to get a glimpse into how the locals spend their free time.
[E] Become an expat. And then don’t ever use that word again unless you’d call a Tanzanian moving to YOUR home country an expat too. I first came to Tanzania at the beginning of 2017 for a 4-week visit and in August of that year I came back to start my indefinite travel adventure but I never left again. Now if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
[F] Go fabric shopping. You’ll mostly find kitenge or kanga fabrics, which are the very colorful fabrics that the ladies wear around their waist or that they use for their dresses. You can even have clothes made but ask around to find the best seamstresses as my own experiences with this haven’t always been successful. There is however a guy who makes super nice bomber jackets in Shule Street, between Mawenzi Road and Market Street.
[G] Take a guided bike tour, either around Moshi or to places such as TPC or the Chemka hotsprings for an active and slower way of discovering the town and its surroundings. It’s best to organize it through a tour business as they’ll make sure to take you to places where it’s safe to ride a bike.
[H] Jump into the Chemka hot springs! Read my guide to the Chemka hot springs to know exactly why this is one of the best things to do in Moshi.
[I] Enjoy the incredible views of Mount Kilimanjaro. The roof of Africa, the tallest mountain on the continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. When the sky is clear, you can see Kilimanjaro pretty much all around Moshi and in the villages around it so you really have to do your best to miss it.
[J] Go to Lake Jipe for a day of off the beaten track adventure. Have a look at my full guide to Lake Jipe to know all about it.
[K] Kilimanjaro! Take your pick as basically everything in Moshi is called Kilimanjaro: water, beer, supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, pharmacies… You name it, there probably is a Kilimanjaro version of it. The slogan of Kilimanjaro beer is ‘if you can’t climb it, drink it’ but but I’d definitely say ‘if you CAN climb it, then climb it’. I have a lot of articles coming about picking your ideal route, how to prepare, what to pack, a day hike for those who can’t go all the way to the top, etc. so stay tuned!
[L] Go local! The dancing is a good start but for a glimpse of daily local life, the best ideas are to try the local food in a local restaurant or to visit the local markets. Mbuyuni is where many people from Moshi go for groceries and household things and Memorial is one of the biggest second-hand market in northern Tanzania where you can buy clothes, sheets, shoes, handbags, carpets etc. There’s also ‘soko la kati’ or the central market which is smaller than Mbuyuni and which I find more practical for shopping quickly but for the best local vibe I’d recommend the two others. At Memorial, the vendors get their new items on Tuesdays and Fridays and these are the busiest days so if you can, go then. Other than the thousand ‘karibu’s’ (welcomes) that you’ll hear, it’s pretty relaxed to walk around any of these markets so you don’t need to stress about that.
[M] You might expect me to highly recommend a visit to a Maasai village here, but I don’t. Why? Because 9 times out of 10 these are either fake or more like human zoos than a respectful exchange on a human level. The excursions simply are too short for that and organized in such a way that you’ll be shown things that might be impressive but that are absolutely not part of the Maasai’s daily life. So if you want to meet the Maasai, either try to find an option to stay in a village several days with none of the fake stuff but with the actual discomfort of life in a Maasai village or I can recommend something much better. It’s not in Moshi but I’ll write a full article about it because it’s one of the most unforgettable things I’ve ever done. #waitforit
[N] Eat nyama choma (grilled beef), nyama ndizi (beef and bananas) or any other local dish – also the ones that don’t start with an [N]. Swahili food is a perfect example of how to turn the simplest ingredients into jummy meals and you should try it all.
[O] Take a tour of Old Moshi. This is an area located just a few kilometers out of the town center but due to the condition of the road it can take about 45 minutes to get there. Your guide will take you through the village and show you daily life but also explain more about the presence of the German and the English at the start of the previous century, so it’s a good mix of a bit of history with a lot of daily life.
[P] Do some activities with the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club, an organization that offers all kinds of support to street connected youth. To support their activities, they offer paint classes, jewelry making and glass cutting workshops and more. I’ve done several paint classes with them whenever family members visit for the first time and they’re always super fun! Have a look at their website and get in touch with them to organize it.
[Q] Quality time at Lala Salama Spa or Denis’ nail salon. At Lala Salama I’d mostly recommend the massages, facials etc. but not the manicures or pedicures. If that’s what you want, Denis is your man. Don’t let the uber-tacky examples on his Instagram scare you, he also does an amazing job on simple designs. Don’t expect zen music, soft voices and calming scents, at Denis’ you’ll get your mani-pedi Tanzanian style!
[R] Connect with nature at Rau Forest.
[S] Visit Shimbwe, the highest village on Kilimanjaro under the border of the national park. You can go for long hikes through villages and past waterfalls, relax in a local guesthouse with incredible views of the mountain or enjoy a coffee experience. You can hike between Shimbwe and Materuni so you can combine these activities. If you start in Materuni, you’ll get the more touristy part first, to then continue with hikes in areas that only very little tourists come to visit.
[T] Take a town tour and local cooking class. Moshi town might not be the place to be for grand historical buildings or anything like that but it’s the perfect place to get a glimpse of actual town / small city life in Tanzania. If you take a guided tour, you’ll hear about Kilimanjaro coffee, the history of the railway, the local war cemetery etc. The tour should also take you to the bus station, which really is the busy center of the town, some of the markets and simply to all the places where life is happening. Combine your town tour with a local cooking class and you’ll go shopping at the market, followed by a cooking class at a local house, by a local ‘mama’ (mama in Swahili means lady, madam, …).
[U] Have a walk through or grab some food at Uhuru park.
[V] Admire the vegetation. Drive or walk through Kilimanjaro Road when the Jacaranda trees are in bloom, or head to TPC (the sugar cane plantation just a bit outside of Moshi) to see the ‘Christmas trees’ from around November/December to January/February. On the road to TPC you can even see Kilimanjaro through the trees on the way back, which is just plain beautiful.
[W] Go chasing waterfalls. You have several options such as the Materuni waterfall, one of the waterfalls of Marangu or the waterfall in Machame.
[X] Wear xtra non-slippery shoes (OK I’ll admit this one’s a stretch) whilst following my advice about [W] or you might be using the [X] for X-rays like my mom who surrendered to the adventure with a bit too much conviction, broke her leg, got complications, spent a few days in the hospital and had to be sent home early.
[X again] Visit the Moshi Xmas Fair, organised by… yours truly and her sister. Yep! After starting my handbag business, I got frustrated that Moshi didn’t have any event where I could go and sell them, so I decided to just organize one myself. It was the end of November 2020 and 3 weeks later we had the most amazing event with over 500 visitors. We organized the 2nd edition in 2021 and if all goes well, we’ll be doing it again this year. Of course this only happens once a year (the fact that Christmas only happens once a year is only the 2nd most important reason for that, my sanity being the first) but drop by if you’re around, it’s really a super fun event with lots of unique vendors, kids animation, things to win and 8 hours of non-stop tacky Christmas music. Follow our Instagram for the latest updates.
[X again bis… yep!!] I could have called this [K again] but I’m too proud of myself for finding 4 activities with an X. Show the world your X-factor at karaoke night. This one could definitely also make it to my ABC of the tackiest things to do in Moshi but you honestly don’t want to miss this. Trust me, it’s an entire vibe.
[Y] Go for a swim at YMCA. This is the local swimming pool that you can use if you actually want to swim. There’s some benches but no couches so if you want to combine swimming with relaxing and sunbathing, you might be better off using the pool of one of the hotels. Careful, at YMCA, only 1-piece swimsuits are allowed, no bikinis.
[Z] Go hunting for zawadi – gifts! Stroll through the gift shops of the town center to find the best presents to take home to your friends and family, and of course also for yourself. I’d recommend Icurio on Viwanda Street or Chui Traders on Mawenzi Road for simple, nice and correctly priced items. These guys don’t bargain but they will give you more than fair prices from the start. If you have a bit more to spend and are looking for quality items that you won’t find everywhere else, the big souvenir shop inside Kibo Tower (ground floor) on Rindi Lane is your best option. And of course I’d love to welcome you in my own shop, or actually shopS! The first one, Mawenzi Accessories, sells handmade kitenge handbags and the other one, Mawenzi Interiors, sells furniture and home decor. Don’t worry I won’t try to convince you to take home a Tanzanian couch, but we have lots of local items that easily fit in a suitcase, such as pillow covers, wall decor items and baskets. We’re located a few minutes out of the town center but if you send me a message, I can send you directions or would love to come meet you in town.
So, which of these are you going to try first? Let me know in the comments!