Arusha is one of Tanzania’s most popular regions and a customary starting point for many a Tanzania safari experience. Ker & Downey prefers travelers to spend at least their first day in Arusha recovering from the long flight and relaxing amid the formidable Arushian scenery. The area is most famous for its robust coffee plantations where roasters and fermentation facilities provide guests with a sneak peek into the blending and roasting process of their coveted beans.

Arusha is also home to Arusha National Park, one of Tanzania’s smallest yet most beautiful and topographically diverse parks in the north. It is certainly deserving of its title as northern Tanzania’s safari capital, and yet even the most avid safari goers often overlook its promise of buffalo, blue monkeys, flamingo, giraffe, and zebra sightings. While elephants and lions are uncommon, leopards and spotted hyena are often seen skirting the montane forest in the early mornings. The stunningly conical Mount Meru and its accompanying swamp-filled crater dominate the panoramic landscape, where canoeing on Lake Duluti, visiting local villages, private guided safaris, and mountain biking through the rolling Arushian hills are all up for grabs. This is an adventurer’s playground, with the neighboring Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Olduvai Gorge, and Tarangire National Park within easy reach.

Arusha is also the gateway to Mount Kilimanjaro—Africa’s mystifying mountain—and often the first acclimatizing pit stop for Kili climbers. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a popular bucket-list item for all levels of adventurers and often features swollen packs of climbers jockeying for positions within the mountain’s few designated campsites. Ker & Downey suggest instead a climb with a touch more panache and exclusivity along the Machame route. The trek is no secret, but it is definitely the road less traveled. Aside from being less crowded, it is also much more scenic than alternative routes, passing through areas of Afromontane forest, glacial valleys, and alpine desert to create a gorgeous journey with unforgettable results.