Moshi is the perfect spot for a pre- Tanzania safari weekend, or for an extended stay. I lived in – and fell in love with – Moshi for a summer. Here are some of my favorite experiences if you’re lucky enough to be heading this way!
Moshi, Moshi, Moshi. My first and perhaps favorite African adventure.
Located in northern Tanzania, Moshi is calmer, cheerier and easier than the bigger, more chaotic nearby town of Arusha. It has all the makings of a traditional East African city – bustling marketplaces, rushing rivers, distant mountains and bumpy dirt roads – but there’s one thing that sets it apart from the rest: the people.
I volunteered for a summer in Moshi, teaching English at Amani Nursery School for three, four, five and six year olds. Like any person with a functional heart, I fell in love with my little students instantly, and still remember their names and cute quirks to this day. (Like Queenie, who loved my backpack so much she started wearing her own backpack every single day – and made sure to call that out to me. Oh, Queenie, just the sweetest!)
But it wasn’t just the little munchkins (although, let’s be real – they were the highlight). After weeks and weeks working and living in the town of Moshi, I fell absolutely in love with the community.
Stroll down the street, and you’ll get waves, smiles and greetings from every passerby. Go for an afternoon run and the village children will make a point to sprint alongside – giggling as they beat you, because they always do. Work long enough with a local teacher, and he’ll excitedly invite you to his home for lunch – entirely on him, now matter how much you insist.
By itself, Moshi is a perfectly picturesque East African city, but it’s those charming, sweet and genuinely warm Moshi residents that add life and memories to your African adventure.
Downtown Moshi Marketplace
To fully experience Moshi, or any African city for that matter, head to the busy, bustling marketplaces downtown. It’s the central meeting place for local residents, whether they’re selling goods or gabbing away.
In Moshi’s marketplace, you’ll find everything from bright yellow banana bunches to traditionally beaded jewelry, with shop keeps sharing the story (as an effective sales tactic, of course) behind each and every item. Believe me, this sales tactic works.
If the Moshi marketplace is on your agenda, make sure to pull out cash ahead of time. Very few — if any — shops accept credit, and nothing’s worse than falling in love with an item you can’t actually purchase (trust me, I’ve been there!).
If you want to experience Moshi like a local, drink at the local watering holes! Dozens of bars line every street, and while it may seem a bit daunting to enter an African bar, I promise it’s worth it.
We visited quite a few local bars while volunteering in Moshi, and Glacier Bar, located right off of Kilimanjaro Road, was one of our favorites. It’s mostly outdoor seating, the perimeter lined with huge TVs and the interior filled with picnic tables, benches and home-brought lawn chairs.
As it typically goes in Moshi, everyone at the bar was friendly and welcoming despite the obvious fact we weren’t locals. We made great conversation, had some good African brews (Kilimanjaro and Safari Lager for the win!) and left exhilarated (and perhaps a bit intoxicated) by yet another wonderful cultural experience.
Once you’ve absorbed Moshi’s charming culture, be it through shopping or booze, it’s time to check out the other, equally mesmerizing side of the city: its scenery.
If you’re tight on time, a quick walk along one of Moshi’s main roads will do. You’ll see mountains and forests in the distance, with flowing rivers and copper-colored dirt roads beneath your feet.
Lucky enough to have more time? Explore the Makoa Waterfalls. Just a 20-minute drive from Moshi, the Makoa Waterfalls are accessible by hiking through banana and coffee plantations. The hike can get muddy, so wear old shoes with good traction. But believe me — dirt is a small price to pay for an afternoon at the off-the-beaten-path Makoa Waterfall.
Arusha National Park
If you’re staying in Moshi but need a weekend getaway, try Arusha National Park. A two-hour drive (typically hired via tour guide) will land you right among the giraffes, zebras and other quintessentially African safari animals. Arusha National Park has walking tours where you can literally walk alongside the gentle giants of the park (like those graceful giraffes!) The park sits below Mount Meru – Africa’s third highest mountain – which makes for some pretty dramatic scenery.
Climbing Mount Meru
If you see mountains and instantly think “climb!” then you’ll be happy to know you can climb Kilimanjaro’s little brother, Mount Meru. It took us one weekend (one night, two days) to climb up the mountain. We stopped about two-thirds of the way up at some janky cabins, then ascended the mountain around 1 a.m. to reach the peak before sunrise. The climb is tough – really tough – and has you scrambling up rocks without any roping or harnesses (see “TIA” below) but the eight-hour morning ascent is well worth it for those views.
Meru most definitely requires a guide (I’d do a quick Trip Advisor search, as our guide ended up scamming us at the end of the trip for extra money). We got up and down safely in two days, but that was pushing it. If you have the time, take three.
Know before you go:
In Tanzania, there are three letters that every visitor should know and absorb before arrival: TIA.
No, it’s not the CIA. And no, it’s not a stranger named Tia.
TIA simply stands for “this is Africa,” but this simple acronym is absolutely vital for a great trip.
Life is different in Africa — it’s a bit slower, and quite a bit less structured than the States. Don’t be surprised if your 9 a.m. tour takes off around noon, and the hotel room you secured ahead of time isn’t the hotel room you end up with.
This is Africa, and that’s how things go. Let go of your love for punctuality and embrace the confusion — it’s the best, and really only, way to experience this charming, sometimes chaotic but always welcoming continent.