Irente Point hiking Usambara Mountains

Hiking The Usambara Mountains In Tanzania

One of the top hiking areas in Tanzania, other than world-famous, multi-day, Kilimanjaro, is the Usambara Mountains.

These gentle hikes are more of a cultural experience as you pass through villages of happy, engaging Tanzanians.

They’re located in Lushoto, which is about halfway between Dar es Salaam and Arusha, so also a perfect stop if traveling between the two.

Hiking To Irente Pointe In The Usambara Mountains

The easiest, and most popular, is a two hour hike from Lushoto to Irente Point, almost 5,000’ (1,500 m) above sea level, providing a stunning panoramic view of the Maasai Steppe.

Irente Point

It’s really more of a walk to the viewpoint, mostly following dirt roads. Depending on your pace, and how often you stop as you pass though the villages, it will take 1.5-2 hours.

You can do this without a guide, simply by asking for directions along the way. You can also download maps.me (in advance) to follow the roads WiFi free, or hire a local to guide you.

Our guide pointed out chameleon along the path, stating that seeing them meant good luck spotting game in safari parks. We saw 8 on the short hike.

A chameleon along the hike up the usambara mountains to Irente Point
Usambara Chameleon

There are two places where a token fee is taken, so have some small bills with you. The first is at Irente Viewpoint Hotel. The other is right before the viewpoint. The fees total about 3,000 Tsh, which is less than $3 USD.

Of course, if you prefer, you can just stay and the hotel and hike down to the villages for the cultural experience. Driving up is also an option.

Irente Farm And Villages

On the walk back down to Lushoto, stopping for lunch at Irente Farm, also called Irente Biodiversity Reserve, is a popular option. They’re known to serve a great spread of fresh bread, fruits, vegetables, jams, and cheeses.

I did this hike as part of a tour with Intrepid, covering 7 countries in Africa. Our visit included a lunch at one of the villages. They were very lovely people, welcoming us with smiles and happy to share their food and village. Even better was the fact that we never felt pressure to purchase anything or donate money.

What they really wanted was for us to dance with them. Probably so they could laugh at our attempts, which of course, they did.

Villagers dancing for us while hiking the Usambara Mountains.
Local Village Lunch & Entertainment

There are also options for multi-day hikes. You can hike though the Magamba Forest, home to the black and white colobus monkey, and learn about the tribes there. There are also several waterfalls to visit. These are best done with a guide, unless you do your research and are a very experienced hiker.

Touring Villages In the Usambara Mountains

If you didn’t get to stop at any villages hiking, walk around later. Although the homes are humble, the locals are very kind and welcoming.

Village homes while hiking in the Usambara Mountains

The farming village produces their own food and sells to other parts of the country.

Farmland

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Lushoto

A visit to downtown Lushoto is another interesting cultural experience, with many shops and some open air markets.

Try The Local Beer

Tasting beer while hiking the Usambara Moutains

You can also see if you can try the local beer. Our guide found someone to share some with us. Sorry for the bad photo, but it was dusk and there was no electricity in the house.

The beer is made from sugarcane, stored in various used containers, and served with pride.

This is something you do for the experience, not for the taste. We were given generous pours and finished them with smiles, like any guest would.

As my pour was particularly large, I secretly exchange mine with the guy next to me, as his was smaller. He either didn’t notice, or just was a good sport, as he also finished his wife’s. Thank you!

Tour To Hike Irente Point & The Usamabara Mountains

Although you can walk the road up to Irente Point, it’s much better to spend money locally and hire a guide in the area. I do not have the name or contact information of a local guide, but if you come to Lushoto and ask around in the town, I can promise you, they will hook you up with a great guide!

There are tours that pick you up in Tanga, which is about 3 hours east of Lushto near the coast. I recommend this tour: 3 Days 2 Nights Usambara Mountains (Lushoto) by Public Transport. In addition to making this trip much easier, you will have a knowledgeable guide to explain the area to you, and get to sleep in a local home as part of your tour.

If you’re coming from Arusha, choose this tour: Usambara Mountains Adventure, which picks you up at the Arusha Airport. This is ideal combined with hiking Kilimanjaro.

Getting To Lushoto, Usambara Mountains

Self Drive: Lushoto is about a 6 hour drive from Arusha and 6-7 from Dar es Salaam. Driving in Tanzania, however, requires a 4 x 4, so is expensive.

Bus: There are direct buses to Lushoto from Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Ask at your lodge how to get to the bus station. You can also take a bus from Dar es Salaam towards Arusha, getting off at Mombo (4.5 hours), then the dala dala to Lushoto (1 hour). If going the other direction, take one from Arusha to Dar es Salaam, getting off at Mombo (5 hours), then the dala dala (1 hour).

Notes: always buy your bus tickets at the station, rather than from a tout.

Irente Point hiking Usambara Mountains
Irente Point

Want To a See More Of Tanzania?

If your hiking in the Usambara Mountains, you’re already likely to know about the other great adventures in Tanzania.

Visiting the Serengeti is definitely a bucket-list item, especially for the wildlife enthusiast. It’s best known for the Great Migration, where about 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra, and 300,000 gazelles migrate annually over 500 miles (800 km). But even if you miss the actual migration, the park is still absolutely stunning and well worth a visit.

I camped there as part of a larger group on a 6-week trip from Cape Town to Nairobi and we had an amazing night of stories around the campfire in the Serengeti. You can read about them here.

Plus, as the Serengeti is so close to the Magnificent Ngorongoro Crater, it’s a perfect to add on. And if you have time, see the full Northern Circuit, which includes the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire.

Also, if you’re in Tanzania, I recommend visiting Zanzibar, which is off the coast near Dar es Salaam. It’s beautiful beaches provide the perfect compliment to a safari and the history and cultural fusion of Unesco heritage site Stone Town is fascinating.

For an overview of all the highlights of Tanzania, as well as information on how to get around, safety, scams, logistics, and more, see my Tanzania Travel Guide.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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