Usambara Mountains, Tanzania

The Usambara Mountains in the northeast of Tanzania can boast an incredible biodiversity in completely untouched nature. On tours through the "African Galapagos" there are rare animals, hidden waterfalls, exotic plants and the well-known Usambara violet to discover.

The impressive peaks of the Usambara Mountains stretch through the northeast of Tanzania on the border with Kenya and are part of our top 10 sights of Tanzania. The mountains, which are up to 2,300m high, have hardly been developed for tourism and offer hikers and nature lovers paradise on earth.


Vast regions in the Usambara Mountains have now been landscaped and produce maize, bananas, tea and ginger, but 30% of the original mountain rainforest still remains, with many rare species of flora and fauna to be discovered.

How to get to the Usambara Mountains?

The Usambara Mountains are best reached from Moshi via an asphalt road about 250km long. Buses depart from Moshi, Arusha, Tanga and Dar es Salaam.

Tip: If you only want to make a short detour to the Usambara Mountains, you can do this on the way from Arusha to Dar es Salaam or to the national parks in southern Tanzania. The connections in these directions are very well developed.

Flora and Fauna in the Usambara Mountains

The Usambara violet, which is probably on the kitchen table in many European households, originally comes from the mountainous region of the same name in eastern Tanzania - © Sergey Lavrentev / Shutterstock
© Sergey Lavrentev / Shutterstock

The Usambara Mountains are ranked among the 25 areas with the greatest biodiversity in the world. Nearly 3,000 different plants thrive in this incredible open-air pharmacy, many of which have healing properties. Some areas of the Usambara Mountains are strictly protected, such as the Mazumbai Forest or the Amani Nature Reserve, to preserve the ancient mountain rainforests and their rare species.

Probably the best known of these species is the Usambara violet, which is probably on the kitchen table in many European households. Other globally unique species include the Usambara eagle owl, a chameleon species, the critically endangered Nicoll's weaver bird and the Tanzanian tree frog. You would probably want to encounter less of the red Usambara bird spider, which has also spread beyond the Usambara Mountains.

New animal and plant species are still being discovered in the Usambara Mountains, which has earned the mountain range the nickname "African Galapagos" among researchers.

Climate in the Usambara Mountains: Best time to travel

The climate in the Usambara Mountains is anything but typically African. There is no sign of the dusty heat of the savannah; instead, the hiker is caressed by cool, fresh mountain air. No wonder that the German settlers of the colony of German East Africa, who often spent the hot summers in the Usambara Mountains, already appreciated this. The traces of the German colonial era can still be seen today in many buildings, especially in the main town of Lushoto.

Although the climate is pleasant all year round, the best time to visit the Usambara Mountains is from June to October. From November to March, the heat or rainy season prevails, after which the trails are still too muddy to drive or walk on for some time. From about the end of May, the ground is drier and the air is wonderfully clear.


Hiking in the Usambara Mountains

A subspecies of chameleon is one of the many species found only in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania - © Jessica Bethke / Shutterstock
© Jessica Bethke / Shutterstock

The hiking trails through the Usambara Mountains are idyllic, vast and rarely traveled. They lead to breathtaking viewpoints and hidden waterfalls and are accompanied by the chirping of birds and the roar of colobus monkeys.

One of the most beautiful hiking trails leads to the most famous viewpoint in the Usambara Mountains, the Irente View Point, from where you can overlook the Masai plains 1,000m below. From Lushoto it can be reached after about an hour's walk.

If you extend your hike to the Kambe and Kwa Mkeke viewpoints, you will be on the road for about 5-6 hours. Almost more spectacular is the view from World View Point, where a steep wall plunges 1,500m into the depths.

Also worth seeing is the summit of Kwa Mongo. This mountain is best reached from Soni and can be climbed in half an hour. At the top, colorful butterflies await, of which 130 different ones cavort in the Usambara Mountains, and a view of the southern Usambara Mountains with Soni, Lushoto and the Handeni Plain. The famous Soni Waterfalls are also not far from Soni.

Besides the breathtaking mountain scenery and fantastic nature, there are also architectural remnants from the past to discover. Due to their mild, almost European-like climate, the Usambara Mountains became the center of missionaries. Numerous Christian mission stations and monasteries, which at that time had the task of converting the locals, can still be seen today.

Accommodation in the Usambara Mountains

The main town in the Usambara Mountains is Lushoto, at the time of German colonization still called Wilhelmsthal. The town is located at an altitude of 1,600m in the middle of the Usambara Mountains. Here accommodation can be rented and guided hikes into the protected forests of the mountains can be booked.

In the Usambara Mountains, however, lovingly and family-run lodges are always waiting for guests, which are perfect starting points for hikes. Above all, these lodges are concentrated at the Irente viewpoint, from where there is an unforgettable view of the Masai steppe to the coast.