Lushoto, in the Usambara Mountains, has to be one of the LUSH-est parts of Tanzania. Expect vast green valleys where rural farmlands drape across the hillsides. The rolling hills are interspersed by trickling streams that lead to a number of beautiful waterfalls across the region.
Usambara Rainforest sits on top of the Lushoto mountain region with its many indigenous trees, colobus monkeys and chameleons. It is also the home of many herbal medicines and an abundance of avocados!
Having been stuck on an island for three weeks – it’s a hard life – we were looking forward to a change of scenery. Lushoto certainly offered us this.
TRAVEL TO LUSHOTO
Whether you’re visiting Lushoto from Arusha/Moshi or from Dar Es Salaam the only backpacking travel option is the bus. It’s the perfect pit stop between the gruelling bus journey between northern Tanzania and Dar and is definitely not one to be missed in its own right.
Coming from Dar we took the Shambala express and paid 15000TZS per person. Buses depart from 6 AM onwards; it worth arriving half an hour before departure to avoid missing your bus. We had this foresight. However, wrongly assuming on a reliable Uber service, we ordered ours for 5 AM, it cancelled on us. We ordered again, this cancelled on us too.
After desperately repeating this process many times, by some margin, we missed our first bus. However, with some negotiating at the bus station we rebooked onto a new bus. We were finally on our first bus journey! HURRAH!
However, as we joined the bus, we soon came to realise the seats we had available were not what we had thought. Ultimately, it was a tight squeeze, with six of us squeezed onto the five seats at the rear of the bus. Needless to say, we embarked on a very uncomfortable eight-hour bus journey. Welcome to the African bus service, something you all have to experience.
Despite our discomfort, we arrive in one piece! If you don’t mind the cliff edge drive on the ascent, it’s well worth taking a seat on the left. Here you can enjoy the gorgeous green mountain views in the final hour of the journey.
WHERE TO STAY IN LUSHOTO
Lushoto is the largest and most well-known village in the Usambara mountains. With its views a little bit blocked (although very high in its own right) it’s best to stay 2/3km further up the mountain in Misonge. We stayed at Misonge Lodge but there are a number of other lodges in the area.
Anywhere from here up to the Irente viewpoint will ensure you’re waking up to some of the best views in Tanzania. Wake up to the sounds of the birds singing at dawn and enjoy a tranquil, serene and misty morning.
THINGS TO DO IN LUSHOTO
The Irente View Point is included in a number of trekking tours. However, as you don’t have to go too off-road, you can visit the viewpoint without a guide. Since starting our travels this is a serious contender for one of the best views we’ve seen/if not the best! There’s a community fee of 300TZS per person and a nearby lodge to grab a beer to settle in for the incredible sunset over the vast plains.
If you’re lucky you might even bump into Louis too. A hilarious older local gentleman with a distinctly French look who happens to have a small home with the type of view you’d pay millions for in the west. We shared a beer with Louis and also got chatting to another local chap, Robert. Who turned out to be a registered guide as well and took us on our rainforest trekking at a much-discounted price to those offered at the booking office of the operators.
IRENTE FARM LODGE
You should stumble across the Irente Farm Lodge on the way to the Irente viewpoint. Ask the locals from here to direct you to the lunch spot which again has incredible views in its own right. Enjoy a spread of homemade jams, cheeses, freshly made bread, and smoothies. All cheeses are made on their farm. This was our first taste of really good cheese for a few weeks! A hidden little treat.
USAMBARA RAINFOREST / WATERFALL TRECKING
There are a few options for hiking including 2/3 day tours, which involve camping in local villages. But we opted for a full one day hike of the Rainforest and a nearby waterfall. This is an opportunity to immerse yourself into the magical and mysterious Tanzania rainforest. We walked up to the Magambo viewpoint – to realise we had forgotten our lunch. There is also an abandoned German bunker used during WW1, around the viewpoint. You can go in, but Fi’s scared of the dark and small spaces (wimp) so we avoided it.
Robert took us on the tour with Louis’ daughter, Mary, accompanying him. We covered a hefty distance around the mountains and were pooped by the end of it. But had a day full of laughter taking in the beautiful landscapes. Get in touch and we can forward Robert’s details should you want to book a tour!
GRAB A COFFEE AT THE USAMBARA COFFEE CORNER
On a rainy afternoon, we spent a few hours here enjoying a coffee. Expect to wait an hour for your coffee – the pole pole barista. But it’s worth the wait. All coffee comes from the Usambara Mountains and supports local coffee farmers. The Coffee Corner also offers tours and with part of the fee going to the community, it’s a great initiative. If we hadn’t of bumped into Robert we probably would have booked with these guys.
THE PEOPLE OF LUSHOTO
Chat with the locals to learn about rural life in Tanzania. We were very fortunate to get to know Robert. He and his Aunt Anna and Uncle Charles welcomed us to their home for supper. They prepared a number of local dishes followed by some fresh ginger tea. Getting to know them, even more, that evening was such a humbling and special experience.
Anna was also a tour operator, where Robert worked. They had spent a few years farming their land to make it fertile to grow produce. A local success! Anna and Charles are also working on building some holiday cottages, so tourists can enjoy a local way of living. They had a very clear and inspiring vision.
TIPS/THINGS TO AVOID TO LUSHOTO
- Given the altitude bring warm clothes as it will soon get chilly once the sun sets.
- Prepare to be swamped as you set foot off the bus by the many tour operators. A shout of “Hapana Hapana” “No, no” should get them away. Then you can explain that you want to settle in before making any decisions on tours (which are definitely worth doing)
We hope you enjoy Lushoto as much as we did and return feeling zen.
PEACE OUT x
You can also read more great tips on the below blogs: