Dar es Salaam, meaning "haven for peace," was founded in 1862 by Sultan Seyyid Majid of Zanzibar and was later capital of the colonial administration. Evidence of German and British architecture can be seen around the city. It also serves as a springboard to Zanzibar, only a short hop by plane or a 90-minute ferry ride away.
Zanzibar refers to the archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba, and several smaller islands, roughly 40km (25 miles) off the Tanzanian coast. For centuries it was an important hub in the Indian Ocean trade route, until the colonists arrived. The island of Zanzibar is by far the most popular tourist destination, and for good reason -- dazzling white beaches, an azure and warm Indian Ocean, and the wonderfully atmospheric Stone Town.
Tanzania's mainland coast has witnessed very little tourist development, though there are a couple of highlights for adventurous travelers. Kilwa Kivinje and Kilwa Kisiwani are ruined Swahili settlements dating back as far as the 12th century, where the Omanis built great forts, palaces, and mosques. Local guides give tours, and there's accommodation in nearby Kilwa Masoko. Mafia Island, remote with very few places to stay, is world renowned for its deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.
The region around Moshi is fairly attractive, thanks to Kilimanjaro, which looms above the town. On the fertile lower slopes of the mountain are the Arabica coffee plantations that Catholic missionaries introduced at the end of the 19th century. But the main reason to come to Moshi is to climb Kilimanjaro to the highest point in Africa, at Uhuru Peak.
Located in the foothills of Mount Meru, and the halfway point between Cairo and Cape Town, Arusha is a thriving city and is the access point for safaris to Tanzania's Northern Circuit parks. Here the vast rolling plains, trampled by herds of wildlife, are the Africa most visitors expect to see, and Tanzania's Northern Circuit parks won't disappoint. The Serengeti features the famous annual wildebeest migration, one of the greatest movements of animals on Earth. Equally impressive is the Ngorongoro Crater, a caldera created by a collapsed volcano that supports a staggering number of animals. Lake Manyara is known for its soda lake that supports thousands of flamingoes, while Tarangire has an abundance of elephants.
Lake Victoria, at 67,850 sq. km (26,462 sq. miles), is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. The Tanzanian section of Lake Victoria is one of the least-visited parts of the country, and, admittedly, the featureless ports of Bukoba, Musoma, and Mwanza have few attractions. Most travelers head for the Kenyan and Ugandan sections of the lake.
Forming the western border of Tanzania, skinny Lake Tanganyika is divided among four countries: Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Zambia. The main town on the lake is Kigoma, a simple place and a long way from anywhere else. The main reason to come to this isolated spot is to see chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park and the Mahale Mountains National Park.
Accessed from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's Southern Circuit parks offer an unrivalled bush wilderness experience. Selous, Katavi, and Ruaha are way off the usual tourist itinerary and are largely accessible only to those who can afford the few high-cost, low-impact camps.