A Guide To Tanzania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

What makes a place exceptional? What makes a city, a mountain range, or a pile of ancient ruins shimmer like polished diamonds? What makes a place magic?

We spend our lives chasing this magic, these extraordinary places and that feeling of awe. When traveling to far-flung nooks and crannies of the world it is the natural, historic, or cultural gravity of a place that makes them come alive. The purpose of travel, then, might be about coming alive, too, about having experiences of a lifetime where we learn about our shared cultural heritage…and ourselves in the process.

As we seek such worldly treasures, one of the best places I like to start my research is the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Okay, Back Up. What’s UNESCO?

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Founded on November 16, 1945, it’s an agency of the United Nations that emerged in the wake of the Second World War. Following such devastation, a consortium of countries created this international governing body to avoid future world wars. UNESCO was a branch of this UN olive tree, an offshoot helping to carry the mission forward, one of peaceful diplomacy and cultural preservation.

Why Does UNESCO Matter?

With 195 member nations, UNESCO’s mission is to “promote cultural and educational objectives worldwide, to cultivate an international pledge to rule of law, to justice, and to preserving the world’s cultural and natural sites.” (source) UNESCO stewards our world’s most impressive natural and cultural artifacts, while supporting educational opportunities for their preservation. Here’s a short video explaining why UNESCO matters in today’s world:

World Heritage Sites: Earth’s MVPs (Most Valuable Places!)

To drive UNESCO’s mission forward, the organization began inscribing World Heritage Sites in 1975. According to their official website, a World Heritage Site is “having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. These sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.” Here’s a list of the full criteria for becoming a World Heritage Site. (source). Presently, there are over 1,000 World Heritage Sites around the world.

Tanzania: a UNESCO leader in Africa

Africa has hundreds of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Tanzania is one of the continent’s leaders, with seven locations. The good news? Almost all of them can be easily reached on safari circuits and island escapes. Below you’ll find all seven conveniently ordered in the likelihood that you might visit them on your next journey to Tanzania. Let’s go!

Ngorongoro Conservation Area (1979)

The west rim of the Ngorongoro crater at sunrise in Tanzania

This awe-inspiring crater in Northern Tanzania was the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, for darn good reason. At over 100 square miles it’s a concentrated arena of wildlife-viewing from the first minute to the last. This will be your best opportunity to see the black rhino and top off Big 5 sightings (What are the big five?). Also, there are also some of the earliest hominid traces found nearby, reaching back over 3 million years!

Serengeti National Park (1981)

The name Serengeti comes from the Maasai language means “endless plains,” and when arriving for a game drive you will understand why. At 5,695 square miles, each year over 2 million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles migrate through this park in search of food and water. There’s quite literally nothing else like it on Earth.  (Learn more about the Great Wildebeest Migration). With more lions per capita than anywhere on the planet (over 3,000 in the park!) and high rates of biodiversity, let’s be honest: No Tanzania trip is complete without a few nights in the Serengeti. Here are 5 reasons why.

Zanzibar’s Stone Town (2000)

Tanzania Unesco World Heritage Sites - Stone Town

Located 50 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania, the Zanzibar archipelago or “Spice Islands” is a maritime constellation of stunning beauty. People from all over the globe come here to lounge on Zanzibar’s beaches, scuba dive in the bathtub-warm Indian Ocean, and explore spice farms. Stone Town is the island’s central heartbeat, a capital city with the character and charm of Havana, Cuba. As a preserved Swahili trading port, its architectural wonders tells of layered sagas of colonial reign over the years. Here are the top 5 things to do in Stone Town.

Mount Kilimanjaro (1987)

How Long To Climb Kilimanjaro

Any interest in climbing to the Roof of Africa? If that sounds like vacation to you, look no further. At 19,341 feet, this towering massif isn’t just a beautiful mountain. Kilimanjaro is a beacon of biodiversity and ecological necessity for thousands of species, not to mention the human communities living around its base. There are seven different habitat zones one hikes through on the volcano’s slopes. Here are the top 10 facts about Kilimanjaro that may just inspire you to climb up to Africa’s highest point.

Selous Game Reserve (1982)

Pronounced “sa-loose,” here is one of the unsung heroes of Tanzania. It’s the oldest and largest game reserve on the continent, which translates to heaps of wildlife and heaps of adventure. Located in Southern Tanzania, you will find fewer visitors than northern safari circuits but equal amount of wildlife and beauty. For example, there’s a black rhino sanctuary and—wait for it—440 different species of birds. For more detailed information: learn more…

Kondoa Rock-Art Sites (2006)

Tanzania Unesco World Heritage Sites - Rock Art
Photo: Joan Banjo (https://tinyurl.com/y93pqh34)

For anyone interested in petroglyphs and rock art, here’s your next destination. Set among overhanging rocks you’ll find nearly 200 unique sites of rock paintings dating as far back as 7,000 years. Depictions of the human-animal relationship, ceremony, and symbols permeate these cliffs in red ochre and white paint. The Trust for African Rock Art has some helpful information about Kondoa and others (source).

Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara (1981)

These ruins are located on tiny islands to the south and feature remains of two prominent African trading ports, popularly used during the 13th and 14th centuries. Here the Great Mosque of Kilwa is the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast, and its UNESCO designation is due mainly to the outstanding architectural feats. Read more on the UNESCO listing here: (source)

The Bottom Line…

There are 195 countries in the world. Seven continents. The world teems with adventure and experiences at every turn that can change you forever. So how do you choose where to go and what to see? We suggest you start with UNESCO. Map their World Heritage Sites bubbling over with historical, cultural, and natural relevance and then get out there and explore. Tanzania is a perfect place to find such relics, and Easy Travel can facilitate journeys to any of them. Contact us today.  

 


Getting You There?

Whether you are looking to join us for a beach combing style break away in Zanzibar, exploring the realms of the Serengeti on an African Safari or climb Mount Kilimanjaro with our experienced guides we are here to help. Still unsure when is best to join us? Contact us today and allow us to help answer all your questions.