9 Best Historical Sites in Tanzania 2021

1. Olduvai Gorge


Home The Magnificent Tanzania Places to visit Historical Sites Olduvai Gorge

In the 1930s, as Mary and Louis Leakey searched for the earliest stone tools in East Africa, many people were skeptical that Africa was the place that humans evolved. Yet when the Leakey’s found tools in Olduvai Gorge, evidence of Africa’s first human existence turned into their favor.

These Oldovai tools had sharp and shaped edges. It is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley about 30 miles (40 kilometers) along a ravine that yielded numerous fossil remains, including the skull of the primitive Homo habilis (the human who used tools).

Olduvai Gorge or Oldupai Gorge is located at the Ngorongoro conservation area’s border and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in Arusha, northern Tanzania.

The Olduvai Gorge is easily accessible by Dar es Salaam’s road to Arusha via Chalinze and Moshi towns. From Arusha to Ngorongoro crater is just 4 hours drive From Lake Manyara is just 2 hours drive.

By air from Dar es, Salaam International Airport to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and KIA, take a drive to Ngorongoro crater via Arusha town.

Attractions at Olduvai Gorge

Historical Discoveries

In 1959 Mary found remains of Zinjanthropus Boise. They also found and studied more than 2,000 stone tools and flakes at the site, which were classified as Old tools, in addition to an abundance of faunal remains. Louis Leakey’s son Jonathan found the first specimen of Homo habilis, a jaw fragment, at Olduvai in 1960.

Ancient Historical Remains

The site has remains of stone tools, animal bones, and another early hominid. Based on findings at Olduvai Gorge, and other places in Tanzania, scientists concluded that modern humans made their first appearance in East Africa.

The fossilized footprints, showing the pre-human hominids walking in an upright position, was found by Mary Leakey at this site. Laetoli is also considered one of the greatest pastel anthropological discoveries of the twentieth century; these footprints preserved in volcanic rock are dated back to 3.6 million years old.

Shifting Sand

The volcanic ash is believed to have been originated from the Mount Oldonyo Lengai volcanic eruption. This mountain is an active volcanic mountain, and its recent eruption happened in 2007 at the place found near Oldupai Gorge.

2. Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings

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Home The Magnificent Tanzania Places to visit Historical Sites Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings.

This area contains one of the world’s finest collections of prehistoric rock paintings, with an estimated 1,600 individual paintings at almost two hundred different sites. The most accessible ones are in the Irangi Hills, north of Kondoa.

The images represent both hunter-gatherers and agro-pastoralist ways of life, depicting the changing lifestyles over the past two thousand years. This historical site is the latest Tanzania’s World heritage site since 2006.

The caves contain paintings, some of which are believed by the Tanzania Antiquities Department, that are more than 1,500 years back. It is also believed that the older paintings date back to at least two thousand (2,000) years, while some of the newer paintings are just two hundred (200) years old. The paintings are believed to have been created by the ancestors of the present-day Sandawe and Hadzabe tribes.

Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings are located between Singida and Irangi Hills in Kondoa Irangi village. Another rock painting is located at kolo village in Singida.

The Kondoa rock paintings are about 20 kilometers north of Kondoa, about nine (9) kilometers off the Kondoa to Arusha main highway, and about 275 km southwest of Arusha.


Symbols Paintings

The paintings show simplified human figures engaged in hunting, playing musical instruments, crossing rivers, and animals such as elephants, giraffes, and antelopes. They symbolize the hunter’s gatherers and art people who were living in this area.

Traditional Ritual Believes

One of the Kondoa rock art sites’ key qualities is that they are still actively used by local communities in their daily ritual activities like weather divinations for rainmaking and traditional healing rituals.

Decorated Shelters

The Kolo Kondoa rock art site is an interesting excursion for travelers wanting to experience Tanzania’s early history. There are 150 shelters decorated with paintings in the Kondoa District, some of which can be easily accessed from Kolo Kondoa.

3. Engaruka Ruins

Home The Magnificent Tanzania Places to visit Historical Sites Engaruka Ruins

Engaruka is an abandoned ruins system in the Great Rift Valley in northern Tanzania that is famous for its irrigation and cultivation system. It is considered one of the most important Tanzanian archaeological sites.

Sometime in the 15th century, an Iron Age farmer community with a large continuous village area on the foot slopes of the Rift Valley escarpment, housing several thousand people had involved in irrigation and cultivation system, involving a stone-block canal channeling water from the “Crater Highlands” or a wide, steep slope to the stone-lined cultivation terraces.

Also, Dr. Kaiser discovered the ruins of “Engaruka,” including great stone circles and dams from 1896 to 1897. Hans Reck did the first detailed and archaeological investigation in 1913. Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey investigated the site in 1935.

Engaruka is located to the north of Mto wa Mbu, at about 63 kilometers, towards Oldoinyo Lengai and Lake Natron. These ruins are lying at the foot of the rift valley escarpment.


Ancient Historical Ruins

Visitors can see abandoned remnants of the developed irrigation system, Old graves, Old irrigation canals, and terraces and house walls towards the ruin site.

Birds And Animals

One can see Maasai cattle graze along with herds of Zebras. It is attractive to see birds of prey hovering above the sky to make a kill, while secretary birds surround the plains for killing snakes.

4. Kaole Ruins

Home The Magnificent Tanzania Places to visit Historical Sites Kaole Ruins

Kaole ruins are the ruins of a once prosperous Arab town that was declined after the Portuguese arrival in the 15th century. These ruins date back to the 13th century; they include two coral mosques, one the oldest in Tanzania and the other one the oldest in East Africa, and numerous Shirazi-style pillared tombs

Kaole Ruins is about five (5) kilometers to the south East of Bagamoyo town.

Visitors can travel by road passing near the College of Arts.

The ruins can be reached on foot by walking through the beach past Akola village; mangrove swamps and stone pillars, which are quite noticeable, will act as your guidance.


Two Ancient Mosques Ruins

The Ruins consist of two ancient mosques. One is the oldest mosque in East Africa, and the other is the oldest in Tanzania.

30 Ancient Tombs Ruins

The tombs at Kaole were built from coral stones and stone pillars. It is believed that some of the tombs are the graves of local rulers who were known then as Diwanis and other well-known Sheikhs who have lived along the coastal area.

5. Isimila Stone Age

Home The Magnificent Tanzania Places to visit Historical Sites Isimila Stone Age

Isimila Stone Age site is famous after discovering Stone Age tools and fossilized bones discovered in 1951. This Stone Age Site near Iringa town is worth visiting view fossils of giant hippos and other extinct mammals related to the modern giraffe, a collection of prehistoric stone tools, and the spectacular sandstone formations carved by a defunct river.

Isimila Stone Age Site is located 15 km from Iringa town along the Tanzam Highway and Mafinga town.


Forest Reserve In The Mountains

At nearby Lulanda Village, there are Forest Reserves within mountainous tea plantations, and this attracts hiking.

Stone Age Tools

Isimila Stone Age Site is one of the historical sites with rich collections of Stone Age tools, and it is known throughout the world. This site is worth a visit; you will see the scenic beauty of the place brought by the existence of spectacular sandstone pillars carved out by an extinct river.

6. Old Boma of Bagamoyo

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The Old Boma of Bagamoyo is one of the many historical buildings within the old town conservation area of Bagamoyo. It used to be an old state house built by the Germans at the end of the 19th century, with the sole purpose of being a residence for its leaders in the area. They only used it for a few years before their capital was moved to then Mzizima or currently known as Dar es Salaam, due to the shallow water depth of the Bagamoyo port.

It was again used by the British after their takeover of the German colonies from 1919 until 1961, when the country got its independence. Since then, it has been under the Tanzanian government’s jurisdiction, although it was never used as a statehouse since 1961. In 1995 it was turned into a historical building.

Almost every part of the building is accessible, especially after the recent renovations from 2015 to 2016. So feel free to wander into every room from the ground floor to the second and finally to the roof, where you can get amazing views of the Indian Ocean as well as the town of Bagamoyo. On the ground floor is an old iron safe left by the Germans, still locked today with whatever secrets it holds inside.

Location of Old Boma Of Bagamoyo

The Old Boma of Bagamoyo is located right at the heart of Old town and a stone’s throw away from most of the town’s major historical landmarks, including the Old Fort, the old customs house, and the town’s very own small harbor. It is also about a 10 minutes walk from the main bus stand. For more information on its location, please see the map below (click to start).

If you are in the Bagamoyotown center, ask for directions as the town is so small you most certainly could walk there. Taxi rides are also quite cheap.

7. Dares Salaam National Museum

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The Dar es Salaam National Museum is located in Shaban Robert Street, next to the botanical gardens. Established in 1934 and open to the public since 1940, it was originally a memorial museum dedicated to King George V; one of the King’s cars is still on display.

The museum was expanded in 1963, with the addition of a second building. It is now dedicated to the history of Tanzania. Its most famous exhibits include some bones of Paranthropus boisei among the findings of Louis Leakey at Olduvai. The museum also has a large section dedicated to the Shirazi city-state of Kilwa.

More historical miscellaneous material is related to the German and British rule and ancient Chinese pottery. The museum also has ethnographic collections on Tanzanian cultures.

The Museum is under the jurisdiction of The National Museum of Tanzania, a consortium of five Tanzanian museums whose purpose is to preserve and show exhibits about Tanzania’s history and natural environment. The consortium developed from the National Museum of Dar es Salaam, established in 1934 by Tanganyika governor Harold MacMichael. Four more museums later joined the consortium, namely the Village Museum in Dar es Salaam, the National History Museum and the Arusha Declaration Museum in Arusha, and the Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere Memorial Museum in Butiama.

8. Beit al Ajaib (House of Wonders)

This large, white building dominates the waterfront area of Zanzibar Town and is one of its best-known landmarks. It is a perfect rectangle. It is one of the largest buildings on the island today, rising over several stories, surrounded by tiers of pillars and balconies, and topped by a large clock tower. After more than a century of use as a palace and government offices, it opened in 2002 as the Museum of History and Culture and contained some fascinating exhibits and displays. It’s a pity to rush your visit: allow yourself enough time to browse.

Built-in 1883 as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Barghash, Beit al Ajaib was designed by a marine engineer, hence the great use of steel pillars and girders in the construction, and located on the site of an older palace used by Queen Fatuma, the Mwinyi Mkuu (ruler of Zanzibar) in the 17th century.

In its heyday, the interior of the new palace had fine marble floors and paneled walls. It was the first building in Zanzibar to be installed with electric lighting, and one of the first in east Africa to have an electric lift – which is why, not surprisingly, the local people called it ‘Beit el Ajaib,’ meaning ‘House of Wonders.’

In 1896, the building was slightly damaged by naval bombardment during an attempted palace coup, which started when Sultan Hamad died suddenly and his cousin Khaled tried to seize the throne. From 1911 it was used as offices by the British colonial government, and after the 1964 Revolution, it was used by the ASP, the ruling political party of Zanzibar.

In 1977 it became the headquarters of the CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, the Party of the Revolution), the sole political party of Tanzania. In the early 1990s, Beit al Ajaib was virtually abandoned by the government and the party and stood empty for some years, slowly falling into disrepair, despite short-lived plans, which never materialized, to turn it into a hotel.

Four years after it originally opened to the public, the museum is still under development, with about half the planned displays now completed. Those already finished cover a variety of subjects relating to Zanzibari and Swahili culture and history, including dhow-building (one of the amazing traditional ‘stitched dhows’ is there, its timbers literally ‘sewn’ together), the maritime history of the Swahili coast, and the early history of Stone Town and the Swahili trading empire of the 19th century.

Further displays covering the Portuguese period and Omani and British colonial times are planned, as is a library and conference center. Among the many items recently transferred here from the now-closed Peace Memorial Museum, although they may not yet be in their final locations, you should be able to find Dr. Livingstone’s medical chest, a section of track from the short-lived Zanzibar Railroad, some old bicycle lamps customized to run on coconut oil, and the old lighthouse lamp.

As well as the items on show, the House of Wonders building itself is a fascinating exhibit, to which the museum allows public access for the first time in decades. The ground floor offers great views up through the central courtyard to the top of the building. On the next level, the floor is covered with marble tiles. On each floor are four massive carved wooden doors. On the next floor up from the exhibition room, you can go out onto the upper balcony and walk all the way around the outside of the House of Wonders. Needless to say, the views over Stone Town and the bay are spectacular.

Outside the House of Wonders are two old bronze cannons that have Portuguese inscriptions. It is thought that these cannons were made in Portugal sometime in the early 16th century. Still, the Omanis probably brought them to Zanzibar after taking them from Persian forces who had originally captured the Portuguese guns in 1622.

US$3 entrance; photography permit

9. Laetoli Footprint Trails

The footprints of our predecessors

The Laetoli footprints were most likely made by Australopithecus afarensis, an early human whose fossils were found in the same sediment layer. The entire footprint trail is almost 27 m (88 ft) long and includes about 70 early human footprints.

3.6 million years ago, in Laetoli, Tanzania, three early humans walked through wet volcanic ash. When the nearby volcano erupted again, subsequent ash layers covered and preserved the oldest known footprints of early humans.

Team members led by paleontologist Mary Leakey stumbled upon animal tracks cemented in the volcanic ash in 1976. Still, it wasn’t until 1978 that Paul Abell joined Leakey’s team and found the 88ft (27m) long footprint trail referred to now as “The Laetoli Footprints,” which includes about 70 early human footprints.

The early humans who left these prints were bipedal and had big toes in line with their feet. This means that these early human feet were more human-like than ape-like, as apes have highly divergent big toes that help them climb and grasp materials as a thumb does. The footprints also show that the gait of these early humans was “heel-strike” (the heel of the foot hits first) followed by “toe-off” (the toes push off at the end of the stride)—the way modern humans walk.

The footprints’ close spacing is evidence that the people who left them had a short stride, and therefore probably had short legs. It is not until much later that early humans evolved longer legs, enabling them to walk farther, faster, and cover more territory each day.

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