This is the guide that will take you through beautiful West Usambara mountains, help you organize a hike and explore Lushoto sights without a tour guide.
You can hike in Lushoto area solo or in a group. This area seemed to me more safe than crowded Arusha.
HOW TO REACH LUSHOTO BY BUS
You can reach Usambara mountains area from Arusha/Moshi by bus. All buses that go to Tanga or Dar Es Salam pass the place called Mombo, where you can catch the local bus (dala dala, noah) and which can take you to the Lushoto or Soni village.
The bus ticket from Arusha to Lushoto for locals is 10.000Tsh, from Moshi directly to Lushoto 8.000Tsh. We didn’t know the prices in advance, so we paid the ticket to Lushoto 15.000Tsh, return way 12.000Tsh.
The cost of local bus (dala dala, noah) from Mombo to Lushoto is max. 2.500-3.000Tsh. The bus passes Soni, so you can spend one day here and explore this area while visiting the falls or go straight to Lushoto. If you feel sick during the drive, stick to the front seats in the car. I choose always the seat next to the driver if I can. No crowd and the best view.
HOW TO CHOOSE A BUS TO LUSHOTO
The buses from Mambo to Arusha are passing every minute. It’s better to take a bus that goes to/from Dar Es Salam as these buses are fastest and usually don’t stop in villages. In the return we went with Raqeeb Luxury Coach and the bus ride was great. We arrived to Arusha from Mombo in less than 6 hours. I’ve got also recommendation for Kilimanjaro Express as a good company for transport.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO REACH LUSHOTO FROM ARUSHA?
From Arusha to Mombo we travelled more than 7 hours, but in the return it was less than 6. The length of the trip depends on which bus you take – it’s better to take a bus that goes to Dar Es Salam as these buses are fastest and usually don’t stop in villages.
From Mombo to Lushoto, it took us aroung 1,5h – with many stops in the villages. The dala dala driver, drove us to our accommodation for 500Tsh more per person.
CHEAP AND COZY ACCOMMODATION IN LUSHOTO
Our guest house and place to sleep was Misonge Cottages. We called them to make a reservation, but on the site we bargained for the price. You can find accommodation even when you arrive, but we arrived at 8pm so it was more safe to go directly to a certain place. Misonge Cottage offers clean and comfortable accommodation for 22.000Tsh per person or 44.000Tsh per a room. There were 6 of us, so we’ve got a whole house with small kitchen. Towels are provided and kinda warm water.
Morning view, nature and sounds of the birds will make you love this place.
Breakfast is included in the price and we loved it. Chapati (pancakes), jam, bananas, avocado salad, tea and toasted bread. It was really tasty.
WHAT TO VISIT IN LUSHOTO
Random hike in Lushoto through the villages will give you an idea how the local life looks like. Women and man washing the clothes in the rivers, pikipiki (motorbike) drivers waiting in almost every corner for their next clients, farmers doing the work and planting vegetables, children running barefoot, driving a bicycle and playing with homemade marbles. It’s fun to explore local shops, buy fruits, visit one of thousands of hairstylists and have a new haircut.
WATERFALLS IN USAMBARA MOUNTAINS
There are many waterfalls in this area: Kisasa, Mkuzu, Soni, Mazumbau, Kadogo falls. Based on how many days you have, you can plan visiting different villages and having hikes.
Kisasa Falls are close to Lushoto and the entrance fee is 2.000Tsh. You can go on foot or with taxi motorbike (daladala). The area around the fall is full of green. You can just sit and enjoy the view or climb the rocks around and explore. In a small kiosk, you can buy sweets, water and soda. We’ve spent here around 1 hour.
VIEWPOINTS CLOSE TO LUSHOTO
In the Lushoto area the most famous viewpoint is Irente and you should go there when there is a clear sky. Even if the day starts with rain (like it was in our case), keep the faith and go to the viewpoint in the afternoon when usually the weather gets better. It often happened to me that mornings are really cold, but in the afternoon the sun starts shining.
From Irente viewpoint you can have 180 degree view on Usambara mountains that will take your breath!
The bad thing is that it was crowded so we couldn’t enjoy in our moment of peace. There is a small cave below the viewpoint which you can reach if you turn right after the shop (before going to Irente) and follow the road.
Here you can settle and wait for the sunset!
Close to the Irente viewpoint, there is also Java viewpoint which I loved more. There is a huge rock on which you can sit in peace and enjoy. We’ve spent here around one hour.
Irente Farm Lodge offers home made cheese with rosemary, black pepper and different herbs, jams, local honey, home made yoghurt with fruits. Here you can have also a farm lunch for 12.000Tsh and try different home made products.
Prices are bit expensive, but if you haven’t ate European food for more than a month – this is like a treat. We bought 700gr of cheese for 16.000Tsh and shared together for breakfast.
Mamma Mia restaurant is the only one who is advertised all around the Lushoto area! Here we ate amazing Spinach pizza with feta cheese and enjoyed the European food for the end of the day. All the food was amazing and it’s really a touristic place. Pizza price is 16.000Tsh, cookies aroun 6.000Tsh for 3pcs, soda and tea 1.500Tsh. It worth it!
ONE DAY HIKE IN LUSHOTO WITHOUT A GUIDE
Start your Lushoto hike early, so you can use the most of the day. I tried to reproduce out track in maps.me – so you can have an idea where to walk.
Basically, here you should look for 4 points:
- Kisasa Waterfalls
- Irente Viewpoint
- Java Viewpoint
- Additionally, we wanted to go off track so we went and walked through villages, got lost, came back and continued to walk.
Our route was:
- random village road accross the Lushoto hospital
- From the main road to Kisasa Falls by motorbike (1.000Tsh per person)
- Kisasa Falls (2.000Tsh is entrance fee. We did not pay it somehow.)
- From Kisasa Falls to Java Viepoint walking with a stop to a random village for chipsy (1.000Tsh) and a haircut for our friend (300Tsh)
- From Java Viewpoint, walk to the Irente ViewPoint for the sunset. (Entrance:2.000Tsh)
- Irente Farm for buying the cheese and with motorbike (daladala) ride to Lushoto (2.000Tsh per person)
- Mamma Mia for amazing Spinach Pizza (16.000Tsh for pizza, 1.500Tsh for tea, soda)
- From Mama Mia to Misonge Cottage with motorbike for 1.000Tsh per person
The hike is around 20km long and with all steps and fun along the road it took us a whole day (9h-21h). It was amazing journey and the best part of it was exploring the nature by ourselves. Don’t hesitate to try it.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR LUSHOTO HIKE WITHOUT A GUIDE
- Download the maps.me for better navigation
- Don’t pay attention on the time you need in maps.me. It exaggerates a lot.
- It’s OK to get lost, you’ll find a way back. Relax and enjoy the beautiful sights.
- Talk with people and ask them for the points that you’d like to see if your 3G gets stuck.
- Spend more time on the first view point as Irente is really touristic and crowded one.
- Buy some sweets along the way and share with the children.
- Eat local food and try banana alcoholic beverage.
- Don’t be pressured by the guides to go with them. Gather the information, say thank you and move on.
- Bargain! For everything Do it for fun. Make it a challenge to pay as few Tsh as you can for some stuff. Remember to give some money back to the community.
- It’s OK to overpay if you feel like it contributes to the people.
Hope that you’ll find this guide useful. Feel free to share with your friends or add up the places you think that are worth of visit.
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