4 Unbelievable East Africa Itineraries That Will Make You Book a Ticket There Today!

By on June 28, 2018 in Africa, Itineraries with 12 Comments

East Africa Itinerary

Lush, green, adventurous and drop-dead gorgeous, East Africa is a treat on every level.

From the glistening beaches of Tanzania and Kenya, to the wild safaris of Uganda and rolling hills of Rwanda, this part of the continent is a favourite for many travellers.

Indeed it blew me away during my few months there and from gorilla trekking to scuba diving the Indian Ocean, I basically found it impossible not to fall in love with the people and the places in this part of the world.

And having travelled as a solo female here, I can definitely attest to the safety as well, bearing in your mind you’re sensible and exercise the usual level of precautions.

So with your mind at rest and your wanderlust reaching fever pitch, here’s 4 unbelievable East Africa itineraries that will have you booking a ticket there today!


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THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR AFRICA

I would never think of travelling to Africa without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used throughout my time in this continent and beyond.

I love their great coverage of adventure activities – crucial for travel in Africa – as well as their excellent customer service and ability to claim online, which is very handy if you’re travelling in remote places for a long time.

 

2 Weeks – Kenya

Kenya, Kilifi, Bofa Beach House

If you have just a couple of weeks for your East Africa Itinerary, I highly recommend Kenya as the perfect destination to base yourself.

From spellbinding safari opportunities, like that of the world-class reserve of the Masai Mara, through to some of Africa’s most beautiful coastline, Kenya is a treat no matter whether you want to spot some insane wildlife or swing in a hammock.

On top of all this, there’s also the bustling Swahili towns of Mombasa and Lamu, the buzzing capital of Nairobi and hiking opportunities a plenty at Mount Kenya’s dizzy heights.

Best Budget Place to Stay in Kenya: Distant Relative Eco-Lodge, Kilifi

Kenya, Kilifi, Ship Knot

Start your Kenya itinerary in the nation’s capital – after all, it’s the city you’re most likely to be flying into, given its excellent global connections.

Check Skyscanner for the best deals, but in my experience, Kenya Airways tend to offer the most competitive prices.

Allow a few days to check most of the great things to do in this city and stay at Milimani Backpackers who provide some great value safari tours for backpackers and solo budget nomads.

Use this opportunity to head out to the Masai Mara for 2-3 days from Nairobi.

Winner of the Best Africa Safari Award (as voted by me!), the Mara is a paradise for its big 5 spots, stunning landscape shots and rich cultural heritage.

Kenya, Diani, Sunset

Kilifi and Diani Beach are my 2 favourite spots.

Kilifi is a gorgeous, relaxed place that has a friendly local community and an arty-alternative crowd of expats that tend to orbit around Distant Relatives Eco Lodge.

Set on the banks of a creek, there’s tons to do in Kilifi including day trips to the coastal resort of Watamu and Malindi, visiting local markets, swimming in the nightly bioluminescence and enjoying sunset dhow rides.

On the other hand, Diani is all about the white sand, turquoise sea and dreamy views.

Diani Backpackers offers a great budget place to stay here among the expensive resorts and you can access the beach, boat trips and some great diving opps along with everyone else!

READ MORE: The Ideal Kenya Itinerary for a Tight Budget… and a Tight Schedule!

Zanzibar, Stone Town, Sunset

And if you still have some time spare, heading up to the Swahili town of Lamu is an absolute must!

Travelling here by road isn’t recommended, so the best option for safety, time and possibly your budget too, is to hop on a cheap flight from Nairobi or Mombasa direct to Lamu.

Budget airlines FLY540 and Safarilink both offer competitive prices, which you can quickly compare at Skyscanner.

Get a ticket to Manda Island and from there hop on the short ferry to Lamu itself.

Once you arrive in town, sink into the tantalising slow pace of life here as the steamy, Swahili coast seeps into your spirit.

There’s no cars on Lamu, only donkeys wandering the ancient streets of this UNESCO World Heritage-Listed town, as mosques sing out their call to prayer and the smell of simmering samosas lies thick in the air.

From thin winding streets, to beautifully carved doorways, this place is a great introduction to a very different side to Kenya, the sort of destination where the essence is more a reason to visit that any listed tourist attractions.

 

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3 Weeks – Rwanda & Tanzania

Combining the countries of Rwanda and Tanzania is the perfect way to visit a couple of different nations as part of your East Africa itinerary, even if you only have 3 weeks to spend in this amazing part of the world.

Africa, Rwanda, Landscape

Starting with Rwanda, the lush, green countryside of this country can be a welcome surprise, and that’s before you’ve encountered the people!

Rwanda is a small country and can easily be covered in 1 week.

I’d recommend beginning your travels in the capital Kigali and allowing a few days here, where the important Genocide Memorial Centre is an extremely worthy place to visit.

Best Place to Stay in Rwanda: Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel, Kigali

After Kigali, why not head out to the Volcanoes National Park to trek with Gorillas or spend some days relaxing in nature at Lake Kivu.

LEARN MORE: Top 7 Things to Do in Rwanda

Tanzania, Iringa, Village Home

After Rwanda, head on to neighbouring Tanzania, where 2 weeks in this country is ideal for experiencing some of Africa’s most scenic and spectacular safaris, as well as coastline.

My favourites, and pick of the bunch, were the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, and I’d suggest allowing at least 3 days to really soak in their enormity.

READ MORE: Why Tanzania’s Serengeti Will Blow Your Mind!

Picking up a tour last minute to these great game reserves can be done cheaply from the town of Arusha and you may want to hang a few days in this place to experience a bit of everyday Tanzania life at the same time you try and score a bargain.

Otherwise, you can actually drive through the Serengeti on a public bus as the main road cuts through the park!

While you won’t have the specialities of a guide or a 4wd if you take this option, it’s certainly going to be the cheapest way to visit!

Tanzania. Dar Es Salaam, Beach

After you’ve had your wildlife fix, head to the coast and the country’s biggest city, Dar Es Salaam for a night or 2.

The commercial hub of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam is a bustling port city with a great atmosphere.

From crazy markets to ferry rides and some super sunsets, there’s plenty to do in this city to amuse you for at least a day on your Tanzania itinerary.

It’s also the departing point for ferries to Zanzibar, so many travellers end up passing through Dar whether they want to or not!

READ MORE: Top 10 Things to Do in Dar Es Salaam

Then it’s onto the famous island of Zanzibar.

I’d allow at least 5-7 days for this stunning island, starting with 2-3 nights in the capital Stone Town.

From tiny, winding cobbled streets that echo with calls to prayer, to the rich collection of museums and crumbling, atmospheric architecture, it’s hard to not become enchanted by the sights and smells of Stone Town.

And that’s not to mention the giant tortoises you can see, the local food markets you can taste and the coffee you can savour.

Zanzibar, Stone Town, Prison Island Tortoise

READ MORE: The 21 Best Things to Do in Stone Town, including 9 that are FREE!

And then, saving the best for last, it’s time to head to the beautiful beach of Paje on Zanzibar’s east coast.

Many people head to the north of the island for their Indian Ocean fix, but trust me, it really is all about the east!

A favourite for scuba divers and kite surfers alike, this long stretch of beach also boasts perfect white sands and paradisiacal turquoise waters.

There’s some lovely cafes to enjoy and some great hostels to meet other travellers in as well.

Otherwise it’s all about swinging in a hammock and enjoying the view!

Best Place to Stay in Tanzania: New Teddy’s Place, Zanzibar

Zanzibar, Paje, Beach Shack

 

5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR EAST AFRICA

#1 Headlamp – Required for those all too often power cuts, Black Diamond Storm is always my go-to headlamp and has served me super well in Africa.

#2 Sunscreen & Sunhat – Things get hot here in East Africa so do be prepared! I just love this Hello Sunshine sunhat, which gets my vote everytime, especially when it comes to hitting the coast!

#3 Good Camera – An absolute must if you’re looking to capture the incredible landscapes of East Africa. I love my mirrorless Sony A6000, which is light, compact and robust – ideal for Africa travel.

#4 Sarong – Whether it’s covering yourself from the dust on safari, using as a pillow on long bus journeys or making into a beach dress, this is a great multi-purpose travel item for East Africa. 1 World Sarongs have a lovely collection if you’re looking for some inspiration.

#5 East Africa Lonely Planet – Incredibly useful for the maps and accommodation recommendations, the East Africa Lonely Planet is a must-have.

#5 Insect Repellent – Malaria is a big risk in East Africa, so cover up at night and pack at least a 30% DEET spray.

 

4 Weeks – Kenya & Uganda

With 4 weeks for your East Africa itinerary (you lucky thing!) you can combine 2 of my favourite countries, splitting your time between them.

For a 2 week Kenya itinerary, check out my suggestions at the top of this post, and for Uganda ideas read on…

Uganda, Jinja, Town Building

Start your time in Uganda in the bustling capital of Kampala, which has good international connections from Entebbe Airport.

Best Place to Stay in Uganda: Fat Cat Backpackers, Kampala

After that, it’s all about the wildlife, and you can’t miss either the amazing national park of Murchison Falls National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Murchison Falls, in particular, boasts a stunning waterfall formed as the river Nile is forced through an 8 metre² gap into Devil’s Cauldron.

Uganda’s largest national park, Murchison was one of first established in 1952 and offers the opportunity to spot crocodiles and Rothschild giraffe, as well as warthog, buffalo and elephants.

Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Elephants

Then there’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, which features 4 of the Big 5 and has large elephant population numbers, meaning you’re almost guaranteed a sighting!

Also hot on the list in this park are the tree-climbing lions and the stunning scenery.

And the enormous crater lakes, aren’t bad either!

After your wildlife spotting is done, head onto the town of Jinja, the East Africa adventure capital and a must on any itinerary of the area.

Uganda, Jinja, Nile Source

Boasting mountain biking, bungee jumping and kayaking among its many attractions, perhaps top of the bill in Jinja however is the white water rafting, which is famous in these here parts and arguably some of the best in the world.

Almost any accommodation can arrange an excursion for you and it’s definitely likely to be an unforgettable experience!

You also can’t miss seeing the start of the river Nile while in Jinja, not least for the boat ride itself, which will take you past local villages and makes for a great, relaxing afternoon excursion.

READ MORE: The Perfect 2 Day Itinerary for Jinja, Uganda

And while we’re talking about global landmarks, no East Africa itinerary is complete without straddling the Equator!

Situated at the heart of the planet, the equator runs right through Uganda and stopping off at the very spot that this invisible, but important line crosses the highway is a great thing to do while you’re in the country.

Uganda, Equator, Me Swinging

Not only can you have your photo taken at the great monument marking the centre of the earth, but you can actually straddle it to, with one foot in each continent.

Best of all however, is the free display given by locals here, that really shows you how the water does circulate down the drain hole in different directions depending on which hemisphere you’re located in!

And finally, if you’re still got any time or energy, I can highly recommend gorilla trekking in Uganda.

Uganda, Gorilla, Big Mumma

There’s only 3 countries in the world where you can get this incredible sort of wildlife experience and Uganda is the cheapest of the lot, so needless to say I was a big fan!

Saying that however, this is still a crazily expensive venture, but when it comes to gorilla trekking Uganda offers a once in a lifetime opportunity – even the hike through the clouds and dense jungle of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an experience in itself.

Trackers go on ahead of each small group, so sightings of the gorillas is almost guaranteed and although you only get an hour in the company of these close relations, it’s great to see that minimal disturbance of the animals is being upheld despite the tourist dollars.

LEARN MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

 

LOOKING FOR A BUDGET TOUR IN AFRICA?

If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in Africa, with guides you can trust, then email me at steph@bigworldsmallpockets.com with some ideas about where you want to go and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!

 

6 Weeks – Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda & Kenya

Kenya, Masai Mara, Safari

And if you’re having the trip of a lifetime and able to donate 6 whole weeks to your East Africa Itinerary, then why not hit up all 4 of the countries I’ve talked about.

Combining the 4 week and 2 week itineraries I’ve laid out should give you some great ideas.

But then of course, there’s always the DRC to consider aswell!

 

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Well that’s my 4 unbelievable East Africa itineraries for you to ponder over.

I’m sure they’ll get you fired up for the trip of a lifetime, the only thing left to decide is which one gets you the most excited.

Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

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About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 12 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Nice itineraries here! We have also visited all these countries and loved them all — also the DRC! And the gorilla trekking in Uganda was an absolute blast! It´s just that Uganda is not the cheapest place to do gorilla trekking, it´s actually the DRC where is costs only $450. However, atm when Virunga has unfortunately closed for tourism for the rest of 2018, it´s not possible to go there now. But, hopefully, it will be again in 2019! 🙂

    • Steph says:

      Amazing info Piritta, thank you so much. Great to know the DRC is cheaper for gorilla trekking, but sad to hear it’s closed right now. Fingers crossed for us budget wanderers it will be back open next year as you say.

  2. Eamonn says:

    Great suggestions. Did you take the buses across the border for each country? How was it? Challenging or fairly straightforward? I did the bus from Nairobi to Lamu (changing in Mombasa), was long but interesting.

    • Steph says:

      The buses between these countries are fairly straightforward – in fact, it’s the section north from Mombasa (that you took Eamonn) which is now not advised by the UK government, at least. Not sure if this was the case when you made the journey – but in any case, all other bor crossings are totally possible by bus – just remember to have the right visa stuff sorted in advance and that this is Africa!

  3. Sage McPherson says:

    Thank you for all this info! Sounds fantastic. How much would you estimate to need to budget for the 6 week version? I would stay in hostels
    Thanks

    • Steph says:

      Hi Sage, thanks for your comments. I didn’t create a 6 week version specifically in the article, so if you let me know which itineraries you want to combine I can help you further with prices. Thanks

  4. Louise says:

    Hi Steph, thanks for these ideas at a time when ‘m considering putting together a six week African adventure! Like Sage, above, I wonder if you could give us a rough budget estimate for a trip of that length, say combining the Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania itineraries? Staying in hostels, keeping things generally on the cheap with accomm, transport and food?

    • Steph says:

      Hostels dorm beds in those countries generally cost around $10-15 USD Louise – camping slightly less like $6-9 USD and private rooms are around $20-40 USD. Street food is going to be a few dollars a day, but if you want to eat out in Western restaurants you’re looking at $10-15 USD a meal. Beers a couple of dollars, ditto local bus rides. Safaris and adventures activities like whitewater rafting etc are going to be hundreds of dollars. Touristy spots like Jinja are going to be pricier than places which are more rural, for example in the south of Tanzania. Travel in Africa is never as cheap as people imagine sadly, but doing as much stuff the “local” way is possible is the best way. That said, personally, I couldn’t bear the FOMO of going to these countries and not splurging on things like diving Zanzibar or trekking to see the gorillas, even as a budget traveller. It’s all up to how you like to travel 🙂

  5. These are great itinerary ideas. I found it easy to read and follow. And it even includes places I’m not familiar with. There’s definitely lots of things to consider when it comes to choosing a place to head to for a safari trip. I hear Tanzania and Kenya attract a lot of tourist and getting to enjoy the best of both is a dream. Kenya, I hear, is great for people looking for a good mix of city nightlife and nature. But if you just want to immerse yourself with the beauty of the wilderness and get to enjoy pristine beaches then Tanzania is your place.

    • Steph says:

      Hi Ana, so great to hear you are thinking of travelling to Africa soon and delighted to learn that the itineraries seem to have given you some good pointers – thanks for the kind words. Kenya and Tanzania are amazing – both actually boast pristine coast and amazing safari opps. If I had to go for one however, I’d probably suggest Kenya – the beaches are more accessible i.e. you don’t have to get to Zanzibar and the Masai Mara is so hard to top. There’s loads more about both these countries on my blog however, so do have a search to discover which may be better for you. Happy travel planning 🙂

  6. Kimmy says:

    How much does it cost you to travel all 4 places in Africa for 6 weeks?? All expenses excluding Airfare

    • Steph says:

      Hi Kimmy – you are setting me a hard task there as I don’t what sort of accommodation you will be looking at, whether you will be enjoying many activities / safaris (and which ones) as well as how much luxury you enjoy when you travel. All these things will drastically influence your budget. The gorilla permit alone will set you back over $800 USD, so you can see how hard it is for me to work out your costs. Maybe if you can be a bit more specific I can help. Thanks Steph

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