A Guide to the Best Festivals in Tanzania

Matt Wise

Matt Wise

Senior Africa Travel Designer

It should come as absolutely no surprise that one of the largest East African nations is also among its most diverse. With that said, there are a plethora of fascinating festivals across Tanzania to really highlight its cultural prowess. No matter where your interests lie, there are plenty of memorable moments to be had throughout the year in this fine country.


Often referred to simply as Union Day, one of Tanzania’s biggest national festivals is also one of its most important for the local people. Honouring the union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika on 26 April 1964, cities across Tanzania bustle with patriotic vigour every year. In waving flags and partaking in cultural performances, the local people are truly following the mantra that in unity, there is strength.


There are an abundance of reasons to visit Zanzibar, and the Mwaka Kogwa Festival in July/August deserves a place on that list. Commemorating the Shirazi heritage of the first non-Africans to settle there, there are a number of associated rituals to welcome in the Persian New Year. Village men settle arguments by battling one another with banana stalks, while the women sing and dance. A straw hut is then set on fire. These activities are all symbolic, and serve to expel any acrimonious feelings from the year before, and encourage positivity for the one ahead.


As the largest festival of its kind in East Africa, Zanzibar International Film Festival proudly showcases global cult films alongside the most promising African art films. The works of the African diaspora are particularly celebrated, with the hope of then promoting them across the continent. Each year has a different theme, and it is certainly worth a visit by fans of the cinematic arts.


In Swahili, Sauti za Busara means “sound of wisdom”. This annual festival is held in Zanzibar over the course of four days, and shines a spotlight on the rich diversity of African and Swahili music. It is an absolute must to participate in the parades and carnivals whilst appreciating the sheer brilliance of the beats – joined by thousands of others from around the world.



Join a global congregation for this annual event held at the iconic Serengeti National Park. Behold the sights of a traditional art and dance festival, adding yet another dimension to one of the world’s most fascinating natural wonders at perhaps its most glorious time – that of the annual wildebeest migration. The festival takes place in July and the theme for 2019 is “education for all”.


The month of October is a particularly exciting time to visit Tanzania‘s arts capital, Bagamoyo. Whether observation or participation is your preferred method of immersion, there are a multitude of activities to get involved with at Bagamoyo Arts Festival. Witness everything from poetry readings to acrobatics and show respect to the craftspeople, sculptors, thespians, and general artists currently enriching the fabric of the communities all over East Africa.


The people of Tanzania are akin to people everywhere else in the world when it comes to their love of food. Barbecue fans ought to rejoice in the month of March at this Arusha-based event, which literally translates from Swahili to the “roasted meat” festival. Here you will enjoy a spectacular array of grilled meats and recipes that have been passed down through generations.


For those who are never happier than when they are at the waterfront, this jubilant festival celebrating the beach life of the region will be much appreciated. Each year sports play an integral role in the festivities, and there are tournaments in beach football, rugby, and volleyball. For something that’s perhaps more unique to the area, there are goat races to be enjoyed as well. If you’re less sports-inclined, there are also a host of other activities to keep you entertained, such as competitions and yoga. The action slows its pace with live music and food stalls.


A marathon may not be everybody’s idea of a festival, but every March at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, amateur runners from around the world flock to compete during one of the coolest months. There is a full marathon, a half marathon, and even a wheelchair marathon to promote inclusion, too. Since there are no professional athletes participating, it is easy for one to get involved.

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