Iringa is a small city in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania and is the closest town to the spectacular Ruaha National Park. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Ruaha River, this quiet and peaceful town was established by the Germans during colonial rule in the 1890’s. Iringa’s mini Bavaria feel remains today, with the original German market, military hospital, and several colonial houses still standing.
Just 15km out of town is Isimila, the cool Stone Age archaeological site. You can find the fossil remains of ancient creatures here, mammals related to the giraffe with shortened necks and an extinct species of hippos. In a deep valley, stunning sandstone pillars reach for the sky in scenery straight from a sci-fi movie. Unearthed piles of primitive tools reveal our hunter-gatherer ancestry from over 60,000 years ago. Take an official guide with you as they provide more fun facts and even a demonstration of how to make slingshots from tree branches!
The rock paintings at Igeleke are even closer to town and are from the Iron Age. It’s a relatively easy climb to the rock shelter to admire both the views and the paintings. Considering they are 3,000 years old, they are in pretty good condition ad well worth checking out.
In town it is hard to miss Neema Crafts. It is not only a great initiative to provide disabled citizens with meaningful employment and development of skills, it also supplies the best cake in town. To support them you can spend the night in their guest house, eat in the lovely café, buy some of their beautiful crafts or you can even get a massage and know that the money you spent goes to people who need it.
From Iringa you can access Ruaha National Park for some top-notch wildlife viewing and the Udzungwa Mountains for some excellent hiking in this biodiversity hotspot. But before you leave Iringa, don’t forget to pick up some baskets made by the local Hehe women. They are made of milulu grass and are sold all over the country as well as exported, and you can pick up your own set right here where they are made.