Book Flights to Mbeya

Mbeya – Tanzania

Mbeya doesn’t get many visitors, but those that go there will be highly rewarded with spectacular views up and down the Great Rift Valley with many hiking options available. Popular hikes include the trek to Loleza Peak, and summiting the highest mountain in the Mbeya Range, aptly named Mbeya Peak.

Coffee lovers have a chance to tour one of the best coffee plantations in the country when visiting the Utengule Coffee Farm. And of course you can purchase some of the beans after sampling some in the pleasant farm gardens.

Especially between November and April, a visit to Kitulo NP is a must-do trip. Hiking in fields of wildflowers is definitely a sight to behold. Lovers of flowers and especially orchids are in for a treat.

A bit further afield lays Lake Nyasa, also known as Lake Malawi, where snorkelling with the many colourful aquarium fish is an absolute highlight for many.

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Why visit Mbeya?

  • Go hiking in the mountains around Mbeya
  • Use Mbeya as a starting point to get to Kitulo NP to marvel at one of the world’s great floral displays
  • Take a tour of a coffee plantation and sample some of the best coffee in Tanzania
  • Spend some time at Lake Nyasa (called Lake Malawi across the border) where you can snorkel with the colourful aquarium fish or buy the famous Kisi pottery right in the village where it is made
  • Time zone: UTC / GMT +3
  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling (TSh, often written as =/)
  • Driving: left-hand side of the road
  • Power Outlets: 220V-240V 50Hz. Plug types are ‘Type D & G (British)’
  • Closest airports: Songwe Airport (no IATA code), usually called Mbeya Airport
Best time to visit

Mbeya can be visited year-round and has a subtropical highland climate. This means it has very pleasant daytime temperatures, but cools off at night.

Mbeya has a dry season from May to October, which is ideal for hiking. But if you want to see any of the amazing scenes of never-ending fields full of wildflowers, you will need to come between November and April.

Sights and sounds

Mbeya is a small city in the southwest of Tanzania, close to the borders of Malawi and Zambia. It was originally established as a gold mining town, but is now an agricultural centre. Mbeya sits in the shade of Loleza Mountain (2,656m), in the lull between the Mbeya mountain range to the north and the Poroto Mountains to the southeast.

Hiking is popular, with several mountain ranges and numerous peaks all available for those seeking a challenge. The most accessible hikes from Mbeya are Loleza Mountain and a trek to the top of Mbeya Peak (2,835m). Other hikes, for example to Mount Rungwe (2,960m), are a little further away. For those hikes, Mbeya is still a good starting point.

The volcanic Mount Rungwe (2960m high) is an unspoiled scramble via thick forest, through bushes, and up the rocky terrain to the rim. This superbly untouched area is home to the endangered Abbott’s duiker antelopes and the recently discovered and critically endangered Highland Mangabey monkeys. You will need a full day to scale this giant. For all these hikes a guide is recommended.

But although the hiking is popular at any time of year, it is especially scenic during the wet season from November to April when Kitulo NP explodes with wildflowers. 350 species blossom, including 45 types of orchid. Two of the highest peaks in the Southern Highlands are also located in Kitulo NP: Mount Mtwori (2,961m) and Chaluhangi Dome (2,929m).

For a less challenging but still rewarding meander, take an hour’s walk up the footpath to the magnificent view of the caldera that is Ngozi Crater Lake, situated just south of Mbeya. The alkaline waters shimmer in the light and a Loch Ness style multi-headed snake is said to live there.

If you are heading towards Malawi from Mbeya or are keen for a bit of beach and relaxing at the end of your hiking trip, Lake Nyasa is the most obvious spot. Also known as Lake Malawi across the border, it is full of cichlids, the fish most of us know very well from every aquarium we see. Snorkelling is the best way to see them. You can also go kayaking on the lake, or visit the village where the famous Kisi pottery is made.

All pots are made by the women of the Kisi tribe who learn to make around 12 different types of pots as they grow up. They are all adorned with ochre patterns before being fired on top of banana leaves.

Dining and Dietary Considerations

The small city of Mbeya offers traditional Swahili classic meals in local cafes and bars. There are also street vendors selling tasty fried snacks and sweet treats.

All the good hotels have reasonable to good restaurants, some of these are not located in the centre of town. Utengule Coffee Farm is an excellent spot for lunch or dinner in the gardens. Or just sample their excellent hand-selected coffee, perhaps the best in the country.

Religious and Cultural considerations

Mbeya has a large Christian population, but also Muslims and other faiths are practiced in Mbeya. As in the rest of the country, make sure you are aware of the cultural do’s and don’ts:

  • Shoes should always be removed when entering a home and place of worship
  • Dress modestly in public
  • Topless sunbathing and homosexuality is illegal

When photographing people, always ask permission first and agree on payment if required. As a general rule, ask.

Cost of Living

Mbeya is a small town with accommodation, transport, food and excursions for all budgets.  Hotels cater for tourists, business travellers and local visitors, ranging from high-end lodges to basic backpacking hostels.

This is what you can expect to pay in Tanzania for:

  • Domestic beer (0.5-litre bottle) in a supermarket – 2,552TSh
  • Imported beer in a supermarket (0.33-litre bottle) – 3,833TSh
  • Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) – 3,313Tsh
  • A bottle of coca cola / pepsi (0.33-litre bottle) – 1305TSh
  • A small bottle of water (0.33-litre bottle) – 857TSh


  • The Tanzania’s Prison Service of Mbeya has their own football club that plays in Tanzania’s Premier League of football teams
  • Not far from Mbeya you can find the Mbozi meteorite, the eighth largest meteorite on earth
  • The Ngozi Crater Lake has a snakelike creature with lots of heads living in it according to local legend

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