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The Gap Year Blog

Capturing Capital Cities: Dodoma, Tanzania

1 Feb 2019 16:45 PM

Photo Credit: Flickr 

Edited with Permission by Frontier


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Tanzania? Diverse wildlife? White-sand beaches along the long coastal line? Beautiful national parks and safari tours?

Tanzania is all of those things and so much more. The national capital of Tanzania, Dodoma City, offers a travel experience unlike anything else in the country. For many, this capital city might come as a new acquaintance, and no wonder, because it is actually not the biggest city, or even in the top 3 most populous cities, in Tanzania. 

The former capital of Tanzania, and currently the biggest city, Dar es Salaam, served as the nation’s capital for decades before a vote in 1974 which decided it was time to relocate the capital, as Dar es Salaam was starting to become overflowed with people. The pollution and tourism had started to influence locals’ everyday life leading them to embrace the relocation of the capital. One of the factors also affecting to this decision was the desire to better center the capital, so it could be effortlessly accessed from all over the country. Although Dar es Salaam is the largest city, its location by the coastal line made it somewhat inconvenient place to travel from the remote inland towns and villages. In some cases, the car ride, public transport not being a reliable option from many places, would have taken nearly twenty hours. To allow more equal location and representation for MPs, Dodoma, a centrally located town was eventually chosen as the new capital.

It wasn’t until in 1996 when the transfer of the capital was officially completed. However, many of the government offices still operate in Dar es Salaam even though they have officially been relocated, like the office of Prime Minister. Currently, government officials travel to Dodoma every year for a session and the president of Tanzania, John Magufuli, has pledged to fully shift his government to Dodoma by 2020.

So, you might wonder, what is there to do then in this rapidly expanding capital?

Dodoma might not offer as much attractions for tourists as cities, like the seaside hotspot of Dar es Salaam or Mwanza by the Victoria lake in the North-West of Tanzania, but as an emerging new political center of the country, it has few cards up on its sleeve. 

Photo Credit: Flickr

If you want to get around in Tanzania without issues, renting a car is great option. Like anywhere else in the world, a rental car allows you an access to locations off the highways and flexibility to travel planning. In the city center of Dodoma, a car is not a necessity, but it presents an opportunity to extend your travel to nearby natural wonders and historic sites.

The Kondoa Iranqi Rock Paintings, a cave complex containing hundreds of cave paintings, dates back approximately 50,000 years and can be reached after a few-hour drive to east. The paintings offer an insight into the early stages of humankind in Africa and are not to be missed during a visit to the region. To visit this scenic cave area, you need to hire yourself an experienced local driver and guide from the village of Kolo who will guide you during your trip and explain more about the paintings.

The largest national park of Tanzania is also only a car-drive away from Dodoma. The Ruaha National Park is one of the few national parks in Tanzania where you can see rare African wild dogs, and it is famous for its many lions that wonder around the park. To truly get the wildlife safari experience in Tanzania, this is the place where you need to go. But plan your trip carefully as this stunning national park does not present many options for a longer stay. There are few, very basic government-run campsites and some private camps, so make sure when booking your safari adventure, you’ll take that in to consideration. Because of the limited tourist accommodation and packages, the stunning nature and wildlife have remained largely untouched, almost as a secret from the rest of the world.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In the city of Dodoma itself, go check out the Tanzania Parliament buildings. You will be able to go see the insides of the parliament only during sessions, but if you are lucky enough to be in town at the right time, you should definitely consider a visit there.

With the average temperature of Dodoma being 28C degrees, at some point, you will need a place to cool down. Because Dodoma is located in the middle of the Tanzania and nowhere near the coastal shore of Indian Ocean or the Lake Victoria, your best option is to head to nearest swimming pool. There are pools at the several local hotels that can usually be used by no-guests in exchange for a payment.

To truly see the beauty of Dodoma, you will have to hike to the top of the Lion Rock. After you have made it to the top of this steep hill, that is a popular hangout spot for weekends, you’ll have a chance to enjoy, relax and take a deep breath while watching the spectacular view of the whole city. The 45-minute hike will be worth of your time.

Even if you are not planning on staying in Dodoma the whole time you are in Tanzania, do not rule out a day-trip to the area. The diverse, unique nature of the region has stayed well-preserved and gives you yet more reason to stop by in Dodoma, maybe already this year.

By Tiia Kärkkäinen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!