Northern Tanzania

Halfway to Lake Natron, on the eastern edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, lies this 300- to 500-year-old ruin of a farming town that developed a complex irrigation system with terraced stone housing sites. Although the ruins are historically significant, casual visitors are likely to be more impressed with the up-close views of the escarpment than the vaguely house-shaped piles of rocks.

Archaeologists are unsure of Engaruka's origins, although some speculate that the town was built by ancestors of the Iraqw (Mbulu) people, who once populated the area and now live around Lake Eyasi. Others propose it was the Sonjo, a Bantu-speaking people.

Knowledgeable English-speaking guides (no set prices) for the ruins or other walks in the area, including a one-day climb of nearby Kerimasi, can be found at Engaruka Ruins Campsite, or they can be arranged in advance through the Tanzania Tourist Board Tourist Information Centre in Arusha. It's also worth contacting the Engaruka Cultural Tourism Program, which arranges visits to Maasai villages and other local attractions, as well as climbs up Kerimasi and Ol Doinyo Lengai.

The ruins are unsigned above the village of Engaruka Juu. Turn west at Engaruka Chini, a smaller village along the Lake Natron road, and follow the rough track 4.5km until you reach Engaruka Juu Primary Boarding School.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northern Tanzania attractions

1. Empakaai Crater

9.76 MILES

Lake-filled Empakaai Crater, 23km northeast of Olmoti Crater, may not be as famous as Ngorongoro, but many travellers consider it to be its match in…

2. Ol Doinyo Lengai

16.28 MILES

The northernmost (and youngest) volcano in the Crater Highlands, Ol Doinyo Lengai (2878m), ‘Mountain of God’ in the Maasai language, is an almost perfect…

3. Olmoti Crater

19.66 MILES

Though lacking the drama of Ngorongoro and Empakaai, Olmoti Crater, 13km north of the Lemala ascent-descent road, is worth visiting on your way north into…

4. Lake Manyara Treetop Walkway

28.13 MILES

Enjoy a guided bird's-eye view of Manyara on Tanzania's first treetop walkway (370m). It begins at ground level and climbs gently into the canopy,…

5. Lake Manyara National Park

28.18 MILES

Lake Manyara National Park is one of Tanzania’s smaller and most underrated parks. While it may lack the size and variety of other northern-circuit…

6. Ngorongoro Crater

29.85 MILES

At 19km wide and with a surface of 264 sq km, Ngorongoro is one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world that isn’t a lake. Its steep walls soar 400m…