Visiting Kondoa Rock Art Sites In Tanzania As An Independent Traveler

visit the famous rock art sites in tanzania
| 3 min read

There are many rock art sites all around Southern Africa. The paintings are impressive, having been there for thousands of years. They unveil a part of history that we don’t know much about. They shed light onto the history of different tribes, their lifestyle and general beliefs. Visiting some of these rock art sites will enrich your knowledge about Africa as a continent and you will learn many fascinating historical facts in general.

1. General information about the Kondoa rock art sites

FOCUS ON TANZANIA: KONDOA ROCK ART SITE "The Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation gives us opportunities to...

Posted by U.S. Embassy Tanzania on Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Kondoa rock art sites are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage as some of the most important areas for rock painting. It’s not clear how many sites there are in total in the area, but it’s estimated to be around 150. The paintings vary in age - some of them are more than 7,000 years old, others are “only” around 2,000 or 3,000 years old. The style and colors used are different depending on the age and location of the site. The oldest paintings, the red ones, are also the most sophisticated. Many of them depict humans and large animals. The white paintings are more recent and simple. They mostly represent plants, patterns and geometrical figures.

Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings

Address: Kondoa, Tanzania

Website: Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings

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2. Getting to Kolo using public transportation

Playing drum in companion with the native dance at Dakawa, Morogoro, Tanzania
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chen Hualin used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the most popular starting points for visiting the Kondoa Irangi Rock Painting sites is Kolo. This is a small village placed close to more than 100 rock art sites. If you want to get there using public transportation, it is possible, but it will take some time. The easiest way is to take the bus from Babati to Kondoa and stop in the village named Kolo. It’s about 80 km (50 mi) away from Babati. The bus ride takes around 3.5 hours and costs 7,500 TSH (around 4 USD). The bus will drop you in front of the Antiquities Department Office, where you have to purchase your daily permit to visit the rock art sites. This will be 27,000 TSH (around 14 USD). As part of the Antiquities Department office, there is also a small free museum that you can visit before heading to the sites. It gives comprehensive information about the history and culture of the Irangi tribe. It’s also a good introduction to the different sites in the area.

Antiquities Department office

Address: on Kolo’s main road

Website: Antiquities Department office

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3. Kolo 1, 2 & 3 rock art sites

Kondoa mchoro mwambani 2012 Tamino
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user D. Tamino Boehm, ... used under CC BY-SA 4.0

From the village, the easiest accessible sites if you don’t have a car are the Kolo sites. Unfortunately, the sites are about 5-8 km away (3-4 mi), not precisely walking distance. If you head there by car, a 4x4 or motorbike is needed. The Antiquities Department office will charge you around 20,000 TSH (10 USD), but you might get a better deal if you negotiate with the locals. The guide is mandatory and included in the price of the entrance ticket, although tips are appreciated. There are three different sites at Kolo, featuring mostly red rock paintings. You will have to climb a steep, rocky hill to arrive at the sites. Although these are the most visited sites, they are not necessarily the best ones available.

Kolo 1, 2 & 3 rock art sites

Address: 5-8 km (3-5 mi) away from Kolo village

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4. Pahi rock art site

Arches national park rock art
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user National Park Ser... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Pahi is a bit further away. It is the next village east of Kolo. The rock paintings in Pahi are rather different to the ones in the Kolo 1, 2 & 3 sites. In Pahi, the paintings are white, simple designs, representing many plants. The white paintings are the more recent, modern ones. You can also get to Pahi using the local bus. The disadvantage if you decide to take the bus is that you won’t have a guide. This means that you will have to find the paintings by yourself. They are up the hill and there are no indicators to point you in the right direction.

Pahi rock art site

Address: east of Kolo village

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5. Thawi rock art site

Kondoa Rock Art Print Kondoa UNESCO World Heritage Site Rock Art Print. Hand made paper. Printed on Epson Stylus Pro 9900. Gary Wornell

Posted by Tanzania High Commission - New Delhi, India on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Thawi is about 15 km (9 mi) north-west of Kolo. If you have a 4x4 car and only have time to visit one of the sites, you should probably choose this one rather than the Kolo 1, 2 & 3 sites. While most sites are focused around one type of rock painting (Kolo 1, 2 & 3 sites are mostly red paintings, representing humans and animals; Pahi site is mostly white paintings, representing plants), Thawi has a variety of them. It is, therefore, a good collection to get a general overview of all the different types of rock paintings in the Kondoa area.

Thawi rock art site

Address: 15 km (9 mi) north-west of Kolo

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6. Fenga rock art site

Prehistoric Rock Paintings at Manda Guéli Cave in the Ennedi Mountains - northeastern Chad 2015
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Stanley used under CC BY 2.0

Fenga is north of Kolo, close to the main Arusha - Dodoma Road. It is famous for a painting of what appears to be people trying to trap an elephant. If you head there from Kolo, you will have to cover a 20 km (12 mi) drive and climb a steep hill. The paintings here are impressive and definitely worth checking out.

Fenga rock art site

Address: 20 km (12 mi) north of Kolo

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Become an archaeologist for a few days in Kondoa

No matter if you’re an archaeologist or not, no matter if you love history or not, seeing the rock art sites in Kondoa will be a wonderful experience. It will open up your imagination, making you thinking about the way people used to lived thousands of year ago, the importance of art in people’s life, the need for communication and leaving something behind. Since they are all in a rather isolated area, this experience is not only about the rock paintings, but also about nature and the beautiful views from the caves.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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