Perched at a cool 1600m on a cliff overlooking the valley of the Little Ruaha River, Iringa was initially built up by the Germans at the turn of the century as a bastion against the local Hehe people. Now it’s a district capital, an important agricultural centre and the gateway for visiting Ruaha National Park. Once away from the main street, with its congestion and hustlers, it’s also a likeable place, with its bluff-top setting, healthy climate and highland feel, and well worth a stop.
Market AreaIringa’s market is piled high with fruits and vegetables, plus other wares, including large-weave, locally made Iringa baskets. On its southern edge, in front of the police station, is a monument honoring Africans who fell during the Maji Maji uprising between 1905 and 1907. West along this same street is the main trading area, dominated by the German-built Ismaili Mosque with its distinctive clock tower. Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery At the southeastern edge of town is this cemetery, with graves of the deceased from both world wars.
Iringa Rock ArtThis large frieze, similar in style to the Kondoa rock art, is on the edge of town off the Dodoma road.
Gangilonga RockThis large rock northeast of town is where Chief Mkwawa meditated and where he learned that the Germans were after him. Its name, gangilonga, means ‘talking stone’ in Hehe. It’s an easy climb to the top, with views over town. Don’t climb up on your own, as muggings are frequent.
Isimila Stone Age SiteIsimila is signposted off the Mbeya road to the left, about 15km west of Iringa. Here, in the late 1950s, amid a landscape of small canyons and eroded sandstone pillars, archaeologists unearthed one of the most significant Stone Age finds ever identified. Tools found at the site are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 years old. There’s a museum with small, well-captioned displays highlighting some of the discoveries.
The main pillar area is accessed via a walk down into a steep valley (about one hour round-trip), for which you’ll need a guide. Visits are best in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not at its zenith.