Karatu is an area of fertile coffee and arable farms on the south eastern slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater. The area sits at about 7500 ft above sea level, often with it's head in the clouds, and feels lush, green and in stark contrast to the dry floor of the Rift Valley a short distance to the east. The town of Karatu itself lies on the Ngorongoro - Manyara road, but most of the small lodges that we'd recommend in this area are set in the midst of farms quite some distance from the town itself. We'd often recommend one of the lodges in Karatu, over and above the Crater Rim, as a place from which to visit the Ngorongoro Crater. The downside to this is clear - you won't be waking up to look down into the Crater from your bedroom window. However, there are plenty of upsides to staying in Karatu if sacrificing crater views isn't a deal-breaker for you.
The principal upside is probably choice, which translates into value. On the Crater Rim your choices are, in simple terms, "lavish and expensive" or "large and soul-less". Karatu can add to that offering "small and intimate" and precisely because these places don't have the premium view, they have to work just that bit harder to distinguish themselves. Good locally produced food, comfortable and well thought out accommodation and plenty of things to do, all in a relaxed low-key environment make it worth considering a day or two in Karatu.