Zanzibar - the spice island of Tanzania

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Zanzibar Archipelago

Step off the boat or plane onto the Zanzibar Archipelago and you’re transported through time and place. This is one of the world's great cultural crossroads, where Africa meets Arabia meets the Indian Ocean.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Misali Island, Tanzania.

Misali Island

Surrounded by crystal waters and stunning coral reefs, Misali offers some of the best diving in East Africa, while snorkelling is spectacular and easily…

House of Wonders, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

House of Wonders

Zanzibar Town

An icon of Stone Town, the House of Wonders rises in impressive tiers of slender steel pillars and balconies overlooking the waterfront. Its enormous…

ZALA Park

Zanzibar Island

ZALA (Zanzibar Land Animals) Park was founded as a project to help local people appreciate the value of wildlife, with funds raised by tourist visits. The…

Forodhani Gardens in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Forodhani Gardens

One of the best ways to ease into Zanzibar life is to stop by this waterfront public space. It's a social hub for tourists and locals alike; there's a…

The Old Dispensary in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Old Dispensary

With its peppermint-green latticework balconies and sculpted clock tower, this 19th-century charitable dispensary is one of the most attractive landmarks…

ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA - OCTOBER 6:  (.)  Tourists look towards the sunset while resting on a roof top restaurant at the Emerson & Green Hotel October 6, 2002 in Stone town in central Zanzibar, Tanzania. Zanzibar has become a popular tourist destination due to the beautiful virgin beaches and influence of Arabic, Indian and African cultures on the island.  (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

Princess Salme Museum

Carefully curated by the renowned historian Said al Gheithy, this delightful little museum tells the story of Princess Salme, a sultan's daughter who…

Tanzania, Zanzibar, Stone Town. The Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ had its foundation stone laid on Christmas Day 1873

Anglican Cathedral

The tall spire and grey-yellow walls of the Anglican cathedral dominate the surrounding streets in this part of Stone Town, while the dark-wood pews and…

The Sultan's Palace (Palace Museum) is one of the main historical buildings of Stone Town, Zanzibar as seen at sunset.

Palace Museum

Occupying several large buildings along the waterfront, this was the palace of Sultan Seyyid Said from 1828 until it was largely destroyed by the British…

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Zanzibar Archipelago and beyond

Dhow Restaurant and Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders).

The Roaming Fork

Zanzibar Travel Guide & Tips – Everything You Need To Know

travel guide zanzibar

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Zanzibar is a dream destination, with crystal-clear waters and white sandy beaches surrounded by lush tropical forests. This Zanzibar travel guide will make sure that you get the most out of all that this east Africa archipelago has to offer.

Located off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar Island has captivated travelers with its stunning landscapes, picturesque villages, the historical Stone Town, and vibrant culture.

Whether you’re looking to soak up some sunbathing on beautiful stretches of beach or explore ancient Stone Town which is steeped in history and tradition, Zanzibar promises an unforgettable vacation.

To help ensure your best trip possible, this Zanzibar travel guide offers insight into getting there, getting around during your stay, different beaches you can visit as well as attractions to check out along the way.

Plus recommendations for local restaurants and bars where you can sample delicious Swahili cuisine as well as travel tips to keep in mind while visiting!

  • Overview of Zanzibar – History and Culture

Zanzibar travel guide

Zanzibar is an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, known for its exotic beaches, ancient culture, and unique cuisine.

The history of the Zanzibar Archipelago has been marked by significant events. Historians believe the islands have been inhabited for over 20,000 years; in the 12th century, it was part of a trading empire including Ramallah, Karachi and Mogadishu. The country has a rich culture comprised of African and Arabic roots, with influences from India, Persia and Europe.

Over many centuries Zanzibar served as a major trading port, which contributed to its distinctive cultural mix. Today locals go about their daily lives against the breathtaking backdrop of palm-fringed shorelines so beautiful you’ll just want to dive right in.

Zanzibar Visa

When to visit zanzibar, dala-dalas – public transportation, 10 days in zanzibar, places to stay, nungwi beach, kendwa beach, pingwe and michamvi beaches, jambiani beach, visit the house of wonders, stroll through the old fort, shop at the forodhani market, relax on nungwi beach, visit jozani forest, go snorkeling or diving, take a spice tour, visit stone town, go on a dolphin safari, prison island, sunset cruises, mafia island, pemba island.

The Rock Restaurant

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Local restaurant – luckmann restaurant, zanzibar travel guide: the tropical paradise, zanzibar travel tips.

Zanzibar Travle Guide

How to Get to Zanzibar

Now, getting to Zanzibar is easier than ever with Zanzibar’s new international airport.

There are direct flights to Zanzibar from many African cities and the Middle East, direct flights from Europe, and flights from America with one or two stops.

Flights from Dar Es Salaam take 20 minutes and with just a little planning will be the same cost as the ferry.

A journey from Dar Es Salaam, on mainland Tanzania, to Stone Town is made easy with the four daily ferries, many of which are modern and spacious.

The ferry takes 1h 45min on board one of these vessels and you can sit back and relax and take in the breathtaking views.

Especially in the busy season, it is best to book ferry tickets in advance.

Note: As you arrive at the ferry terminal before departure (either Dar E Salaam or Stone Town, do not be intimidated by those offering to take your bags. A firm no thank you (or two) will suffice

Zanzibar travel guide

Exploring the idyllic coral-sand beaches and beautiful turquoise waters of Zanzibar is an unforgettable experience.

As Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, the visa entry requirements for Tanzania apply.

Fortunately, the Zanzibar visa situation for Western travelers is fairly straightforward.

Most Westerners will be able to obtain either an e-visa or a Visa on Arrival. The cost is $50 per visa, with US residents required to pay $100.

You can read more information on gaining a Tanzania/Zanzibar visa on arrival or an e-visa on the Tanzania Immigration website .

Zanzibar is an all-year destination with a tropical climate, thanks to its closeness to the equator.

With temperatures usually between 29 and 32 Celsius (even at night), it’s no wonder visitors flock here – especially during the dry season (also the high season) of July through September.

For those looking for both beach time plus safari fun in Tanzania, June or October are perfect shoulder seasons that also peak when on safaris.

Due to consistent heavy rains, the months of April and May are considered the low season, where many resorts close due to the combination of the rainy season and lack of tourists.

Getting Around Zanzibar – Transportation Options

Exploring the sights and sounds of Zanzibar is a must for any traveler interested in experiencing the best of this magical island. When figuring out how to get around, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the range of travel options available.

Taxis and minivan rides provide convenient door-to-door transport. Taxis are particularly useful for transfers from the airport or Zanzibar City to the beach hotels in the villages, especially with luggage.

Airport transfers can be arranged through your hotel, and many taxi drivers are waiting in the busier areas meaning some ‘shopping around’ is possible.

Dala-Dala’s are a unique and exciting way to travel around Zanzibar! These colorful minibus taxis zip through the streets, filled with locals commuting from one destination to another.

Given the stop-and-start nature of dala-dalas, the trip will take much longer than the same trip taken in a taxi.

Zanzibar’s vibrant streets are alive with the distinctive sound of tuk-tuks – a unique and colourful way to explore this remarkable African island.

Using tuk-tuks is a time and money saver when traveling around Stone Town.

How Many Days in Zanzibar?

7 to 10 days would be the perfect time to spend in Zanzibar. You can experience the beauty and culture of Zanzibar in just a few days, or extend the trip to a week or two and have a relaxing trip by the beach! From its powder-white beaches to exotic wildlife, this small island off Tanzania’s coast offers plenty to explore within your Zanzibar Itinerary. Perfect to blog Zanzibar.

Spending 10 days in Zanzibar is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and sightsee gorgeous beaches.

Start off by biking around Stone Town to get an introduction to the area and explore the largest ancient town in East Africa.

Then, while the day away on one of Zanzibar’s many secluded beaches, taking time to snorkel through coral reefs and lush tropical scenery.

If you’re looking for more of an adventure, book a guided tour into Jozani Forest Reserve where you can observe incredible wildlife like monkeys and elephants living off the land.

To end your trip on a calm note, take advantage of one of the countless spas offering relaxing massage treatments or enjoy a stroll along the Old Fort Walkway with its stunning views of terracotta rooftops and blue-washed alleyways. Regardless how you choose to spend your 10 days in Zanzibar it is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Where to Stay and Visit

Zanzibar Travel Guide

Step back in time and explore the stunning city of Stone Town, located on the exotic island of Zanzibar. The narrow cobbled streets are filled with character and charm as you wander around traditional market stalls bustling with life.

Discover unique architecture from a bygone era that reflects both Arab and European influences within its many grand buildings adorned with ornately carved doors – providing an exciting insight into the cultural heritage.

Shaba Boutique Hotel

Best Beaches on Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar travel guide

Nungwi Beach is a stunning coastal destination with its gleaming white sand and sparkling turquoise waters. In addition to its breathtaking beauty, Nungwi Beach is also known for being a hotspot for activities like windsurfing, scuba diving and snorkeling, with plenty of options to explore local wildlife.

Located on the north coast of Zanzibar, Kendwa Beach is a stunning stretch of sand perfect for relaxing or enjoying some exciting watersports. It is quieter than the nearby Nungwi, and is also home to full moon parties.

Unwind at the serene village of Pingwe and Michamvi nestled on a beautiful peninsula between the central and southeast coasts. Here, your soul will be soothed by untouched natural areas amid idyllic powdery white sand beaches with incredible sunsets – though beware of its drastic tides! Boutique hotels line this perfect getaway spot for those seeking peace away from busy cities.

Jambiani Beach is a stunning seaside paradise located on the east coast of Zanzibar. Its picturesque white sand, crystal-clear water and coral reef make it an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, or simply lounging in the sunshine. Life moves at a slower pace here – visitors can enjoy strolling around the beach village, meeting friendly locals who offer homemade handicrafts and freshly caught seafood. Nature lovers will also appreciate its abundance of marine life, including turtles and manta rays.

Zanzibar’s east coast is an idyllic destination for backpackers and beach-goers alike. With a stunning strip of sand, surrounded by turquoise waters, this location offers the perfect backdrop for relaxation or adventure. From kitesurfing to sunbathing on its expansive shoreline – there truly is something here for everyone!

Things to do in Zanzibar

travel guide zanzibar

This Zanzibar travel guide includes more than 10 things to do in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The archipelago consists of two islands, Unguja and Pemba, each with its own distinct culture and sights to explore.

Due to its strategic location along historical trading routes over the centuries, visitors will find numerous interesting monuments sprinkled throughout the islands ranging from mosques, Arabic houses, and even ancient tombs.

Whether staying in Stone Town or basing yourself at a beach hotel, there is something to inspire everyone in this stunningly beautiful paradise

travel guide zanzibar

The House of Wonders is one of the most iconic buildings in Zanzibar, and a visit here is a must-do. The building was constructed in 1883 and served as the sultan’s palace. Today, it houses a museum that is well worth exploring.

The Old Fort is a great place to get a feel for Zanzibar’s history and culture. The fort was built by the Omanis in the 17th century, and today it houses several museums and art galleries. Be sure to wander through the atmospheric streets surrounding the fort as well.

Forodhani Market is the place to go for street-food, spices, some souvenirs, and our favorite local oddity – Zanzibar Pizza.

It is also a great place to people-watch and soak up the atmoshphere of Stone Town.

Nungwi Beach is one of Zanzibar’s most popular beaches, and it’s easy to see why. The water is crystal clear, and the beach is lined with palm trees. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy some time in nature.

Jozani Forest is home to Zanzibar’s only national park, and it’s a great place to see some of the island’s unique flora and fauna. Be sure to keep an eye out for red colobus monkeys, which are endemic to Zanzibar.

Zanzibar travel guide

With its clear waters and abundant marine life, Zanzibar is a great place for snorkelling and diving. There are many operators offering tours, so you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.

Zanzibar is known as the “Spice Island,” so a spice tour is a must-do when visiting here. You’ll learn about the different spices grown on the island, and you’ll even get to sample some of them!

Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the capital of Zanzibar, and it’s full of history and culture. Be sure to explore the narrow streets, visit the markets, and see some of the historic buildings such as the House of Wonders and the Old Fort.

travel guide zanzibar

One of Zanzibar’s most popular activities is dolphin watching, and there are many operators offering tours around Kizimkazi village. This is a great activity for nature lovers, as you’re sure to see some amazing wildlife!

Prison Island on Zanzibaar is an infamous place, attracting the attention of visitors from all over the world. at the centre of the island lies an imposing prison complex. Rumours abound about strange cults and dark rituals conducted within its walls, and visitors often report feeling mysterious energy emanating from the structure itself.

For centuries, East Africa has been graced with the presence of Dhows – majestic boats that have their roots in either India or Arabia. With an iconic single sail and crafted from wood, these vessels offer a beautiful sight to behold. Enjoy breathtaking views as you set off for a relaxing sunset cruise from many parts of the island.

travel guide zanzibar

For those looking for an alternative to Zanzibar, look no further than Mafia Island. Located off the coast of Tanzania, this remote island paradise is home to perfect white sand beaches and turquoise waters, as well as plenty of wildlife and nature spots to explore.

It’s a beautiful place for scuba diving and snorkelling, with its coral reefs offering unique and vibrant marine life, especially during the summer months when the ocean teems with diverse aquatic species such as green turtles, dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays and even humpface wrasse.

Whether you’re after some tranquil relaxation in a secluded beach setting or a thrilling plunge beneath the waves on a scuba dive adventure; Mafia Island has it all!

Pemba island near Zanzibar is a serene paradise full of magnificent ocean views and opportunities for exploration.

From beach-hopping to kayaking, there are many options for entertainment on this beautiful island. For the more adventurous travellers, some dive sites allow snorkellers and divers alike a chance to explore and discover life underwater.

Pemba island has deep cultural roots with nearby villages that offer a great insight into traditional Swahili customs and culture, such as the art of dhows (sailing vessels) building.

Lovers of nature will be in heaven here; the island is full of unique flora and fauna, such as exotic trees like wild mangoes and cashews, along with countless bird varieties.

The Rock Restaurant, just off the Michamwi Pingwe Peninsula, is not just a place to grab a bite to eat, but an experience worth having. This restaurant is literally built into a rock right at the edge of the Indian Ocean.

Take your seat on one of their terrace tables and watch breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. They serve seafood and a variety of other culinary delights in flavors that they claim only come from Zanzibar. Price-wise, it’s slightly higher than other restaurants nearby, but worth it for the unique atmosphere and terrific views.

travel guide zanzibar

There are many lively markets on the island, full of vibrant colors, exotic sounds, and delicious smells. A highlight is Darajani Bazaar in Stone Town, where you will find spices, tropical fruits , vegetables, and fresh seafood for sale.

Who knows what awaits someone prepared to explore this stunning part of the world?

Food in Zanzibar

travel guide zanzibar

Dining in Zanzibar is an unforgettable experience as the local cuisine is an exciting fusion of Indian, African , Middle Eastern, and other Southeast Asian flavors creating many distinctive dishes.

Whether exploring the street food scene or local restaurants, there are many must-try dishes on the menu.

Read here for a comprehensive look at the food in Zanzibar .

Must-try dishes include Pilau Rice, Zanzibari Biryani, Zanzibar Mix, Zanzibar Pizza, and a range of coconut curry dishes including octopus and shrimp.

Zanzibar is a destination for any traveler who is looking for a unique, unspoiled experience.

From the stunning beaches to the vibrant culture and fascinating history, there’s something in Zanzibar that will cater to every type of visitor.

With budget-friendly flights and secure accommodation, this island paradise is surprisingly easy to reach.

Accommodation options are plentiful and transportation around the island can easily be arranged, meaning getting around quickly become effortless.

Not only can you enjoy tanning on one of several beautiful beaches around Zanzibar, but you can also explore the local markets, check out historical attractions like Fort Jesus or spend your days strolling through Stone Town.

Eating local cuisine is a must-do activity in Zanzibar, with lots of options from street food to high-end restaurants.

For anyone looking for an exotic holiday destination with plenty of discovery opportunities, use this Zanzibar travel guide to make the most of your trip.

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Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days

The Ultimate Zanzibar Itinerary – 7 Days in Paradise (+ Map)

I f you are looking for the best 7 day Zanzibar itinerary, look no further!

After our 5 day safari , we spent one week immersing ourselves in this incredible island and it quickly became one of our favorite places in the whole world!

Zanzibar offers a blend of rich culture, stunning beaches, and historical significance. Over 7 days, you can explore the vibrant spirit of Zanzibar, including its scenic tropical landscapes, cultural heritage sites, and indulging in the warmth of its people.

Discover a  diverse range of activities , accommodations, and culinary delights that make Zanzibar the ultimate paradise.

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Jambiani Beach

Table of Contents

Zanzibar 7-Day Itinerary Overview

This itinerary takes you through the vibrant streets of Stone Town, the serene beaches of Jambiani, and the lively shores of Nungwi.

2 nights in Stone Town

Immerse yourself in the UNESCO World Heritage sites and historical tours, delving into the island’s rich cultural heritage.

2 nights in Jambiani

Relax and unwind in the laid-back ambiance of Jambiani, stay at the exquisite Bamboo Zanzibar Design Hotel , and indulge in beach strolls and snorkeling.

2 nights in Nungwi

Experience the nightlife of Nungwi and bask in the stunning Zanzibar sunset.

All three of these locations offer a taste of different experiences, and I highly recommend visiting and staying in each location for a couple of nights. Jambiani was our favorite place in all of Zanzibar.

Day 1-2: Exploring Stone Town

After flying into Zanzibar (ZNZ) airport in the morning, the adventure begins with two unforgettable nights in Stone Town. This town is a UNESCO World Heritage site that captures the essence of Zanzibar’s cultural tapestry.

Spend some time wandering through its winding streets and immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant atmosphere that define this ancient trading hub.

Best things to do & must visit places –

  • Darajani Market
  • The Freddie Mercury House
  • The Old Fort
  • Secret Garden Restaurant (located in Emerson Spice Hotel)
  • The “ sunset jump spot ” to watch locals dive and flip off the pier
  • Morning trip to Nakupenda Island
  • Day trip to Prison Island
  • Visit a spice farm

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Stone Town

Where to Stay in Stone Town

We stayed in an Airbnb called “The Train’s House Boutique Apartments” and while it did have decent reviews, we unfortunately cannot recommend it. The location and price are great, but the air conditioning was broken, the power went off for over an hour, and the towels weren’t very clean.

Some other places we’d stay next time are:

  • Emerson Spice Hotel ($$): Nestled amid the enchanting alleys of Stone Town, this elegant hotel is a stone’s throw away from the the vibrant Darajani Market.
  • Zanzibar Palace Hotel ($$): This boutique hotel offers an authentic Zanzibari experience in the heart of Stone Town. Just a short walk from the bustling Forodhani Gardens and the historic Old Fort.
  • Park Hyatt Zanzibar  ($$$): Situated on the beachfront, this luxurious hotel provides easy access to the House of Wonders and the iconic Freddie Mercury House.

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Stone Town shopping

Best Restaurants in Stone Town

  • Lukmaan Restaurant: Experience authentic Zanzibari flavors at Lukmaan, where you can savor delectable pilau rice, coconut bean soup, and richly spiced curries.
  • Cape Town Fish Market:  This waterfront restaurant is the perfect place to watch the locals jump and flip off the pier at sunset. The food is a little bit expensive, but we ate here twice and thought it was delicious both times!
  • Emerson on Hurumzi: Delight in a rooftop dining experience at Emerson on Hurumzi. This restaruant is renowned for its rooftop tea house, set menu Zanzibar cuisine, and Taarab musical performances.

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Secret Garden Restaurant

Day 3-4: Relaxing in Jambiani

The next stop on your 7 day Zanzibar itineray is to the pristine beaches of Jambiani. This beach town and its tranquil environment offers the perfect setting for relaxation and unwinding after exploring busy Stone Town. This was our favorite place in all of Zanzibar!

Best things to do & must-visit places –

  • Soak up the sun at Jambiani Beach
  • Clear kayaking (rent from your hotel)
  • Swim at the beautiful Kuza Cave
  • Walk out on the sandbars at low tide
  • Kite surfing in Jambiani/Paje
  • Get a massage at Bamboo Zanzibar Spa
  • Have lunch at The Rock Restaurant (if you want to visit when it’s surrounded by water, make sure to schedule your reservation during high tide)

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Bamboo Zanzibar Design Hotel

Where to Stay in Jambiani

We stayed at Bamboo Zanzibar Design Hotel and could not recommend it more! It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever stayed during our travels. If you’re looking for a private pool like our photo below, make sure to book the “Ocean View Suite with Private Plunge Pool”. You won’t regret it!

Some other great to places to stay in Jambiani are:

  • Coral Rocks Hotel ($$)
  • Blue Moon Resort ($$$)
  • Jambiani White Sands Beach Bungalows ($)

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Bamboo Zanzibar private pool room

Best Restaurants in Jambiani

  • Bamboo Bar & Restaurant: We ate at this restaurant located at our hotel (Bamboo Zanzibar) every day. Here, you can enjoy a delightful fusion of local and international cuisine. The panoramic views of the Indian Ocean are the cherry on top!
  • Fadhil Restaurant: Known for great seafood and low prices. They offer vegan and vegetarian options as well.
  • Pompetti Restuarant: If you’re looking for some pizza in Jambiani, this place is one of the best.

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Bamboo Zanzibar restaurant

Day 5-6: Adventures in Nungwi

The final stop on your 7 day Zanzibar itinerary is Nungwi. Known for its lively beaches and vibrant nightlife, Nungwi is the perfect place to immerse yourself in a more energetic atmosphere. Induge in the spirit of this coastal paradise, where days are spent basking in the sun on the powdery sands and taking refreshing dips in the crystal-clear waters. The atmosphere here is infectious, and we found ourselves swept up in the lively energy of this thriving beach town.

  • Lunch with a view at Mama Mia restaurant! You can often enjoy live acrobatic performances on the beach right from your table.
  • Embark on a sunset dhow boat tour
  • Swim at Nungwi Beach
  • Wander around town and buy some local crafts or souvenirs
  • Take a day trip to Mnemba Island
  • Go scuba diving
  • If you like to party and you’re in Zanzibar during the full moon, head to Kendwa Rocks for an epic full moon party!

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - dhow boat tour

Where to Stay in Nungwi

As Nungwi is one of the most popular towns on the island, there are tons of options for places to stay. You can find affordable Airbnbs, basic hotels, and luxury resorts.

Some great to places to stay in Nungwi include:

  • Nungwi Dreams by Mantis ($$)
  • Maisha Nungwi ($$)
  • The Z Hotel Zanzibar ($$$)
  • Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort ($$$$)

Best Restaurants in Nungwi

  • Fish Market Local Restaurant: Fresh and delicious seafood with beautiful ocean views
  • Mama Mia: Great pizzas, nice wines, and an incredible view
  • Sexy Fish: Diverse menu (including sushi), cocktails, great views and service

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Nungwi Beach view

Travel Tips for Zanzibar

  • Carry cash for smaller purchases and local markets.
  • Transportation on the island primarily relies on taxis. We found no difficulty in securing a taxi whenever needed. Fares range from $5 to $50, depending on the distance traveled.
  • While renting a car is an option, I advise against it. There’s a notable presence of police conducting random stops, issuing tickets to tourists without valid cause. Given the fairness of taxi tariffs, it’s much less stressful to get around by taxi.
  • Respect the cultural norms by dressing semi modestly, as more than 90% of the Zanzibar population is Muslim.
  • Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun, especially during the hotter months.
  • DO NOT drink or brush your teeth with the tap water. Use clean bottled water at all times.
  • Wear mosquito repellent and a high SPF. We were still taking malaria pills during our time in Zanzibar, due to us visiting directly after our safari. Consult with your doctor to see if they recommend Malaria pills for you or not depending on your travel destinations.

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days - Bamboo Zanzibar

Best Time to Visit Zanzibar

Busy season –.

Peak season in Zanzibar runs from June to October, during the island’s dry season. This period boasts pleasant, sunny weather with minimal rainfall, making it ideal for beach vacations and outdoor activities. The favorable weather conditions also coincide with the summer holidays, resulting in increased tourist numbers and higher accommodation prices. We visited during July and had great weather, but found some of the tours to have been busier than we expected.

Off-peak season –

March to May is characterized by the island’s long rains. While this season experiences occasional heavy downpours, it also brings rejuvenation to the lush landscapes. Traveling during the off-peak season offers the advantage of fewer crowds, allowing for a more tranquil and immersive experience. Additionally, accommodation and activity prices tend to be lower during this period, presenting budget-friendly opportunities to explore Zanzibar.

It’s important to note that Zanzibar’s tropical climate means that even during the rainy season, rainfall tends to occur in short, intense bursts, often in the evenings, rather than persistent showers throughout the day.

Zanzibar Itinerary 7 Days

Packing Essentials for Zanzibar

Here’s a snippet from my ultimate Zanzibar packing list –

  • Climate Appropriate Clothing: Pack light, breathable clothing suitable for the tropical climate. Opt for cotton tops, shorts, and sundresses to stay cool and comfortable during the sunny days.
  • Sun Protection: Don’t forget to bring wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and high SPF sunscreen to protect yourself from the intense sun.
  • Swimwear: Include swimsuits and cover-ups
  • Comfortable Footwear: Pack sandals or flip-flops for beach outings and walking shoes for exploring the island’s attractions
  • Light Layers: Evening breezes may call for a light cover-up. Bring a shawl or a light jacket to keep warm during cooler evenings and protect against any unexpected bursts of wind.
  • Insect Repellent: With Zanzibar’s lush greenery, it’s wise to bring insect repellent to guard against pesky mosquitoes, especially during the evenings and in more rural areas.
  • Travel Documents: Ensure you have your passport, visa (if required), travel insurance details, and any necessary medical documents securely packed. Make copies of these essential documents and keep them in a separate place as a precaution.
  • Cash and Cards: Have enough local currency and a range of payment options accessible. Carry a mix of cash, credit cards, and a debit card for convenience and security.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated on your adventures by bringing a durable, reusable water bottle. Fill up at your hotel or at filtered water stations to minimize plastic waste and keep cool during your explorations.
  • Adaptor and Electronics: Don’t forget your camera, phone, and necessary chargers. Also, pack a universal adaptor to ensure your devices stay powered up throughout your trip.

If you’re also planning on taking a safari in Tanzania, check out my Tanzania safari packing guide !

Related posts:

17 Best Things To Do in Zanzibar

The Ultimate Guide to Mnemba Island, Zanzibar 

Tanzania 5 Day Safari – Everything You Need to Know

What to Pack for Zanzibar

Tanzania Safari Packing List

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Carrie Salter

Hi! I'm Carrie Salter, a travel blogger originally from the USA, but now traveling and living abroad full time. I share travel guides, travel tips, and inspiration from around the world!

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travel guide zanzibar

Ultimate Guide to Zanzibar | Everything You Need to Know Before Your Trip

Zanzibar Flags Stone Town

Zanzibar. Stunning beaches. Untouched nature. Incredible history. What more could you want in a travel destination? If I’m being completely honest, Zanzibar was never really on my radar of countries to visit. I don’t feel like you hear much about it or see many pictures. It just sounds like some far off, exotic place.

Zanzibar Travel beaches

I knew literally nothing about Zanzibar before my first visit to the country. All I knew was that it was an island. That’s all. I wasn’t even exactly sure what the relationship was between Tanzania and Zanzibar (Zanzibar is technically a part of Tanzania but also autonomous). But there was still time to learn!

History of Zanzibar

Before traveling to Zanzibar I decided to learn as much as I could about this interesting little island I had only heard mentioned in the passing. Was Zanzibar its own country? What is its history? I had so many questions. I listened to as many podcasts I could find and I found them all fascinating.

Zanzibar is an archipelago of over 50 islands. Unguja is the largest island and most visited, and what you normally consider ‘Zanzibar proper’, even containing the capital city of Stone Town . Pemba, a bit more north, is the second largest.

Zanzibar Travel island

Zanzibar is strategically placed as an incredibly important part of the trade route through the Indian Ocean. As a result, it even gained the nickname of “Spice Island” throughout the years as they exported and traded a huge amount of exotic spices throughout history.

Between Oman and Portugal and Great Britain and then Oman again, countless colonial powers seemed to constantly fight over this little island in the Indian Ocean. Oman, which seemed to have the largest and longest influence in the religion and culture, used the island for more tragic purposes – for the slave trade.

Zanzibar Travel

The island is peppered with remains of the huge slave industry that had Zanzibar as its hub. Prison Island off the coast of Stone Town was used as a jail for rebellious slaves and the less rebellious were sent to the Americas to work on plantations. This island was so important to Oman and their slave industry that the Sultan of Oman even made it the capital city in 1832.

In the 60s a revolution began among the African locals to overthrow the apartheid Omani rule, which was successful! Zanzibar united with the neighboring Tanganyika to form what we now know as Tanzania.

Coronavirus in Zanzibar

Tanzania and Zanzibar have a very unique corona policy. As a matter of fact, the official policy of the government is that corona does not exist in their country. They went into a very brief lockdown in March/April and then simply stopped testing people. They do not report new cases or new deaths and simply continue on with their lives as if corona never happened.

Tanzania and Zanzibar are completely open for tourism with no requirement to produce a negative test or to quarantine. Once you land, you will be asked to fill out a health form to sign that you do not have corona or corona symptoms and that is the extent of their precautions.

Zanzibar Travel palm trees

Mask wearing is not required in Tanzania/Zanzibar and not even suggested. You probably won’t see a single mask wearing person in the country. Big gathering are allowed, nightclubs are open, in short….it’s a mini oasis of life before corona.

Although I highly doubt that corona simply does not exist there, the country does not seem to be suffering from increased deaths, overrun hospitals, or the like. Interestingly, the death rate has not increased since last year.

What to Wear in Zanzibar

Although Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim country. 99% of the population is Muslim, with a very small Christian minority. Despite this, there is no real requirement to dress conservative. They are very moderate/secular Muslims and used to seeing tourists. No one will make you uncomfortable for wearing shorts, short skirts, sundresses, or bare shoulders throughout the town, or bikinis on the beach.

Zanzibar Travel stone town

Before I visited, I read many suggestions to dress conservatively, but from my experience that is not necessary or even expected. In some of the smaller, less touristic towns far from the beach, you may consider dressing a bit more conservative. Also if you are visiting a mosque, be sure to cover your shoulders and knees. But overall, Zanzibar is very open so feel free to dress as you would in just about any beach destination.

Is Zanzibar Safe?

From my experience in Zanzibar, I would say that it is a very safe country. The people are very relaxed (as in most beach destinations) and we walked around late at night and never felt unsafe. The people are very friendly and their economy relies heavily on tourism.

Zanzibar flag stone town

However, as in ANY location, always be careful. Pickpockets and thieves are everywhere.

Getting Around

Zanzibar is very untouched. I think we probably saw just a handful of traffic lights during our entire stay on the island. Even the largest of roads are just one lane in each direction, and many of them are made of dirt. That’s all apart of the beauty of Zanzibar. The tourism industry is fairly new, giving you a truly authentic experience.

Zanzibar Travel boat ocean

The best way to get around Zanzibar is by taxi. There are registered taxis that you will see everywhere. They are almost van like with two rows of seating. For a one hour drive, you’ll pay about $20. We hired a driver for the entirety of our trip. He, or someone he worked with, would come to pick us up and often wait for us to drive us back home. It helped to ensure we always received a fair price.

I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in Zanzibar as there are practically no road signs, the roads are difficult to maneuver, and you will most likely get lost. There is also the option in some of the beaches to rent a scooter along the beach, particularly on the eastern coast.

Public Transport

Busses or public transportation is also an option and very much cheaper than taxis. However, you just have to ask a local when you arrive for directions as there is no real official bus system with official bus stops in place.

Most countries require a visa to enter Zanzibar and the cost is $50. It can be done online before , but it is also possible and recommended to simply complete it at the airport. At the airport itself YOU CAN ONLY PAY WITH CASH and there are no ATM’s at the airport so be sure to bring enough cash with you.

Zanzibar Travel

Weather in Zanzibar

As very few people want to go for a beach vacation and be stuck inside with rainy weather, the worst time to visit Zanzibar is March – May, which is Zanzibar’s rainy season. Although still warm, afternoon downpours are quite common and you’d probably find yourself stuck indoors most of your trip. The best time to visit is from June to October , the dry season filled with reliably warm and sunny days. From November to February, you may experience light rains, but they last for such a short time that they’re unlikely to ruin any plans. Located just 6 degrees south of the equator, Zanzibar is usually warm throughout the year with temperatures ranging from 25°-35° C year round. (75°-95° F).

Zanzibar Travel beach

Cost/Prices

Depending on what kind of traveler you are, Zanzibar can be very cheap or very expensive. If you are open to staying in hostels or small bungalows and eating at small, local restaurants, it can be around $50-$100 a day per person. However, hotels can get quite expensive. The Northern coast – Nungwi and Kendwa are the most expensive, but the Eastern coast is almost half that price. Prices are pretty similar to what you’d find in most Western European countries. It is, after all, considered a honeymoon destination, so the prices stay in line with what people are willing to pay. If you choose to stay at hotels and eat at more western places, it’ll be closer to $150-$200 or more per day per person.

Zanzibar Travel

Also as a note, tourism is fairly new to Zanzibar. Only within the past 10 years have they really built the majority of the hotels and western style tourism establishments, so the prices are still low compared to many other African countries (despite what many people think, many African countries are extremely expensive for tourists, especially Kenya), but they are slowly getting more and more expensive every year as mass tourism begins.

  • Wi-Fi – The Wi-Fi in Zanzibar was ceratinly a challenge. Even at the nicest hotels, the service was iffy at best. There were a few restaurants with decent service, but I did struggle to work remotely while there. If you do need to work while there, I would suggest getting a local SIM.
  • Cash – The official currency in Zanzibar is the Tanzania shilling (1 USD = ~2,300 TZS) however USD are widely accepted and oftentimes preferred. I hardly carried local currency with me at all during my stay. Just be careful to stay on top of the exchange rates!
  • Food – Although the food itself tasted fine in most places, I would be cautious of food poisoning. Both my boyfriend and I had multiple bouts with food poisoning during our stay, even from the meals at the fanciest hotels.

Zanzibar Travel

  • Language – The official language of Zanzibar is Swahili. Many locals also speak Arabic and English. Due to the high prevalence of Italian and Russian tourists, many locals also spoke bits of Russian and Italian. In hotels and tourist locations, most people will speak English, although it may be difficult to communicate outside of the very touristic areas.
  • Medical – Malaria is a bit of a risk in Zanzibar, but far less than in most of the neighboring East African countries. Try to avoid mosquito bites and you should be fine!
  • Alcohol – Although it is a majority Muslim country, alcohol consumption is permitted and most places serve alcohol. It is suggested, however, to avoid being blatantly drunk especially walking through Stone Town or other towns.

Zanzibar Travel flags stone town

If you are looking for the best travel/tour operator within Zanzibar I would highly recommend Amnaf Shellah . He helped us so much to organize boat trips, provide us with reliable taxis, and so much more! It’s a small family business and they are really the best. Contact Amnaf at +255 777 45 4254.

Any more questions about Zanzibar? Check out 18 AMAZING THINGS YOU CAN’T MISS ON YOUR TRIP TO ZANZIBAR | THINGS TO DO

Also: BEST BEACHES IN ZANZIBAR – NUNGWI, STONE TOWN, PAJE, AND MORE

Lots of Love and Safe Travels,

Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters

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Colorful Sisters

56 comments.

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Aryon Maiden

Belíssimo Post, adorei abração forte para vocês

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Thank you so very much!!! 🙂

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Ohhh!!! Learnt something new today .☺☺☺😀😀

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trumstravels

Great article and now I want to go there! So odd about their attitude about Covid but you know at least they are living their lives, not like us.

It’s truly a lovely place 🙂 Their attitude towards Covid certainly is very unique! But it’s working well for them!

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theatrealtair

“Zanzibar” is a word that is only magical and hasn’t really had any “reality” for me so far: and now more 🙂 Thank you

Yess I felt the same way before I went! Kind of sounded like an unreal place…and it was unreal in another sense when I visited! I’ll be writing many more posts soon so hopefully it will bring even more reality to you 🙂

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Kitty Dingle

Wow. Zanzibara is now on the Bucket List.

Yayy!! It’s really amazing 🙂 I happy that it’s on your list now 😉

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ourcrossings

Great post and beautiful photos. Zanzibar looks quite divine. I would love to visit one day once the pandemic crisis are over. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

Thank you very much! I’m happy you enjoyed and hope that you’ll be able to visit one day 🙂

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Thanks for checking out my blog recently! I really appreciate your support if you choose to follow.

Thank you as well 🙂 Followed!

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Random thoughts

Zanzibar is on my radar, thank you for the informative piece 🤗

Amazing! I hope you can visit one day 🙂

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elenamarcoz

I can’t wait to start travelling again! Zanzibar has just made it in my very long “to do list” 🤗

Hahahah hopefully you can visit one day! It’s truly an amazing place 🙂

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What a place – colorful and very explorable. 🙂

Yess its very lovely indeed 🙂

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lisaonthebeach

That is absolutely fascinating! I would LOVE to just let corona virus go. Let’s all pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe we’d all be better for it. I just wonder… Beautiful photos!!! ❣❣

Hahahah it really does make you wonder! I also find it interesting that no one has really done studies on why they are doing ok there. Would love to see why they are doing just fine pretending it doesn’t exist!

You make a great point!

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Great details there, and great pics. Zanzibar looks so sunny and interesting, will wait for the things to do in Zanzibar post.

It really is such a lovely place!!

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MagicalMoments31

I really enjoyed reading your post…. Greetings from Tanzania. xx

Thank you so much! 🙂

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meticulousmick

And Zanzibar is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury! I would add that a Spice Tour is well worth it at one of the many spice farms, really interesting.

Yepp!! Sure is 🙂 The Spice Tours are definitely interesting as well 🙂 I have a blog post being published soon that talks about all that 🙂 🙂 When did you visit Zanzibar?

October 2018, we did a great safari in Tanzania before heading to Zanzibar.👍🏼 Missing the travel now that is for sure.

Amazing! We didn’t make it to Tanzania unfortunately, but did many safaris in Kenya and the terrain and wildlife are pretty similar!

I loved the Ngorongoro crater, like going to a jurassic Park, hemmed in by the steep sides of the crater. Spectacular. I’d like to go to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for a completely different safari experience but there is so much to see and do in the planet we temporarily call home ……🌏

So very true!! Endless amazing possibilities 🙂

18 Amazing Things You Can't Miss on Your Trip to Zanzibar | Things to Do

[…] Have more questions about Zanzibar? ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ZANZIBAR | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRIP […]

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Nothing like some beautiful beach pictures in the middle of winter with two days of the dreaded “frozen mix” in the immediate forecast.

Oh my!! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the winter mix as well, but the beach is certainly lovely 🙂

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Sandymancan

Hey ladies looks like yawl are having a good times, I understand I’ve spent the last 2yrs traveling through out South East Asia just back in the U.S because of Covid-19, enjoy yourselves and be careful Sandyman

Sounds so amazing!! Would love to travel through South East Asia one day!! Hopefully when things start opening up again!

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Ramit Kapur (Legends)

Amazing! I am so sure if I like it! And a amazing discovery….no using masks in COVID-19!

Yess a very interesting place for sure!!!

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Cosmopolitan Compact

looks interesting and a destination to explore. I would like to see the design and architecture there.

It really is a lovely place!! Lots of more posts coming soon so keep an eye out for more pictures 🙂

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Lebogang Shazzygal Malatji

Beautiful pictures 😃😃

Thank you so much! It’s a beautiful place 🙂

The Rock Restaurant Zanzibar - Built on a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean

[…] If you have any general questions about Zanzibar itself you have to read over: ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ZANZIBAR | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRIP […]

10 Days in Paradise - Best Itinerary for First Time Travelers to Zanzibar

[…] For more details about Zanzibar Travel Tips check out the full article here: ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ZANZIBAR | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRIP […]

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Prakaash inspiration

Wonderful pictures and thanks for following me.

Thank you as well!

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sefania2021

wow ! thank you ! is great !

Thank you!!

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Really relateble I just started my own travel blog and then covid hit and I could not travel anymore from my country. No travel planning for me at all 😦

Hopefully you can travel soon! Or at least within your own country. Wish you all the best with it!

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Sophia Lorena Benjamin

Coursed through your post with ease. It was so beautifully expressed. Quite interesting to read about Zanzibar, it’s not something i’ve come by previously. Just curious about how do you manage travelling to these places, is it alone or in a group or how. Would be happy to hear from you and you may send me a message if you would like discretion to sophyee at gmail dot com

Thank you so very much!! So happy that you enjoyed 🙂 Our travels are a bit of a combination. Some of them are completely solo and other are the two of us together, sometimes with some other friends/boyfriends. We never really travel in groups though…we need the freedom to explore and we absolutely love the fun of planning the perfect trip for ourselves!

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Judy Anne MacAulay

thanks so much for the info! Do you have anything to add since 2021? I am going July 1 2024!

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Zanzibar Island (Unguja)

Zanzibar Island (Unguja) is the main island of Zanzibar. It’s well-known for its historical Stone Town, beautiful beaches, and spectacular nature and wildlife, both on land and in the surrounding coral reefs.

There is also a variety of beach destinations, suitable to all different tastes. The main options are the Zanzibar City area (including Stone Town), the northern beaches (Nungwi and Kendwa), the northeast (Matemwe, Kiwengwa, Pwani Mchangani), and the east coast (Michamvi, Bwejuu, Paje, and Jambiani).

Stone Town is the cultural hub of Zanzibar, where you can find everything from historic sites to international and local restaurants, to excellent shopping. Hotels and Airbnbs are available for all budgets.

Stone Town was built from coral stone during the 19th and 20th centuries, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Because Stone Town is protected, you can explore the town just as it was when the sultans ruled.

Old Fort – Ngome Kongwe

If you’re visiting Stone Town, you simply cannot miss the Old Fort. It is one of the oldest buildings in Stone Town, originally built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and later rebuilt by the Omanis in the 18th century. It is free to visit, and cultural festivals and happenings are often organised in the inner courts of the fort.

Zanzibar City

Stone Town is just a fraction of the whole of Zanzibar City, the capital of Zanzibar. While Stone Town is the main historic area, Zanzibar City boasts modern buildings, shops, restaurants, beach resorts, and international offices.

You may be surprised by the fantastic beach experiences you can find not far from the city center. There are many high-quality resorts with reasonable prices located just a 10-minute drive from Stone Town. Or you could spend a day at the pool in places like Zanzibar Beach Resort or the Mbweni Ruins, even if you’re staying elsewhere.

Kendwa Village

Kendwa village is the youthful option for a stay in Zanzibar. Every Saturday, there is a party at the Kendwa Rocks Hotel — and when the Saturday happens to be a full moon, the party turns into a full moon party! (You’ll also want to consider this in case you don’t want to hear the music all Saturday night.)

There are many snorkeling and diving opportunities in Kendwa. The village itself is small, but there are some restaurants and shops outside the hotels. This is the Rasta beach of Zanzibar.

Nungwi Village

Nungwi village is the liveliest beach spot in Zanzibar. It’s located on the northernmost tip of Zanzibar Island. Due to its wonderful location, it offers great diving, a perfect sandy beach, and the possibility to swim even during low tide.

Matemwe Village

Matemwe village is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Zanzibar’s other beach towns. This is where locals and local expats prefer to spend their holidays. It’s also an ideal destination if you are looking for a peaceful boutique hotel.

East Coast: Bwejuu, Paje & Jambiani

The east coast of Zanzibar usually refers to the villages on the south-eastern stretch of beach. It starts from Uroa village, and onto Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani. It has a distinctive, relaxed atmosphere with mainly small hotel establishments and lots of local kite surfers.

These villages and the less densely populated spaces in between offer beautiful tidal beaches, the opportunity to visit Zanzibari villages, and you can take a lovely beach walk with stops at small cafes.

If you’re looking for a real-life paradise, you should find Pemba on your map. Think: lush hills, forests, and plantations, amazing snow-like white sand beaches, and serene small towns. This is Pemba, the green paradise of Zanzibar.

Pemba has three major towns: Chake Chake (where the airport is), Mkoani (where the ferry port is), and Wete, which is near Ngezi Forest and the amazing beaches of the northern tip of the island.

Do You Need a Transfer?

Getting from place to place was never easier! Just let us know where you need to go, and we’ll take you there. Airport Transfers – to and from Nungwi • Matemwe • Kiwengwa • East coast • the South Ferry Tickets – between Dar es Salaam • Zanzibar • Pemba  Flight Tickets – inside East Africa: Tanzania • Kenya • Uganda • Rwanda • Burundi

Tips & Useful Info

travel guide zanzibar

Plastic-Bag Ban

Since 2019 plastic bags have been banned in all Tanzania. It is not allowed to import, export, manufacture, sell, store, supply or use plastic bags in all Tanzania, including Zanzibar. Make sure to leave all your plastic bags at home! You might be searched on arrival, and there is a fine in place in case you have banned plastic bags.  

Traveling with Kids?

Zanzibar offers a family-friendly environment and many entertainment options for families with kids of all ages.

 From playgrounds to zoos, amusement parks and water parks to nature reserves and family safaris… you name it, we have it!

 Click below for more information about traveling in Zanzibar with kids and for a list of family-friendly accommodations.  

travel guide zanzibar

Stone Town is the home of many cultural events and festival all throughout the year. Film festivals, music festivals, literature festivals… We offer full festival packages for the most important festivals of Zanzibar, including a festival pass, accommodation (in a convenient location), transfers and beach time in between. Make sure to have the dates in mind when planning your vacation in Zanzibar!  

Some country nationals are required to carry a referral visa for their entrance to Zanzibar. Click below to check the list of countries and ensure you have all the correct entry documentation.

 If your country is on the list, get in touch and our professional travel consultant will start processing your visa immediately!  

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Zanzibar Airport

With the new terminal under construction, arriving in Zanzibar can be quite a hassle. But no worries, we’ve got you covered with this guide to Zanzibar Airport and everything you need to do after landing.

 Read our blog with useful tips to make sure your holiday kicks off as smoothly as possible.  

Some countries still require a negative COVID-19 test result before flying out from Zanzibar. But the process of getting test results in Zanzibar can be confusing and eat up a lot of your precious holiday time. 

We’ll help you get your COVID-19 test without hassle, so you can end your holiday in peace and return home safe.  

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Read More in Zanzibar & Tanzania FAQs

Didn’t find the information you were looking for? Check out our FAQs about Zanzibar and Tanzania!

… and check out our Blog for the latest news from Zanzibar and to learn about  Swahili Culture !

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Colors of Zanzibar

Bradt Guides

It remains impossible not to be enchanted as you approach from the air, looking down on sparkling turquoise waters, darkened only by patch reefs, and punctuated by the billowing triangular white sails of passing dhows. Chris and Susie McIntyre , authors of Zanzibar: The Bradt Guide

Zanzibar is one of our hot destinations for the year ahead – check out the full list of the best places to travel in 2024 here .

Zanzibar is a magical, evocative African name, like Timbuktu, Casablanca or Kilimanjaro. For many travellers, the name alone is reason enough to come. Yet although expectations run high, awareness of the reality on Zanzibar and its neighbouring islands is often rather hazy.

For many, the islands offer a quintessential Indian Ocean experience: palm-lined stretches of powder-white coral sand line the coast for miles, while below the waves, reef fish flit among colourful coral gardens, overshadowed only by the occasional pelagic looming out of the blue. From the nesting turtles on Juani to the whale sharks seen annually off Mafia, there is always something unexpected awaiting the diver and snorkeller. On land, too, these islands can enthral. Kirk’s red colobus monkeys can be seen in the forest, Arabian architecture provides an exotic urban backdrop, and village life remains steeped in tradition.

Our message is clear: don’t discount the less well-known areas of Zanzibar, Pemba Island or the Mafia Archipelago. And for some of the best experiences, get off the beaten track, ideally with knowledgeable residents. Your choices will make a difference not only to your stay, but also to the communities that you encounter.

Food and drink in Zanzibar

Restaurants.

In Zanzibar Town, and increasingly most other main resort areas, there are several good restaurants catering specifically for visitors, specialising in local dishes, seafood or curries; mains usually cost between US$7 and US$15, but there are also smarter restaurants, where prices are a little higher, and restaurants where less-elaborate meals and snacks cost around US$5–7.

In Zanzibar Town and other urban conglomerations there are also some small eating-houses that cater mainly to local people, where you can eat for around US$2–3. They usually only have one or two types of food available, such as stew and rice, but they also serve chapattis, samosas and other snacks.

Cafés and bars

In Zanzibar Town, many places serve drinks as well as food, although at busy times you may be required to buy a meal rather than have a drink on its own. You can buy international and Tanzanian brands of fizzy drink, plus local and imported beers. Prices vary greatly according to where you drink: a bottle of Coke from a shop or small backstreet café costs US$1, but may cost four times this in a smarter café or restaurant. A bottle of local beer (including Safari, Tusker or Kilimanjaro) costs US$1.50 in a local bar, and at least double this in smarter places.

At larger hotels and restaurants in Zanzibar Town or on the coast you can also buy imported beers, wines (mostly from South Africa) and spirits.

Self-catering

If you plan to provide for yourself in Zanzibar Town, there are several shops selling locally produced bread and cakes, plus a reasonable choice of food in tins and packets imported from Kenya and beyond. Zanzibar Town has a market that’s good for fruit and vegetables, plus fresh meat and fish if you have a means of cooking it. Other towns have small markets where you can buy meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, and shops with a limited but adequate supply of tinned food.

Health and safety in Zanzibar

People new to exotic travel often worry about tropical diseases, but it is accidents that are most likely to carry you off. Road accidents are very common in many parts of Zanzibar so be aware and do what you can to reduce risks: try to travel during daylight hours, always wear a seatbelt and refuse to be driven by anyone who has been drinking. Listen to local advice about any areas where crime is an issue.

When travelling around Zanzibar or East Africa, the different climatic and social conditions mean visitors are exposed to diseases not normally encountered at home. Although you will likely have received all the vaccinations recommended, this does not mean you will be free of all illness during your travels: certain precautions still have to be taken. You should read a good book on travel medicine and be aware of the causes, symptoms and treatments of the more serious diseases. But don’t let this put you off – with a little care and attention most of these illnesses can be avoided.

Diseases and vaccinations

Make sure all your immunisations are up to date. Officially, proof of vaccination against yellow fever is only needed for entry into Zanzibar if you are coming from another yellow fever endemic area, but the Zanzibari authorities have been known to request proof of vaccination for visitors coming from Tanzania – which effectively incorporates most visitors.

It’s also reckless to travel in the tropics without being up to date on tetanus, polio and diphtheria (now given as an all-in-one vaccine, Revaxis) and hepatitis A. Immunisation against typhoid, hepatitis B and rabies may also be recommended.

The biggest health threat is malaria. This potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease has largely been eradicated from Zanzibar and Pemba in recent years, thanks to the widespread use of insecticide-treated nets and indoor spraying, and the prevalence stood at an all-time low of less than 1%. Despite this, the amount of human traffic between the mainland and the islands means that it has not been eliminated entirely, and visitors should take all precautions against it.

Though advised for everyone, a pre-exposure rabies vaccination, involving three doses taken over a minimum of 21 days, is particularly important if you intend to have contact with animals, or are likely to be 24 hours away from medical help.

As in most countries, crime on these islands is gradually on the increase. Similarly, problems tend to occur with greater frequency in the cities and tourist heartlands than in the rural areas. Perhaps inevitably, the juxtaposition of relatively wealthy tourists and a high density of relatively poor local people causes envy and leads to the occasional crime.

Zanzibar Town is notorious for opportunist pickpockets, and occasionally tourists do have bags and cameras snatched while walking around the narrow streets of Stone Town. There have also been robberies on some of the beaches around Zanzibar Town; it is better not to go there alone, especially at night. The authors have yet to hear of any crime problems on Mafia Island – but this is a small, rural island with a low population density.

You can reduce the chances of having anything stolen by not displaying your wealth. Don’t bring valuable jewellery to these islands; leave it at home. Keep your valuables secure, out of sight and preferably back in the safe at your hotel. Keep most of your money there too, and do not peel off notes from a huge wad for every small purchase. Wandering around the town with an expensive camera casually slung over your shoulder or a state-of-the-art iPhone is insensitive and simply asking for trouble. A simple, dull-looking bag is much safer than something smart or fashionable.

Islamic terrorist groups are present in East Africa, and to a varying degree, pose a threat across the entire region. In Zanzibar specifically, there were two explosions in Zanzibar Town in 2013. There was also a bomb attack near a mosque in Stone Town in June 2014, which killed one person and injured several others. No such incident has occurred since.

With the rise of global terrorism, some travellers have looked nervously towards East Africa, but the truth is that the large Islamic communities on the islands are generally very peaceful, though they probably have their extremist elements, very much like the extremists who live in communities in the UK, Europe and the USA. So whilst Zanzibar has many factors that may cause initial concern, at the time of writing the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office do not cite the risk from terrorism as higher than in Western Europe or the USA.

When to visit Zanzibar

The best time to visit the islands of Zanzibar is during the dry seasons – December to February and June to October – but generally speaking, from December to February any wind comes from the northeast, so beaches on the southern and western parts of the islands are more sheltered. Conversely, from June to October it tends to come from the southwest, so northern and eastern coasts are best. Ultimately, however, these islands are at the mercy of the ocean and their weather patterns can be unpredictable at any time of year. Even during the ‘dry’ seasons, afternoon showers are not unknown, although they tend to be short and pleasantly cooling.

It is also possible to visit during the rainy season, when there are fewer visitors and you’re more likely to get good bargains from lodges and hotels (the ones that remain open) and trips. The rain can be heavy, but is not usually constant; the sunsets can be particularly magnificent; and pineapples are in season! Travel can be trickier, with roads damaged and buses delayed, but you’ll get there eventually.

The climate of Zanzibar is dominated by the movements of the Indian Ocean monsoons, and characterised by wet and dry seasons. The northeast monsoon winds (known locally as the  kaskazi ) blow from November/December to February/ March, and the southwest monsoon winds (the  kusi ) blow from June to September/ October. The main rains (the  masika ) fall from mid-March to the end of May, and there is a short rainy season (the  vuli ) in November.

Throughout the year, humidity is generally quite high (less so in the rainy season), although this can be relieved by winds and sea breezes. Temperatures do not vary greatly throughout the year, with daytime averages around 26°C (80°F) on Zanzibar Island from June to October, and around 28°C from December to February, although in this latter period the humidity is often higher, so temperatures feel hotter. Pemba tends to be cooler and gets slightly more rain than Zanzibar Island.

Festivals and public holidays

At holiday times, such as Christmas and Easter, the islands are popular with expats from Dar es Salaam and Nairobi as well as overseas visitors. Expect full flights and higher hotel rates. Conversely, during the Islamic fasting period of Ramadan, many restaurants and shops are closed during the day, and life runs at a generally slower pace. Sports fans may like to tie in their visit with the Zanzibar International Marathon, held every year in early November.

The islands share most public holidays with the rest of Tanzania. Offices and businesses are usually closed on these days, although some tour companies remain open. Public holidays with fixed dates include:

  • 1 January – New Year
  • 12 January – Mapinduzi ‘Revolution’ Day
  • 7 April – Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume Day
  • 26 April – Union Day: Zanzibar and Tanganyika
  • 1 May – Workers’ Day
  • 7 July – Saba Saba (Seven Seven)
  • 8 August – Peasants’ and Farmers’ Day
  • 14 October – Nyerere Day
  • 9 December – Independence Day
  • 25 December – Christmas Day
  • 26 December – Boxing Day

The Muslim feasts of Idd il Fitri – the end of Ramadan – and Idd il Maulidi (also called Maulidi ya Mfunguo Sita) – Muhammad’s birthday – are celebrated by many people and are effectively public holidays. Dates of these holidays depend on the lunar calendar, and fall 11 or 12 days earlier every year. Approximate dates for Ramadan for the next few years are as follows: 3 April to 1 May 2022; 23 March to 21 April 2023; 10 March to 8 April 2024.

What to see and do in Zanzibar

women fishing zanzibar tanzania africa traditional clothing

Jambiani Cultural Tour

The sprawling, linear coastal village of Jambiani consists of four amalgamated communities beginning a few kilometres south of Paje, spreading for about 6km down the coast towards Ras Shungi.

The village’s name comes from the Arabic word  jambiya : a dagger with a markedly curved blade. Local legend holds that early settlers found such a knife here; proof that others had been in the area before them. It emits an active community spirit; Jambiani is probably the best place on the island to gain genuine insights into Zanzibari village life and enjoy rewarding community interaction.

If you want a change from the beach and water, the excellent Eco+Culture village tour, guided by resident Ramadhan Issa offers probably the island’s best insight into genuine rural life. The tours last anything from a few hours to the best part of a day (depending on your enthusiasm and heat tolerance), and take in many aspects of everyday life. Spend time helping the women make coconut paste, reciting the alphabet in unison at the efficient kindergarten and meeting the mganga (traditional healer). Ramadhan’s presence, reputation within the community and ability to translate allow for genuine interaction with the Jambiani residents and a thoroughly engaging time.

A percentage of your fee goes directly towards community development initiatives, such as the kindergarten and shop for an affiliated women’s handicraft co-operative near Jambiani School. Tours can also be arranged at their office (also close to Jambiani School) or through Villa Bahati Zanzibar. Do be aware, though, that of late a few villagers have apparently been operating inferior copycat walks.

Jozani-Chwaka National Park

Jozani-Chwaka National Park

For most overseas visitors to Zanzibar, the island’s main draw is its fabulous beaches, supplemented by the diving and snorkelling opportunities that abound on the offshore reefs, and the compelling unique atmosphere of Stone Town. The interior, by contrast, tends to be overlooked, so much so that many visitors see nothing of it other than a few glimpses through a car window as they transfer from the airport to their chosen beach resort.

For natural history enthusiasts, the main attraction of the underrated interior is Jozani Forest, which now forms part of Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park and harbours the island’s largest concentration of endemic Kirk’s red colobus monkey, along with rich birdlife and various other alluring forest creatures.

Zanzibar’s only national park, Jozani-Chwaka Bay protects a variety of wooded habitats, the most important of these being the largest-surviving stand of the mature indigenous forest that once naturally covered much of the island, and the extensive mangroves that line the southern end of Chwaka Bay. The park extends for more than 100km ² , across the narrow low-lying isthmus that links the island’s northwestern and southeastern components. The area is prone to flooding in the rainy season, giving rise to its unique ‘swamp-forest’ environment, and the large moisture-loving trees, stands of palm and fern, and high water table and humid air give the forest a cool, ‘tropical’ feel.

Historically, local people have cut trees and harvested other forest products for many centuries, but commercial use started in the 1930s when the forest was bought by an Arab landowner and a sawmill was built here. In the late 1940s, the forest came under the control of the colonial government and some replanting took place. Jozani was set aside as a forest reserve in 1952 and, as similar habitats elsewhere were cleared to make way for agriculture, much of the island’s wildlife congregated here. The forest was declared a nature reserve in the 1960s, but despite this the trees and animals were inadequately protected. Local people cut wood for building and fuel, and some animals were hunted for food or because they could damage crops in nearby fields.

Nevertheless, Jozani Forest retains much of its original natural character, and exploitation of its natural resources has more or less ceased since 2004, when it was merged with Chwaka Bay to the north and proclaimed as Zanzibar’s first (and so far only) national park. Developed from a partnership between the Zanzibar government’s Commission for Natural Resources and the charity CARE International, with funding from various sources including the government of Austria, the Ford Foundation and the Global Environment Facility, Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park now has clear targets to protect natural resources and improve conditions for local people and wildlife in the area. It is also a popular destination for day trippers from Stone Town and the east-coast resorts, and revenue raised by tourism plays an important role in its conservation.

Jozani has a fairly good bird population, with over 40 species recorded, although many of the forest birds are shy and therefore hard to spot. Species occurring here include Kenya crested guineafowl ( Guttera pucherani ), emerald- spotted wood dove ( Turtur chalcospilos ), little greenbul ( Andropadus chalcospilos ), sombre greenbul ( Andropadus importunus ), cardinal woodpecker ( Dendropicos fuscescens ), red-capped robin-chat ( Cossypha natalensis ), dark-backed weaver ( Ploceus bicolour ), golden weaver ( Ploceus xanthops ), olive sunbird ( Nectarinia olivacea ) and crowned hornbill ( Lophoceros alboterminatus ).

Jozani-Chwaka National Park

Other residents of Jozani include a population of  Zanzibar Sykes’ monkey  ( Cercopithecus albogularis albogularis ), a subspecies that is endemic to the archipelago and which you are quite likely to see on a guided walk. The forest is also home to  Ader’s duiker  ( Cephalophus adersi ), a species of small antelope found only on Zanzibar and some parts of the Kenyan coast, and the even tinier  suni antelope  ( Neotragus moschatus moschatus ). Both are extremely shy and unlikely to be seen. Ader’s duiker is virtually extinct in Kenya now and, listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, its best chance of survival is on Zanzibar Island. Its population is between

Bottlenose dolphin Menai Bay Zanzibar Tanzania by Attila JANDI, Shutterstock

Menai Bay Conservation Area

At the far end of the island’s southwestern peninsula, on an increasingly rutted coral road 15km from Zanzibar Town, is the peaceful village of Fumba. It’s a quiet, scenic place and very few tourists ever come here, which gives it a good deal of its charm. There is only one upmarket lodge offering accommodation, but day trips to the marine conservation area of Menai Bay are run by two reputable operators, so even if you can’t stay it’s still possible to get a taste of this area.

From the beach south of the village, local fishermen take their  ngalawa  outriggers and dhows to the islands and fishing grounds beyond, and here too is the departure point for one of the boat trips. It’s truly stunning in the surrounding waters but if you also want to get a deeper insight into the community, ask around for a local villager called Issa Kibwana, who conducts small tours of the nearby fruit and spice plantations, or arrange a meeting with him through Sama Tours.

What to see and do

The Menai Bay Conservation Area has a number of picturesque uninhabited islands and sandbanks to explore as well as some fascinating marine life. It’s well worth taking one of the full-day sailing and snorkelling excursions here, either through Fumba Beach Lodge (if you’re a guest), with Safari Blue (departing from the Fumba Peninsula), or Eco+Culture (departing from Unguja Ukuu).

Eco+Culture is a socially & environmentally aware tour operator that specialises in the Unguja Ukuu Boat Trip. On a traditional dhow, small groups are taken past rich mangrove forests to the pristine beaches of Miwi, Nianembe or Kwale islands & accessible sandbanks. Snorkelling kit is provided & the shallow reefs around the bay & islands provide excellent opportunities to spot brightly coloured fish & corals. After a good amount of time in the water, a delicious BBQ lunch is prepared on the beach, which invariably features a selection of freshly caught fish, Swahili side dishes & tropical fruits.

The Safari Blue tour pauses at a few of the bay’s islands & sandbanks for exploration, a tasty lunch & relaxation, in between guided snorkelling forays & hopeful spotting for humpback & bottlenose dolphins. The 1st stop of the day is usually Kwale sandbank for gentle snorkelling. If conditions allow, a 2nd snorkelling session takes place at West Kwale. Sailing on further, BBQ seafood lunches await on Kwale Island, where tamarind trees offer shade (vegetarian/non-fish options must be ordered in advance).

Some shade is available on these boats and beaches, but remember to apply sunscreen and preferably wear a T-shirt for protection when snorkelling. Towels and waterproof shoes are also recommended as you’ll most likely have to wade out to the boat across coral rock.

View Mnemba island Zanzibar Tanzania by Warren Goldswain, Shutterstock

Mnemba Island

Lying approximately 2.5km off the northeast coast of Zanzibar, Mnemba is a picture-perfect 11ha coral island enclosed by calm turquoise waters that hide some of East Africa’s best coral reefs in a relatively unspoilt aquatic wonderland. Now privately leased by &Beyond, the previously uninhabited island operates as one of Africa’s most-exclusive and sumptuous beach retreats, and as such cannot be visited without an overnight booking. Fortunately, however, there are no restrictions on diving and snorkelling sites on the fringing reefs, where several spectacular submarine sites are visited on popular daily excursions out of Nungwi, Matemwe, and elsewhere in northern Zanzibar.

The triangular perimeter of Mnemba comprises 1.5km of soft, brilliant-white coral-sand beaches: perfect for romantic evening strolls, migrating wading birds, scuttling ghost crabs, and nesting turtles. At the island’s centre, a casuarina forest is home to nothing more dangerous than cooing red-eyed doves, colourful butterflies, and an ancient well.

For most visitors, Mnemba’s astonishingly diverse marine fauna is of more interest than its terrestrial wildlife. The island is part of a coral formation that supports a staggering variety of marine creatures: not only hundreds of different species of colourful reef fish, but also a wealth of pelagic visitors, ranging from marine turtles and dolphins to whale sharks and manta rays. The reefs were once threatened by overfishing and a general disregard for the fragility of the environment, but sustained lobbying by &Beyond and the government resulted in the official creation of the Mnemba Island Marine Conservation Area in 2002. This was later expanded to become the Mnemba-Chwaka Bay Marine Conservation Area, which protects the entire barrier reef fringing the northeast coast as far south as Chwaka, and Mnemba’s future now seems reasonably secure.

A small conservation levy is charged on all watersports, notably snorkelling and diving, within the protected zone. This revenue is paid into a community conservation fund, the primary purpose of which is to show local fishermen and their communities the very real economic value in protecting rather than exploiting these exceptional reefs. In addition, the lodge and Africa Foundation (&Beyond’s social development partner) have invested at least US$180,000 in community projects on Zanzibar close to Mnemba: building classrooms, a windmill and ablution blocks, refurbishing the doctor’s house, supporting the orphanage, and assisting villagers with access to clean water.

Nungwi and Kendwa

Nungwi

Nungwi is traditionally the centre of Zanzibar’s dhow-building industry, and over the last decade the coastline here has rocketed in popularity to become one of the island’s busiest beach destinations. The ramshackle fishing village has been largely sidelined by an ever-increasing number of guesthouses, bars, shops, restaurants and bikini-clad Europeans.

Over the last decade or so, the number of hotel rooms in Nungwi has rocketed from around 400 to well over 1,000. Hotels have sprung up in literally every direction, roads have been repeatedly re-routed and costs have escalated. With the exception of the World Bank-funded tar road to Stone Town, and the police post paid for by local hoteliers, there has been little thought given to the pressure on natural resources, specifically fresh water, with this vast increase in visitor numbers, and sadly the local population has suffered the brunt of the negative consequences, in very direct contrast to those who come to enjoy their ‘island paradise’.

That said, the Nungwi beach scene has matured in recent years and become a little more comfortable in its own skin. The beachfront hassle has declined in favour of clusters of local curio stalls; basic shops and small businesses have been established offering everything from massage to snorkel hire; the wild nights have tempered, making way for tables set for feet-in-the-sand beach dinners; and a couple of cool cocktail spots have taken the place of pop-up makuti-roofed bars. Professionalism has spread, too, with benefits to the community through training and employment and, of course, to the visitor’s experience. Dive operations are now universally reliable and reputable, accommodation standards are on the rise (at all budgets), and the village is benefiting from some decent efforts at hotel-funded community projects.

After a few crazy years of incessant building and change, things are finally settling down. Gardens have flourished in those dusty construction sites and, though Nungwi has changed irrevocably from the sleepy island backwater of old, it is once again reclaiming some of its exotic charm. Backpackers still come here looking for a cheap, fun beach break, but now so do city executives, honeymooners, retired couples and families – and all appear to be having a good time. Within the village, population numbers have spiralled with immigration (local and from the mainland) driven by the prospect of employment and tourist dollars; for the first time, Nungwi’s population hit 10,000 in the 2012 census and it is now almost certainly the island’s second-largest settlement, behind Zanzibar Town.

Nugwi

Ironically, given its current state, Nungwi was one of the last coastal settlements on Zanzibar to have a hotel, or any tourist facilities. As recently as the mid 1990s, proposals for large developments in the area were fiercely opposed by local people. Today, in spite of the influx of tourists, Nungwi remains a fairly traditional, conservative place with proudly independent villagers. They are not unfriendly, however, and most visitors find that a little bit of cultural respect, politeness and a few words of Swahili go a long way.

Most visitors come to this area to relax on the beach, swim in the sea, and perhaps to party at night. For local attractions, the small turtle sanctuary on the beach, terrific local coral reefs and growing array of watersports are still a draw. If you want a more cultural experience, check out the village tour, head down the coast to the 16th-century Swahili ruins at Fukuchani and Mvuleni, the bustling and ramshackle market at Mkokotoni, or venture across the water to Tumbatu Island. If you want peace, quiet and fewer people, you will probably need to visit a different corner of the island.

Kendwa

On the west coast, about 4km south of Nungwi, is the tiny, linear village and beautiful beach of Kendwa. Once offering relief from the noise and crowded development of Nungwi, its glorious, wide, sandy beach used to cater almost exclusively to free-spirited budget travellers and those in search of simple escapism – that is, until the upmarket coastal La Gemma Dell’Est arrived around 1km further north in 2005. It’s now somewhat less serene. A clutch of neighbouring, luxurious resorts now line its shore and the simple beach huts of old are increasingly hard to find. Unlike some areas, however, the developments here are generally well landscaped, low-level and on large plots, giving a greater sense of space and making it a peaceful place to chill out.

A few original beach bars remain, alongside the beachfront hotel restaurants and their banks of carefully guarded loungers, and there are three great dive schools. The beach also benefits from less extreme tidal changes than the east coast, making swimming possible all day long. Things do liven up in the evenings, with bonfires, barbecues and serious Full Moon beach parties, attracting island- wide crowds, but otherwise Kendwa is still a relative haven of peace – though you do have to negotiate a fairly awful (but mercifully short) approach road to get here!

Sunbathing, beach volleyball, diving and snorkelling are the main activities in Kendwa – it’s a terribly laidback beach hangout. The vast majority of the hotels and guesthouses will hire out basic snorkelling gear, organise day trips by boat to Tumbatu Island, and offer sunset dhow cruises; some will rent out kayaks, too.

Once a small fishing village, straggled along the coast, Paje is centred on the junction of the tar road from Zanzibar Town with the main east coast road between Michamvi and Makunduchi. This prime location has always made it the easiest place on the east coast to reach by public transport and certainly contributed to its early success as the backpackers’ choice location.

After an initial peak, Paje’s visitors declined as Nungwi claimed the crown for budget beach action, but the north is pulling upmarket again these days, and the backpacker pendulum is currently swinging back to the east coast. Recent years have also seen a veritable boom in Zanzibar kitesurfing, and Paje is now firmly on the map as a destination for sun-blond kiters seeking a cheap getaway in warm, tropical waters with reliable conditions. More lodges have sprung up, old ones have expanded, cafés have opened, a basic curio street now stretches back from the beach, and everywhere along this stretch, kites fill the sky. During peak season, the beach is pretty hectic with people and fluttering silk, and swimming is an absolute non-starter.

The kitesurfing community – both professional centres and visitors – are generally fairly laidback and responsible, but the sheer numbers of visitors here have attracted some associated troubles: a rise in beach boys permanently lingering on the sand, some beach robbery and reports of increasing problems with drugs. By and large, the area surrounding the village remains a quiet spot for an idyllic beach break, but it’s worth taking sensible precautions when wandering around. Genuine interaction with the local community is virtually non-existent here, with only the beach traders mixing with the tourists.

The primary activities in Paje are sunbathing on the beautiful beach and swimming in the sea. If staring out at the waves breaking along the fringe reef pricks your curiosity, there are two dive schools and a number of European-run kitesurfing operations; be aware, though, that the latter is seasonal, with the best times being December to February, or even better, from June to August. For those tired of the salt and sand, a small heart-shaped pool at Dhow Inn is open to non-residents for a daily fee of US$5.

An informative diversion is the  Mwani Zanzibar Seaweed Company , which operates a suburban visitors’ centre in the back roads, about 1km north of the village centre. Given the visibility of seaweed farming, it’s well worth checking out these lovely new ‘headquarters’ to better understand its very real importance to the community. An informative 1-hour guided tour, including a glass of seaweed juice and a visit to one of the seaweed production areas on the nearby beach, costs US$15 per person. The on-site shop sells a range of organic seaweed products, including soaps, scrubs, and oils, that make perfect, lightweight souvenirs.

Paje seaweed farm zainzibar tanzania beach fishing ann taylor shutterstock

There is also an old  mausoleum : a low rectangular edifice with a castellated wall, inset with antique plates and dishes. This design is thought to have originated in Persia, and may indicate that this part of the island was settled by Shirazi immigrants prior to the western side of the island, near present-day Zanzibar Town. Ask one of the local villagers to escort you for a small fee.

In the last decade, kitesurfing has literally taken off on Zanzibar, particularly in the area around Paje. A colourful and fascinating spectator sport, its rise comes as no surprise to the many operators here. Warm, calm, tropical waters, a shallow lagoon and constant steady wind (13–25 knots is ideal) for eight months of the year have all contributed to its success. There is good, flat, waist-deep water for freestylers at low tide, and choppy conditions (1–3m waves) beyond the reef at high tide that thrill the wave riders.

kitesurfing Paje

Beginners can take courses with licensed instructors, advanced riders can bring and store their own kit or hire on the beach, and the kitesurfing community is generally professionally run on the island. Perhaps the only drawback of the popularity is that swimmers are perhaps better off away from this kiting heartland, where boards zip through the surf from dawn to dusk. Should this be of interest to you, equipment, courses and more information can be found at Airborne Kite Centre , Harakakite or Kite Centre Zanzibar .

Pemba Island

Pemba Island lies about 80km to the northeast of Zanzibar Island, and about the same distance from the Tanzanian mainland, directly east of the port of Tanga. Smaller than Zanzibar, at just 67km long, it covers an area of 985km ² and has a more undulating landscape, even though its highest point is only about 95m above sea level. But one of the first things that most strikes the visitor is how green it is. More densely vegetated than Zanzibar (with both natural forest and plantation), Pemba has always been seen as a more fertile place. The early Arab sailors called it El Huthera, meaning ‘The Green’. Today, as always, far more cloves are grown here than on Zanzibar.

With 406,848 inhabitants recorded in the 2012 census, Pemba is – like Zanzibar – one of the most densely populated areas of Tanzania, although this is no urban jungle. Most of the population live in traditional square houses, with a wooden frame, mud walls and thatched roofs (occasionally upgraded to corrugated iron). The largest town is Chake Chake, the island’s capital and administrative centre, about halfway down the western side of the island. Other main towns are Wete, in the north, and Mkoani, the main port, in the south.

For today’s visitor, Pemba’s greatest attractions include long, empty beaches, some excellent diving and snorkelling, and the unspoilt Ngezi-Vumawimbina Forest Reserve. There are several small historical sites which, although not ‘must sees’, ertainly repay a visit if you use just a little imagination. Perhaps more important, though, attracting a few thousand visitors annually, and with relatively few tourist facilities, Pemba is still a place where travel for its own sake (by car, bus, bike or on foot) remains a prime reason for visiting.

Pemba

Recreational diving off Pemba is, for the most part, confined to the Pemba Channel on the more sheltered west of the island. Misali Island in particular provides a wonderful array of corals and fish life. Unlike the reefs around Zanzibar Island, many of the reefs off Pemba fall away into steep walls, offering opportunities for some exciting drift dives and the chance to see creatures such as the spotted eagle ray, with its 3m wingspan.

Despite Pemba’s undoubted reputation for the big pelagics, such as barracuda, trevally, giant groupers and the endangered Napoleon wrasse, sightings of shark are extremely rare on the west of the island, and even to the south. If it’s sharks that you’re after, you need to deep dive in the east, where the steep walls and fast currents attract hammerheads.

Most operators use either speedboats or motorised dhows to get to the dive sites. While the former are undoubtedly faster, there’s a lot to be said for the leisurely pace of a dhow, giving the opportunity to take in the beauty of the islands or to watch large teams of fishermen working with their nets from narrow wooden boats. On the way to the dive sites, particularly in the morning and further north, you may be joined by schools of common or spinner dolphins, just tagging along for the ride, and occasionally humpback whale sightings have been reported. See 360 Dive Pemba , Dive 710 or Swahili Divers for more information.

Black Spotted moray eel mnemba zanzibar tanzania swim snorkelling

Snorkelling

While there is no shortage of places to swim and snorkel off Pemba, most are viable only at high water. One of the best places for snorkelling lies in front of the visitor centre on Misali Island, where – in just a few feet of water, and regardless of the tide – countless fish and other underwater life can be seen in almost perfect visibility.

As you drift through the water, keep an eye out for unicornfish, sea goldies, cleaner wrasse, deep red and blue parrotfish, and the startling Moorish idol. Giant clams grip the reef, and sea cucumbers edge along the sandy bottom; you may even spot a grouper. Other excellent sites include the Aquarium in the Njao Gap and the 1km-long reef protected by the Kwanini Foundation in front of the Manta Resort. Other possibilities include areas around the sandbanks that dry out at low tide along the west coast. Snorkelling trips can be organised through all the hotels and lodges; expect to pay US$20–40, depending on the distance to the site.

All the larger tourist lodges and hotels have kayaks, with short guided trips offered by Fundu Lagoon for their guests. The Manta Resort offers kayak safaris (US$30 pp), while at Swahili Divers, a half-day guided mangrove tour costs US$35.

Nutmeg Spice Tour Zanzibar Tanzania by Sivanadar Shutterstock

Spice tours

Sooner or later every visitor to Zanzibar will be offered a ‘spice tour’ – a trip to the farmlands just outside Stone Town to see aromatic plants and herbs growing wild or cultivated in kitchen gardens. Even if you decline a tour, the array of spices on offer in the souvenir shops or heaped in baskets in the local markets will tell you that spice is central to Zanzibar’s history and economy.

The history of spices in Zanzibar begins early in the 16th century, when the ‘spice race’ between the major European powers to control the lucrative trading routes to the Far East was at its height. Portuguese traders gained a toehold on Zanzibar as part of their plan to rule the coast of East Africa and imported various plants, including spices, from their colonies in South America and India. Some land was cleared for plantations, but the Portuguese never really developed their presence on Zanzibar beyond a military one.

It was left to the Omani Arabs, who ruled Zanzibar from the early 19th century, to develop Zanzibar economically as a spice-producing entity. Sultan Seyyid Said, the first Omani sultan to govern Zanzibar, quickly realised the potential of his new dominion, with its hot climate and regular rainfall, as a location for spice farming. With the demise of the slave trade in the late 19th century, spices became Zanzibar’s main source of income.

When the era of the sultans ended and the long arm of the British Empire reached Zanzibar, the island’s new colonial administrators encouraged the farming of spices and other useful plants, bringing European scientists to establish experimental agricultural stations and government farms such as those at Kizimbani and Kindichi. Today these areas still contain spice plantations controlled by the modern Tanzanian government.

But spices in Zanzibar today are by no means simply the preserve of governments keen to produce cash-rich export products or a useful tourist attraction. For the ordinary people of Zanzibar, spices and useful plants are a vital part of everyday life and a rich element in the island’s strong and vibrant culture. The spices grown in village kitchen-gardens give their flavour to the distinctive cuisine of Zanzibar, provide innumerable cures for everyday ailments, and yield the dyes and cosmetic products needed to celebrate weddings and festivals.

A spice tour is probably the best way of seeing the countryside around Stone Town and meeting rural communities. Guides take you on a walking tour of the villages and plantations at Kizimbani or Kindichi, picking bunches of leaves, fruit and twigs from bushes and inviting you to smell or taste them to guess what they are. Pretty much all the ingredients of the average kitchen spice rack are represented – cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chillies, black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla among many others. Local children follow you all the way round, making baskets of palm leaves and filling them with flowers to give to you. At lunchtime, you’ll stop in a local house for a meal of pilau rice and curry, followed by sweet Arabic coffee and perhaps a slice of lemongrass cake. Many spice tours include a visit to the Persian baths built by Sultan Said for his harem, and stop at Fuji or Mangapwani beaches just outside Stone Town for a swim on the way back.

All in all, even if horticulture isn’t one of your interests, a spice tour is still an excellent way of gaining an insight into one of the most important aspects of rural life in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar Town is divided in two by the wide thoroughfare that is officially called Benjamin Mkapa Road but is more commonly referred to by its older name: Creek Road (in reference to a creek that was long ago reclaimed). On the west side of Creek Road is the ‘heart’ of Zanzibar Town: the evocative old quarter, usually called Stone Town. This is the more interesting section for visitors: many of the buildings were constructed during the 19th century (although some date from before this time), when Zanzibar was a major trading centre and at the height of its power.

The trade created wealth which in turn led to the construction of palaces, mosques and many fine houses. Discovering the architectural gems hidden along the tortuous maze of narrow streets and alleyways that wind through Stone Town is part of the island’s magic for many visitors. Aside from the souvenir Tingatinga paintings, neatly folded  kanga  fabrics and beaded jewellery, it’s a scene virtually unchanged since the mid 19th century.

Stone Town

What to see and do in Stone Town

One writer has compared the old Stone Town of Zanzibar to a tropical forest where tall houses stretch to the sky instead of trees, and the sun filters through a network of overhanging balconies instead of foliage.

Its labyrinth of twisting streets and alleys is a stroller’s paradise, with new sights, sounds or smells to catch the imagination at every turn: massive carved doors, ancient walls, tiny tempting shops with colourful wares and bustling shoppers, old men hunched over a traditional game, kids with homemade toys, ghetto-blasters at full volume, little boys hawking cashews or postcards or fresh bread, the sound of the muezzin calling from the mosque and the scent of cloves or ginger or lemongrass – and everywhere the echoes of Zanzibar’s rich and fascinating history, the sultans, shipbuilders, explorers, slave markets, merchants and exotic spice trade.

The market is about halfway along Creek Road and a good place to visit even if you don’t want to buy anything. At the end of the 19th century, the town’s marketplace was inside the Old Fort. Today’s market hall was built in 1904, and some very early photographs of the market displayed in the museum show that very little has changed since then. The long market hall is surrounded by traders selling from stalls, or with their wares simply spread out on the ground.

It’s a very vibrant place where everything, from fish and bread to sewing machines and secondhand car spares, is bought and sold. Don’t miss the swathes of multi-patterned cotton fabrics, the fragrant spices and mound after mound of exotic fruit and vegetables, though – and just enjoy people-watching and being part of a Zanzibar experience which hasn’t yet become especially touristy. 

Livingstone House Museum

On the northeast side of the town, in the Kinazini waterfront quarter, this old building was constructed in around 1860 for Sultan Majid, at a time when Zanzibar was used as a starting point by many of the European missionaries and pioneers who explored eastern and central Africa during the second half of the 19th century. David Livingstone, probably the most famous explorer of them all, stayed in this house before sailing to the mainland to begin his last expedition in 1866. After independence and the Revolution the house became the Zanzibar headquarters of the Tanzania Friendship Tourist Bureau, the forerunner of the Zanzibar Tourist Commission.

A large downstairs room is due to open as a Livingstone Museum at an unspecified point in the future, under the curatorship of Said El-Gheithy, the local academic and guide who is also the curator of the Princess Salme Museum. When open, it will offer displays of original artefacts and reproductions of items associated with Livingstone’s life, as well as story boards recounting his travels.

Stone Town

Palace Museum

Housed in a large white building with castellated battlements situated on Mizingani Road, where the latter runs very close to the sea, this palace was built in the late 1890s for members of the sultan’s family and was originally called the Sultan’s Palace. From 1911, the palace was used as the Sultan of Zanzibar’s official residence, but was renamed the People’s Palace after the 1964 Revolution, when Sultan Jamshid was overthrown. It continued to be used as government offices until 1994 when the palace was turned into a museum dedicated to the history of the sultans of Zanzibar. Remarkably, much of their furniture and many other possessions survived the revolutionary years and can now be seen by the public.

The upper floors are largely devoted to exhibits from the later, more affluent period of 1870–96, with thrones, banqueting tables (the banquet room is said to be still used on occasions) and ceremonial furniture, plus personal items such as beds (look out for the intricately carved ebony love seat and the Indian sofa with Krishna on its back) and the sultan’s mobile water closet with its unusual arrangements.

The Old Fort

The Old Fort is a huge building, containing large open courtyards, and with high, dark walls topped by castellated battlements. It was built between 1698 and 1701 by the Busaidi group of Omani Arabs, who had gained control of Zanzibar in 1698, following almost two centuries of Portuguese occupation. Today, the fort has been renovated, and is open to visitors.

It is easy to walk around the top of the battlements and enter the towers on the western side, which house ‘Colours of Zanzibar’ in the southwest tower and the ‘Collective Art Gallery’ in the northwest tower, from where local art can be purchased. In 1994, the eastern courtyard was turned into an open-air theatre. The development was imaginative yet sympathetic to the overall design and feel of the original building: seating is in an amphitheatre, and the fort’s outer walls and the neighbouring House of Wonders form a natural backdrop. It’s used for contemporary and traditional music, drama and dance, including most performances in the annual Sauti za Busara and the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

The entrance area also houses a tourist information desk, with details on performances in the amphitheatre and other events around town, plus a selection of books for sale and a range of tour company leaflets to browse. There are also several spice and craft shops, a pleasant café and public toilets. With so many attractions and facilities, it’s easy to spend an hour or so here.

Stone Town

Forodhani Gardens

The Forodhani Gardens are between the Old Fort and the sea, overlooked by the House of Wonders. The gardens were first laid out in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa (sultan from 1911 to 1960), and were known as Jubilee Gardens until the 1964 Revolution.

In 2009, after years of neglect, the gardens were re-landscaped by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and are now the pulsing heart of Stone Town every evening when the food stalls come into their own. Everyone agrees the new gardens are a vast improvement, with the street lighting, waste collection, a new sea wall of salvaged stone, and an organised food court for the evening stallholders. Cafés, the bandstand, a dhow-shaped adventure playground and tropical planting amid manicured lawns make it look like the central park it is. We hope this project will prove a catalyst for ongoing urban upgrading and economic opportunity in Stone Town, as well as improving the rest of the waterfront’s aesthetic appeal.

Stone Town alleyway Zanzibar Town Zanzibar by Koverninska Olga Shutterstock

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  • Island Vacations

How to Enjoy the Charms of Zanzibar, According to a Travel + Leisure A-List Advisor

With delicious food markets, stunning beaches, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Zanzibar is an island destination with universal appeal.

Darren Humphreys is a native South African and the founder of Travel Sommelier, a travel company that designs custom itineraries for a sophisticated clientele. Darren gives insider advice on food, beaches, and sites to see in his articles for Travel + Leisure .

Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, is a unique crossroad of cultures. Disparate influences, like Swahili, Arabian, European and Asian all combine to deliver a heady mix of sights, sounds, and fragrances. The island is renowned as the birthplace of Farrokh Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury) and has long been the culinary epicenter of the Indian Ocean and the Spice Islands .

As a travel specialist in East African safari and culinary trips, Zanzibar has long been one of my favorite destinations, and I recently returned from my latest visit with a renewed sense of appreciation. Here are my suggestions for how to experience the island's history, cuisine, arts and culture, and stunning scenery.

Start in Historic Stone Town

A visit to Zanzibar commences in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site . The city delivers a startling sense of place—it is a town to truly get lost in, a town of rooftops and alleyways. Commencing the day in the city's old quarter delivers historical context. From the ancient slave market to the Sultan's Palace, the House of Wonders, and The Old Dispensary, there is much history to absorb.

The city is just six degrees from the equator and has an enviably warm year round climate. Fresh Madafu—coconut water poured directly from just picked coconuts— keeps the heat at bay. The markets include a staggering array of offerings, like spices, fish, meat, produce, juices and coffee.

Make your home base the Emerson Spice Hotel , a restored merchant's house.

Embark on a Culinary Tour

Culinary experiences are a highlight, starting with a progressive lunch. First up is Lukmaan restaurant. Enjoy fresh frilled prawns and octopus over Kachumbari salad, while sitting beneath the vast courtyard boabab tree—a quintessential Zanzibar experience.

Not to be missed is the ginger-lime-sugarcane juice vendor as you exit the restaurant. This ice cold beverage sustains you through alleyways lined with antique doors and ancient facades, until you come upon one of the finest food cart vendors I have ever encountered.

On offer is Urojo, a turmeric-based soup with chickpea falafel, sweet potato balls, cassava chips, egg, crispy onions, sweet and sour spices, and more. The result is a mouthwatering dish I like to call "Zanzibar in a Bowl."

South African wines are a perfect complement to these eclectic dishes. There is a diverse offering on the island, and there is no better way to sample them than to board a traditional dhow bound for a sand bar offering a panoramic view of Stone Town, especially if a visiting winemaker happens to be curating the tasting.

As evening draws near, rooftop vantage points in Stone Town are unrivaled: gaze at the Indian Ocean and hover above a sea of corrugated iron rooftops and captivating architecture. The Emerson Huzumi rooftop provides an opportunity to remove shoes, settle on a floor cushion and enjoy Swahili cuisine and local music.

An after-dinner aperitif is best enjoyed in the Secret Garden at Emerson Spice, so atmospheric I half expected Humphrey Bogart to emerge from the shadows.

Consider an Agricultural Day-Trip

The pace slows markedly upon leaving Stone Town. One rite of passage is to visit a community-owned spice farm. A walking tour is immersive and educational as you taste all manner of roots, shoots, and vegetation, plus familiar spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, and cloves.

I also visited a bivalve and fin-fish hatchery, to learn about how overfishing has impacted local marine ecosystems and the hatchery's plan to reinvigorate the waters.

Explore the Beaches and Art Scene

Some of the most magical facets of the island are showcased on its beaches, whether it is the Robinson Crusoe-esque Mnemba private island or the ultra refined Xanadu retreat , where Zanzibar cuisine is taken to a new level altogether.

Days can be spent learning to kite surf, planning whale shark diving excursions to adjacent Mafia Island or enjoying the shimmering turquoise sea where the water temperature seldom dips below 80 degrees.

When not at the beach, explore the robust traditional and contemporary art scene. Zanzibar is ground zero for bohemian chic: vibrant textiles, ornately carved doors and frames, and tanzanite jewelry in all forms.

The CAGZ Arts Gallery is a must-visit. This is an artist-in-residence program that arranges exhibitions and visits to workshops and studios, rather than an expansive standalone gallery. I love this concept because you get to meet artists, and see finished pieces alongside works in progress.

Remember: However You Like to Travel, Zanzibar Has It All

The great appeal of Zanzibar is that it can be enjoyed in so many ways: as an addendum to an East African safari in Tanzania or Kenya; as a standalone destination to enjoy unique gastronomy and barefoot beach luxury; or as a remote work-cation destination for digital nomads (broadband is fast and cell service is ubiquitous).

Zanzibar will leave an indelible mark on you, not only from the intricate henna tattoo you are likely to get, but because it has a rhythm and sway all of its own, and tastes and flavors so unique you will pine to return.

Travel + Leisure A-List member Darren Humphreys, of Travel Sommelier , designs combination East African safari and culinary trips to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zanzibar.

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The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide

  • August 3, 2020

7 MINUTE READ

In this ultimate travel guide to Zanzibar, I am going to cover a  destination that has a lot to offer from a wide variety of activities, incredible culture and history and beautiful beaches. We will dive into what to do, where to go and what to except. 

Karibu Zanzibar !!

Table of Contents

Additionally, it is also the perfect destination for those looking to unwind after their safari expedition or hike up to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a beach holiday. And let’s face it, adventure travel can be tiring so a relaxing holiday to recover is always welcome. 

In Zanzibar, it is super easy to travel around and the people are incredibly friendly. Keep reading for the perfect seven day Zanzibar itinerary to make your trip one you’ll always remember!

There is an important note to consider in booking your holiday to Zanzibar. The island is 85km long and 35 km wide. Depending on which part of the island your hotel is and activities you will be engaging in, you will cover great distances. I recommend grouping your accommodation close to the activities that you plan to be doing to avoid long drives if you can.

How to get to Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania in the Indian ocean. It is composed of the Zanzibar archipelago made up of two small islands and two main islands Pemba and Unguja, also known as Zanzibar.

To get to Zanzibar, you can travel either;

  • Via sea using a ferry from the mainland in Dar-ae-Salaam,
  • Via domestic flights – directly from Dar-ae-Salaam with Air Tanzania, Mango Airlines and Coastal Aviation,
  • Via International flights – the island is served by international operators such as Condor, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and FlyDubai. 

Flying into Zanzibar international airport; the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (airport code ZNZ) you’re likely going to be making a connection either through Europe or the Middle East.

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Best Time of Year to Visit Zanzibar

Generally speaking, you can visit Zanzibar all year round thanks to it’s proximity to the equator. The island enjoys warm temperatures all year round influenced by the East Africa monsoon trade winds.

High Season

June - October - December

Shoulder Season

November - January - February

March - May

However, there are a few factors to consider. There are two rainy seasons in Zanzibar. The first, from mid-March to late May influenced by the Kusi (southern monsoon trade winds) and the second in November to early December influenced by the Kaskazi (northernly monsoon trade winds).For this reason, from mid-March to late May won’t be ideal for visiting the island and a majority of hotels shut down during this period.

The best time to visit Zanzibar is from mid-June to October during the cool, dry months and from December to February during the hot and dry months.

Explore Stone Town

Now, let’s begin your adventure. We start in Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site and the historical and cultural heart of the island. It is ideally located in Zanzibar City and close to the airport and the port if you arrive by ferry. Stone Town allows you to dive into the history and culture of Zanzibar. 

Begin your visit to the “Anglican Cathedral” built on the remains of the “Old Slave market. Here, you will learn the history and the role the island played as a major trade hub of slavery. The inhumane conditions under which they were kept, the chains and other elements portrayed this part of history and tells a heartbreaking story.

On the lighter side of things, proceed to visit the old town.

Travel down the narrow alleys, admiring the intricate facades of old merchant homes that attest to its colonial past and witness the fusion of colours and smells at the Darajani market. Here, you will find your treasures; from fruits & vegetables to shops selling household items for the local families.

The markets here is also where you get your incense and spices (which Zanzibar is renowned for) and to share with your loved ones back home.

A few observations. Now short on time, I would recommend one night to two nights in Stone Town. Below, I would share a few things to do;

  • Stroll around the Old town, admire the architecture of the island influenced from the Arab/Persian traders and remnants from its colonial past. Admire the beautiful craftsmanship of the Zanzibar doors
  • Stroll by the house of Freddy Mercury (the lead singer of Queen who was born in Zanzibar)
  • Take the Sunset Dhow Cruise
  • Visit Nakupenda Sandbank Picnic; a beach island located 25-minutes away by boat ride, it was also designated as one of the best eight secret beaches in the world. The beach island boasts crystal clear waters and a white sandy beach. A plus, it makes for a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch, relax and capture a magnificent sunset. 
  • Dine at the “Tea House” over at the Emerson Spice Hotel. One of the finest restaurants in Zanzibar. At the same time, admire the sunset over the copper rooftops over the call of prayer.

Explore the North of the Island

Driving inland toward the north of the island, you arrive at the fishing village of Nungwi. Here, you can appreciate the craftsmanship of the Dhows. The fishermen use these iconic boats for fishing. Additionally, sailing and snorkelling trips for the nearby Mnemba atoll depart from the northern beaches. The north beaches of Kendwa and Nungwi are ideal for admiring a sunset as they are both face a westerly direction.

After a day of water-sports activities, Nungwi comes alive at night. Nungwi is popular for its hotel resorts, restaurants and bars and entertainment venues. If you are looking for a more secluded place, I would recommend Nungwi as a day trip and then move on to a more secluded part like the beaches of Kendwa. 

Explore the fishing villages around the coast such Matemwe, Kiwengwa and Pwani Mchangani by strolling  around the beaches during low tides, or by go for a cycle tour around the villages.

A few other activities you can do in Nungwi northern part of the island;

  • Watersports (Paragliding, snorkelling, scuba diving, Jet ski…)
  • Sailing (Dhow sailing, sunset cruises) 
  • Spice Farm Tours

As I mentioned earlier, Zanzibar is famous for its spices. I recommend taking a spice tour to get a better understanding of the history of the spice trade here. Learn more about the spices found on the island by visiting a local spice plantation. There, you will be given an insight into the different spices grown.as well as the chance to taste and purchase them. Spices grown on the island include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. Many plantations are found along the route between Stone Town and the northern beaches. They are a good stopover point and to allow yourself 1-2 hours to visit the farms. Moreover, your visit contributes in helping the local farmers.

Explore the East & South of Zanzibar

The island’s east coast boasts some of the most idyllic beaches and fishing villages, from Bwejuu, Paje,  Pongwe and Jambiani, to name a few. The coast is home to a wide range of lodges and hotels. However, the tidal cycle of the Indian Ocean means you will have to walk further out on the beach to go swimming or snorkelling.  

On this part of the island, you can expect to lay still, relax and take longs walks on the beach during the low tides. For those looking for an active holiday, you can partake in a popular sport here of kite surfing.

Zanzibar is considered to be as one of the best places to go kite surfing in the world due to the trade winds we discussed earlier.

There are numerous schools along the coastline offering a lot of activities. Paje and Jambiani are probably the most popular places to practice the sport and attracts a lot of kite enthusiast during the kite surfing season. Visit the  Zanzibar Kite Paradise  or  Kite Centre Zanzibar   in Paje or  Jambiani Kite Centre  if you’re staying in Jambiani.

Zanzibar Travel Guideee

For those into nature, why not visit the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park . It is situated in the middle of Zanzibar and close to the beaches of Pingwe, Paje and Jambiani. Visiting the park, one can see the endemic Red Colobus Monkey, Bush Babies, Sykes Monkey, and a variety of species of birds. Legend has it that the  Zanzibar Leopard still lives in the Park.

Zanzibar Travel Guide

If you are lucky enough to stay in Michamvi, you will get to witness the spectacular sunset on the bay. On your stay on the east coast of Zanzibar, you will only get to see sunrises. Additionally, if you are looking to tick an item off your bucket list then have lunch at the famous restaurant, the Rock, ideally situated just off the beaches of Pingwe.

The beaches of Jambiani also offer a relaxing vibe and is close to the fishing villages. Here you can get to visit Zanzibar’s seaweed production farms.

Zanzibar Travel Guide

Bonus activities

Thank you for reading this far. As a sign of gratitude, here are a few bonus activities to do during your stay:

  • Cycle Zanzibar : Something I want to do on my next visit is rent a bike and cycle the whole island. Sounds like something you would love to do? – then you should check this guy’s  Bike Zanzibar  led by Juma. Your one-stop-shop for cycling activities in Zanzibar. They offer day tours, cycling holidays (including women-only trips), bike rental and tailor-made trips.
  • Learn how to make Zanzibar Cuisine : The cuisine of Zanzibar is a vibrant fusion of India, Omani and Persian cuisine. Add to that the rich culture spices of the island—an outstanding destination for a foodie lover. 
  • Ride a Dala dala : the local way of getting around.
  • A spa massage : After a long drive, adventurous safaris, or a trek up to Kilimanjaro, your body needs some care. I recommend booking a massage treatment. Many of the hotels around the islands have spas with vanilla oils and all the other goodies.
  • Deep-sea Fishing : If you love deep sea fishing, then Zanzibar is your paradise. The archipelago attracts all kinds of game- Barracuda, Marlin, Kingfish, Yellowfin Tuna, to name a few. The prime fishing months are around August. 
  • Scuba & Snorkelling : With the abundance of marine life around the reef at Mnemba Atoll and Chumbe Island, I would recommend going snorkelling and scuba diving at these spots. If you are lucky, you might encounter some dolphins.
  • Horse riding : Now this is truly something special I would love to do. Riding horses on the beaches of Nungwi (Morning or Evening sessions), swimming with the horses or riding with them in the plantation farms, or villages around Nungwi.

In Conclusion

As you can see, Zanzibar has a lot to offer, from cycling, kite surfing, snorkelling, horse riding, to relaxing on the beach and interacting with the local community through to activities such as a visit to the spice plantation or the seaweed farms. This place is a piece of heaven and I cannot wait to get back. 

It is essential when booking your trip to see how much time you have and what you want to do as activities. This will enable you to better plan  for your trip.

 In my next article , I will share with you an ideal itinerary for seven days around Zanzibar. Thanks for stopping by. Please do leave a comment or share this article.

Asante Sana! Hakuna Matata!

[…] ✨ A blog post I LOVED using to plan my trip https://jupiterkonnections.com/the-ultimate-zanzibar-travel-guide/ […]

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Hi Chris, I am glad this helped you plan your trip. Your tips shared in the video series really hit home and hope other travellers will have a wonderful visit. Safe travels, Jupiter

[…] The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide […]

Awesome. and glad you loved the tips… I love how you did a video recap… I am looking forward to more of your work

I am so happy and glad the tips and informations helped you in planning your trip. Looking forward to watching your adventures. Much love Jupiter

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I am a French photographer, a travel expert who has explored over 75 countries on 7 Continents. As a student of life, I travel across the globe in search of life lessons, making meaningful connections through my images.

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After visiting the island on two occasions, I have compiled a complete seven-day Zanzibar itinerary for you, inspired by my two visits to the island. I think seven days is the perfect amount of time for a trip on Zanzibar. I think seven days is enough to see the best of the island without being too overwhelmed. However, if you want to combine it with a safari trip in Tanzania or a hike up Kilimanjaro, you might not spend as much time on the island. I have curated a short version of a stay on Zanzibar at the end of this article.

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Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

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Intrepid Travel Blog

Island time: why beautiful Zanzibar deserves your attention

travel guide zanzibar

I’ll tell you a secret: when I was younger I used to think that Zanzibar was a made-up place. It sounds so exotic, I thought it came straight out of a fantasy novel or children’s storybook or something! How embarrassing. But what joy it brought me to learn as an adult that it was real, and that after I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania , its beaches would make a perfect place to rest my weary limbs.

After the life-changing trek up Africa’s highest peak, I had three weeks until my flight home. Once I had recuperated, I envisaged moving on from Zanzibar and exploring more of east Africa. However, as usual, my travels didn’t go to plan. I fell head-over-heels with this otherworldly island. The beaches are right up there with the best I have ever seen, but I found so much more than sand and sunsets, and ended up staying for the full three weeks.

Zanzibar beach jetty sea

Best beaches in Zanzibar

Most people come here for the pristine white sand, calm waters and dazzling sunsets. If that’s what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. This is one of those “Wow, is this real?” places, and you’ll probably come away feeling like the dictionary definition of paradise should simply be followed by the word: Zanzibar.

Top spots are the northern beaches of Nungwi and Kendwa, and if your visit falls on the full moon, you’ll get the chance to party on the beach till the early hours. Don’t worry, this is unlike any Thai full-moon party. It is frequented by islanders and the soundtrack is local African beats rather than Western pop, so prepare to pit your dancing skills against the talents of the locals. They will enthusiastically invite you to the dance-floor and not take no for an answer!

Zanzibar beach

The archetypal Zanzibar beach, photo by Jess Wight

If you get the chance to take a trip down to the east side of the island, Paje and Jambiani are famed for their kite-surfing opportunities. The sea is shallow until very far out in this section of the island, and the photo opportunities are magical.

LOVE THE WATER? SAIL ROUND THE STUNNING ZANZIBAR ARCHIPELAGO ON THIS 7-DAY TRIP

Slowing down the pace

Like most islands, the pace on Zanzibar is slower than on the mainland. You will never feel the need to rush here, and you will have to get used to the fact that no one else will either. “Pole, pole” means “slowly, slowly”, and you’ll hear it as frequently as you’ll hear “Hakuna matata”. Yep, you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped straight into the set of The Lion King , as the locals spread their “no worries” attitude into your bones.

Stone Town Zanzibar

A great example of the “pole, pole” Zanzibar lifestyle is dining in local restaurants. One day a restaurant owner strolled along the beach to where we were sunbathing and asked for our dinner order at midday, saying that it helps them to know in advance what they will need to do that night. At first the delays and “no worries” attitude can be frustrating, but just order another Kilimanjaro beer and accept the situation, it’s much easier that way.

And it’s not only the local culture that causes delays, but also the temperamental power supplies. At one evening meal along the east coast, I was sitting with some friends in a restaurant when suddenly the lights cut out. Soon after, the waiter emerged with a candle and a round of free beers, explaining that our dinner would now be prepared on an open fire, and our patience would be appreciated. “Hakuna matata”, we responded with accepting laughter.

Sunset Zanzibar beach

Sunset on Mtoni beach

Note: If you do prefer to stick to your own pace and not Zanzibar’s, you get a ton of free time on Intrepid trips there. The  beach break lets you search for wildlife in Jozani Forest or simply sit back in a beach-side hammock at leisure. And the week-long sailing trip  allows you time to visit a local fishing village, snorkel, and enjoy BBQ dinners of freshly caught fish. Divine.

Zanzibar’s Stone Town

If you catch the ferry to Zanzibar, as you pull into port you’ll get a great view of Stone Town, the island’s main city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Allow time to get lost in its alleyways and admire its ancient doorways: majestic, tall and grand in equal measure. Thick, heavy timber looms over you and will have you reaching for your camera.

So, if activity number one is exploring, activity number two in Stone Town is eating. Every night there’s a food market where you can browse and pick up plenty of cheap, tasty treats. Top of the list has to be the seafood, which is freshly caught and barbecued in front of you. Another must-try is the sugar cane juice. Vendors squeeze sugar cane through an old-school juicer – which resembles a clothes drier from the 18 th century – and flavour it either with ginger or lime. It is both refreshing and delicious.

Market Stone Town Zanzibar

Spice and vegetable market in Stone Town

Top tip:Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock band Queen, was born in Zanzibar, and while you’re in Stone Town you can visit the bar named after him. It’s right by the sea and you can celebrate his life and music.

SHORT ON TIME? THIS 4-DAY ZANZIBAR BEACH BREAK IS PERFECT FOR YOU

Zanzibar’s spicy history

Zanzibar has quite the history. In the 19 th century it was an important port for two of the world’s most traded commodities: spices and slaves. A spice tour will teach you what spices look like before they enter our food, as well as treat you to a meal featuring the island’s best tastes. You’ll no doubt be inspired by the experience and make promises to yourself to take home your new knowledge and put it to use. Our recommendation of the best spice tour? This delicious 4-hour one.

I also highly recommend visiting the Slave Caves, where even after slavery was made illegal, slaves were hidden by daylight, and transported on ships by night. It’s chilling to see these underground spaces and imagine the people who once were there, waiting for an unknown and unjust fate.

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Snorkelling, Zanzibar style

To end on a high, the final activity on Zanzibar that must be ticked off is snorkelling. From the northern or eastern beaches, trips head out daily to explore offshore reefs that will take your breath away. It’s a great way to see more of this beautiful island from the water. And having a fresh, seafood barbecue on a deserted beach – that’s something you won’t forget anytime soon.

Then again, with water this beautiful, you won’t forget a single second of your time in this dreamy archipelago.

Zanzibar water

The crystal waters of Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s picture perfect beaches got you tempted? Check out our range of small group tours in Tanzania.

travel guide zanzibar

Image Credits (top to bottom): iStock, Intrepid Travel x2, iStock, Intrepid Travel x3

Feeling inspired?

travel guide zanzibar

I've dragged my backpack across six continents, but for now it rests in the bottom of my wardrobe in Melbourne. I have a healthy obsession with bookshops, hammocks and coffee, and when not plotting the next adventure, teach English abroad. Don't ever make me choose between mountains and beaches.

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The ultimate zanzibar travel guide for luxury travel.

  • July 28, 2023

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide for luxury travel

Introduction to the Zanzibar Travel Guide

Welcome to the exotic Zanzibar Archipelago, a tropical paradise nestled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. Mallerby’s Luxury Travel is thrilled to present this comprehensive Zanzibar Travel Guide, offering you insights into the enchanting islands and captivating atolls that make this a dream destination for discerning travellers seeking a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

Table of Contents

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - sunset

Position & Geography

The Zanzibar Archipelago is nestled just a short distance from the Tanzanian mainland. Geographically, it lies between the latitudes of 5 and 7 degrees south of the Equator, ensuring a warm tropical climate year-round.

Islands and Atolls

The Zanzibar Archipelago consists of two main islands: Unguja (also known as Zanzibar Island) and Pemba, as well as several smaller islets and atolls, such as Mafia Island and Mnemba Island which add to its allure. Known for its scenic beauty, exquisite white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, Zanzibar also boasts a rich history and showcases a unique blend of African, Arab, Indian, and European influences. A variety of activities offers a dream-like escape for all types of travellers, whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, a fun-filled family vacation or a digital detox, whilst the island’s theme of laid-back living gently coaxes you to slow down and enjoy each moment as it comes. Join us as we delve deeper into the islands through this Zanzibar Travel Guide.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - scuba diving

Travel Guide to Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar Island, also known as Unguja, is the largest and most famous island in the archipelago and is a mesmerizing tapestry of culture and history. This enchanting island has incredible natural beauty, offers a plethora of activities to suit all travellers, wonderful warm hospitality and is the epitome of laid-back island living. The capital, Stone Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where narrow alleys lead to old Arabic-style buildings and bustling markets. Relax on the idyllic white-sand beaches or immerse yourself in the spice-scented plantations that earned Zanzibar the title of the “Spice Island.” For ease of reference, we’ve divided Zanzibar Island into two focus areas, namely Stone Town and the Coast, in order to offer you the best travel advice on offer on this island.

About Stone Town & Things to Do:

Stone Town is the oldest and one of the most beautiful parts of the island. Imagine cobbled streets and meandering alleyways where you’ll find intricately carved doors, historic buildings and bustling markets, allowing you to immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of this iconic town. We recommend that you spend at least a night or two here if your time allows.  

Our preference for you is a full day in Stone Town with a guide. You’ll walk through the slave markets, the Palace of the Sultans, the Anglican Cathedral and the Old Arabic Fort, learning about Zanzibar’s fascinating history along the way, and then as the sun sets, you’ll enjoy sundowners at a local spot before sampling the local cuisine as you wander from venue to venue for your starter, main and dessert.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Travel and tours

We also recommend experiencing the following:

  • The Forodhani Night Market for a culinary adventure of local street food.
  • The Tea House for an evening of deliciousness, but bookings are essential.
  • A guided Spice Tour – it’s the Spice Island after all and still one of the largest spice producers today. Head out with you guide to explore a community supported spice farm where you’ll learn about the spices and their medicinal uses, as well as try some spiced tea and taste the fruits in season.  
  • Prison Island. This tiny island, just off the coast, was once a prison for rebellious slaves but today is inhabited by giant tortoises. A half-day guided tour includes the 30-minute boat transfer from Stone Town, return.
  • The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre which has the largest butterfly enclose in East Africa.
  • The Jozani Forest where a guided walk takes you along forest trails in search of the different species of monkey.
  • The Seaweed Centre where you’ll learn about the harvesting and processing of seaweed, plus the opportunity to buy wonderful beauty products like organic soaps and essential oils.

Our favourite authentic accommodations in Stone Town are Upendo House and Kisiwa House.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - hotel on the beach

About Zanzibar Island’s Coast & Things to do:

Beyond Stone Town lies the pristine coastline of Zanzibar, the perfect setting for a fabulous beach vacation, whether you prefer to laze on the white sandy beaches, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters and turquoise lagoons, or dive the colourful reefs. There are luxurious accommodations dotted along the coastline to suit all types of travellers, whether you’re looking for a private villa, a family-friendly resort, a romantic getaway or even a destination wedding venue, and Mallerby’s Luxury Travel will assist you in finding the most perfect place to suit all your needs. Activities range from some of Africa’s best snorkelling and diving experiences to dhow sailing, deep-sea fishing and dolphin safaris, to culinary classes, wellness treatments, romantic dinners on the beach, horse riding and immersive conservation projects.

Important to note is that the Zanzibar Island experiences two low and two high tides per day, with 6 hours between the low and high tides. The northern coast of Zanzibar Island experiences the least tidal effect on the coastline, so staying in the northern areas is best for perfect beach conditions. The north coast also offers a vibrant nightlife and exquisite sunsets, whilst the east coast is quieter and more tidal but has excellent conditions for kiteboarding.

Our favourite accommodations are Zuri Zanzibar, Xanadu Villas and Safira Blu Luxury Resort and Villas.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Xanadu hotel

Zanzibar Travel Guide to the Islets within the Archipelago:

Lying off the coast of Zanzibar Island are several smaller islands, islets and atolls scattered around the Zanzibar Archipelago, each one perfect for those seeking a quieter and more secluded experience.

Accommodations range from exclusive sole-use islands to luxury private resorts on an island. Below is a travel guide to our favourite islands within the Zanzibar Archipelago:

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Mnemba Island

Mnemba Island:

Located just off the north-east coast of Zanzibar Island, this tiny island is just 1.5kilometres wide and synonymous with luxury and exclusivity. With only 12 luxuriously rustic palm-frond bandas peeping out onto the white coral sand beach from the dappled shade of the casuarina pine forest, the island is only inhabited by its 24 guests and the staff taking care of them. Reached only by boat from Zanzibar Island, you’ll experience butler service, private dining on the beach under the stars, yoga, wellness treatments and a variety of water activities from snorkelling off the beach to scuba diving courses. Highlights include the Green Turtle nesting and hatching in season, community visits, conservation initiative projects, dolphin boat trip and sunset dhow cruise.

Pemba Island:

To the north of Zanzibar Island, Pemba Island is a lesser-explored gem and just a short, scheduled flight from Zanzibar. This pristine island of great beauty and fertility, has forests, swamps, mangroves, hidden beaches and lagoons, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and diving aficionados. Still the predominant global producer of cloves, Pemba Island has been designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International and is also home to several dive sites with steep drop-offs, untouched coral and abundant marine life. Pemba Island offers an authentic experience for those looking for serenity and close encounters with nature.

Our favourite accommodation on the island is The Manta Resort. Set on the northern tip of Pemba Island, Manta is a luxurious retreat featuring 13 villas and suites, suitable for couples and families, some with a private pool and others with a private garden. A highlight is the Underwater Room – a floating structure showcasing a lounge and sundeck with an underwater bedroom where you overnight underwater! Activities range from snorkelling and diving to sunset Ngalawa cruises to spa treatments on the beach. Explore the island on a visit to a Spice Farm, walk through the Ngezi Rainforest or stroll along the beach to the lighthouse. A signature activity, the Pemba Coral Reef Safari, is an exclusive diving experience that promises to take you on an immersive, guided journey through the Pemba Coral Reef ecosystem.

Mafia Island:

To the south of Zanzibar lies a small archipelago of islands, of which Mafia Island is the largest. Known to be one of the best diving and snorkelling destinations in the world with incredible coral reefs, tropical fish and sea turtles.

Thanda Island is part of the archipelago and is a short helicopter flight north of Mafia Island. A mere 5.5 hectares in size, Thanda Island is offered on a sole-use basis for a maximum of 18 guests, offering a luxurious paradise to enjoy in complete privacy with family and friends. Situated in a private marine reserve, guests can dive the exquisite reefs, swim with whale sharks, watch sea turtles nesting in season, sail in a traditional Arab dhow, savour a Swahili or Arabian feast, indulge in a massage or just rest and rejuvenate in a copper bath on the beach.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Fanjove Island

Fanjove Island:

South of the Mafia Archipelago is the Songo Songo Archipelago which is composed of 22 reefs and 4 islands. Fanjove Island is a secluded and exclusive tropical island, reached by a 50-minute scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam via Mafia Island to Songo Songo Airport, where a 45-minute transfer in a traditional dhow sailboat gets you to the shores of Fanjove Island. This tiny island, covering about 1 kilometre in length and 400 metres in width, accommodates a maximum of 20 people and is yours to explore and enjoy. Surrounded by azure blue seas with white sandy beaches that are shaded with coconut palm trees, step off your beach villa deck, toes in the sand and wade right into the lovely tepid waters. Swim and snorkel straight off the beach, SUP or kayak, set sail on a dhow cruise, savour a beach picnic on a sandbank or explore the pristine 11-kilometre coral house reef snorkelling or diving.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Fanjove Island with lighthouse

Getting & Around the Zanzibar Archipelago:

The main entry point to the Zanzibar Archipelago is Zanzibar International Airport and several major airlines operate regular flights from various cities around the globe. If on safari, scheduled light aircraft flights connect to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Transportation from the airport to your chosen island destination may be via private road transfers, scheduled flights, helicopters or boat transfers, and Mallerby’s will arrange this for you as part of your itinerary.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - arrivals

The Best Time To Visit the Zanzibar Archipelago:

Zanzibar enjoys a tropical climate throughout the year, with warm temperatures and high humidity. The best time to visit is during the long, dry season which extends from June to October, and the short, dry season which generally starts mid-December through to the end of February. Avoid the long rains from March until the end of May. The short rains during November and December are lighter and more like afternoon thundershowers.

Read more on the Best Time to visit Africa by Country

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Mnemba Island- Departure

Travel Advice When Planning Your Trip to the Zanzibar Archipelago:

When considering travel to the Zanzibar Archipelago, it’s essential to plan carefully to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable experience. Here are some travel advice and tips to bear in mind when you are ready to start planning:

  • Check the latest travel advisories issued by your government regarding travel to Zanzibar and stay informed about any safety or health-related concerns in the region.
  • Visas depend on your country of origin – some nationalities require visas in advance whilst some may be eligible on arrival.
  • Make sure your passports are valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.
  • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance are essential and should cover, but not be limited to, medical emergencies, trip cancellations, luggage and personal belongings, activities you plan to participate in such as diving and water sports, and any other unforeseen events.
  • Consult your local travel clinic well in advance to receive recommended vaccinations and take necessary health precautions.
  • The local currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). While some places may accept major foreign currencies, it’s best to exchange money on arrival or withdraw cash from the ATM’s. Credit cards are accepted at larger hotels and restaurants, but smaller establishments may prefer cash, as do local stores and markets.
  • Tipping is widely appreciated as the industry relies heavily on tourism.
  • When buying at the markets, bartering is acceptable, but be friendly and fair.
  • The locals make wonderful gifts and souvenirs, anything from the local spices and essential oils to clothes and jewellery, so keep space in your luggage for special mementos for yourself, friends, and family.
  • When packing, lightweight, breathable clothing is suitable for the tropical climate, along with essential items such as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Please respect the local culture. Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim region, so it’s important to dress modestly. Women are asked to cover their knees and shoulders when in public, and skimpy beachwear is frowned upon, as is public displays of affection.
  • Whilst the people of Zanzibar are wonderfully friendly, please ask their permission before taking photographs.
  • Swahili is the local language; however, English is widely spoken. The locals are very friendly, so try to learn a few Swahili phrases prior to your journey. ‘Jambo’ is an easy one and it means ‘hello’.
  • Zanzibar is generally safe for tourists, but like any destination, exercise caution. Avoid displaying expensive items, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t walk alone in poorly lit areas at night.
  • When swimming, pay attention to local advice regarding the ocean currents as some areas may have strong currents or tides. Lifeguards always know best.
  • Zanzibar’s delicate ecosystem is home to diverse marine life, so when snorkelling or diving, avoid touching or damaging coral reefs and marine creatures.
  • Zanzibar’s cuisine is as varied as it is delicious, so tantalise your tastebuds by sampling as much as you can!
  • And lastly, but most importantly, Zanzibar works on ‘Island Time’. Life is slow, laid back and there’s no rush… so whatever you’ve ordered, prepare to wait, but it will be worth it! 

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Weddings

Extending your trip from the Zanzibar Archipelago:

Adding a luxury safari experience to your Zanzibar beach escape is a fantastic way to experience the diverse beauty of Africa, so our below Travel Guide to extending your trip to the Zanzibar Archipelago offers some of the best options to consider. Each country offers a unique safari experience and combining it with a relaxing beach vacation in Zanzibar will create a well-rounded and unforgettable African adventure.

We recommend at least 4 nights on Safari and 4 nights on the beach, however more time allows you to explore further areas to truly experience the best of both worlds.

Since Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it makes for a seamless combination with a safari on mainland Tanzania. The country boasts world-renowned safari destinations like the Serengeti National Park which hosts the famous annual Wildebeest Migration ; the Ngorongoro Crater, once a gigantic volcano and now home to a diversity of wildlife; Tarangire National Park, well known for its huge herds of elephants; and the southern parks of Tanzania which offer exceptional walking safaris, fishing and wildlife viewing. Each area is unique, well-worth a visit and your itinerary can be designed to seamlessly fly between each destination of choice, ending in Zanzibar.  

Read about the  Serengeti Safari Experience

Bordering Tanzania to the North, Kenya offers remarkable wildlife viewing experiences. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is famous for its abundant wildlife and the annual wildebeest migration; the Laikipia region is a collection of private reserves and conservancies teeming with wildlife and offering a range of activities from walking safaris to camel riding and conservation initiatives; the Amboseli region is well known for its large herds of elephants, horse riding and walking safaris, with Mount Kilimanjaro as its backdrop. Direct flights from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Zanzibar will connect you from your safari to the beach in a matter of hours.

Read about the Masai Mara Safari Experience

Southern Africa:

Should you choose to safari in South Africa or any of its neighbouring countries, a direct flight from South Africa’s Johannesburg International Airport will connect you to Zanzibar on certain days, within a matter of hours.

South Africa is home to the world-famous Kruger National Park, as well as the malaria-free Madikwe National Park and Eastern Cape conservancies, all offering a fantastic Big 5 wildlife experience.

Botswana is home to the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most unique safari destinations offering both land and water-based game viewing opportunities.

Zambia and Zimbabwe are neighbouring countries which both offer incredible wildlife viewing as well as access to the iconic Victoria Falls, one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders.

Each of these countries offers its own distinct safari experiences, so whether you opt for the vast savannahs of Tanzania or the unique waterways of Botswana, combining a safari with a Zanzibar beach escape will create an unforgettable African adventure.

The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide - Xanadu hotel

Travel with Mallerby’s Luxury Travel:

At Mallerby’s Luxury Travel, we strive to provide unparalleled experiences tailored to your preferences. Planning and executing your journey can become a stressful experience, so allow us to take care of the logistics and stress for you! Our expert guides will personally design an itinerary based on your specific travel requirements, offering suitable suggestions on accommodations and activities, and then add in the finer details to ensure you have a seamless and unforgettable journey that surpasses your expectations.

Summing up your Zanzibar Experience:

Zanzibar is a tropical haven that promises an escape from the ordinary. From its pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs to its rich cultural heritage and enchanting Stone Town, Zanzibar and its archipelago of island escapes offers a blend of luxury and exclusivity with relaxation, adventure, and exploration. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway or an unforgettable family vacation, Zanzibar promises an experience of a lifetime. We hope that this comprehensive Zanzibar Travel Guide offered you some noteworthy insight into the possibilities you may wish to encounter on your special journey. Mallerby’s Luxury Travel is committed to curating personalised journeys for its clients, so pack your bags, immerse yourself in the island’s beauty, and let Zanzibar’s charm captivate your senses.

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travel guide zanzibar

Zanzibar travel guide

Zanzibar tourism | zanzibar guide, you're going to love zanzibar.

Zanzibar is an escape from the everyday and the ordinary, with world-class beaches, and a rich history, culture, and geography like no other in the world. It's a true tropical paradise, but with so much more to offer than just surface beauty.

travel guide zanzibar

Zanzibar is an archipelago, consisting of a string of islands in the Indian Ocean just over 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. Unguja, commonly called Zanzibar, is the largest island, and it's where most visitors spend their time. Zanzibar is also known as the Spice Islands, and has been a major source of the world's supply of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper for centuries.

There is evidence of civilization in Zanzibar dating back 20,000 years. It has seen waves of settlement and colonization from ancient Persian traders to the Portuguese and British. The result is a fascinating modern island with a diverse population and a welcoming spirit towards visitors to their beautiful tropical home.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Zanzibar

1. the perfect tropical beach experience.

You have your choice of several stunning beaches with fine, coral white sand, and brilliant blue waters on Zanzibar Island alone. The area around Nungwi and Kendwa at the northernmost tip of the island includes an idyllic, wide beach. There are also great beaches to savor at Matemwe, Kizimkazi on the eastern side, and Bwejuu and Dongwe in the southeastern part of the island.

2. Explore a Unique History

In historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Zanzibar City, you can see the mix of Islamic and East African Swahili cultures in the architecture, with elegant minarets and wonderfully carved doorways. You can walk through laneways that meander past historical landmarks like the House of Wonders, an 18th-century sultan's palace.

3. World-Class Water Sports

Whether you want to explore in, on, or under the water, you'll find the adventure you crave in Zanzibar, including diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and windsurfing. You can go fishing, take a cruise on a traditional dhow, kayak, parasail, or kiteboard. Whether you are an expert or complete novice, you'll find many opportunities to have fun, learn new skills, and enjoy Zanzibar's brilliant blue waters.

4. Unique Nature and Wildlife Encounters

Zanzibar is home to unique species like the Zanzibar red colobus monkey and Zanzibar leopard. You can visit their natural habitat in Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and check out the colobus and other types of monkeys from a trail through a mangrove forest. The Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond is a sea turtle sanctuary that is helping to conserve these interesting creatures.

5. Exciting Cuisine in the Spice Islands

Dining in the Spice Islands is everything you'd expect - a fragrant mixture of East African, Arabian, Chinese, and Indian influences. You'll find dishes from the Seychelles Islands too, along with contemporary fusion cuisine, with fresh seafood, seasonings, and other ingredients to offer you the best of land and sea.

What to do in Zanzibar

1. nakupenda beach: pristine expanses.

This may be the most untouched paradise you will ever see in your life. Nakupenda Beach off the coast of Zanzibar Town is an isolated island of pure sand surrounded by crystal waters. Simple as can be, the beach instills peace and relaxation in every visitor. Spend the day lying out in the sun, snorkeling the clear sea, and appreciating the disconnection from hectic civilization. This is the ultimate escape.

2. Stone Town: Historical Center

Zanzibar's capital city is known as Stone Town, and it overflows with historic sights combined with contemporary experiences. Don't miss the 17th-century Old Fort or the House of Wonders, Zanzibar's architecturally stunning Museum of Culture. St. Joseph's Cathedral still stands after centuries, and the time-worn details are stunning. For a taste of local culture visit Darajani Market or head to Forodhani Gardens for the epic seafood night market on the water.

3. Changuu Island: Prison to Paradise

Also known as Prison Island, this offshore marine wonderland had a grizzly history during the slave trade. Today, however, it is a popular day trip for visitors to Zanzibar. Giant turtles that roam the island are the number one attraction, along with a diversity of other creatures - from dolphins to butterflyfish. There is also an informative and commemorative Slave Trade Museum with moving exhibitions about events of centuries past.

4. Nungwi Beach: Treat Yourself

The northern tip of Zanzibar Island is filled with all your beach vacation needs and desires. Nungwi Beach has been rated one of the best in the world and is surrounded by resorts of the highest quality. Even if you are just visiting for the day, their water sports rentals, scuba diving courses, massage booths and seaside bars are available to one and all. Make sure to stick around for the epic sunset too. There truly is something for everyone here.

5. Cheetah's Rock: Make New Friends

One of the island's unique attractions brings tourists face to face with majestic African creatures, and it is a mind-blowing experience for all. Rescued cheetahs, lions, zebras, and more are introduced to each guest in an intimate and safe setting - soon, everyone reaches a mutual understanding. This immersive day of wildlife wonderment will stick with you forever, and you'll have unbelievable photos to show for it.

travel guide zanzibar

Where to Eat in Zanzibar

At the Ubora Restaurant, located in the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel, you can enjoy serene views of the ocean at a table by the pool, along with a menu of seafood and other dishes done with East African flair. Mains start at about TZS45,000. At The Rock, you'll dine on seafood - literally - on a rock in the Indian Ocean. Main dishes start at about TZS29,000. At Forodhani Gardens, a small park near Stone Town, you'll be joining locals at a street food scene where you'll pay about TZS3,000 for vegetarian dishes with rice, and about TZS4,500 for dishes with chicken or beef.

When to visit Zanzibar

Strong breezes have a cooling effect on Zanzibar's tropical climate. The cooler, drier months of June to October are the most popular for visitors, when daytime highs hover around the mid-80s Fahrenheit. There is a rainy season from March to May associated with monsoons, and a lighter one from November to December.

weatherbase

How to Get to Zanzibar

Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) is just over three miles south of Zanzibar City on Unguja Island. Taxi is your only reliable option to get to town, and the drive is negotiable. You should pay about TZS33,500 to get to Zanzibar City and about TZS111,500 to reach one of the north coast resorts. It is also possible to fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam on the mainland and take the ferry to Unguja Island.

Dar es Salaam, on the mainland, is a train hub, making it possible to get to Zanzibar from other points in Tanzania via a combination of train and passenger ferry. The ferry costs only TZS78,120 to TZS111,500.

Ferry service from Dar es Salaam is for passengers only, by and large, making the trip by car unfeasible. A car rental is possible once you get to the island, but you will need a temporary Zanzibar driver's permit.

The most common mode of travel between cities, villages, and resorts on Unguja Island and Pemba Island is offered via dala-dala, a crowded, open-sided minibus operated by a private company. There are several runs daily between Zanzibar City and other points on the island, as well as between the towns on Pemba Island.

Airports near Zanzibar

Airlines serving zanzibar, where to stay in zanzibar.

Zanzibar City - located in the heart of Unguja, this is the capital and center for Zanzibar's spice trade and other commerce. It includes both historical Stone Town and Ng'ambo, a growing modern city of office towers and apartment blocks.

Popular Neighborhoods in Zanzibar

Nungwi and Kendwa - these villages on the north coast of Unguja are where you will find some of Zanzibar's finest beaches. Not surprisingly, it's also where to find many of the area's premium luxury hotels and resorts.

Pemba Island - this is the second largest island, separated from the rest of the archipelago by deep ocean channels. It is a green island with fertile land often cultivated for cloves. It's also where you'll find world-class diving and game fishing, along with newer resorts and hotels.

Where to stay in popular areas of Zanzibar

Most booked hotels in zanzibar, how to get around zanzibar, public transportation.

There is no public transportation in Zanzibar per se. There are privately owned companies that operate dala-dalas, the open-sided minibus taxis that operate on a shared ride basis. Popular with locals, it's a true adventure in Zanzibar culture for visitors, and the flat fare is TZS2,000 from Stone Town to the coastal areas.

Taxi service is plentiful in Stone Town and in many areas of Zanzibar Island where there are luxury resorts. A trip within Stone Town costs about TZA11,150 during the day, with negotiable fares often rising at night.

Car rentals are available from local companies such as Zanzibar Express Car Hire and First Car Rental starting at about TZS78,120 per day. Scarce parking can be an issue in some areas of the cities. Many tourists opt to hire a car and driver for about TZS111,500 per day.

The Cost of Living in Zanzibar

Shopping streets.

Stone Town offers you a unique and varied shopping trip. For clothing made by local designers and companies, along with jewelry, spices, and even music by local artists, look into the boutiques along Gizenga Street and Kenyatta Road. For both fine jewelry made of gold and silver, and local artisan work such as beaded pieces, Soko Muhogo Square is an alternative to Gizenga Street.

Groceries and Other

Kwality Supermarket and Migoz Supermarket are both located in Zanzibar City. You can buy produce, basic groceries, and just about anything else at the Darajani Markets, a bazaar located in Stone Town near the Anglican Church. One quart of milk costs about TZS2,835 and a dozen eggs costs about TZS 3,500.

travel guide zanzibar

August 21, 2023

Zanzibar is a  stunning  destination full of white sandy beaches, turquoise water, fresh, delicious cuisines, and possibly the most beautiful deep orange sunsets we’ve ever seen! Known for its snorkelling and picturesque beaches, Zanzibar is located 28 miles off the coast of Tanzania. If you’ve heard the hype about this place, we can assure you; it lives up to its reputation! Here is everything you need to know when traveling to Zanzibar.  

Next Paradise Boutique Resort  is one of the most beautiful resorts in Zanzibar, and we absolutely fell in love with this property! It’s a boutique hotel with only 25 rooms that feels incredibly luxurious – the location is great, the décor is stunning, and the customer service is truly fantastic. The property is located on the Northeast coast of Zanzibar, and you can enjoy the gorgeous white sandy beach while you’re there! The hotel has beach beds facing the Indian Ocean, but if the pool is more your vibe, you can still see the water from the pool deck.

travel guide zanzibar

Snorkelling at Nakupenda Sandbank

This gorgeous beach is one of the most pristine in all of Zanzibar. We went snorkelling here, and it was even better than we imagined. It takes about one-hour by boat to get here from Stone Town, and the journey there is totally worth it. You will probably see sea urchins (always bring water shoes), corals, sponges, starfish, and the most beautiful tropical fish!

travel guide zanzibar

Observe the Wildlife at Chapwani Island

This small private island is located North West of Zanzibar town and is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef and tons of starfish! At night, you will see fruit bats and giant coconut crabs crawling around the beach – if you enjoy wildlife, you won’t be disappointed here!

See the Monkeys at Jozani Forest

This forest is the home of the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkeys, which are actually an endangered species. However, the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park was established in 2004 to protect the endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, and they have been successful in doing so. You can visit this attraction and learn all about the conversation initiatives and see the monkeys that live there.

Watch Dolphins at Mnemba Island

If you love dolphins, you can’t miss Mnemba Island! Located off the coast of Zanzibar, this is a snorkelling hotspot and a great place to visit if you’re looking to spot some dolphins playing around in the ocean. The beaches are simply magical, and it’s a great place to watch the sunrise.  

travel guide zanzibar

Sip a Cocktail at Nungwi Beach

It’s  really  hard to choose the most “beautiful beach” in Zanzibar (because there are many), but this was chosen by CNN as one of the best beaches in the world! The sand is so unbelievably soft that it almost feels man-made. The beach has plenty of great bars to check out for a cocktail, or you can take a sunset ride on a dhow boat while you’re there.

travel guide zanzibar

Swim with Turtles at Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond

This is a fun yet informative activity that we highly recommend checking out while visiting Zanzibar. This conservation pond strives to rehabilitate injured sea turtles before releasing them into the ocean. As part of the initiative, tourists can learn about sea turtles and the effect of plastic pollution amongst the wildlife. Before you go swimming with the turtles, ensure to remove all sunscreen and avoid touching them.

travel guide zanzibar

Diving at Jambiani Beach

This 7km beach is a great way to spend the day. The powdery white sand and tall palm trees make this look like a photo straight from a magazine. This is a great location for snorkelling and diving, and you will see some beautiful tropical marine life here. Many people also visit this beach to go windsurfing or kitesurfing.

Explore Kuza Cave

If you are visiting Jambiani, you should definitely check out Kuza Cave. This cave is made of limestone, and you can see century-old artifacts within the cave. Once you’re there, you can cross a small bridge and find a large naturally-formed pool and tons of wildlife – monkeys, birds, bushbabies, and loads of butterflies.

Enjoy the Views at The Rock Restaurant

This is definitely  more  than a place to eat – it’s a gorgeous restaurant located right on the Indian Ocean. The restaurant is built upon a tiny island right in the water, so you will enjoy fantastic views of the crystal clear ocean while enjoying their amazing seafood dishes filled with local flavors.

travel guide zanzibar

Experience the Culture in Stone Town

Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Zanzibar City. Historically, it was known to be a trading hub, and the history behind the stone town is astonishing. Many describe this place as a melting pot for African, Arab, Indian, and European cultures, incorporating traditions from all. It’s a buzzing place to visit and a great way to experience the culture.

While visiting Zanzibar, we ate most of our meals at Next Paradise Boutique Resort, where we were staying. The food was  fantastic.  While on the road, we often stopped for fresh tropical fruits and coconuts throughout the day to stay hydrated.

travel guide zanzibar

GETTING AROUND

The best way to see Zanzibar is to rent a car. However, the road conditions and traffic around Stone Town can be intense, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind! Hiring a driver is also a possibility, but it is much more costly. The cost for us to rent a car was $200 USD for 10 days – definitely affordable, and significantly cheaper than hiring someone.

HOW TO GET THERE

The best way to get here is to fly directly into Zanzibar airport. However, another option is flying into Tanzania (inland) and taking the ferry from Dar es Salaam when you want to visit the islands.

travel guide zanzibar

We went November-December, and the weather was great – it only rained one out of the 10 days we were there! We enjoyed gorgeous sunny days and saw some amazing sunsets. The high season is considered June to October, where there is the least amount of rain, and the temperatures are a little cooler. However, December to February is also a very popular season as the weather is hot, dry, and perfect for enjoying the pristine white sandy beaches.

travel guide zanzibar

HOW MANY DAYS

We spent 10 days in Zanzibar and felt it was the perfect amount of time! We had enough time to explore, travel around, and enjoy new experiences while also having sufficient downtime just to relax and unwind. We would suggest at least 7 days to really explore Zanzibar and see all that it has to offer.

HOW EXPENSIVE

Zanzibar is very affordable. You can splurge and enjoy more luxurious accommodations if you want to, but if you’re on a more conservative budget, there are plenty of accommodations and activities to fit your needs. Hotels can range from $30USD/night up to $200+. A meal will cost, on average, $20USD per couple, or less. Local restaurants offer amazing fresh meals at around $7-$10USD each.

WHAT TO BRING

Packing appropriately when traveling to Zanzibar is key. There are certain items that must be on your list to pack, like mosquito repellent, sun hat, medication and prescriptions, swim shoes (due to the sea urchins), and snorkelling gear. If you want to do something nice for the local community, we suggest bringing gently used trainers, shoes, or clothes for donations – they truly appreciate it, and this small gesture can make such a difference!

travel guide zanzibar

USEFUL TIPS

When traveling to a new place, there’s a lot to consider, and sometimes you wish you had a friend to give you the inside scoop. Well – that’s what we are here for! Here are some good to know items that will help you plan your trip:

  • In general, the east coast of Zanzibar has better weather than the west coast.
  • In Northwest and Southeast Zanzibar, swimming is possible during both high and low tides. On the contrary, you’ll discover that it’s difficult to swim in low tide on other parts of the island. However, low tide is great for walks along the beach.
  • The majority of ATMs are located in Stone Town. Beware as ATMs frequently run out of money – plan accordingly as there are very few ATMs outside of Stone Town.
  • Sim Card: You can buy a sim card at the airport or in the villages, which is cheaper. A Zantel sim card with 12 GB costs $20USD at the airport. Zantel has the best coverage on the island, and we suggest choosing this carrier while visiting.
  • It is strictly  prohibited to export shells, regardless of the size! All luggage items are scanned at the airport before you even get to the check-in counter. You will pay heavy fines if you are caught with shells in your luggage.
  • Tanzania has banned single-use plastic bags (hurrah!) and if you arrive with them in either your hand or cabin baggage, they will be searched and removed.
  • You will often be greeted with “ Jambo ” (hello) while walking through the village. Always reply “ Jambo,”  as itwould be rude not to.

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If you’re ready to get inspired for your next trip to Zanzibar, check out more photos here to see the beautiful sights you can expect when you visit! 

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The Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Zanzibar | 2024

Zanzibar was one of the most surprising stops on my African backpacking journey. Despite its popularity, and the many images of beach resorts and dolled-up influencers I’d seen plastered on Instagram, Zanzibar still felt local and real. Riding in open-air trucks from village to village, watching the fishermen cast their nets early in the morning, playing football with the local kids at sunset, it was a much different experience than I envisioned. I mean that in the best way. Most people think of the luxurious hotels and restaurants along the coast of Stone Town, but Zanzibar is much more than that. Outside of Stone Town, you’ll find little resemblance to its tall, stone buildings and linen-clad tourists.

While I loved wandering aimlessly betwixt Stone Town’s crumbling buildings with their peeling paint and imperfections, my favorite parts of Zanzibar were in its small villages. Even though I am far from a beach-lover, Zanzibar stole my heart and sucked me in. Here’s everything to know before heading to this paradise island.

travel guide zanzibar

This guide will only cover Unguja Island, the largest island of the island chain that consists of Zanzibar.

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Table of Contents

  • What To Know Before Going to Zanzibar

How To Get To Zanzibar

How to get around zanzibar.

  • Where To Stay in Zanzibar
  • The Best Things To Do in Zanzibar
  • Nightlife and Restaurants in Zanzibar

Buy Me A Beer!

What to know before going to zanzibar.

travel guide zanzibar

Do You Need a Visa for Zanzibar?

Yes, despite being a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, the same entry requirements for Tanzania apply to Zanzibar. You will need the visa for Tanzania, which can be obtained on arrival at Zanzibar Airport. Your passport, yellow fever vaccine card, and a fee of $100 is all you need for a visa on arrival. Sometimes, they’ll ask to see your return flight or proof of onward travel from Tanzania. I had to scramble to find a cancellable flight last-minute after they refused to let me pass with just my vague promises of hopping on the TAZARA train to Zambia later on.

Recommended and Required Vaccines for Zanzibar

The yellow fever vaccine is mandatory to enter the country. Whether or not they’ll actually check for it is totally up in the air. They didn’t check mine at all, but it’s better to have it than to risk it. It is the only required vaccine to enter Tanzania, although there are many others that are recommended. Here’s a full list of recommended vaccines from the CDC . 

Currency and Cash in Zanzibar

Zanzibar uses the Tanzanian Shilling, although U.S. dollars are commonly accepted on the island. ATMs in Zanzibar are few and far between. Withdraw money from the airport or in Stone Town before heading to the more remote parts of the island. Diamond Trust Bank close to the fort is my go-to ATM since it didn’t charge any fees. Paje Beach also has ATMs, although during high season, they can run out of cash fairly quickly. I couldn’t find a functioning ATM in the north of the island.

Staying Safe in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a fairly safe destination, although proper caution should still be exercised. Many locals have advised to stay away from the beaches after dark. Despite being popular among tourists, many of Zanzibar’s locals still live in poverty, and view foreigners as a way to make money. While most people won’t do anything beyond over-charging you, it’s still best to keep your wits about you with regards to theft and pickpocketing.

Overall, there isn’t much to worry about in Zanzibar. Just know the local prices and try to avoid over-paying too much. Haggling is common and acceptable in Zanzibar.

travel guide zanzibar

Cultural and Religious Norms to Follow in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is almost entirely Muslim, but accustomed to foreigners and open-minded. Still, I’d recommend dressing more conservatively, especially in town and the more local villages. Just be respectful, and you’ll be fine. Since Zanzibar is a big tourist destination, it also isn’t hard to find alcohol or a good party on the island. Supermarkets won’t sell it, but there are a few liquor stores around the island.

Tipping is common, but not expected on Zanzibar. I’d recommending tipping tour guides, but outside of tourist restaurants, most restaurants in Zanzibar aren’t focused on service, so it’s not expected. Like I said earlier, haggling is fairly common in Zanzibar. It’s frustrating because just once, I’d like to be told the actual price and not waste each other’s time and energy with the haggling. Tanzania’s also been one of the worst countries I’ve been to regarding how much they try to over-charge you. Like in many places, a 20-30% uptick in price is a fair point to start with. In Tanzania, they’d frequently start with a 500% markup, likely because the clientele here lean towards a wealthier background.

Travel Insurance for Zanzibar

While Zanzibar is generally safe, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance while you’re off adventuring across the world. You’ll be dealing with poorly-maintained roads at the very least, and adrenaline-inducing adventures that I’d recommend having travel insurance for. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $45 a month, and their coverage includes Uganda among the 190+ countries that they cover.

Best Time of Year to Visit Zanzibar

June to October is the most popular time of year to visit Zanzibar, coinciding with the island’s dry season. However, I’d say the shoulder season would be the best time to visit Zanzibar. The chances of sunshine are in your favor, and the tourist scene will be sparse compared to the high season. I visited in May for about two weeks and only had two days of rain. When it rains on Zanzibar, though, it pours. Those roads instantly become flooded and it is not a fun time getting around. Still, I think it’s worth the gamble. Even in late May, there were hardly any other tourists on those pristine beaches.

prison island zanzibar travel guide tanzania

Flying to Zanzibar

Flying to Zanzibar is the quickest and most convenient way to get to the island. There are direct flights to Zanzibar from several international and domestic destinations on the continent. Flights from outside the continent will likely require a layover in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam. If you’re already in Tanzania, flights can be as low as $50-60 if you book far enough in advance.

From Zanzibar’s airport, it will cost $15 to take a taxi to Stone Town, and about $50 to get everywhere else on the island. You can also take a dala-dala for like, 15 cents, but I’m not sure if these leave from the airport or if you have to walk a little bit.

Taking the Ferry to Zanzibar

There are multiple ferries going between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The ferry itself takes about two hours and costs $35. It also conveniently drops you off in Stone Town. There are different companies that undergo the journey, but I’d recommend Azam Marine since they were the cheapest and were comfortable enough. Best air-conditioning I’ve had in Africa, not that there was much competition.

For those that get seasick easily, try to book a ferry with a morning departure. The waves tend to be choppier in the afternoon, which makes for a bad combination with the boat captains who simply want to go as fast as possible. I took the late afternoon ferry and was surrounded by people violently vomiting and workers frantically handing out barf bags. It was an experience, but otherwise fine.

Zanzibar isn’t a huge island by any means, but many of its best beaches are on totally different sides of the island. Figuring out how to get around is key. The easiest way would be to just take private taxis everywhere, but those are pricy and rob you of the timeless experience of riding a dala-dala .

Dala Dala (Local Buses)

These local buses are the way to go for affordable travel around Zanzibar. There are a few different types of dala-dalas. Some are actual buses, and some are trucks with open-air seating in the back. They’re comparable in price, so I’d just hop on whichever comes by first. They’ll be slower than private taxis because they stop every few minutes to let people on and off, but you can get anywhere on the island in less than two hours.

If you plan on heading north from Stone Town, go to Saateni to catch the dala-dala towards Nungwi. A motorcycle taxi from Stone Town costs around 5,000 shillings. The dala-dala itself will cost 2,500 shillings. The buses are labeled with their destinations in the front. Look for the one that says Nungwi on it. It’s bus #116 if I remember correctly.

If you want to visit the eastern side of the island, head to Mwanakwerekwe, usually just called Kwerekwe. Buses to Michamvi and Bwejuu drop you off in Paje or further north up the east coast. Buses to Jambiani will take you to the eastern coast and then head south. These also cost 2,500 shillings for the full ride. Jozani Forest is along the way, about halfway to Paje.

Buses may try to overcharge you. Some told me I had to pay for my bags, even though they’ve got giant sacks of potatoes ten times the size of my bag clogging up the aisle. I didn’t really mind, since it was only about 1,000 shillings each per bag, but one time the guy collecting the cash would lie and say the ticket was 10,000 shillings. Just stand firm and pay him the actual amount due.

Renting a Scooter on Zanzibar

travel guide zanzibar

The freedom of exploring the island without being at the mercy of crowded buses or expensive taxis is the best way to see the island at your own pace. I saw scooter rentals for $10 a day while in Paje, which is a fantastic deal for the liberty that a scooter allows you. It also said it was a “low season special”, but I’m sure you can get close to that price during the high season. More commonly, I’ve seen scooter rentals starting at between $25 to $40 per day depending on the type of bike. As everything in Tanzania, that can surely be haggled.

Where To Stay on Zanzibar Island

Choosing where to stay on Zanzibar Island can set the tone for your trip. I’ve already mentioned a few of the different spots on the island, but to break it down, there are three main places I’d recommend staying at as a backpacker.

Stone Town is the largest city on Zanzibar and an excellent home base on the island. It is very photogenic, with its historic architecture and colorful markets and shops. It is very touristy, though, so be prepared to be hustled and hassled near-constantly. I’d recommend finding your footing here before venturing out to the island’s more remote villages. Take advantage of the reliable ATMs, get information from tour agencies, and enjoy the island’s best restaurants. 

travel guide zanzibar

  • Stone Town House – This hostel is centrally-located in Stone Town, but also tucked away on a quiet side street. The rooms are spacious, come with A/C, and the workers are extremely kind and helpful. 
  • Shoki Shoki Hostel – This budget-friendly hostel is centrally-located, closer to the local parts of Stone Town. It is on a market street, though, so it can be loud even late into the evening.
  • Lost and Found House – This hostel is located close to the beach and located on a main road with a lot of shops and restaurants.

On the eastern side of the island, you’ll find a long strip of pristine beach along the Indian Ocean. Paje is a small village that serves as a good home base for this side of the island. You’re never further than a 15-minute walk away from the beach.

  • DarMar Hostel and Co-Working – The vibes at DarMar feels straight out of Bali. It’s located on the main highway about a 10-minute walk from where the dala dala drops you off in Paje. Breakfast is included and it has a restaurant and bar on site. There’s a pool and a quiet room indoors for working.
  • Your Zanzibar Place – This is right on the beach and a good all-around hostel.
  • Drifters – For budget backpackers, this is your best bet at finding a cheap place to stay on the beach.

Jambiani Beach

Just south of Paje is the smaller beach of Jambiani. It’s pretty similar to Paje, although a little quieter. I visited during low season, so everything was pretty quiet and I can’t really tell you what places are like during the high seasons.

  • Jambiani Backpackers – a basic but budget-friendly place right on Jambiani Beach
  • Teddy’s on the Beach – a staple for backpackers looking for luxury on a budget. It’s right on the beach, as its name suggests, but also has a pool and all the amenities you’ll need for a chilled out beach getaway.

My favorite town I visited was Nungwi. It wasn’t as happening as Stone Town or Paje, but I liked the relaxed vibes and the more local scene of the town. The lower population of tourists also meant a lower population of local vendors, and one could actually relax on the beach or walk around town without being endlessly harassed.

travel guide zanzibar

  • Makofi Guesthouse – A beautiful property a minute’s walk away from Nungwi’s beach.
  • Homeland Swahili Lodge (Nungwi Backpackers) – Very basic and further away from the beach, but the ultimate budget stay, including free breakfast and the cheapest tours you’ll find on the island.

The Best Things To Do on Zanzibar

Although renowned as a beach destination, Zanzibar is pretty great for adventure travelers, too. From jungly national parks, to snorkeling adventures below the water, and kite-surfing above it, there’s quite a variety of things to do in Zanzibar. It’s a beautiful island where culture, history, adventure, and relaxation collide.

Prison Island

Contrary to its name, Prison Island was never actually a prison. The buildings were originally built as a prison, but never housed a single inmate. Prison Island was eventually repurposed to be a quarantine island, where visitors to Zanzibar would have to spend a week or two before entering the island.

travel guide zanzibar

Nowadays, it’s a tourist attraction, complete with a restaurant and souvenir shops. Only one room of the prison is a museum, with the rest dedicated to tourist fare. It’s still worth the visit, even if only for its beautiful waters and the giant tortoises that inhabit the island. It costs $12 to enter Prison Island. There might be a guy waiting before the official ticket booth to try and charge you an environmental fee, even showing a piece of paper stating it as mandatory. We just walked past him and waited to pay our ticket at the official booth and then he left us alone. That’s Tanzania, baby.

To get to Prison Island, take a boat from Stone Town. Hopping on with a group will cost about 10,000 shillings for a shared boat, but it depends on how many people are on board. We visited during low season, so we had to get a private boat, paying 40,000 shillings each for both Prison Island and Nakupenda Beach. If you go to the beach where the boats leave from before 9 AM, you might be able to find a group to hop on with for cheap, as that’s when the group tours and most shared boats leave.

travel guide zanzibar

Nakupenda Beach

Nakupenda is a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. It is undeniably stunning, with turquoise waves lapping on its white sand from every angle. It’s a small beach with no shade, aside from the local vendors who’ve set up shop on the sand. It seemed like most people came with a group tour, which included a freshly made lunch and some sweet, sweet shade. We came alone so we didn’t have those luxuries, but it was a beautiful place to swim and lounge around before it got too hot. There are a lot of local vendors here, so it is hard to relax. It probably takes two minutes to walk the length of the entire beach, so they’ll be making laps very frequently, and convinced that something has changed drastically in the last two minutes that has made you want to buy a Zanzibar jersey or get a henna tattoo after all.

travel guide zanzibar

Mnemba Island and Dolphin Swimming

Mnemba is a private island that can only be visited if you’re staying there. However, many tours offer trips to go snorkeling around the island and the sandbar close by. This is usually combined with a dolphin-watching tour that they advertise as “swimming with dolphins”. If you’ve swam with dolphins before, you know that those guys are freaky fast and as soon as you jump in the water, they’ll be gone. I’ve met other people who’ve told me that the more curious dolphins would come closer and play with them. However, with the mob of tourist boats with loud engines encircling them, it’s more likely that they’ll flee once you get close. I only paid $15 for the 4-hour trip, so it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it. Mnemba Island’s sandbar is the most beautiful place I went to in Zanzibar.

travel guide zanzibar

Jozani Forest

I had my fill of wildlife after two months in East Africa, but the best way to see wildlife in Zanzibar is by visiting Jozani Forest . It is the only national park on the island, and although it might not be as impressive as Tanzania’s others, it might still be a good way to spend your time on Zanzibar. Who knows, you might be the first one to see the rare leopard in decades!

Spice Farms and Cooking Classes

Among many other reasons, Zanzibar is world-famous for its spices. It didn’t garner the nickname Spice Island for nothing. There are some spice farms on Unguja Island that can be visited on your own or with a 3-hour guided tour . It’s one of the most popular activities on Zanzibar, and a good way to gain some insight on the island’s history.

travel guide zanzibar

Paje is a long strip of white, sandy beach on the east side of Unguja Island. It can be reached in about an hour-and-a-half from Stone Town. The town of Paje is peaceful and quiet, making for a good escape from the city. Aside from relaxing on the beach, Paje is popular among windsurfers. There are many shops offering kitesurfing lessons and rentals along Paje Beach.

Not far from Paje is Maalum, a natural swimming pool that resembles the cenotes of Mexico. It is privately-owned, so there is an entrance fee of 40,000 shillings. Their website suggests that you have to book and reserve a time in advance. This might be the case during the busy season, but I’m pretty sure you can also just walk in during the low season. Although it’s a bit pricy, it is undeniably beautiful.

Sunset Dhow Ride

The locals use boats called dhows, characterized by their shallow bodies and huge sails. I remember the feeling of fear when we opened up the sail for the first time and I was very sure we were about flip over entirely. Luckily, that did not happen and it was smooth sailing. Personally, I enjoy looking at them more than actually being on them. I’ve seen some nicer, safer-looking ones, though, so you probably get what you pay for. It’s a uniquely Zanzibari way to catch a beautiful sunset.

Stone Town City Tour

Stone Town is nothing short of a labyrinth. Its narrow streets flanked by crumbling houses can be difficult to navigate, and it’s easy to miss points of interest that might not stand out immediately. A good way to explore Stone Town is by taking a walking tour with a local guide to learn more about its history and visit spots that you might otherwise miss.

travel guide zanzibar

Stone Town is a truly historic place, and all of its old buildings have a unique charm to them. The Old Fort and the Old Dispensary are two of those that’ll undoubtedly catch your eye as you wander about. Stone Town has been a multicultural city for several centuries, and you’ll find influences from various civilizations within its narrow streets. Don’t miss the Darajani Bazaar, a small but lively local market that’ll give you a taste of the authentic Zanzibari lifestyle. Other highlights include museums like the Princess Salme Museum, Freddie Mercury Museum, and the Old Slave Market Museum.

Christ Church Anglican Cathedral and Old Slave Market

travel guide zanzibar

Despite its current reputation as a paradise island, Zanzibar used to be a much darker, more brutal place. Visiting the old slave market and the museum is a harsh reminder of how Zanzibar’s history intertwined with slavery , one filled with oppression and brutality. Zanzibar served as a hub for the East African slave trade for many years. The old slave market was where the Anglican Cathedral currently stands. There’s a museum dedicated to Zanzibar’s history as a big player in the slave trade. It costs 20,000 shillings to enter and while small, it is fairly descriptive. If you only go to one museum in Zanzibar, it has to be this one.

Cheetah’s Rock

Cheetah’s Rock wouldn’t be my usual activity, but my sister nearly cried when she found out their opening days didn’t align with her few days on the island, so perhaps I’ll put it on your radar for those of you out there with a similar mindset. Cheetah’s Rock is a reputable animal sanctuary home to, as its name suggests, a cheetah, along with a white lion and many other rescued animals. The entrance fee is a whopping $160 for their 4-hour wildlife experience, so it was well out of my budget. If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience with the animals of Africa, this might be the place.

Food and Restaurants in Zanzibar

Although I’m not a foodie, I could immediately recognize that I was eating much, much better in Zanzibar than the rest of my time in East Africa. There are a ton of amazing restaurants to choose from on Zanzibar, but these were my favorites.

travel guide zanzibar

  • The absolute best place for local food in Stone Town. Dozens of choices to choose from in a buffet-like setting, including affordable portions of grilled seafood.
  • Beachside and budget-friendly restaurant with great seafood and pizza
  • Pricier restaurant tucked away in a garden. The location is beautiful and there are weekly music nights. We went for a local taarab show on a Friday, which was an extra 10,000 shillings, but well worth the price.
  • Right next to Traveller’s Cafe, so the ocean views are similar, but a little more of an upscale setting with similar prices.
  • Large and stunning restaurant on a pier overlooking the water on three sides. More of a splurge, but still decently-priced, and the location doesn’t get much better.
  • My favorite cafe on the island. Minimalist design with good wi-fi and a popular spot among digital nomads.
  • Close to Cape Town Fish Market, there is an evening street food market that takes place every night. I think most of the local food got taken over by vendors selling the same things at a jacked-up price for tourists, but there are still a few uniquely Zanzibari foods to try there. It’s also just a nice, lively place to hang out in the evenings.
  • If you’re not staying at Makofi, you’ve at least got to give the food a try. I had an octopus burger and the best French fries I’ve had in Africa. Thin and crispy fries reign supreme.
  • Stunning spot along Nungwi Beach. One of those places you sit down with an iced coffee and pinch yourself to make sure you ain’t dreaming.
  • A food court a few minutes away from Paje Beach offering a good variety of things to choose from.
  • A Turkish restaurant with generous portions at a fair price along the main road of Paje.
  • A fancy shmancy restaurant situated on a rock in the water. Tourist trap or not? I don’t know, I didn’t go, but it looks nice.

Nightlife on Zanzibar

Despite being almost entirely Muslim, Zanzibar still has a decent nightlife scene. Finding alcohol on Zanzibar isn’t difficult, although finding a good party can be. Most hotel restaurants will have alcohol on hand, although drinks will be a bit over-priced. A beer at a hotel restaurant goes for around 8,000 shillings, while a beer at a local bar can be as little as 3,000 shillings. There are liquor stores scattered throughout the island. Stone Town will have the highest concentration of these, so if you plan on buying your own drinks elsewhere on the island, just stock up before leaving Stone Town just in case.

I didn’t go out too much in Zanzibar, but here are the places I’d been to.

CCM Social Lounge

Just outside historic Stone Town, you’ll find the CCM Social Lounge. If you’ve been out to local lounges in East Africa, it’s pretty similar. It’s a large space that features a restaurant, a bar, a dance floor, a stage, and everything in between. There will be TVs showing sports, a pool table, people grilling, a line of tuk-tuks and boda-bodas waiting outside to take people home. Although it isn’t anything special, it’s a nice place to have cheap drinks and a guaranteed good time.

Full Moon Party Kendwa Rocks

Once a month, the biggest party in Zanzibar takes place at Kendwa Rocks. The Full Moon Party attracts people from all over the island for a beach party that lasts well into the night. The entry ticket varies, but it’s typically around 35,000 shillings, which I’d say is worth it for a pretty fun and well put-together event.

Nightlife on Paje Beach

I didn’t go to any parties in this area, but I met two backpackers who talked about a hectic night out they had in this area. I’m guessing Paje might have a big party scene during the busy season, since the only things resembling party hostels on the island were in Paje. They were kind of dead while I was there, so I didn’t feel motivated to find a good party. Report back if you find one!

prison island zanzibar travel guide tanzania

I’ve really only just scratched the surface of Zanzibar, but for a first-timer to the island, this guide should help you get your feet set. Zanzibar is an incredible destination, with varied activities, amazing cuisine, and plenty of local and cultural experiences.

If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by  buying me a beer ! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.

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Wander With Alex

Wander With Alex

Zanzibar Island: Beautiful Beaches, Adventure, and Swahili Culture

Posted: February 24, 2024 | Last updated: March 7, 2024

<p><span>Zanzibar is an island archipelago in the Indian Ocean and belongs to the East African country of Tanzania. This paradise Vacation destination offering something for beach lovers, sports enthusiasts, history buffs, animal lovers, foodies, and adventurers. </span><span>Spice Island, or as this island archipelago is also known as, got its name from the spice trade. Which is only one of the chapters in the island's rich history. You can learn about it while getting lost in UNESCO World Heritage site Stone Town alleyways, visiting the Slave market, Prison Island, or admiring the Freddie Mercury house.</span><span>Outside Zanzibar City, you will find numerous spice plantations, </span><span>pristine sandy shores, aromatic cuisine, endangered Red Colobus Monkey, rich Swahili heritage, and warm hospitality. It is an ideal tropical island destination for solo travelers, families, and honeymooners.</span></p>

Zanzibar is an island archipelago in the Indian Ocean and belongs to the East African country of Tanzania. This paradise vacation destination offers something for beach lovers, sports enthusiasts, history buffs, animal lovers, foodies, and adventurers.

Spice Island, or as this island archipelago is also known as, got its name from the spice trade. Which is only one of the chapters in the island's rich history. You can learn about it while getting lost in UNESCO World Heritage site Stone Town alleyways, visiting the Slave market, Prison Island, or admiring the Freddie Mercury house.

Outside Zanzibar City, you will find numerous spice plantations, pristine sandy shores, aromatic cuisine, endangered Red Colobus Monkey, rich Swahili heritage, and warm hospitality. It is an ideal tropical island destination for solo travelers, families, and honeymooners.

<p><span>Being only 6° South of the equator, Zanzibar enjoys warm tropical weather year-round, making it an ideal destination for beach lovers and tropical island seekers. </span></p><p><span>However, the best time to visit is during the dry seasons. The main one is from June to September, and the small dry season is from mid-December to mid-February. </span><span>During these months, travelers can expect clear skies with sunny weather, minimal rainfall, and pleasantly warm temperatures for visiting spice plantations and historic sites. Calm seas create ideal conditions for exploring the </span><a href="https://anjaonadventure.com/best-beaches-zanzibar/"><span>best beaches in Zanzibar</span></a><span> for outdoor activities such as snorkeling, diving, and swimming in the turquoise waters. </span><span>It is important to mention that dry seasons coincide with Zanzibar's peak tourist season. This means higher prices on accommodation and more visitors on the island. </span><span>There are two rainy seasons (March to May and October to December), where the weather can still be enjoyable with more showers.</span></p>

Best Time to Visit Zanzibar Island

Being only 6° South of the equator, Zanzibar enjoys warm tropical weather year-round, making it an ideal destination for beach lovers and tropical island seekers.

However, the best time to visit is during the dry seasons. The main one is from June to September, and the small dry season is from mid-December to mid-February. During these months, travelers can expect clear skies with sunny weather, minimal rainfall, and pleasantly warm temperatures for visiting spice plantations and historic sites. Calm seas create ideal conditions for exploring the best beaches in Zanzibar for outdoor activities such as snorkeling, diving, and swimming in the turquoise waters.

It is important to mention that dry seasons coincide with Zanzibar's peak tourist season. This means higher prices on accommodation and more visitors on the island.

There are two rainy seasons (March to May and October to December), where the weather can still be enjoyable with more showers.

<p><span>The best way to get to Zanzibar is by flying into Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ), located on Unguja Island, the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Numerous international airlines offer direct flights to Zanzibar from major cities such as Nairobi, Dubai, and Qatar.</span><span>Alternatively, you can fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and then take a short (40 min) domestic flight or ferry (2 h) to Zanzibar. Ferry services provide an affordable and scenic option for travelers who prefer sea travel. </span><span>On the island, various transportation options are available to explore Zanzibar's attractions and easily get around the island. You can choose from local dala dala buses and taxis to rental cars and scooters.</span></p>

Getting to and Around Zanzibar Island

The best way to get to Zanzibar is by flying into Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ), located on Unguja Island, the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Numerous international airlines offer direct flights to Zanzibar from major cities such as Nairobi, Dubai, and Qatar.

Alternatively, you can fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and then take a short (40 min) domestic flight or ferry (2 h) to Zanzibar. Ferry services provide an affordable and scenic option for travelers who prefer sea travel.

On the island, various transportation options are available to explore Zanzibar's attractions and easily get around the island. You can choose from local dala dala buses and taxis to rental cars and scooters.

<p><span>With its pristine beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Swahili vibes, and abundant natural wonders, Zanzibar has many amazing things to do </span><span>for all tastes and budgets. </span><span>Whether you're seeking relaxation on sun-kissed shores, immersion in the history of Stone Town's doors, or thrilling adventures in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. From snorkeling to culture, below are the best things Zanzibar has to offer that must be included in your </span><a href="https://anjaonadventure.com/twelve-days-zanzibar-itinerary/"><span>Zanzibar itinerary</span></a><span>. </span></p>

Things to Do in Zanzibar Island

With its pristine beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Swahili vibes, and abundant natural wonders, Zanzibar has many amazing things to do for all tastes and budgets. Whether you're seeking relaxation on sun-kissed shores, immersion in the history of Stone Town's doors, or thrilling adventures in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. From snorkeling to culture, below are the best things Zanzibar has to offer that must be included in your Zanzibar itinerary .

<p><span>Zanzibar beaches, with powdery white sand and turquoise ocean color, are postcard-perfect. Most accommodations on Zanzibar's east and north-west sides are beachfront and have a pool. The decision on where you will go will depend on the tide. Beaches on the East side have a bigger difference between the low and high tide than those on the NW.  </span><b>Jambiani Beach (South East):</b><span>  A </span><span>quieter village with a nice mix of locals and tourists. Here, you will find pristine sands, opportunities for kitesurfing, and admiring algae farms.</span><b>Paje Beach (South East):</b><span> A livelier beach than Jambiani, but with enough of a tranquil vibe for perfect relaxation. It gets windy and is, therefore, great for anyone who loves kitesurfing.</span><b>Matemwe Beach (North East):</b><span> This less touristy beach is ideal for a quiet tropical getaway. It is close to some great snorkeling spots. </span><b>Nungwi Beach (North West):</b><span> A famous beach where you can swim for a whole day. It is more touristic than the south beaches and has a more lively atmosphere. </span></p><p><b>Kendwa Beach (North West):</b><span> Known for stunning sunsets and a vibrant beachfront scene with beach clubs and water sports activities.</span></p>

Zanzibar Beaches

Zanzibar beaches, with powdery white sand and turquoise ocean color, are postcard-perfect. Most accommodations on Zanzibar's east and north-west sides are beachfront and have a pool. The decision on where you will go will depend on the tide. Beaches on the East side have a bigger difference between the low and high tide than those on the NW.

Jambiani Beach (South East): A quieter village with a nice mix of locals and tourists. Here, you will find pristine sands, opportunities for kitesurfing, and admiring algae farms.

Paje Beach (South East): A livelier beach than Jambiani, but with enough of a tranquil vibe for perfect relaxation. It gets windy and is, therefore, great for anyone who loves kitesurfing.

Matemwe Beach (North East): This less touristy beach is ideal for a quiet tropical getaway. It is close to some great snorkeling spots.

Nungwi Beach (North West): A famous beach where you can swim for a whole day. It is more touristic than the south beaches and has a more lively atmosphere.

Kendwa Beach (North West): Known for stunning sunsets and a vibrant beachfront scene with beach clubs and water sports activities.

<p><b>Mnemba Island:</b><span>  Explore the vibrant marine life while snorkeling or diving in the coral reefs off the coast of privately owned Mnemba Island.</span><b>Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park: </b><span>See rare red colobus monkeys, diverse bird species, and different types of mangroves.</span><b>Prison Island:</b><span> Take a boat trip and learn why it is called Prison Island. Don’t skip the sanctuary for giant Aldabra tortoises and relax on secluded beaches.</span><b>Spice Farm:</b><span>  Dive into the island's spice trade history, visit one of the spice farms, and sample exotic spices like cloves, vanilla, and cinnamon.</span></p>

Adventures in Nature

Mnemba Island:  Explore the vibrant marine life while snorkeling or diving in the coral reefs off the coast of privately owned Mnemba Island.

Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park: See rare red colobus monkeys, diverse bird species, and different types of mangroves.

Prison Island: Take a boat trip and learn why it is called Prison Island. Don’t skip the sanctuary for giant Aldabra tortoises and relax on secluded beaches.

Spice Farm: Dive into the island's spice trade history, visit one of the spice farms, and sample exotic spices like cloves, vanilla, and cinnamon.

<p><span>Don’t skip the old part of Zanzibar City, Stone Town. Visit historic landmarks, wander through narrow alleyways, and bargain for souvenirs on vibrant markets in history-rich Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. </span><a href="https://anjaonadventure.com/best-things-to-do-in-stone-town-zanzibar/"><span>Things to do in Stone Town</span></a><span> include:</span></p><p><b>Old Fort:</b><span>  Also known as Arab Fort, is the oldest building in Stone Town. Omanis built it in the 17th century to protect Zanzibar from potential invaders.</span><b>Anglican Church & Old Slave Market:</b><span>  Pay respect to more than 50.000 souls that were sold on the largest and last closed slave market in East Africa. Visit the Anglican church that was built directly on the site of the former slave market.</span><b>Freddie Mercury House:</b><span> Take a photo in front of the house of the famous Queen’s frontman.</span><b>Stone Town Doors:</b><span>  Learn the difference between Arabic and Indian doors.</span><b>Forodhani Market:</b><span>  At night, visit Forodhani Gardens food market and try local Swahili dishes at affordable prices. Keep reading to find out what those are.</span></p>

Don’t skip the old part of Zanzibar City, Stone Town. Visit historic landmarks, wander through narrow alleyways, and bargain for souvenirs on vibrant markets in history-rich Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Things to do in Stone Town include:

Old Fort: Also known as Arab Fort, is the oldest building in Stone Town. Omanis built it in the 17th century to protect Zanzibar from potential invaders.

Anglican Church & Old Slave Market: Pay respect to more than 50.000 souls that were sold on the largest and last closed slave market in East Africa. Visit the Anglican church that was built directly on the site of the former slave market.

Freddie Mercury House: Take a photo in front of the house of the famous Queen’s frontman.

Stone Town Doors: Learn the difference between Arabic and Indian doors.

Forodhani Market: At night, visit Forodhani Gardens food market and try local Swahili dishes at affordable prices. Keep reading to find out what those are.

<p><span>Zanzibari cuisine is a reflection of the island's turbulent history. It is a fusion of Swahili, Arabic, Indian, and Portuguese influences that can not only be seen in stunning architecture but can also be tasted by dining at local restaurants.</span><span>Sample dishes like seafood curry,</span><span> Biryani (rice infused with spices and topped with tender meats or seafood), and </span><span>Zanzibar pizza (</span><span>thin pancake-like crust filled with savory ingredients like minced meat, vegetables, and cheese). Then there are also dishes like Wali wa Nazi (coconut rice), Mshikaki (grilled meat skewers), and Ugali (maize porridge), paired with aromatic curries and flavorful sauces. </span><span>For dessert, try Mandazi (coconut doughnuts) and Kaimati (fried dumplings coated in syrup), a wide variety of fresh tropical juices, sugarcane juice, or </span><span>refreshing coconut water. </span><span>Here are some of the best places to eat in Zanzibar:</span></p><p><b>Forodhani Night Market:</b><span> Street food style food market in Stone Town where you can try local Swahili dishes</span><span>.</span></p><p><b>The Rock Restaurant:</b><span> A unique seafood restaurant on a rock on the east coast of Zanzibar. Enjoy panoramic views and delicious seafood dishes paired with refreshing cocktails. The restaurant is small, so book your table in advance.</span></p><p><b>Emerson Spice Tea House:</b><span> Located in the heart of Stone Town. Dine in a historic setting for breakfast, eat Swahili dishes at lunch, or go in for their famous rooftop tea ceremony at sunset.</span></p>

Restaurants in Zanzibar

Zanzibari cuisine is a reflection of the island's turbulent history. It is a fusion of Swahili, Arabic, Indian, and Portuguese influences that can not only be seen in stunning architecture but can also be tasted by dining at local restaurants.

Sample dishes like seafood curry, Biryani (rice infused with spices and topped with tender meats or seafood), and Zanzibar pizza (thin pancake-like crust filled with savory ingredients like minced meat, vegetables, and cheese). Then there are also dishes like Wali wa Nazi (coconut rice), Mshikaki (grilled meat skewers), and Ugali (maize porridge), paired with aromatic curries and flavorful sauces.

For dessert, try Mandazi (coconut doughnuts) and Kaimati (fried dumplings coated in syrup), a wide variety of fresh tropical juices, sugarcane juice, or refreshing coconut water. Here are some of the best places to eat in Zanzibar:

Forodhani Night Market: Street food style food market in Stone Town where you can try local Swahili dishes.

The Rock Restaurant: A unique seafood restaurant on a rock on the east coast of Zanzibar. Enjoy panoramic views and delicious seafood dishes paired with refreshing cocktails. The restaurant is small, so book your table in advance.

Emerson Spice Tea House: Located in the heart of Stone Town. Dine in a historic setting for breakfast, eat Swahili dishes at lunch, or go in for their famous rooftop tea ceremony at sunset.

<p><span>Zanzibar is big enough to keep your travel itinerary full for a week but also small enough so you can stay on one part of the island and explore the rest with day trips and organized tours all around the island.</span><b>Prison Island Tour:</b><span>  Take a boat trip to Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, and visit the giant Aldabra tortoise sanctuary. Relax on pristine beaches, snorkel in the clear waters, and explore the island's rich history.</span><b>Spice Tour:</b><span>  A must-do in Zanzibar is to visit a spice tour, where you will learn about spices, find out how they are used, and try them. You can also book a cooking class and try to make traditional dishes with local spices. </span><b>Jozani Forest Tour:</b><span> Discover the unique flora and fauna of Jozani Forest, from different types of mangroves, birds, and rare red colobus monkeys. </span><b>Stone Town Tour:</b><span>  Wander through the winding streets of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a knowledgeable guide to get the best stories and local insight on attractions like the Sultan's Palace, baths, doors, and markets.</span></p>

Zanzibar Island Day Trips and Tours

Zanzibar is big enough to keep your travel itinerary full for a week but also small enough so you can stay on one part of the island and explore the rest with day trips and organized tours all around the island.

Prison Island Tour:  Take a boat trip to Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, and visit the giant Aldabra tortoise sanctuary. Relax on pristine beaches, snorkel in the clear waters, and explore the island's rich history.

Spice Tour: A must-do in Zanzibar is to visit a spice tour, where you will learn about spices, find out how they are used, and try them. You can also book a cooking class and try to make traditional dishes with local spices.

Jozani Forest Tour: Discover the unique flora and fauna of Jozani Forest, from different types of mangroves, birds, and rare red colobus monkeys.

Stone Town Tour: Wander through the winding streets of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a knowledgeable guide to get the best stories and local insight on attractions like the Sultan's Palace, baths, doors, and markets.

<p><span>Zanzibar may not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a tropical getaway. Still, it</span><span> is a perfect exotic destination with its spicy blend of cultural richness and stunning nature.</span><span>It offers a wide range of activities, from snorkeling to kitesurfing, admiring giant Aldabra Tortoises on Prison Island, or searching for Red Colobus Monkeys in Jozani Forest. Listening to happy Swahili beats or following the steps of young </span><span>Farrokh Bulsara.</span> <span>There are plenty of opportunities for adventure or for a relaxed time off on the world’s most beautiful beaches. From Paje and Jambiani on the East to lively Nungwi and Kendwa on the West. </span><span>Whether you're diving into the colorful underwater world or wandering through the labyrinthine streets of Stone Town. Zanzibar has it all combined </span><span>with delicious food and welcoming people.</span></p><p><span>Zanzibar Island is one of the dream vacation spots that leaves a mark and makes it to your bucket list of places to return to. </span></p>

Zanzibar Island Vacation

Zanzibar may not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a tropical getaway. Still, it is a perfect exotic destination with its spicy blend of cultural richness and stunning nature.

It offers a wide range of activities, from snorkeling to kitesurfing, admiring giant Aldabra Tortoises on Prison Island, or searching for Red Colobus Monkeys in Jozani Forest. Listening to happy Swahili beats or following the steps of young Farrokh Bulsara.

There are plenty of opportunities for adventure or for a relaxed time off on the world’s most beautiful beaches. From Paje and Jambiani on the East to lively Nungwi and Kendwa on the West.

Whether you're diving into the colorful underwater world or wandering through the labyrinthine streets of Stone Town. Zanzibar has it all combined with delicious food and welcoming people.

Zanzibar Island is one of the dream vacation spots that leaves a mark and makes it to your bucket list of places to return to.

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Sign up for essence newsletters the keep the black women at the forefront of conversation., michael vick and wife kijafa enjoy a much-needed baecation in zanzibar.

Michael Vick And Wife Kijafa Enjoy A Much-Needed Baecation In Zanzibar

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his wife Kijafa are enjoying their summer by spending some quality time together in one of the most stunning locales on earth. The two hit up Zanzibar in Tanzania and shared some images with their followers on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Kijafa (keyafa) (@kijafa)

“I was due for a baecation. I wanna be in a bikini getting kissed on & feeding my man fruit 🍉,” Kijafa wrote in the caption under a series of images of the beauty and her beau doing just that. She wore a beige two-piece swimsuit while the NFL player had on green Gucci swim shorts. The couple also shared an image of them having a cute picnic on the beach, enjoying some watermelon and pineapples.

They also went into a local village and gave back to the community, helping to provide food for close to 400 people.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Aristotle | Investing | Marketing | Entrepreneurship (@aristotle_investments)

The couple is partaking in a festive season as they also recently celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary.

“Happy anniversary my love. 12 years down and a lifetime of love and happiness to go,” Kijafa posted on Instagram alongside a reel of their sweetest moments over the years.

The Vicks met way back in 2002 at a nightclub, and they’ve been two peas in a pod since then. They didn’t get married until June 2012, a couple of years after Vick was released from prison for his involvement in a dog fighting ring.

In the four-time NFL Pro Bowler’s 2012 autobiography Finally Free , the NFL star wrote about his love for his wife.

“There are certain people in your life you never want to part ways with. And she’s the one I never want to part ways with — not just because of our two daughters, but because of the friendship we’ve developed over the years and our ability to love one another and respect one another,” he wrote.

They share three children together in Jada, London, and Michael Jr. Michael has son Miltez from a previous relationship.

Kijafa is more than just a WAG (“wife and girlfriend” of an athlete). She executive produced and starred in The Michael Vick Project , a docuseries that aired on BET in 2010. In addition, she executive produced VH1’s Baller Wives in 2017.

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  1. Arriving in ZANZIBAR Tanzania is it Worth 🇹🇿

  2. Zanzibar-Tanzania -Nungwi. Обзор территории; еда в пляжном ресторане отеля Amaan Bungalows Beach

  3. Africas Most Exclusive Beaches (Zanzibar Travel Guide)

  4. Zanzibar Island Tourism

  5. Nungwi Beach Zanzibar Island Short Vlog

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COMMENTS

  1. The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide (2024): Everything You Need To Know

    Zanzibar has a very rich history and was once one of the most important areas in East Africa. Following Vasco de Gama's visit in 1499, Zanzibar was ruled by the Portuguese and remained this way for almost two centuries. Staying at the amazing Zawadi Hotel. Nowadays, it's one of the most popular beach destinations in Africa and with good ...

  2. 15 Zanzibar Travel Tips To Know BEFORE You Go

    Here are a few Zanzibar travel tips that are good to know before you visit the island. Zanzibar Travel - Top Tours and Excursions. Luxury: The classic Tanzanian bush & beach safari. Mid Range: Best of Northern Parks and Zanzibar. Spice Farm Tour with Traditional Cooking Lesson. North Coast and Turtle Sanctuary Tour.

  3. Zanzibar Island travel

    Zanzibar Island. Tanzania, Africa. Zanzibar Island is a jewel in the ocean, surrounded by beaches that rate among the finest in the world. Here you can swim, snorkel or just lounge the hours away, while shoals of luminous fish graze over nearby coral gardens and pods of dolphins frolic offshore. Attractions.

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    Build a memorable collection. Get to the heart of Zanzibar Archipelago with one of our in-depth, award-winning guidebooks, covering maps, itineraries, and expert guidance. Tanzania. $ 28.99.

  5. Zanzibar Travel Guide & Tips

    Zanzibar is a dream destination, with crystal-clear waters and white sandy beaches surrounded by lush tropical forests. This Zanzibar travel guide will make sure that you get the most out of all that this east Africa archipelago has to offer. Located off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar Island has captivated travelers with ...

  6. The Ultimate Zanzibar Itinerary

    Over 7 days, you can explore the vibrant spirit of Zanzibar, including its scenic tropical landscapes, cultural heritage sites, and indulging in the warmth of its people. Discover a diverse range of activities, accommodations, and culinary delights that make Zanzibar the ultimate paradise. Zanzibar 7-Day Itinerary Overview.

  7. Ten Days in Zanzibar: An Itinerary for First-Timers

    Day 9: Enjoy the Beach at Kizimkazi. The time has come for you to head to your final destination of your trip to Zanzibar - Kizimkazi. It'll only take you about half an hour to get there (once again, either by driving yourself or by taxi) so have a slow morning in Jambiani before you head down south.

  8. The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide For First-Time Visitors(2023)

    Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region and is part of the United Republic of Tanzania. The archipelago mainly consists of two big islands, Unguja and Pemba. Unguja, the main island, is informally known as Zanzibar. Zanzibar is located 25 - 30 km away from the mainland of Tanzania.

  9. Ultimate Guide to Zanzibar

    From November to February, you may experience light rains, but they last for such a short time that they're unlikely to ruin any plans. Located just 6 degrees south of the equator, Zanzibar is usually warm throughout the year with temperatures ranging from 25°-35° C year round. (75°-95° F).

  10. Zanzibar Travel Guide

    Zanzibar Island (Unguja) is the main island of Zanzibar. It's well-known for its historical Stone Town, beautiful beaches, and spectacular nature and wildlife, both on land and in the surrounding coral reefs. There is also a variety of beach destinations, suitable to all different tastes. The main options are the Zanzibar City area (including ...

  11. Zanzibar Travel Information and Guide

    Chris and Susie McIntyre, authors of Zanzibar: The Bradt Guide. Zanzibar is one of our hot destinations for the year ahead - check out the full list of the best places to travel in 2024 here. Zanzibar is a magical, evocative African name, like Timbuktu, Casablanca or Kilimanjaro. For many travellers, the name alone is reason enough to come.

  12. Zanzibar Travel Tips and Itinerary, According to a A-List Advisor

    Darren Humphreys. Published on March 12, 2021. Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, is a unique crossroad of cultures. Disparate influences, like Swahili, Arabian ...

  13. The Most Practical Zanzibar Travel Guide You Should Have Now (Updated

    Practical Zanzibar travel guide with the best tips to travel Zanzibar safely in 2020. Find the best beaches, hotels, things to do, etc.

  14. The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide

    How to travel around in Zanzibar. 1. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles and Dala Dala's (local buses) are the most common forms of transport. Dala dala's come in the form of small mini buses or open carriers. Be aware that these get extremely busy, stuffy and uncomfortable.

  15. Zanzibar Travel Guide & Tips

    Zanzibar Travel Guide. Zanzibar epitomises the Indian Ocean ideal. Colourful boutique hotels line white sands which stretch into glistening turquoise waters. The variety of hotels on Zanzibar means every budget is met with characterful charm; from private islands off the coast, to barefoot luxury beach shack chic, there is something for everyone.

  16. The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide; Plan your travel to Zanzibar

    The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide. Jupiter K. August 3, 2020. 7 MINUTE READ. In this ultimate travel guide to Zanzibar, I am going to cover a destination that has a lot to offer from a wide variety of activities, incredible culture and history and beautiful beaches. We will dive into what to do, where to go and what to except. Karibu Zanzibar ...

  17. Best of Zanzibar: What to do, top beaches and more

    Sunset on Mtoni beach. Note: If you do prefer to stick to your own pace and not Zanzibar's, you get a ton of free time on Intrepid trips there. The beach break lets you search for wildlife in Jozani Forest or simply sit back in a beach-side hammock at leisure. And the week-long sailing trip allows you time to visit a local fishing village ...

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    Get information on Zanzibar Travel Guide - Expert Picks for your Vacation hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, sightseeing, and activities. Read the Fodor's reviews, or post your own.

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    Welcome to the exotic Zanzibar Archipelago, a tropical paradise nestled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. Mallerby's Luxury Travel is thrilled to present this comprehensive Zanzibar Travel Guide, offering you insights into the enchanting islands and captivating atolls that make this a dream destination for discerning ...

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    Top 5 Reasons to Visit Zanzibar. 1. The Perfect Tropical Beach Experience. You have your choice of several stunning beaches with fine, coral white sand, and brilliant blue waters on Zanzibar Island alone. The area around Nungwi and Kendwa at the northernmost tip of the island includes an idyllic, wide beach.

  21. The complete travel guide

    The complete travel guide - Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a stunning destination full of white sandy beaches, turquoise water, fresh, delicious cuisines, and possibly the most beautiful deep orange sunsets we've ever seen! Known for its snorkelling and picturesque beaches, Zanzibar is located 28 miles off the coast of Tanzania.

  22. Travel Guide to Zanzibar: What to Know and Where to Go

    How to Get There and When to Go. Zanzibar is accessible via connecting flights from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Nairobi with Kenya Airways, as well as direct flights from Europe operated by Air France, KLM and Qatar Airways. A tourist visa is required for Tanzania, which costs $100 for Americans ($50 for other ...

  23. The Backpacker's Travel Guide to Zanzibar

    Zanzibar was one of the most surprising stops on my African backpacking journey. Despite its popularity, and the many images of beach resorts and dolled-up influencers I'd seen plastered on Instagram, Zanzibar still felt local and real. Riding in open-air trucks from village to village, watching the fishermen cast their nets early in the morning,… Read More The Backpacker's Travel Guide ...

  24. Zanzibar Island: Beautiful Beaches, Adventure, and Swahili Culture

    Zanzibar is an island archipelago in the Indian Ocean and belongs to the East African country of Tanzania. This paradise vacation destination offers something for beach lovers, sports enthusiasts ...

  25. Michael Vick And Wife Kijafa Enjoy A Much-Needed Baecation In Zanzibar

    In the four-time NFL Pro Bowler's 2012 autobiography Finally Free, the NFL star wrote about his love for his wife. "There are certain people in your life you never want to part ways with. And ...