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The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

The wonderful island of Zanzibar. The very name conjures up thoughts of exotic Arab spice merchants, dark-skinned seafarers, and a region untouched by the political upheavals that have rocked mainland Africa in recent decades. This group of islands off the coast of Tanzania has been visited by adventurers and merchants in pursuit of the unusual for ages. Thankfully, nothing has changed in the intervening centuries.

Zanzibar Island is a multicultural Muslim-flavored version of the Africa you’ve been dreaming about. Stone Town’s ageless, meandering streets and distinctive architecture reflect the city’s multiethnic population. The House of Wonders and the Palace Museum are just two of the many magnificent structures that can be seen in this area. Visit Pemba Island, where the pungent aroma of cloves lingers in the air, evoking memories of the golden age of the spice trade. Zanzibar has a lot of attractions, so if you’re looking for something different to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Zanzibar’s Top Attractions

Jozani Forest

When visiting Zanzibar, many people choose to spend time at Jozani Forest. For the endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkey, this jungle is their only hope for survival. One of the most verdant areas of Zanzibar, the forest may be found on the island’s eastern half. It’s a constant reminder of the damage humans have caused to the planet over the years.

The Jozani forest is a great place to get lost and meet some monkeys. Beautiful woodlands may be explored on foot, and the resident red colobus monkeys are not skittish. When you’re done exploring Jozani, head across the street to the Mangroves.

Seaweed Center

A trip to the seaweed center is a great alternative to relaxing on the beach or getting lost in Stone Town. After reading this fantastic post by our friends at Hey Dip Your Toes In, we decided to pay a visit to the Seaweed Center in Paje.

Mwani Zanzibar is the new name for what used to be known as the Seaweed Center, where native women are employed to create goods from the abundant seaweed found on the island. Visitors may choose between a comprehensive tour of the seaweed farm and a relaxing glass of seaweed fruit juice in the shop.

House Of Wonders

Stone Town should be at the top of anyone’s list of things to do in Zanzibar. One of Zanzibar’s most famous landmarks, the “Palace of Wonders” is also the highest building in Stone Town. It’s a must-see attraction in Stone Town and can be found just adjacent to the Old Fort.

It’s also where East Africa’s first elevator was installed. Visitors interested in Stone Town’s past will enjoy exploring the museum’s collection of historic artifacts and rooms.

The home was the first in Stone Town to get plumbing and electricity, hence the name. Unfortunately, it is now undergoing renovations and cannot be visited in its current state.

Dine At Forodhani Gardens

Our recommendation for what to do in Zanzibar at night is a trip to the Forodhani Gardens. Stone Town is home to a public park known as Forodhani Gardens. The Old Fort and the House of Wonders, two of the attraction’s most well-known structures, are situated in front of these gardens. It goes by a few names, including Jubilee Gardens, Forodhani Park, and the town square. 

Around sunset is when you’ll get the most out of your visit. The aroma of freshly cooked fish will let you know that you’ve arrived. At the outdoor market, you may buy samoosas, seafood kebabs, and other dishes typical of Swahili and Zanzibari cuisine.

One of the finest ways to get a feel for the local culture in Zanzibar, even if you’re not hungry, is to eat here. It’s also a very cheap dining option.

Paje Beach

Paje beach is the best place in Zanzibar for budget travelers. Modern cafés, burger eateries, kite surfing businesses, bars, and hostels line the beach, making it one of Zanzibar’s top attractions. We swam about for a few days in the warm turquoise seas, which are one of the best free things to do in Zanzibar.

Kite surfing is the number one activity for visitors to Paje, Zanzibar, hoping to get some exercise during their vacation. Kitesurfing is gaining popularity, and there is no shortage of schools and rental companies ready to get you out on the water and teach you the basics.  

Paje provides just the ideal amount of wind to spend your whole Zanzibar vacation honing your kitesurfing abilities, provided you are not a novice. When you experience the wind and see the beautiful ocean, you’ll understand why this is one of the top kite surfing spots in the world.

Spice Tour

Discovering why Zanzibar has been called “Spice Island” for generations is one of the top five things to do there. The island has long been a major producer of cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Most of these trips will take you from Stone Town to a big spice farm, where you can smell, feel, and taste the numerous spices that give Zanzibar its unique flavor.

It’s possible that the ground may be muddy, therefore sturdy footwear is a must. Bring some extra money if you’d want to pick up any souvenirs, such as tea or spices. Don’t eat before the tour since you’ll be sampling everything at the end.

Zanzibar Butterfly Centre

If you’re in the neighborhood of Jozani Forest in Zanzibar, you should definitely check out the Zanzibar Butterfly Center. Children and adults alike will enjoy the engaging gameplay that this platform provides.

Forty farmers from a neighboring community assist tend to these butterfly farms. Farmers may rely on their income from farming, and in turn, they can help the environment. While learning about conservation on a fun and instructive tour to the butterfly center, visitors may enjoy being surrounded by the fluttering insects.

Enjoy a 30-minute guided tour of the grounds while knowing that 100% of your entry price goes toward the education of the farmers.

Safari Blue Cruise

We had such a great time on a dhow in Mozambique that we were determined to do it again in Zanzibar. We coordinated with the folks at Colors of Zanzibar to arrange up a day of exciting sailing. We left the fishing village of Fumba bright and early in the morning. The crew’s specialty is private trips, so we had the dhow all to ourselves, which was fantastic. We found a little sandbar approximately three hours before high tide was set to wash it away from the coast of Zanzibar. Visitors may snorkel in the clear waters and enjoy the morning breeze with a plate of fruit on this island.

After your snorkeling adventure, you may visit a secret lagoon or continue on to Kwale Island for a seafood buffet lunch. Large baobab trees, quaint stores, and even more idyllic beaches may all be found here.

Don’t go in with high hopes for snorkeling. The Safari Blue cruise route unfortunately passes through an area where the coral has been destroyed due to excessive commercialization. A disappointing and depressing sight for anyone who enjoys the ocean.

Prison Island

One of Zanzibar’s best attractions is Prison Island. The famous Prison Island, or Changuu Island to use its proper name, is about five kilometers by boat from Stone Town. This jail was constructed in the late 1800s and was used as a quarantine island for slaves, dangerous inmates, and criminals.

The turtle refuge on prison island is the highlight of the trip. Seychelles is also home to a small population of enormous Aldabross tortoises. When traveling by boat or going snorkeling, don’t forget your sunscreen.

Snorkel Mnemba Island

If you still haven’t seen enough of Tanzania’s aquatic biodiversity, a snorkel excursion around Mnemba Island is your best bet.

Located about three kilometers from Unguja’s shores lies the little island of Mnemba. It’s barely 500 meters in circle, yet it’s beautiful to stroll on and take in the sight of the clear blue ocean. You may also schedule a visit of Mnemba if you have your scuba diving certification.

Have Dinner At The Tea House Restaurant

Eating at this restaurant is, without a doubt, a top-tier Zanzibar experience. The Tea House Restaurant at Emerson on Hurumzi is a great choice for a night out in Stone Town.

The hotel’s rooftop serves as the kasbah’s only restaurant. Plus, it’s one of the greatest places to take in the sights of Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town.

We advise you to make a reservation in advance due to the high demand for sunset drinks and supper. Spicy drinks, live Zanzibari music, and wonderful Persian-inspired fare occupied our whole evening before we retired to our luxurious suite.

Check out the Stone

Every greatest Zanzibar restaurants list includes The Rock, a restaurant that has become practically associated with the island. The restaurant may be reached by motorbike or taxi from Paje and is situated at Pongwe, which is in the southeast of the island.

We went on an adventure to the famous landmark, The Rock, to take some breathtaking pictures. A free boat taxi will take you to the rock at high tide (unless you choose to swim, of course).

We planned on getting some refreshments, but we were forewarned that the costs were quite excessive, even for Zanzibar. It’s the price you pay for dining in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I suppose. We didn’t make reservations and were turned away, so if you’re going, I’d recommend contacting ahead.

One of the nicest things to do in Zanzibar, regardless of whether or not you eat here, is to visit this fascinating structure.

Cafe Latte From Zanzibar’s Best

Among the must-see attractions in Zanzibar is this cafe, which is conveniently situated next to Emerson Spice in the middle of Stone Town. Aside from the times we sat there and filmed everyday life in Zanzibar, the meals we had here don’t really stand out.

Everything from café lattes to tasty veggie chapati sandwiches is available at the Zanzibar Coffee House, which even roasts its own coffee. When you enter the café, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a coffee shop from the ancient Arabic world. You should go there even if coffee isn’t your thing. If you need to do any shopping, the Upendo department store is just across the street.

All of the local women are put to work by Upendo since she provides them with an education in sewing. We came here on several occasions since it has interesting and reasonably priced apparel and jewelry for both sexes.

Go to the Park Hyatt Zanzibar’s Happy Hour.

The Park Hyatt Zanzibar is known for having some of the best drinks in Stone Town. Every day at 18:00, we have a happy hour when all beverages are 50% off. The Park Hyatt is calling your name if you’re longing for a New York cocktail while vacationing on the coast of Africa. Both of us got our bourbon fix, thus the trip was a success all around.

Walk Around Old Town Stone

Walking around Stone Town is a great way to spend a day in Zanzibar. Stone Town is a must-visit because of all the one-of-a-kind attractions it has to offer. Go on a tour of the Old Fort and the Forodhani Gardens!

Stone Town is small enough that you can explore it on your own, but if you want to get the most out of your visit, we recommend booking a walking tour with Colors of Zanzibar.

Visit Darajani Market for Your Groceries

In Stone Town, Zanzibar, the Darajani Market (or Bazaar) is the most important marketplace. For spices, dates, bread, fruits, and almost anything else, this is the place to go. It’s a great spot for cultural immersion as well as souvenir shopping.

Watch Locals Do Acrobats And Capoeira At Sunset

When the sun sets over Stone Town, many young men in the area flock to the public beach for some capoeira and acrobatics to celebrate the end of another day. When asked, “What is capoeira?” Dance, acrobatics, and music are all integrated into this Brazilian martial art. From the beach or one of the neighboring restaurants, it’s a lot of fun to watch.

It’s not the greatest beach on the island, but watching the sun go down from Stone Town is up there among the top things to do in Zanzibar. Keep an eye out for the enormous groups of people that congregate around the most gifted lads.

Learn About The Slave Trade

Zanzibar has a darker history than most people think, despite its well-known beaches and clear ocean. Zanzibar served as the primary slave-trading hub on the African Great Lakes. In the 19th century, it is estimated that as many as 50,000 slaves went through here. Up to the late 1800s, these slaves were traded in slave markets.

Open slave marketplaces still exist in this part of Stone Town. You may take guided tours of a site in Stone Town that was formerly used as a slave market and learn more about the slave trade.

Enjoy The Many Beaches

Get out of the city and see as many of Zanzibar’s beautiful beaches as possible. Everywhere you turn, there’s a stunning one waiting for you. Nungwi Beach and Pongwe Beach are two of my favorites, although there are many more.

Naturally, if you’re staying at a Zanzibar hotel or resort on the coast, you’ll want to spend at least one day relaxing on the beach there. Pick a fantastic hotel in a convenient area.

When to go to Zanzibar for the finest weather

What follows is a general description of the weather in Zanzibar. Keep in mind that we’re not able to see the future, so please don’t take our words as gospel. We are experiencing downpours in the middle of deserts and catastrophic droughts when rains should be pouring, all of which is likely attributable to global warming.

Because of its proximity to the equator, Zanzibar’s climate is very similar to that of Tanzania, but with a somewhat more humid atmosphere and more frequent occurrences of rain during the dry season than in the heart of mainland Tanzania.

The “long rains,” or primary wet season, often occurs throughout the months of March, April, and May. Rainfall in the tropics often occurs in the afternoon, and it may really dump on any of the islands. Temperatures average in the low to mid 30s, and the humidity is considerable.

The months of June, July, August, September, and October are part of the long dry season, when precipitation is uncommon. The weather in Zanzibar is beautiful and warm year-round, however, it does vary greatly depending on height and location. Another wet period, known as the “short rains,” occurs in late November and early December. These showers are far less substantial than the regular downpours.

It typically stops raining during the ‘short dry season’ of Tanzania in January and February after the short rains, with the rainy season beginning again in March.

 

 Zanzibar | The most frequently asked questions

What is the ideal time of year to visit Zanzibar?

Zanzibar, Tanzania, is at its finest from June through October, when temperatures are mild and rainfall is minimal. From December through February, Zanzibar is hot and dry, another popular time to come. The great thing about Zanzibar’s beaches is that you can usually still enjoy them outside of the peak tourist season.

How secure is the situation there in Zanzibar?

The quick response is yes. While most tourists have positive experiences in Tanzania, the country is experiencing a steady rise in violent and armed crime. Take extra precautions in areas frequented by foreigners. Dar es Salaam’s city center, Ubungo bus station, Masaki/Oysterbay Peninsula, and Coco Beach/Toure Drive have all been the targets of recent attacks on visitors and locals alike. Incidents have taken occurred in Stone Town, hotels, and on well-visited beaches in Zanzibar.

How much does Zanzibar cost? Is it expensive?

While the prices included in this Zanzibar travel guide are based on one person’s 2019 trip, it’s important to keep in mind that a trip to Zanzibar won’t come cheap. However, for under €60 a night, you can have a comfortable stay in a nice hotel. A careful traveler with a daily budget of 50 to 75 euros will be comfortable in Zanzibar.

Can you drink the water in Zanzibar?

No. Do not use the local water supply for anything, including brushing your teeth or washing your hands before eating. Purified water or a water bottle with a filter should always be used to avoid becoming sick from drinking unclean water.

Is a visa required to enter Zanzibar?

Tanzania offers visas upon arrival, so there’s no need to apply ahead of time, but it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. If you’d rather get it over with as soon as you land, all you need is 50 Euros and two passport images to complete the process at the airport’s immigration office.

In Zanzibar, what language do people typically speak?

While Swahili is the official language of Zanzibar, most residents (and notably tour operators and tourist advisors) are fluent English speakers. This is a typical scene on the streets of Zanzibar.

What kind of money does Zanzibar use?

The Tanzanian Shilling is the country’s official currency. Due to the island’s solitary ATM location in Stone Town, visitors are advised to withdraw sufficient funds to last the duration of their Zanzibar vacation. Find out from your lodging in advance if they accept credit card payments.

Do people get Malaria in Zanzibar?

Malaria does really exist on Zanzibar. Furthermore, there are other disorders for which you should consult the GGD in advance. The yellow fever vaccination is a health requirement for entry into the country. You’ll need to provide proof, such as a vaccination record book, to get by. Schedule a consultation with the GGD or Vaccinations while Traveling to get up-to-date recommendations.

 

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