Zanzibar is an exotic island smelling like vanilla and cloves. It is a part of Tanzania and a popular destination of lovers of beaches or water sports, but also of African safari visitors. Besides playing in the sea, the island offers other interesting activities. In the article, we summed up the best of them.
The beaches of Zanzibar are bordered by palm trees and washed by turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The history of Zazibar is very rich, with alternating reigns of the Persians, Portuguese, Omanis and Britons. The last period of prosperity was also a period marked by the slave trade and the spice trade.
If you arrive from Tanzania, you will be surprised by the fact that the local mentality and culture differs a lot. You can go by ferryboat from Dar es Salaam, or by plane – the airport is located cca 7 kms from the center – check the best tips and trick how to find cheap flights.
Stone Town is an ancient center of Zanzibar City designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its name is derived from building material – coral stone, and there is a lot of it on the island. The city was formed by various cultures and religions, and thus many local houses bear architectural features of both Omani and British buildings at the same time. Unfortunately, heritage preservation is not one of the priorities of the city, probably due to financial reasons, which is the reason why the most of the sights are deteriorating. You can stay in nice Zanzibar Hotel.
The most interesting architectural feature is the massive Zanzibar doors. Most of them are older than the houses themselves. They are made of fine wood from the island and there are various interesting engravings on them. In any case, you cannot fail to notice them.
Stone Town Sightseeing Tips
One of the most significant landmarks is the House of Wonders that stands right along the seafront. This palace was built in 1883 by the Sultan himself and in that time, it used to be the highest building in the whole eastern Africa. It was the first building on the island to have electricity, a lift and running water.
Across the street, there are the Forodhani Gardens, a park that comes to life in the evening, radiating pleasant atmosphere and giving off various scents. People meet around it and degust local dishes that hey sell at the stalls full of tasty food. Zanzibar pizza is one of the traditional dishes, which actually is a dough filled with minced meat and an egg.
The Old Fort is the Omani fort adjacent to the House of Wonders. Only perimeter wall and a huge amphitheater is all that was left from the original forth; today, the latter is used as a venue for concerts and social events. In the past, the forth was used as an execution ground, a prison, or a marketplace.
Another building with typical colonial features is the Old Dispensary. The building is in a relatively good shape and, actually, it looks like a former hospital on the inside.
We literally came across the Hamamni Persian Baths by accident. In order to enter, you have to find the custodian who lives across the street. We were lucky because his wife was sitting by the entrance and was selling tickets. The Baths were built by the Sultan himself and in service until 1920.
They built the Anglican cathedral in the area which was previously used as a slave market. The cornerstone was laid in the same year the slave trade was abolished. The altar is situated in the exact spot where the whipping post of the market was.
Behind the cathedral, there is St. Monica’s Guest House, where you can find the museum of slavery. Small jail cells where they kept slaves in inhuman conditions are part of the exposition. On the yard, there is the memorial to remember the recent and sad part of Zanzibar history.
Zanzibar and its beautiful beaches
The shores of Zanzibar are very diverse. On the east of the island, the beaches nearby Paje and Jambiani are known as a perfect place for kiteboarding. The beaches located on the north part are bordered by coral reefs. The most beautiful beaches looking exactly like those in travel agency catalogues can be found on the north-east of the island, nearby villages of Kendwa and Nungwi. Those places are perfect for scuba divers.
We decided to set off to the Nungwi beach. To get there, we chose to go by local “bus” called Dalla-Dalla. Those are small microbuses crossing the whole island for minimum price. Obviously, expect that there is no set schedule for this kind of transport, and the buses are already full from the beginning of their route. Also, you should not count on having the whole seat for yourself, most likely, you are going to share it with a neighbor. Also, you can travel by cab, but it costs more and you won’t enjoy the journey as much.
In Nungwi, we picked a cheap but very good hotel called Homelans Swahili Lodge (Booking.com, HotelsCombined.com) which was not located on a beach but the owner would give us a ride anywhere we wanted for free. Nungwi is a small village surrounded by beautiful beaches and crystal-clear sea and tourist from all over the world travel there. But they would stay in holiday resorts and around beaches, so you don’t come across any in the village, so you can enjoy the real Zanzibar.
Other activities you can do on the island
The Jozani Forest National Park is the only old-growth forest on the island which gradually turns into a mangrove. In the forest, you can admire various trees and already mentioned mangroves to which an experienced guide will call attention. The biggest attraction are small monkeys – the western red colobus – which are the endemic species. Watching them was unforgettable.
The Spice tour is the main attraction of Zanzibar. Visiting the spice island and going on the spice tour is literally a necessity. Around Stone Town, you can come across a few smaller farms where they will guide you through willingly and show you how they cultivate exotic spice. During the guided tour, you can see cinnamon trees, pepper vines, vanilla, Zingiber, nutmeg, cloves and other plants.
Prison Island will offer you delicate sand and bluish sea with the view of the shore of Zanzibar waters. It takes approximately an hour to get to the island and the voyage on motorboat is undemanding. Besides beautiful beaches, there is a preservation area for huge tortoises which they brought from the island of Aldabra of the Maldives hundreds of years ago. The island also offers opportunities for snorkeling or diving, however, we were not very impressed. You will find much more beautiful undersea spectacle on the north of the island.
I think I saw another of your Zanzibar posts and I find it soo interesting! It’s so beautiful!! #wkendtravelinspiration
Hi Lolo, yeah this island is really beautiful nd interesting, there are so many activites that you can do 🙂
Beautiful beaches and you managed to see some wildlife even though you were poorly and couldn’t do the dive. It’s so frustrating to be ill when travelling! Love the tortoises! #wkendtravelinspiration
Hi Jo, you are right, I was looking forward for diving and another activities so much, and I spent three days in the bed. It is sad, but I am happy the pills worked at east and we could see something more than room in the hotel. 🙂
I didn’t realise Zanzibar was so beautiful. Hope you are feeling better.
Hi Arthur, thank you for comment, sure I am fine now 🙂 I was sick on the wrong moment, so I hope next time I will be more lucky
I hadn’t realized so many countries had control of Zanzibar. It looks like there is lots to do here. I would definitely do a spice tour and perhaps some snorkeling.
Hi ..yeah, the Zanzibar has a really interesting culture and history and I think everybody can find activities what to do there
What a shame you fell ill! My brother and his family live in Dar Es Salaam and so I get the Zanzibar beaches beamed into my inbox regularly. They never get old though. Such a beautiful place. Thanks for joining us on #farawayfiles
Hi Katy, I’m a bit jealous you have a brother in Tanzania, I would visit him often 😀 To be honest I think I got sick just before we went to Tanzania. We took the pills against the malaria so I was fine, but when we arrived to Stown Town and we stop to taking the pills, the illness just starded. But I still enjoyed it 🙂
Have not heard of Stone Town but looks amazing, as does Zanzibar – sound very exotic.
Hi, yes for sure it is very exotic, we can recommend for sure to visit the country 🙂
It is the best place to visit if you want to feel the taste of 100 years back
Sorry to hear about the sickness! That’s always a bummer while traveling, but it’s nice to know the hospital there was of such good standards. Zanzibar is going to be part of our Tasmania trip, whenver we can manage it! Thanks for linking in this week, #wkendtravelinspiration!
Hi Jim, I wish you the best o on your journey and no sickness 😀 , yeah I was ill, but luckily it had a solution and it was nothing serious, so it is always point of view,, but of course it is not nice. Thank you for your comment
When I hear Zanzibar, it brings to mind an exotic island destination in the best possible way and this post definitely supports it. Would love to visit here one day and it’s nice to know it’s more than just a beach. #wkendtravelinspiration
Hi David, thank you for your comment, you are right, the exotic island is just not a beach, there is a lots of activities you can do here, that is the reason why we totally loved it. 🙂
I loved Stone Town – those doors are amazing and it’s such an interesting town for a wander. It’s great to read your guide to other parts of Zanzibar. We went on to stay on the island of Pemba so didn’t explore much more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – the good and the bad – on #FarawayFiles
Hi Clare, thank you for your comment, I completelly understand you loved the Stown Town, it is really special. I guess the island Pemba was wonderful with beautiful beaches and blue sea. Hope one day we will come back to the island to discover more places ????
Thank you for sharing Zanzibar, the first post for #FarawayFiles! It looks sooo beautiful. And I appreciate you sharing the somber history of the area as well. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin
Hi Erin, thank you for your comment, I am happy you like it 🙂
OMG lovely post! Liked the photos and the activities that we can do on the island. Zanzibar is such a rich destination, culture, history and beach wise. That’s why it’s always been in my must-travel bucket list. It’s not only rich in majestic sceneries but wildlife too. So nice to read about your adventure, so I felt like I was also with you on your trip! Keep safe though! Take care of your health while away and always bring your stash of meds just to be sure. Looking forward to reading more posts from you!
Hi Kristan, thank you for nice comment. I agree with you, that Zanzibar is amazing destination and it is not only because of the beaches and beautiful landscape. I am happy you like my article. Yeaah, I am always taking some med with me while travellintg, but fortunatelly I wasnt that much sick on my way again. Hope I will not be ever anymore.
We visit Zanzibar last year in Nov what amazing place it was.
There is so many things to do, will go back for a next holiday there
Hi Isabel, I am happy you like Zanzibar, it is very beautiful island. I hope one day we will go back as well.