What would you give to be in Zanzibar on a pristine white beach, snorkelling on the coral reef or swimming in crystal clear waters? I think I could just quit my job and live like this all year long, opening a lemonade kiosk. But let’s start with a nice holiday, and then let’s seriously plan a final emigration. It will be really hard to forget this wonderful island of Tanzania.
The territory of Zanzibar is actually an archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, consisting of two main islands, Pemba, smaller and to the north, and Unguja, namely the island of Zanzibar, and another 40 small islands and islets. The name of the islands is thought to derive from the Arabic term zanjabil, which means “ginger”. Not surprisingly, Zanzibar is called the “island of spices”, thanks to the trade and production of nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and carnation, as you can discover by visiting the capital Stone Town.
There are many things to do and places to visit in Zanzibar, as well as relaxing and swimming in a fabulous sea, and you can choose from a series of unforgettable excursions. You can do the famous Blue Safari, which lets you discover the small islands of the archipelago and dive around the coral reef of Zanzibar, to sight dolphins, fish and maybe even sharks. Or maybe you can visit Prison Island and see the turtles and at the end of the day treat yourself to an evocative dinner on the water at the Rock restaurant.
In short, a trip to Zanzibar is perfect for anyone who loves the sea and enjoys mild temperatures. The climate of Zanzibar is characterised by two rainy seasons and two dry seasons, but the temperature is constant at 25 degrees. If you are wondering when to go to Zanzibar, then I recommend the period between December and February or from June to October. All we have to do is find out what are the best places to visit in Zanzibar.
If I say Zanzibar, do you imagine white sand and clear water? In Nungwi beach, this is exactly what you will find. We’re north of the island, and the impression you get is postcard perfect. With a coconut in your hand and sitting on a palm tree with your legs dangling, you will fully enjoy the relaxation of Zanzibar.
The area of Nungwi is special because, together with nearby Kendwa, it is barely affected by the tides. This means that you can swim like a happy puppy at all hours of the day, unlike other places on the island, where the low tide is very present. For this reason, there are some of the most beautiful and luxurious resorts on the island in Nungwi, but also some wonderful affordable guest houses and accommodations for common mortals, like me.
Sunsets at Nungwi beach deserve a high ranking among the things to do in Zanzibar. The beach’s location allows you to enjoy the sun until the very last moment. You’ll think you’ve never seen a sunset before: the sun dives into the sea creating an unforgettable atmosphere. On the other hand, the sunsets in Africa are an entirely different ballgame!
The tides affect the daily life of the inhabitants, but also the experiences of the tourists who visit it. An example is the Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar.
We are on the central-eastern coast, in the town of Pingwe, but in the middle of the sea. Yes, in the middle of the sea. Do not think that I would recommend a trivial place to eat in Zanzibar. The Rock is a tiny restaurant with about fifteen table settings, which rises on an island in the middle of the sea, or rather a rock. Depending on the tides you can get there on foot from the beach, or by a small boat in just a few minutes.
A ladder takes you to a beautiful terrace where you can have lunch and dinner with fish specialities, especially crustaceans, which are obviously caught on the spot. The best time to go to the rock restaurant is certainly for dinner. You will eat watching the sunset and, once you arrive at the dessert, you will look at the stars in the middle of the sea. A unique place. Ah, remember to book on time.
There you are, landing on the island for quarantining par excellence! Take it slowly and don’t be frightened, it’s just one of the island of Changuu’s many nicknames. If you prefer we can call it an island prison, but even in this case the nickname is not very attractive. Prison Island, however, is full of mystery and hides a treasure unique of its kind.
We are on the west coast, six km sailing from Stone Town. This island, as you may have already understood, has an interesting history. Initially, it was used by the Arabs as a place for the detention of slaves. Then the British bought the island and had a prison built, which was never used as such. With the arrival of yellow fever, it was converted into a hospital and a place of quarantine.
The real reason to go to Prison Island, though, is the Turtle Sanctuary. A protected colony of giant turtles from Seychelles lives here. After hearing the island’s history from the guides, you will be breathless in front of these splendid specimens, which reach 250 kg in weight and some cases even 200 years of life! You can give them salad leaves and pamper them under the neck, as they like. In short, Prison Island is one of the places to visit in Zanzibar!
Nature, nature and again more nature. Zanzibar is a continuous discovery and a magical place for nature lovers. However, there are not only excursions at sea. To the south of the island, there is a beautiful protected green area, the Jozani Forest. Here you can discover the flora and fauna of Zanzibar.
We are located in the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park, the only national park on the island, which includes the hinterland and also a beautiful bay. The visit to the forest is possible only with an accompanying guide, who will take you along an easy path, surrounded by vegetation and tranquillity. Here you can see the Bushbaby lemurs plus numerous species of butterflies and birds. One of the most beautiful experiences of your holiday in Zanzibar will be walking among the tall plants, immersed in the noise of animals.
You’ll laugh at the monkeys jumping from branch to branch and brazenly approaching the tourists. Among the many monkeys, you will see if you are lucky you can also spot a scarce species, the red colobus. But remember that you need to respect these animals, avoiding touching them and disturbing them in their habitat. I recommend not being the classic tourist on Sundays. Wear comfortable shoes so you can spend the rest of the holiday in flipflops. Do not worry 😉
In the city, is it work, school or obligations that decide your rhythms? In Jambiani, the only decision-making factor is nature. So, what should you do? Relax and enjoy the wonders it has to offer.
Jambiani is a small fishing village to visit in southern Zanzibar. It is famous for having one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. At every hour of the day, you will see different landscapes and colours, depending on the movement of the tides, which on this 5-km long beach, have a very pronounced effect. During high tide, you can soak in the clear water. At low tide you can take beautiful walks and cool off in one of the many kiosks and bars along the beach.
Jambiani beach during the low tide is populated by women who grow red algae. Here, there are proper plantations that integrate the livelihood of the inhabitants, together with fishing and tourism. In short, here the tide offers truly unique and characteristic life scenarios and is one of the places to visit in Zanzibar.
Among the many places to visit in Zanzibar, Nakupenda beach is the most spectacular. For those who love an “Automatic A”, I just have to say that this tongue of sand appears and disappears according to the tide. Sensational, right?
Nakupenda is a beautiful atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is reachable in a few minutes by boat from Prison Island and in fact, the two excursions are usually done on the same day. Dive in and enjoy this beautiful sea that is breathtaking and always warm. Snorkelling here is something heavenly. All you have to do is put on the mask and in just a few metres, you are in an aquarium! Just kidding, it’s only a few centimetres.
What could be even more exciting? While you’re hanging out in the water, on the atoll, in the shade of the typical sarongs called Kanga, they’ll prepare a mouth-watering lunch for you! Grilled lobsters and typical Zanzibar dishes, accompanied by fresh drinks and a friendly welcome. The Zanzibar guides certainly have a competitive advantage. So hurry up and eat before the water rises again and covers the non-existent island of Nakupenda. I mean, doesn’t that seem like one of the must-sees in Zanzibar?
Paje and Uroa
What are the best places to visit in Zanzibar? The beaches of course! The eastern coast of the island of Zanzibar is one of the most popular destinations for tourism. On the other hand, who doesn’t love a beach with fine white sand? These are two of the most popular beaches: Paje and Uroa.
Paje Beach in particular is rich in palm trees and just 300-400 metres from the shore you can see the coral reef. Consider that you can even admire it on foot at low tide! I don’t know about you, but to me, all I know is how to float and swim like a frog. It sounds wonderful. For those who are more sporty and adventurous, Paje beach can still give adrenaline-pumping emotions. Its exposure makes it very windy on some days and therefore perfect for Kite surfers.
Always on the same coast, we also recommend the beach of Uroa. Again, the tides dominate the scene and provide unique moments. Very similar to Paje, this small town is inhabited by local families and fishermen. To fully grasp the spirit of the island, you can watch the spectacular fish auction, held every week. Otherwise, you can chat with the locals who are always very friendly and helpful, and always give you a massive smile.
Aren’t the thousands of square miles of the main island of the archipelago enough for you? No problem, there is also Pemba, the second largest and certainly the richest in vegetation.
To visit this island, which is located about 50 km from Unguja, you use an internal flight or boat. The peculiarity of Pemba lies in the fact that it is not yet very touristy to date. Therefore, it preserves its unspoiled landscapes. Chake Chake is the main city. It is a very lively town, especially among the streets that house the endless market stalls.
But it is on the north-eastern side of Pemba that you will discover the origin of the nickname “green island”. Here, there is the forest reserve of Ngezi, one of the last virgin areas of what was once the vegetation that covered the whole island. Consider that in just one hectare there are 355 species of plants and you can see monkeys, bats and birds of all kinds.
Of course, I haven’t forgotten that you’re on vacation and you want to relax, too. Don’t worry, we’re still on an island in Tanzania and you can’t go wrong. Even in Pemba you will find dream beaches, such as Makangale and Makoba, characterised by the typical fine sand. You can also venture in search of coves more exotic and difficult to reach. Usually, they are the ones that give more satisfaction, in the end!
The Blue Safari
Perhaps it will be the first word you will hear from the so-called beach boys, the local boys who offer excursions and guided tours on the beach. The Blue Safari is their most popular tour. Whether you decide to rely on the facility where you stay, or on local guides, what is certain is that you absolutely must make this excursion in Zanzibar.
In fact, this is an extraordinary day, which you will never forget, on a boat. Of course, I challenge anyone to forget any one of the beautiful excursions that take place in Zanzibar. However, this is done with a unique means of transport: the dhow. It is the location’s typical boat, made of wood and covered by traditional sheets, to protect from the scorching sun.
To take this excursion, you need to know how to swim, because you will have the opportunity to snorkel in some of the most beautiful islands of the archipelago. The tour usually departs from Fumba, southwest of Zanzibar, and takes place in the Menai Bay Marine Protected Area. Here you can spot dolphins and the luckiest can even swim with them!
Don’t forget that there are over 30 dive sites in Zanzibar and, thanks to the warm water temperatures, depending on the time of year, besides dolphins, you can also spot manta rays, turtles and even a whale shark! Diving in Zanzibar is incredible: the sea at about 27 degrees and a visibility of 30 metres, are the perfect conditions to swim among the wonders of the Ocean.
If you are planning your holiday and want to decide on the best places to visit in Zanzibar, I advise you not to miss a pleasant visit to Stone Town, the capital.
To be precise, the real name of the capital is Zanzibar City and Stone Town is the historic centre, which is worth seeing, between one swim and another. A walk through the city streets is the right way to appreciate the island life and immerse yourself in the local everyday doings. Thanks to the various dominations that have taken place on the island of Zanzibar, Stone Town is a mix of cultures and architectures that bring back Arabic, Persian, Indian and European elements.
You can only move on foot, by bike, or at most by motorbike, because the alleys are very narrow and packed with houses, shops, bazaars and mosques. After a bit of shopping at the spice stalls, you can visit the Arabian Fort, the Malindi Mosque, or go see Freddie Mercury’s birthplace. Yes, he was a Zanzibari, incredible right? Lastly, the House of Wonders is one of the most impressive buildings in Zanzibar. The garden of Forodhani is also worth a visit. Every night, oil lamps are set up, where you can enjoy the best street food on the island. In short, Stone Town is undoubtedly one of the places to visit in Zanzibar.
Kiwengwa and Muyuni
By now we have understood that when it comes to beaches in Zanzibar we are spoilt for choice. But suggesting two other destinations will certainly not hurt anyone, on the contrary! So here are two alternatives, one on the north of the island, Muyuni, and one on the east coast, Kiwengwa.
With the increase in tourism, certain beaches have become less authentic and more crowded. However, this is not the case in Muyuni. Here we are in front of the island of Mbemba. Everything has remained almost untouched, perhaps thanks to the fact that the beach is more difficult to reach. Don’t worry: everything is possible thanks to the local guides’ trusted boats. Rest assured that here you will not be disturbed. You can enjoy a few hours of pure relaxation, interrupted only by a meal of sublime fish.
Quite a different story in Kiwengwa. This beach is one of the most popular and loved. It is not difficult to understand why. Five km of fine sand covered with endless rows of beautiful palm trees that offer shade and refreshment. Even here, the tidal phenomenon is very present, but as we have already seen following the rhythms of nature is this island’s beauty. Kiwengwa is really well equipped. There are numerous activities offered by the facilities; such as an excursion to the coral reef and its hidden wonders.
The island of Zanzibar remains in the heart of all travellers who have had the chance to visit it. But don’t think that only a few can afford a holiday here. Of course, there are luxurious and expensive facilities. However you can also decide to stay in beautiful guest houses, which are in no way inferior to the other facilities. In short, the true luxury of Zanzibar is its sea and the unforgettable excursions that await you. The locals are always smiling and helpful with everyone, so much to amaze you. Certain faces and looks will remain etched in your memory, as much as swimming with dolphins and spotting manta rays and turtles.
Spices, crystal clear water, good food and lots of fun. There are many places to visit in Zanzibar and we can’t wait to show you. Discover the itinerary WeRoad proposes and set off with us!
Do you love nature and travelling to discover distant cultures? Then also read our article on the best places to see in Thailand!