Zanzibar Holiday

The name alone is likely to conjure up images of spice markets, palm-fringed beaches and white-sailed shows on a turquoise sea – and happily the reality doesn’t disappoint. Lying only a short distance off the Tanzania coast but at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Zanzibar has long been at the centre of the Indian Ocean experience in East Africa and a Zanzibar holiday is a sensory experience par excellence.

Go on spice tours, taste local dishes and walk the cobbled streets of the capital’s old quarter Stone Town, now a World Heritage Site buzzing with colourful back-street markets and local flavours. And then of course there are the Zanzibar beaches: perfect for anyone who simply wants to enjoy a lazily luxurious beach vacation – Zanzibar and its outlying islands are home to some of the finest beaches in East Africa as well as a number of its best dive sites.

You won’t want for somewhere to stay either: one of the world’s most romantic honeymoon destinations, Zanzibar has accommodation that ranges from luxury beachfront cottages to exclusive boutique hotels and elegant spa resorts; parents on the other hand will be delighted by Zanzibar’s family-friendly hotels and safe-swimming beaches.

Accessible from travel hub Dar es Salaam and combining easily with top Tanzania safari destinations such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar can be part of a safari and beach tour or as a stand-alone holiday.

What we did do was go to the bar-b-que (every night) initiated by the towns people. You pick what you want out of an amazing variety of their food and they bbq it for you. So wonderful to try. Don’t miss.

Where to Go in Zanzibar

Zanzibar Island, also known as Unguja, is by far the largest and most famous of the islands that make up the Zanzibar Archipelago. Zanzibar has such a diverse coastline that there are plenty of different experiences across the main island, from vibrant culture in the south to idyllic barefoot luxury in the north. There is plenty to see beyond stately palm trees, white beaches and water the colour of malachite – we’ve collected the best places to visit based on our numerous visits.

Off the main island are also a series of much smaller islets that offer a more exclusive, away-from-the-crowds experience and are perfect for honeymooners and romantics. We take a look at where to go in Pemba, Mafia, Chumbe and Mnemba below.

First, a look at the different areas of Zanzibar, where to go and what to expect at each:

Zanzibar East Coast: home to the island’s best and most idyllic beaches, the east coast is home to a wide range of lodges and hotels but the tidal aspect of the Indian Ocean may mean you have to walk to go swimming or snorkelling.

Zanzibar North Coast: as a rule, the further north on Zanzibar you go, the more private and less crowded the beaches are. The north coast is also least affected by the tidal range.

Zanzibar North-east Coast: the island’s prime location, most of Zanzibar’s top-end accommodation is set on the north-east beaches. The diving is excellent here, there’s not much tidal variation and the archipelago’s best reefs of Mnemba Island lie about a kilometre or half a mile offshore.

Zanzibar South Coast: the further south you go on Zanzibar, the more populated it becomes. And with people, comes culture – head south for cultural and spice tours along with more opportunities to engage with the locals.

Zanzibar South-East Coast: there are plenty of beaches and resorts on the south-east of Zanzibar but the tidal range is more marked than other regions.

Zanzibar West Coast: there are fewer lodges on Zanzibar’s west coast and it feels a little more remote but it is, of course, home to Stone Town, located on the island’s central-west coast.

Stone Town: Zanzibar’s historical capital No visit to Zanzibar would be complete without exploring the narrow, cobbled streets of Stone Town, a World Heritage Site and former capital of the main island. There are several places of interest scattered around town, not least Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), a former sultan’s palace. Absorb the history, culture and cuisine of this former slave and ivory port on guided tours, or simply wander around at your own pace.

Zanzibar’s ‘Other’ Islands

Some of the best places to go in Zanzibar take you even further into the African island experience. The Zanzibar Archipelago is dotted with spots that have never made it onto the global map – we love sharing these secret treasures with clients who enjoy an authentic and laidback beach vacation.

Best Time to Visit Zanzibar

The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry months of spring. Another popular time to visit this tropical island is from December to February when it’s hot and dry.

An African beach holiday means sun drenched shores, palm fringed beaches and glorious sunsets – expect all this and more on a Zanzibar beach escape.

There are two best times to scuba dive off the coast of Zanzibar, in July and August and in February and March. Diving off the north coast is particularly good from June to October and off the south coast between November and March.

We don’t recommend visiting Zanzibar during the two rainy seasons, from mid-March to late May and again in November.

Historical Stone Town Walk 

It’s fascinating to explore historic Stone Town—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—but it’s easy to lose your way in the area’s maze-like, narrow streets.

2 to 3 hours

Personal Favorite – Must see!!

Stone town and Prison Island tour

Immerse yourself in Zanzibar’s culture – history on a full day guided tour of Stone Town and Prison Island. Explore on foot and by boat for a comprehe

7 hours

Did our tours separate but loved both! Must see.

Jozani Forest Tour

Learn about the Red Colombus Monkey, watch the playful black monkeys, and experience the mangroves

2 to 3 hours

By: Friendly Taxi & Tours

Did not do this tour but it’s popular

Zanzibar Food and Spices Tour Including Traditional Swahili Lunch

Breathe in Zanzibar’s scents and spices on a 4-hour food and culture tour with a Swahili lunch, and learn to prepare a traditional cassava leaf sauce.

Did not do this tour but it looks interesting.

What we did do was go to the bar-b-que (every night) initiated by the towns people. You pick what you want out of an amazing variety of their food and they bbq it for you. So wonderful to try. Don’t miss.

Take 3-5 nights in Zanzibar – that is enough for many activities. Check your prices as a lot are the same activity and range from budget to expensive. We went (by bus with a lunatic bus driver – adventure in itself!) to the North of the Island – which is not listed in the activities) but is a luxury spot for vacationers (great for an entire day! Beautiful beaches and reggae bands in the bars!)

PRISON ISLAND

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