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Zanzibar is a jewel in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of the Tanzanian mainland. This archipelago boasts dreamy white sandy beaches, a green tropical interior and spice plantations that centuries ago made these islands a magnet for traders from both East and West.

A beach on Zanzibar's east coast
A beach on Zanzibar's east coast

Zanzibar is an archipelago, of which the largest island, Unguja, is what most tourists refer to as Zanzibar. Zanzibar has a truly breathtaking palm-fringed coastline lined with blindingly white, powdery beaches that seem to go on forever. The turquoise sea lapping at the island’s shores is crystal clear and hosts various coral reefs just off the coast.

The interior of Zanzibar is covered in dense tropical foliage and expansive spice plantations (cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, etc…). The main roads are lined with beautiful mango and coconut trees, while along the coast, you can find houses made of coral.

A Stonetown door
A Stonetown door

While the principle attraction for many visitors to the island are the beaches, Zanzibar has much more to offer. The capital of Zanzibar is Stonetown, which historic centre is composed of a labyrinth of streets lined with magnificent Arabic and Indian-styled buildings. Some of the houses have impressive metal-studded doors that were designed to ward off attacks by armies of elephants! This UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its colourful history, eclectic architecture, bustling markets and constant scent of spices in the air is an absolute must for any visitor to the island.

Stonetown spice market
Stonetown market

In addition, do not miss the old slave market and the cathedral next door, the Darajani market, the night market in the Forodhani Gardens at the waterfront (when dozens of vendors open up for business selling the island’s many delicacies), Freddie Mercury’s birthplace, and the Old Fort. In addition, I can recommend shopping for souvenirs in Stonetown as I found the quality and variety to be superior to those found on the mainland.

Above all, do not miss the breathtaking sunsets from any one of the terraces that face the sea. Stonetown is truly magical!

A Stonetown Inn
A Stonetown Inn

If you choose to stay at one of the beach hotels, try to plan a night or two in one of the hotels in Stonetown. An alternative is to take a day tour of Stonetown. Another interesting tour is the Spice Tour that brings visitors to various spice plantations and usually includes some of the island’s historical sights.

Paradise!
Paradise!

The waters surrounding the archipelago harbour an astonishing variety of marine life, ranging from spongy corals and colourful clown fish, to manta rays, hawksbill turtles, barracudas and sharks. Many hotels offer diving and/or snorkelling trips to nearby reefs and outlying islands.

Zanzibar can easily be reached by air from Dar-Es-Salaam (‘Dar’) or from Arusha/Kilimanjaro, making it ideal after a safari. There are also frequent boat services from Dar and neighbouring islands.

Read about some of Tanzania’s most breathtaking natural attractions: the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti. Search for hotels in Zanzibar.

18 Responses

  • I love Zanzibar. I only managed to spend a couple of days there buts its wonderful. Stone Town is an amazing place. Next time I go, I’ll have to spend a night there too.

  • that is wonderful.. hope I could have spare time to visit in this place.. I always look for souvenirs. when I got to a place.. thanks for sharing.. zanzibar I think is really great place..

  • […] the accompanying post: ‘The Exotic Isle of Zanzibar‘. Monday, June 7th, 2010 Africa TAGS: […]

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  • It certainly is an amazing trip – I did two weeks of safaris in Kenya & Tanzania, and then flew from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar for the last four days. It was awesome and I can highly recommend it.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • Absolutely gorgeous photos and it does sound very interesting to stay some nights in the town too! We’ve always wanted to do a combined Africa safari and end it with time to relax at Zanzibar…. what a dream trip!!!

  • Thanks for your comment Gwen. I can absolutely recommend Zanzibar. The name itself is simply gorgeous, don’t you think! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • Hi Keith

    This post really has my travel hormones surging! You make the whole experience seem downright delicious.

    Didn’t know that Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar. Nice little factoid dropped in amidst the allure of the place. Definitely is now on my Top 10 Places Still to Visit. Many thanks.

    Gwen McCauley

  • Zanzibar’s one of my faaaavourite places on Earth, Keith! You hit the spot! I lazed all my days away on the beaches of Paje and Nungwi, meeting Rasta Zanzibarians who made us seafood caught from the sea that same day. How I miss those simple days by the sea.. Thanks for letting me live the dream again.

  • Thanks Jen! Unfortunately, you do need malaria shots for parts of Kenya and Tanzania. I took malaria pills and they worked fine (no side effects to write home about!). I was rather concerned at first because I’ve heard so many horror stories about side effects from malaria shots/pills but these were great. I’ll find out the name of those pills and let you know.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • Crystalline beaches, eclectic architecture, and Freddie Mercury’s birthplace?! Sign me up! Zanzibar is definitely on my list of places to go to before I die! Do I need malaria shots here?

  • Thanks VM! It’s not so far. Phoenix-Amsterdam-Dar es Salaam… and you’re almost there! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • What a lovely post. Zanzibar is the height of exotic destinations, and you have made it look so alluring. If only it weren’t so FAR away from Arizona.

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