Zanzibar, where to stay and what to expect.
Zanzibar is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean, if not the world. It is one of the best-kept travel secrets and remains unspoiled by mass tourism.
Zanzibar archipelago is approximately 35km offshore from the Tanzania mainland and only six degrees south of the Equator.
It is comprised of two main Islands, Unguja (also called Zanzibar Island), and Pemba, along with many smaller islands and atolls. These provide miles and miles of palm-lined beaches and colourful coral reefs perfect for diving or just soaking in the laid-back atmosphere.
Zanzibar has been popular throughout history with artists, musicians, and poets and still captivates people to this day. The very name conjures wondrous images and evokes intrigue.
Unguja Island (Zanzibar’s Main Island)
The North Coast
The north of the island is a heady fusion of traditional and modern lifestyles. The village of Nungwi is located around the Northern tip of the island and is the most popular and ‘Westernised’ destination in Zanzibar.
The West coast of Nungwi’s white coral sand beaches is lined with guesthouses catering mainly for younger travellers in search of a fun party experience giving the place a busy bohemian feel. The East coast is much quieter however with a few elegant and refined hotels offering peaceful luxury away from the crowds.
The North East Coast
The Northern half of the East coast, encompassing Matemwe, Kiwenga and Pongwe, is about as close to the quintessential tropical island paradise as you can get. Featuring long stretches of palm-lined white powder beaches, and the hotels here vary widely in size and style, from an excellent selection of larger 5* Resorts to small boutique beach bungalows. The fishing village of Matemwe provides a real contrast of breeze block and mud houses alongside the tourist accommodation.
During the day you can see the local women planting and harvesting seaweed for export. The beaches here are immaculate and perfect for long walks but you will need reef shoes especially when the tide is out if you want to enjoy the ocean.
The atmosphere here is more peaceful and secluded than in the Southern half of the East Coast, where you will find a concentration of large resort style hotels and is perfect for fishing and snorkelling around the Mnemba Atoll which is a world famous dive site.
The South East Coast
The Southern half of the East coast also features long stretches of palm-lined white powder beaches with an excellent selection of places to stay.
Michamvi is perhaps the most out of the way with a handful of lodge style properties with more luxurious and exclusive hotels in the Bwejuu area. Paje and Jambiani are more lively as it offers perfect conditions for kite surfing and has a choice of local bars and restaurants.
The South Coast
Kizimkazi is a small fishing village located on the Southern tip of Zanzibar and is relatively unaffected by tourism compared to the rest of the island. This is the perfect place to experience a peace and tranquility rarely found in other parts of the island.
Overlooking Menai Bay, which is also known as ‘1000 dolphin bay’, this is the perfect place to be if you’re looking to spot these beautiful and intelligent creatures. Secluded yellow sand beaches are dotted around the coastline, some which are shared with the local village and there is an excellent choice of quality dive and snorkel sites, not to mention a few uninhabited islets to explore. Although you won’t find the same white coral sand beaches located along the East coast, Kizimkazi is less affected by the tides, with the two hotels worth mentioning in this area facing West allowing you to enjoy Zanzibar’s incredible sunsets.
The West Coast
The west coast is host to just a handful of properties most within easy reach of Stone Town. Many of these are quite small and have their own private beaches nearby and although they don’t have the white coral sand that’s found along the East coast, there is less tidal variation here and the opportunity to experience Zanzibar’s beautiful sunsets in some of the most peaceful and secluded locations the island has to offer.
Perfect for exploring the hustle and bustle of Stone Town with the advantage of staying somewhere more quiet by the beach.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar. A fascinating labyrinth of narrow alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses with ornately carved brass-studded, wooden doors, covering two square kilometres.
Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Zanzibar whilst walking around Darajani Market, with its array of fruits, vegetables, and fish/meat as well as many other items including beautiful materials, spices, woven baskets and more.
Many of the building are in a state of disrepair and many people live hand to mouth on around a dollar a day so prepare to be approached by locals with goods to sell. Sellers tend not to be too pushy if you’re friendly but firm. You should negotiate a price in advance before accepting any goods or services from local traders and you will be given change in Tanzanian Shillings.
Stone Town is predominantly Muslim and visitors are expected to be sensitive to local customs and cover your shoulders, knees, and elbows. We recommend a guided tour with one of our passionate and informative local tour guides to have the best experience and help with any bartering you may want to do.