10 Top Things to See and Do in Zanzibar 2023: Full Guide
This list of the best places to see in Zanzibar will help you discover all the charms of this paradisiacal archipelago located about 30 kilometers from the coast of Tanzania. Before we begin, we want to tell you that although Zanzibar is made up of three islands, known as the Spice Islands, we will focus on Unguja, which is the largest and the one with the most tourist attractions, among which its fantastic sandy beaches stand out.
White and turquoise waters, the possibility of practicing water sports such as kayaking or diving, strolling through the cobbled streets of the historic Stone Town, or watching a fantastic sunset, are just a tiny representation of the best things to do in Zanzibar.
Although we visited this island as the culmination of a trip through Kenya and Tanzania, you can also travel to the island directly by landing at Dar es Salaam airport (Tanzania) and taking another flight to Stone Town or a fast boat from the port that takes a few two hours to make this journey.
Once in Zanzibar, we recommend that you spend between 5 and 7 days getting to know its main points of interest, and to get around, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or the dala dala (vans used by the locals).
The best time to travel to Zanzibar is from June to October, the months with the most pleasant and driest temperatures, and as a second option, between December and February, when it is tropically hot.
Based on the time we spent on this spectacular island after a safari in Kenya and Tanzania, we have made this list of what are the ten essential places to visit in Zanzibar. Let’s start!
1. Stone Town
Losing yourself in the network of streets in the old town of Stone Town, declared a World Heritage Site that preserves features of the different cultures that have passed through this island, is one of the best experiences in Zanzibar.
Among its great attractions are the beautiful carved wooden doors with large brass pieces indicating each owner’s power, social position, and origin.
Other points of interest are the colorful Darajani market, the House of Wonders, the Old Fort, Forodhani Gardens, Tippu Tiby House, the Anglican Cathedral, and the fascinating Zanzibar Slavery Museum, built on the site that once was the old slave market, one of the most important in Africa.
For the most curious, in Stone Town, you can find the house where Freddy Mercury was born (now a hotel) or where the explorer Dr. Livingstone spent long periods, and to end the day, nothing better than watching a fantastic sunset. At the same time, you dine at the terrace of the Taarab Restaurant, one of the most recommended in Stone Town.
2. Changgu Island, one of the places to see in Zanzibar
One of the best excursions from Stone Town is a visit to the nearby island of Changgu, located about 20 minutes away by boat and popularly known as Prison Island.
This small island was used as a prison for rebellious enslaved people and also as a coral mine. However, it later became a quarantine center for people suffering from yellow fever. Currently, a large part of the island has been converted into a nature reserve where you can observe giant tortoises brought from Seychelles at the end of the 19th century, visit the old hospital, and take a bath in its crystal clear waters.
To get to the island, you can hire a boat for about 20 euros at the port or book this comfortable excursion that includes a Spanish tour of Stone Town or this tour that provides for Nakupenda Beach, located on a small neighboring island.
Jambiani, a town of fish and seaweed collectors, which still maintains part of the essence of the island, is one of the most beautiful places to see in Zanzibar.
Beyond the luxurious hotels and houses, also typical of the area, you will find local families living as before and one of the most incredible beaches you have ever seen, especially when the tide is low. We hope not to condition you!
Based on our experience, we recommend you visit Jambiani at dawn to watch the sunrise and take a long walk along its tongues of white sand while you dip your feet in its shallow turquoise waters. If you have extra time, you can drive to the amazing Kuza Cave or ask a local to take you by boat to the coral reef to practice snorkeling.
It is also an excellent area to stay in one of the hotels on the seafront and with direct access to the beach, such as Kupaga Villas Boutique Hotel and Savera Beach Houses. We visited several nights in the area, and we loved it!
4. Eat at The Rock, one of the things to do in Zanzibar
Taking in incredible views of the Indian Ocean’s palette of blues while eating fresh seafood at The Rock, the island’s most famous restaurant, is one of the best things to do in Zanzibar.
Located a few kilometers from Jambiani beach, on a tiny coral islet, in the middle of the beach, this small restaurant with barely ten tables has become famous thanks to its location and the Instagrammers. However, in this case, its food is also worth it.
If you want this experience, we recommend you book well in advance, and if you arrive early, relax on the beautiful Pingwe beach.
5. Jozani Forest
Another of the most important places to visit in Zanzibar is the Jozani Forest. In this protected space, the only specimens of the red colobus monkey found, a species in danger of extinction.
Located in the center of the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and recognized as a UNESCO biosphere reserve, this tiny tropical forest is ideal for a guided walk of about two hours through lush native trees and mangroves to reach the area of the monkeys.
During our stay in Zanzibar, we also stayed at the Karamba Eco Boutique Hotel on the seafront in the Kizimkazi area, which a Spanish woman runs.
This area, less exploited by tourists than Jambiani, is perfect for enjoying magical sunsets that fill the sky with reddish colors, relaxing massages, yoga classes, and taking advantage of low tide to take long walks along the Kizimkazi beach full of incredible formations of rocky. However, the favorite activity for travelers visiting Kizimkazi is a boat excursion to watch dolphins.
In case of carrying out this activity, we recommend you review the company’s information carefully to ensure that they respect animals and the environment and promote responsible tourism.
7. Nungwi Beach
Nungwi beach, the most beautiful and famous in Zanzibar, is north of the island. It is essential to know that in this area, full of hotels, restaurants, and beach bars, the effect of the tides is a little less noticeable, making it perfect for enjoying relaxing baths in its turquoise waters, snorkeling, and living spectacular sunsets.
If you have more time, you can take a walk around the village of Nungwi, enroll in a diving school, or take pleasant walks over its coral sand to observe the canoes and barges stranded on the beach at low tide. Other nearby beaches worth visiting are Royal Beach and Kendwa Beach, where you can see starfish (remember to keep them in the water) and where the Full Moon Party is held.
This area is also one of our favorites to stay in in beautiful bungalows near the sea, such as Aluna Nungwi and Kendwa Rocks.
8. Mnemba Marine Reserve
If you love scuba diving or snorkeling, you must take advantage of a boat trip to the Mnemba Marine Reserve, located 3 kilometers from the west coast of Zanzibar.
Around the tiny island of Mnemba is a coral reef of several kilometers where you can observe numerous species of fish thanks to its crystal clear waters that allow visibility from 10 to 30 meters and a multitude of dolphins.
To practice scuba diving in Mnemba, you can book a dive in one of the diving schools in Nungwi or book this snorkel tour in advance.
9. Menai Bay
Another of the best things to do in Zanzibar is to sail for a whole day aboard a local boat called a dhow through the beautiful waters of Menai Bay, located south of the island of Unguja.
This popular route created by the recommended local company Safari Blue, although others also do it, leaves the fishing village of Fumba and passes through a coral reef where you can practice snorkeling, a sandbank in the middle of the sea, and the small island of Kwale, where you can eat good fresh seafood.
You can book the excursion from this page, and they will pick you up at the hotel.
10. Pemba Island
To finish this list of places to see in Zanzibar, we suggest you go to Pemba Island, located about 80 kilometers from Unguja Island and the second-largest island in the archipelago.
Known for its low tourism and hotel infrastructure, this island is known as the “evergreen” island for its incredible vegetation that paints its rolling hills and deep valleys in this color and has beautiful virgin beaches.
Among its curiosities is The Manta resort, which has a room submerged in the sea on a private floating island 250 meters from the coast.
The best way to get to this island is by flight from Stone Town or Dar es Salaam.
What is Zanzibar best known for?
Zanzibar Island is well known as the Spice Island due to the farming and processing of aromatic spices like cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemongrass and black pepper. Visit spice plantations to learn about the process and history of these crops, their medicinal and culinary uses.
Is there a lot to do in Zanzibar?
It has history, culture, gorgeous beaches, tons of activities, and flavoursome food. There are so many things to do in Zanzibar and whether you’re backpacking Zanzibar, on your honeymoon, going for a 2-week holiday, or relaxing for a few days after a Serengeti safari or a trek up Kilimanjaro I’m sure you’ll love it.
How many days in Zanzibar is enough?
Ideally, seven days. That gives you enough time to really get to see Zanzibar, do lots of activities while you’re here, get to know some of the locals, immerse yourself into the local culture, enjoy the amazing beaches, and fully relax.
What do people do in Zanzibar?
This part of the Unguja is most popular with tourists, with a laid-back holiday vibe, it’s host to some of the best activities in Zanzibar. Tourists can enjoy everything from scuba diving, parasailing and skydiving to sunset cruises and seafood barbeques, as well as the full moon parties hosted at Kendwa Rocks.