There are a plethora of places to visit and things to do in Zanzibar. The East African island provides many things for you to do and experience. It’s safe to say that excitement and relaxation can be had on every corner of Zanzibar.
I arrived with no knowledge of the island but set off to explore Jozani Forest, Paje Beach, and even a cruise on the local boat. With almost a month on the island, I was able to cover most of the hot spots. Looking for where to start once you arrive in Stone Town? Here are the top places to visit in Zanzibar.
Where Is Zanzibar Located?
Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean, a two-hour (15 miles) ferry ride from Dar Es Salaam, a major city in Tanzania.
Zanzibar is not a country but is considered a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. Politically it is part of Tanzania. Zanzibar also isn’t just one island but is the largest of the Zanzibar Archipelago, which consists of several islands. The four main islands are Unguja Island (which is Zanzibar), Pemba Island, Latham Island, and Mafia Island.
Best Things To Do In Zanzibar
1. Jozani Forest
Jozani Forest is one of the most popular places to visit in Zanzibar. The forest is the last sanctuary in the world to see the Zanzibar red colobus monkey. The forest is located in the Eastern part of the island and is one of the densest places on Zanzibar. It’s a clear reminder of what we have done to our environment over the centuries.
It’s easy to get lost and find the monkeys in the Jozani forest. Many nature trails lead through beautiful forests, and the red colobus monkeys are not shy. After your visit to Jozani, be sure to cross the street and visit the Mangrove forest.
2. House Of Wonders
When wondering what to do in Zanzibar, a visit to Stone Town is essential. Or the “Palace of Wonders” is the tallest building in Stone Town and a main Zanzibar point of interest. It’s right next to the Old Fort and is a sight to see while in Stone Town.
3. Paje Beach
If there is a backpacker spot on Zanzibar, it’s Paje beach. The beach has hip cafes, burger spots, kite surfing companies, bars, and hostels, making it one of the great places to visit in Zanzibar. I spent a few days relaxing in the inviting turquoise waters, which is the perfect thing to do for those looking for free things to do in Zanzibar.
For those looking to have an active holiday in Zanzibar, the most popular thing to do in Paje is kite surf. There are an endless amount of schools and rental shops all dying to take you out on the water and show you the ropes of kitesurfing.
4. Spice Tour
Zanzibar is often referred to as “Spice Island” for its centuries of clove, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon production and is one of the top five things to do in Zanzibar. Most of these spice tours depart from Stone Town and take you to a large spice farm to see, touch, and taste the many flavors of Zanzibar.
I would recommend bringing decent walking shoes as they may be muddy. Make sure to bring extra cash if you want to buy some spices and tea to take home. There is also a full tasting at the end of the tour.
5. Have Dinner At The Tea House Restaurant
Honestly, having a meal at this establishment is one of those must-do things in Zanzibar. Anyone wanting a night out in Stone Town should visit the Tea House Restaurant at Emerson on Hurumzi. The restaurant is located on top of the boutique hotel in the middle of the kasbah and it has one of the best views of Stone Town, making it my favorite thing to do in Zanzibar.
They get quite popular for sundowners and dinner, so I would recommend making a reservation beforehand. I spent an entire evening here drinking spicy cocktails, listening to live Zanzibari music, and chowing down on delicious Persian-inspired cuisine before retiring to our gorgeous room.
6. Visit The Rock
The Rock restaurant is pretty synonymous with Zanzibar and is usually mentioned in every Zanzibar guide. The restaurant is located in Pongwe (the southeast part of the island) and is accessible by motorbike or taxi cab from Paje. I made the memorable trip out to The Rock to get some lovely photos of the iconic spot. If you visit during high tide, a free boat taxi will deliver you to the rock (unless you feel like swimming).
7. Go Shopping At Darajani Market
The Darajani Market (or Bazaar) is the main bazaar in Stone Town, Zanzibar. It’s the most popular place to come and get spices, dates, bread, fruits, and almost anything you could need. Beyond getting some souvenirs, it’s a fantastic place to soak in the culture.
8. Wander Through Stone Town
One of the best things to do in Zanzibar is to wander the streets of Stone Town. There are many unique places to see in Stone Town, including beautiful boutique shops and plenty of great restaurants. Venture around the Forodhani Gardens and the Old Fort! You can easily walk around Stone Town yourself, but it’s best to book a walking tour with Colors of Zanzibar to learn more about what you see.
9. Enjoy The Many Beaches
Make sure to get out of the city and explore as many Zanzibar beaches as you can. There’s a beautiful one around every corner. My personal favorites are Nungwi Beach and Pongwe Beach, but there are so many others to explore. Of course, if you are staying at an oceanside Zanzibar resort or hotel, you’ll likely want to chill at their beach for at least one of your days too! So choose a great hotel with the ideal location!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Zanzibar?
June to September is officially the dry season meaning your chance of a sunny day is exceptionally high. In general, this is the busiest time to visit Zanzibar, and prices for accommodation will be at their highest. Zanzibar is near the equator so the weather doesn’t sway too drastically, and you are almost guaranteed some sunshine on your vacation.
That being said April and May is the rainy season, and you can expect long downpours. Flooding is typical during these months and because of this many hotels will shut their door. You’ll likely still have sunny weather, but I would expect to get wet during these months.