Zanzibar | Regions, Tanzania

The Zanzibar archipelago is one of the most historic Indian Ocean islands, awash with atmosphere, intrigue, and idyllic beach experiences. There are masses of accommodation options across the price spectrum, and plenty to see, do and discover. As the birthplace of the Swahili, site of Sultans’ Palaces and renowned for its spice plantations, the little island republic of Zanzibar features larger-than-life on the world map and is a must-see at the end of any African trip, but is especially great when added onto a Tanzanian safari
There are some fabulous beaches on the islands of Zanzibar, and many choices for an ideal spot to sit back and watch the white dhow sails cruising the startling blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Whether it is for a Zanzibar holiday, honeymoon or some post-safari relaxation; whether you prefer the blissful privacy of a private island or the amenities of a larger hotel; and whatever your preferred activities, there are good options for every traveller. 

We have made our information on Zanzibar as comprehensive as possible, but the best way to get to grips with the islands is to give us a call and chat through your plans. Although the information is all here, our team of experts have been organising holidays to Zanzibar for 20 years and are constantly returning to see what’s changed, so our first-hand knowledge coupled with an understanding of your expectations is by far the best way to narrow down your options! 

 

ZANZIBAR | THE AREAS


Where is Zanzibar?


Zanzibar is conveniently located on the shores of Tanzania and exceptionally well placed to bookend a safari of a lifetime. With so much on offer here accommodation and activity wise, Zanzibar has something for even the most selective of travellers. The vast and wild Selous Game Reserve is a mere 45 minute flight away which makes a Tanzania beach and safari holiday, extremely easy. 

Getting to Zanzibar


Zanzibar is only a short 20 minute flight from Dar es Salaam international which is the landing point for flights from all over the world. You cannot directly fly to Dar es Salaam from London or the US, but many airlines (KLM, Emirates) have two stop flights which make the travel fairly easy (usually via Amsterdam and Dubai).

The best beaches on Zanzibar

  • Nungwi and Kendwa (North) – The best beaches on the island. Really beautiful and classic Indian Ocean paradise. Non-tidal turquoise waters and really powdery white sands. Can sometimes be busy.
  • Pongwe (East) – Pongwe sits in a little concave bit of coast line which means the beach is glorious and when the tide isn’t completely in, it is seaweed free and very pretty. Not the long sweeping beaches of the north, but a pocket of pure beachy gold. Less busy than the north.
  • Paje and Dongwe (East) – Although tidal, here sit some of our favourite luxury boutique hotels. You would not be let down here in terms of accommodation. The beach is beautiful, but getting your toes wet is a bit harder than in the northern Nungwi regions as the sea is further out and very tidal. 
  • Matemwe (North-East) – Slightly to the east of Nungwi, Matemwe is slightly tidal but when the tide is in there are a few of our favourite fantastic value accommodation options.

For more information see our Zanzibar beaches page

Stone Town Zanzibar


Visitors to Zanzibar tend to arrive and leave via Stone Town, the island capital and a historic hub of commerce and culture. This ancient centre was the seat of the Sultans, whose crumbling palaces, bath houses and mosques are a legacy of this opulent and vibrant time at the heart of the gold trade.

The town has a very different commercial attitude today, and one that thrives on the growing tourist market. The labyrinthine streets are lined with traders selling everything from mass-produced art works to ancient wooden doors, from tie dye t-shirts to jewels. The muezzins’ call to prayer echoes across the rooftops at the break of day, while cats, goats, dogs, roosters and babies often make themselves heard in between! This old town remains a wonderful place to spend a night or two, getting lost among the elegant, ancient buildings, eating fresh fish on the sea front and breathing in the sights, sounds and smells of a truly Swahili centre. A stay in Stone Town is always a wondrous assault on the senses, but a couple of nights are enough if you value peace and quiet and a good nights sleep! Nowadays there are some great Boutique hotels in Stone Town.

The islands off Zanzibar


Pemba Island – Pemba is truly off the beaten tourist track. It is beautiful, culturally rich and with a few top notch hotels which we love to recommend. It has some of the best diving in the world in pristine coral reefs and for those who love to be active, this is your place. The only downside is that the beaches are very tidal – so if you are looking for long white sands, you are better off on Zanzibar.

Mafia Island – Like Pemba, Mafia is relatively new to the tourism industry. However, it is home to some great lodges. Many are drawn to Mafia for the whale shark diving – an experience not to be forgotten. Give yourself 5 days here and you have a fantastic chance of seeing these majestic creatures up close. See our blog post all about it. 

Private islands off Zanzibar


Mnemba Island – This private island has only one lodge, Mnemba Island Lodge. It is the ultimate Indian Ocean beach destination for those who want complete seclusion away from the crowds. Mnemba is the ultimate Tanzania honeymoon beach lodge. This tiny island is everything you can imagine of a remote windswept paradise and often voted one of the most romantic destinations on the planet.

Fanjove Private Island – Yes, Mnemba is the ultimate, but for those who do not wish to fork out over $1,500 per person per night and want a private slice of pure beach heaven, you cannot get better than Fanjove. Beach-shack-chic but ideal for those who crave luxury in its purest natural form. 

Thanda Island – At around $25,000 a night, it has got to be unbelievable. But take a large group and occupy it’s 9 luxury rooms and it becomes a (admittedly, only slightly!) more affordable option for those who want complete Indian Ocean exclusivity.