Zanzibar is an archipelago in the Island Ocean, and is an island of beautiful contrasts: the crystal-clear blue waters contrast with the vibrantly green forest of Jozani. The white-sand beaches contrast against the multi-colored coral reefs that lie beneath. The laid-back beach resorts contrast against the chaos of Stone Town – with colors, cultures and history found along every backstreet. Above all, it’s an island that is on millions of people’s bucket lists, and rightly so.
There are actually several names and ‘nicknames’ for Zanzibar. The local name for the island is Unguja which is what some local people refer to it as in Swahili. You may also hear Zanzibar being referred to as Spice Island – a fantastic and appropriate name due to its enormity of local herbs and spices that are grown across its many plantations. Spices like vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon are particularly famous in Zanzibar, and many of the local dishes will incorporate these fresh spices.
The capital of Zanzibar is called Stone Town, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 2000. Its architecture is one of the reasons it got its UNESCO status. As you walk the capital city, the buildings show signs of many cultural influences, including Arabic, Persian, Indian and European architectural elements – a result of Zanzibar being a historic trading port for hundreds of years. Its history is also darker – as it is home to the world’s last open slave markets. On a guided walking tour through Stone Town, you’ll be shown the famous Stone Town wooden doors. These are beautifully crafted but, as you’ll discover, have a much richer history behind them as each door was used to show your wealth and slave ownership.
There are many options of where to stay in Zanzibar. The island is affected by tidal patterns, but generally-speaking, the north and the east coasts are great options. There are hundreds of hotels in Zanzibar, all varying in style, size and experience. Whether you are looking for a small, boutique hotel, or a larger resort with plenty of facilities, we can recommend the best options for you, and curate it in a luxury Tanzania trip.
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Our luxury tours to Zanzibar
Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park, Zanzibar Island9 NightsFrom $11,142 PPThis 9-night itinerary combines the most iconic parks and destinations in Tanzania.
Serengeti National Park, Zanzibar Island10 NightsFrom $10,878 PPFor a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon, Tanzania is certainly up there!
Ruaha National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Zanzibar Island10 NightsFrom $8,884 PPThe southern parks of Tanzania are less-visited and off the beaten track.
Best hotels on Zanzibar Island
There are hundreds of hotels in Zanzibar so a good way to narrow it down is by letting your travel specialist know what sort of accommodation you like. Is it smaller, boutique lodges, or larger hotels with plenty of amenities? Our specialists have stayed in many of the hotels in Zanzibar so can advise, from personal and professional experience, on a suitable hotel for you.
When to visit Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar Island can be visited year-round and, with its location close to the equator, temperatures are warm and pleasant throughout the year. That said, the months of April and May bring heavy rains to Zanzibar Island (as well as much of mainland Tanzania and East Africa), so we would recommend avoiding this period. The month of March is one of the hottest as the humidity rises before the rains arrive. December and early January are good times to visit but they do become much busier around the festive season. Desirable hotels often get booked up months (sometimes years) in advance, so if you want to visit Zanzibar over Christmas, please book well in advance.
Gemma our African Specialist
How much is a Zanzibar trip?
This is almost entirely dependent on which hotel you stay in on Zanzibar Island. The hotels we recommend start from around $200 per person per night, up to anything at $800 per person per night. Private, luxury villas can be a good option for families and larger groups staying together. There are often special offers that can be taken advantage of, like 7 nights for the price of 5, or special honeymoon packages. Prices may fluctuate slightly depending on the year, with the festive period and July-August being the most expensive time to travel to Zanzibar.
Is Zanzibar good for families?
Absolutely. Zanzibar island is great for families – be it a smaller family, or a larger multi-generational family. There are some great hotels which offer private villas and communal space, which can be utilized by families with children. There are also plenty of excursions that you can do on the island – from day trips to Jozani forest to see the red colobus monkeys, to Scuba diving lessons for beginners. We can help organize private excursions and transfers too – just let us know what interests you as a family and we can advise.
Should we visit Stone Town?
As the capital city of Zanzibar, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we highly recommend visiting Stone Town. There is plenty to do there – enjoying the Forodhani food market at night, visiting the Old Slave market, taking a boat across to Prison Island to see the giant tortoises, enjoying a gin and tonic atop a rooftop bar – the list goes on. There is also plenty of charm to be enjoyed by leisurely walking around Stone Town, or taking a guided tour to hear about the history and culture of the city.
Can I combine Zanzibar with a luxury Tanzania safari?
Zanzibar is 15 miles from the mainland of Tanzania, so combining it with a safari is very doable, and very popular. With several domestic flight providers like Auric Air and Coastal Aviation, you can be on safari watching lions in the morning, and be sipping a cocktail on the beach by the afternoon. Zanzibar also has its own international airport, making it popular for travelers to fly in or out of. We can curate a private safari and beach trip that’s perfect for you – just get in touch.
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