ZANZIBAR TRAVEL GUIDE
Tanzania’s tropical getaway has gained massive popularity this past year so it was time to check it for ourselves! Curious about what Zanzibar has to offer? We found out and created this brand new Zanzibar Travel Guide for 2023.
Holiday guru Corendon — whom we travelled to Greece with, invited us on their first-ever media trip to Zanzibar Island and we’re so grateful they did! Find out exactly where to stay, where to be, and what not to miss with our Zanzibar Travel Guide!
Getting to Zanzibar
Since December 2021, Corendon is offering flights to Zanzibar with partner Turkish Airlines. With a brief stopover in Istanbul (which has the prettiest airport btw), it takes about 10 hours to fly there. We flew business class to make the trip complete and especially since the Pandemic we found it very worthwhile booking business class seats, making the flight extra comfortable and enjoyable. Currently, you only need a negative PCR result and you need to fill out a form online and inside the plane. Arriving at Zanzibar’s airport is well…a happening to day the least. It’s tiny, but you need to go through several steps before you can enter. Our advise is to arrange your tourism via online to safe the extra time. Take some cash out at the airport as there are (hardly) no cash machines on the island.
If you want the full experience, we advise you to combine your visit with a Safari tour in Tanzania. From Zanzibar it’s only a 45 minute to Selu where you can spot the big five! You can even book a tour that departs at 4am and returns at 5pm the same day, how cool! But let’s explore Zanzibar first, shall we?
Zanzibar in a nutshell
First of all, Zanzibar is very different from other parts in Africa. Surprisingly, it even reminded us of Asia sometimes. The climate is hot and dry until the end of March, then it becomes hot and wet but temperatures stay between 27ºC – 35ºC. No wonder life on the island is slow and relaxed. The population is primarily Muslim (let’s say 90 precent) therefore it’s advised to bring some clothes that will cover your shoulders and knees, especially when walking around in Stonetown. The best way to get around in Zanzibar is by car as it takes a while to get from one place to another. If you’re a confident driver you can hire a car but people also book a chauffeur for a couple of days. If you stay in one village/region, there are taxi’s to take you places nearby.
By all means, Zanzibar feels safe and relaxed but important to realise is that people live in very different conditions that you may be used to. Bring some candy for the kids and buy something to support the locals with — such as the person who cleans your room, they will be so grateful.
The phrase Hakuna Matata is used a lot and people on Zanzibar life by its meaning
Where to Stay
Most hotels are located near the beaches but you can also find some in Stonetown. If you’re the All Inclusive kind of type — you like to relax, not having to think about what and where to eat every day, the Kiwengwa Beach Resort might be for you! Located by the beach in East Zanzibar, this hotel has three large pools, two restaurants and a lot of palm trees! Rooms are basic but spacious and the beds are comfortable and large. The hotel had a newer part on the left side of the entrance and offers family rooms with 2 bedrooms. My room was located near a quiet poolside and overlooking the beach, not a bad view right?
Start your day with the breakfast buffet and enjoy a workout in the gym, followed by a massage in the spa. This resorts offers theme nights like African Night, Italian night and even an Egyptian night so you can enjoy different flavours at the buffet. That being said, if you prefer to primarily use the hotel for a good night sleep and some relaxing, it’s also perfect. Spend the rest of your day exploring Zanzibar, there is plenty to do as you continue reading.
Another resort worth checking out is Kendwa Sunset Bungalows located in far Northside of Zanzibar. You’ll find white sand and turquoise water here and the vibe is relaxed. We came here for lunch and I wasn’t disappointed by the food! Besides the many food options, Sunset Bungalows also serves fresh juices (try the watermelon with lime), and ice-coffees.
Spice it up
Did you know that Zanzibar is home to the most amazing spices and herbs? Because of the climate, they grow cinnamon, turmeric, gloves, cardamon, vanilla and tropical fruits. With this in mind, you should definitely book one of the many spice tours on the island. We booked ours at Zito Spice Farm, located next to a field full of palm trees. Your guide will tell you all about the spices they grow and you get to smell, taste and feel them all! You’ll love the fresh coconuts that you can drink and taste and the guys who work there will entertain you with a song and dance while you receive jewellery made from palm leaves. Eventually, you end the tour (which takes about one hour) with a home cooked lunch that consist of delicious vegetables, fish and vanilla coffee.
Another must visit in Zanzibar is Stonetown. Get lost by walking around or hire a bicycle like we did at Bluebikes! A few highlights in are:
- Freddy Mercury House, did you know that the famous Queen frontman was born in this house?
- The Old Fort
- House of wonders, is the largest and tallest building of Stone Town but construction at the moment
- The Africa House for a perfect sunset restaurant. Queen Elisabeth used to stay here! Definitely an unique place in our Zanzibar travel guide.
- Forodhani Park transforms into a delightful night market after the sun sets. Locals and travellers mingle and eat local street food, especially fresh fish and grilled octopus.
Changuu Island − its local name, has a scary ring to it but this island only used to be a place where they would keep sick prisoners in quarantine for a while back in the 1800’s. To get there you travel by traditional Dowa boat which you can book with several companies (we used Flash Tours). It take about 30 minutes to get there from Stonetown. You can find giant land turtles here, once gifted by the sultan of Oman. The turtles have a lot of space, enough food and shade but it’s still a tourist attraction, which always feels a bit off for me personally. Then again, tourism is one of the most important incomes for the locals here, so choose your battle..Entree costs 9 dollars per person.
Visit the Nakupenda Sandbank
In like manner you must visit this pretty uninhabited island. You can easily combine this with your trip to Prison Island which we booked at Flash Tours. This includes the boat trip, snorkeling and the best local lunch on the beach at Nakupenda. TIP: bring your own snorkeling mask if you can, equipment is not in the best condition. During the high season, you won’t have the beach to yourself, as many tours stop here but it never feels too crowded. The water is amazing and you can see bright coloured starfish and other species in the water. Best to bring some waters hoes as the Indian Sea can be full of sea urchins.
Secret spot alert! It’s yet to be discovered by the masses so completely off the beaten track (just how we like it). This natural pool is a must visit if you get the chance! Located in trendy Paje, a beautiful spot on the island where you can find a combination of local and touristy spots. This underground water cave reminds us of the coyotes in Mexico! ready to jump in?
Where to eat & drink – Zanzibar travel guide
The question on everyones mind right? Luckily, Zanzibar offers a very tasty cuisine! By no surprise, the seafood is main thing to go for. From fresh lobster, king crab and shrimps to homegrown veggies and spices, you’ll love it! Here’s a list of the Zanzibar travel guide you should save for later!
The ROCK Restaurant
Probably the most famous restaurant in Africa and not without reason. This Zanzibar travel guide shows: The Rock is situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean and you can get there by boat when the tide is high. They offer food & drinks but expect to pay double the price. TIP: around 5pm the light is incredible and if you’re lucky the tide is high (the tide changes every time so get informed before you go there). A reservation is advised if you want to go inside!
This would definitely classify as a trendy restaurant! Find it at Paje Beach where you can find more beach bars and restaurants. Go for the shared tapas platter if you eat here, it’s surprisingly good!
Cape Town Fish Market
This restaurant is fairly new and stylish! Obviously you can eat a lot of fish here, hence the name. From decent sushi, to seafood platters, funky cocktails and located next to the Forodhani Night Market.
This restaurant is part of a boutique hotel and has a Bali/Tulum vibe to it. This place is located right next to the Rock restaurant but the food is suppose to be better! On Sundays they host a Boho Social Brunch from 11 till 5pm.
Right in the middle of Stonetown, you can find this 3 story high restaurant/bar, near the beach the boats leave from. They serve cold drinks, coffee and fresh seafood! Walk a little further and you’ll find the Baboo Beach Café where they serve decent coffees!
Dance the night away
If you think Zanzibar is boring, think again! Many hotels throw full moon parties and there are plenty of cute beach bars to enjoy tunes until the early hours. Here are some we think you should know about.
This beach beach bar is open 24/7 and during sunset they throw a little African show including limbo dancing. Guest DJ’s play funky tech-house while you can chill in your hammock. We could have spend the whole night here!
Techno music is central here so if you’ve missed the festival season for the last couple of years, nothing get’s better on the beach! Enjoy kite surfers during the magic hour while you enjoy drinks, bites and tunes from Tuesday until Saturday.
This hotel throws a full moon party each month so if you want to dance, this is your spot. On the other hand, don’t stay here if you want an early night. It’s particularly popular with young travellers who come here to party.
So should you visit Zanzibar? Hell yes you should! Expect to go back to basic a little bit, embrace the local and authentic atmosphere but ultimately, enjoy the island life. Corendon is now flying to Zanzibar and offers a very affordable package deal which includes a hotel stay for one week! With this Zanzibar Travel Guide you know the best things the island offers.