It is no secret how much I love Zanzibar, Tanzania! The pristine beaches, fresh seafood, African Arabian culture and friendly people have stolen my heart since the first time I visited in December 2016. Zanzibar holds a special place in my heart because it's one of the few hidden islands on the eastern part of the African continent that will give you the most bang for your buck. This city has something to offer anyone looking for a good time. It doesn't matter if you're a solo traveller looking to meet new friends, the couple yearning for a peaceful getaway, the family with kids who want to explore a new culture or a large group ready for adventure, this is the destination for you!
Here are six (6) reasons why Zanzibar, Tanzania needs to be your next destination:
Stone Town is the cultural heart of Zanzibar. A city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa, Zanzibar's architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences of the Swahili culture. The city dons a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements that stand out almost immediately the moment you step foot in Stone Town. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the heart of Stone Town mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, shops, bazaars and mosques. Since most streets are too narrow for cars, the town is crowded with bicycles, motorbikes and relatively easy to navigate by foot. The seafront has wider streets and larger, more regularly placed buildings from neat, sustainable fashion boutiques, to the loud, chaotic market on Creek Street.
It's no surprise that Zanzibar has very flavorful food. Known for its spice trade, Zanzibar was once one of the world's leading producers of spices like clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and vanilla. These iconic spices have made their mark on Zanzibar's cuisine, giving it a unique taste you won't find anywhere else in the world. The island's mouthwatering dishes include fresh seafood, fresh fruit, curries, tender mutton, Indian biryani, Middle Eastern style grilled meat and more.
One of the most budget-friendly ways to really experience Zanzibar food and culture is to visit Forodhani Gardens night market. There's an array of food to choose from like Zanzibar pizza (must try), fresh sugar cane juice, seafood kebabs, grilled meat, fried potatoes, chapatis and salads.
If you're looking for a more upscale way to experience Zanzibar cuisine, I recommend a visit to the Rooftop Tea House Restaurant at Emerson Spice or Emerson on Hurumzi. Both restaurants offer seafood-based, five-course set- 'Taste Safari' degustation menu, prepared daily by Zanzibari Chefs. The Tea House at Emerson Spice has a smaller, more intimate rooftop feel while Emerson on Hurumzi has Swahili style seating on thick Persian Rugs with low tables. Both restaurants are very popular, so call ahead to make reservations. Dinner is typically served promptly at 7 pm, but make sure you get there at around 6 pm to watch the sunset with a cocktail. The rooftop view is unforgettable!
Not only is Zanzibar known for Stone Town and its culture, but it's also known for its gorgeous beaches. There are several different beaches to choose from in Zanzibar but my favourite beach to visit is Nungwi. Situated on the North Coast of the Island, Nungwi has pristine clear water and stunning white sands for miles on end. This is the perfect place to have your lazy days to sunbathe, read a book and indulge in fresh seafood. I highly recommend visiting Nungwi or hopping to other beaches in Zanzibar for at least a couple of days.
If you love shopping as much as I do, you will love Zanzibar. Stone Town is shopping heaven with loads of goods such as jewellery, bags, accessories, clothes, local crafts and much more. Zanzibar has something for everyone! One of my favourite things to do in Stone Town is to explore the alleyways. You can admire the gorgeous architecture and culture while you shop till you drop. It's great to have a guided walking tour of Stone Town or explore alone; either way, you will truly enjoy the hustle and bustle of the streets while you shop. Stone Town has plenty to offer to the shopaholic, look out for brightly-coloured kanga and kikois (traditional wrap-around clothing), silver and tanzanite jewellery, handmade leather bags, sandals and shoes, an endless range of woven baskets, wooden carvings, throws, wall hangings, rugs, antiques and ornaments of all shapes and sizes. There are plenty of keepsake souvenirs to bring home.
Finding accommodation in Zanzibar to suit all your needs and wants is no problem. There are lots of guesthouses, self-catering apartments, luxurious hotels and resorts, campsite retreat and beach rentals for every choice and price point.
Those people who are looking for a more luxurious experience will like Emerson Spice and Emerson Humurzi. These sister hotels are one of the popular places to stay and obviously the perfect aesthetic to get the best Instagram/blog photos. Both hotels are centred in the heart of Stone Town and are only a 5-minute walk from each other. These sister hotels were founded by the late Emerson Skeens, who converted and restored traditional Zanzibari merchant's homes into two boutique hotels. Both hotels were designed with every single detail in mind, from the colour-washed walls, the locally produced soaps and towels, to the refreshing local hibiscus juice you receive at check-in. You can choose from a variety of rooms that are filled with rich textiles, vibrant colours and antique furniture. Every single room is a work of art in its own unique way.
I recommend Al Minar in Stone Town if you're looking for a more budget-friendly hotel. Al Minar is the first hotel I stayed in on my solo trip to Zanzibar in 2016; this hidden gem is extremely cheap and clean with excellent customer service! During my stay, I enjoyed lounging on the antique furniture in the spacious rooms, while listening to the winter rains. Right in the centre of Stone Town, I was able to explore the alleyways and Forodhani Gardens within minutes. Al Minar is definitely one of the places in Zanzibar you will get the best value for your money!
If you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Stone Town, Baladin is the place to be! Baladin beach hotel and restaurant is a boutique hotel resort surrounded by turquoise tropical waters, palm trees and a white sandy shoreline. The hotel is located in Pingwe on the South-Eastern part of the island. Baladin resort has 8 spacious, two-story bungalows each with a traditional makuti palmed roof. On the top level, there is a bed with a view out to the tropical sea. On the ground floor, there are 2 single beds and an open-air bathroom where you can enjoy the luxury of a tropical open-air shower with the comfort of privacy. Each bungalow also has its own terrace with a view of the sea. Although this hotel isn't situated on the most gorgeous beach in Zanzibar, I truly enjoyed my stay here and felt extremely refreshed and relaxed.
Variety of Things To Do
Zanzibar has a variety of things to do for the solo traveller, couple or family. You can get lost in the maze of streets in Stone Town or jump in the middle of the Indian Ocean and swim. Take a day trip to Chumbe Island or Prison Island to explore. Prison Island is the home to over a hundred gigantic tortoises that you can interact closely with, while Chumbe Island is a small private island known for its ecological innovation and exceptional coral reefs. You can visit the former slave market and learn about its very sobering history. Go to one of the gorgeous beaches and take a Dhow boat cruise out to snorkel or simply relax at your resort and fellowship with travellers from all around the world.
The main language in Zanzibar is Swahili. However, English is the second language and widely spoken.
When buying anything in the market, always haggle and negotiate, never accept the first price given to you.
Zanzibar is safe for solo travel as a woman, but I personally wouldn't wander the streets at night, alone. It's very easy to get lost. My guide took me around at night, and I felt extremely safe with him. Travel with common sense and precautions.
Since this is a predominantly Muslim country, women may want to keep their shoulders and legs covered when they're not on the beach. Like travelling to any country, you want to be respectful of the cultural norms and practices. You do not want to draw unwanted attention to yourself.
The perfect time to visit Zanzibar is in the months June to October or December to February. The weather is best during those months with minimal rain.
About the author
MONIQUE L. SPEARMAN is a freelance multi-faceted writer, curator and creator. Blending a passion for content creating, social media marketing, photography and travel, Monique created her blog website RaineyAmore.com in the spring of 2017 as a hobby. Raineyamore.com is a lifestyle, fashion, beauty and travel brand that encourages men and women from around the world to live their best lives, out-loud. Inspired by the aesthetics of different cultures, Monique wants to show the world, "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it!"