12 Incredible Things to Do in Zanzibar: Top Attractions to Visit

by Jen
12 Incredible Things to Do in Zanzibar
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Are you thinking about visiting Zanzibar this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Zanzibar. These enchanting sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for a memorable vacation experience.

Welcome to Zanzibar! Just the name alone conjures up images of exotic beaches, turquoise waters, and a sense of wanderlust that’s hard to ignore. Nestled off the coast of Tanzania, this Indian Ocean gem is a tapestry of colors, flavors, and experiences that are nothing short of intoxicating. And when you’re here, you’ll discover that there are plenty of things to do in Zanzibar that will make your visit truly memorable.

Imagine stepping off the plane and being greeted by the warm, salty air that instantly tells you you’re in a tropical paradise. Picture yourself wandering through the labyrinthine alleys of Stone Town, where history whispers through the coral stone buildings and vibrant markets beckon with spices and handcrafted treasures.

But Zanzibar is more than just a pretty face; it’s an island that invites you to dig deeper. From the haunting echoes of its role in the slave trade to the conservation efforts in Jozani Forest, this is a place that offers both a feast for the senses and food for thought.

So, if you’re yearning for an adventure that combines natural beauty with cultural richness, look no further. Whether you’re a beach bum, a history buff, or an eco-conscious traveler, Zanzibar has something for everyone. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Zanzibar.

The top places to visit in Zanzibar right now
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Best Places to Visit in Zanzibar

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Zanzibar? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this diverse vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Zanzibar places to visit.

Are you looking to immerse yourself in a rich blend of cultural experiences, from exploring bustling markets and savoring local cuisine to witnessing traditional dance and music performances? Or would you prefer snorkeling, diving, and doing water sports in the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Zanzibar can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Zanzibar that you should know about.

1. Mnemba Atoll

Ah, the allure of the ocean! If you’re a fan of underwater escapades, Mnemba Atoll is your slice of heaven. This marine reserve is a diver’s dream, teeming with vibrant coral reefs and a kaleidoscope of marine life. Curious about the best things to do in Zanzibar, you ask? Well, donning a scuba tank and plunging into these crystal-clear waters should be at the top of your list.

The atoll is a sanctuary for endangered species like green turtles and dolphins. Imagine swimming alongside these majestic creatures; it’s an experience that words can hardly capture. Mnemba Atoll isn’t just a dive site; it’s a living, breathing underwater museum.

For the snorkelers among us, worry not. The shallow coral gardens are just as mesmerizing, offering a colorful spectacle that even novice swimmers can enjoy. And let’s not forget the sunset cruises that take you around the atoll, providing a different perspective of its beauty as the sun dips below the horizon.

Crafting that ultimate Zanzibar bucket list? Make sure Mnemba Atoll is on it. It’s not just among the cool destinations in Zanzibar; it’s a transformative experience that will leave you spellbound.

Mnemba Atoll is one of the incredible things to do in Zanzibar.
Dive into Mnemba Atoll’s vibrant underwater world in Zanzibar.

2. Stone Town

Ah, Stone Town—the heart and soul of Zanzibar! This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a labyrinth of narrow alleys, bustling bazaars, and grandiose architecture that tells tales of a bygone era. If you’re wondering where to visit in Zanzibar, look no further. Stone Town is a living museum, a place where history whispers through the coral stone buildings and ornate wooden doors.

You’ll find yourself transported back in time as you wander through the maze-like streets. Every corner reveals something new: an aromatic spice market here, a hidden courtyard there. And let’s not forget the local artisans, whose craftsmanship is displayed in the intricate carvings and textiles that adorn the shops.

But Stone Town isn’t just about the past; it’s a vibrant community where tradition and modernity coexist. From the soulful tunes of Taarab music to the mouthwatering fusion of Swahili cuisine, this place is a feast for all senses.

When making a list of Zanzibar places to visit, Stone Town deserves a top spot. It’s not just a destination; it’s an experience that will enrich your soul and ignite your imagination.

Stone Town is a historical labyrinth of narrow alleys, bustling bazaars, and ornate architecture that brings the past to life.
Stone Town is a historical labyrinth of narrow alleys, bustling bazaars, and ornate architecture that brings the past to life.

3. Zanzibar Red Colobus at Jozani Forest

Imagine stepping into a lush, green world filled with exotic flora and fauna. That’s Jozani Forest for you! A visit to this forest is among the coolest things to do in Zanzibar for nature enthusiasts. This forest reserve is the last sanctuary for the endangered Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey, a species found nowhere else on Earth.

As you meander through the forest, the air tinged with the scent of damp earth and foliage, keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures. They’re not shy; you’ll often see them leaping from branch to branch, their striking red fur contrasting vividly against the green backdrop.

Jozani Forest isn’t just a haven for monkeys, though. It’s a biodiverse hotspot, teeming with mangroves, ferns, and various species of birds. Birdwatchers, bring your binoculars; you’re in for a treat.

In this slice of paradise, you’ll also discover nature trails that lead you through the mangrove boardwalk, offering a different perspective of this distinctive ecosystem. It’s a place where you can disconnect from the world and connect with nature.

Explore a lush green world teeming with exotic flora and fauna at Jozani Forest.
Explore a lush green world teeming with exotic flora and fauna at Jozani Forest.

4. Kizimkazi

Kizimkazi, a sleepy fishing village that’s anything but ordinary. Here, the ocean isn’t just a body of water; it’s a stage where dolphins perform their ballet, twirling and leaping in a spectacle that captures hearts. If you’ve ever fantasized about swimming alongside these magnificent creatures, Kizimkazi makes that dream a reality.

When is the ideal time to visit? Early morning, when the sea is calm and the dolphins are most active. Planning on what to do in Zanzibar that is magical as it sounds? Local guides will take you out on traditional wooden boats, and before you know it, you’ll be amidst a pod of dolphins, their fins slicing through the water’s surface.

Don’t just come for the dolphins. Kizimkazi is also home to ancient mosques and a community that welcomes you with open arms. After your aquatic adventure, sip on coconut water, chat with the locals, and let the village’s tranquil atmosphere wash over you.

This is more than just a place; it’s an experience that belongs on every best places to go in Zanzibar list. Whether you’re an ocean lover or a cultural aficionado, Kizimkazi offers a slice of heaven that’s hard to resist.

Kizimkazi, a unique fishing village, is where dolphins grace the ocean's stage, twirling and leaping in a captivating ballet.
Kizimkazi, a unique fishing village, is where dolphins grace the ocean’s stage, twirling and leaping in a captivating ballet.

5. Kendwa Beach

Picture this: you’re lounging on the soft sands of Kendwa Beach, cocktail in hand, as the sun begins its descent. The sky transforms into an artist’s canvas, splashed with hues of orange, pink, and purple.

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Exploring the beach is one of the unique things to do in Zanzibar, a moment when time seems to stand still, and all that exists is the beauty unfolding before your eyes.

Kendwa Beach isn’t just another beach; it’s a sanctuary for the soul. As the day winds down, local musicians start to play, filling the air with rhythmic beats that make it impossible not to sway along. Fire dancers often join the scene, their flames flickering in harmony with the setting sun.

What sets Kendwa apart? It’s the community. Locals and tourists alike gather to celebrate the day’s end, sharing stories, laughter, and perhaps a dance or two. It’s one of those best places in Zanzibar where every sunset feels like a communal celebration of life.

If you’re crafting that dream itinerary, pencil in Kendwa Beach for an evening you won’t soon forget. It’s not just a destination; it’s a vibe, a feeling, a moment that captures the essence of Zanzibar. Is this among the top things to do on Zanzibar Island?

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Relax on Kendwa Beach, cocktail in hand, and witness a stunning Zanzibar sunset with hues of orange, pink, and purple.
Relax on Kendwa Beach, cocktail in hand, and witness a stunning Zanzibar sunset with hues of orange, pink, and purple.

6. Chwaka Bay

Chwaka Bay is an ecological marvel. As you paddle through the mangroves, you’ll quickly realize this is one of the amazing attracions in Zanzibar. The bay is a sanctuary for a plethora of marine life, from tiny crabs scuttling along the roots to exotic birds taking flight from the treetops.

The serenity of the bay is palpable. Each stroke of your paddle sends ripples through the glass-like water, creating a mesmerizing pattern that dances in the sunlight. It’s a place where nature and tranquility coalesce, offering a respite from the hustle and bustle of tourist hotspots.

What makes this experience truly unforgettable? The local guides. They’re not just experts in navigating the labyrinthine waterways; they’re storytellers, regaling you with tales of the bay’s history and its importance to the local community. It’s a Zanzibar destination that educates as much as it enthralls.

Are you looking for an exceptional blend of adventure and serenity? Chwaka Bay should be on your Zanzibar bucket list. It’s not merely a destination; it’s a journey into the heart of Zanzibar’s natural beauty.

Chwaka Bay is an ecological marvel teeming with mangroves and diverse marine life in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Chwaka Bay is an ecological marvel teeming with mangroves and diverse marine life in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

7. Kidichi Spice Farm

Just a stone’s throw from Stone Town, Kidichi Spice Farm is a sensory wonderland. This isn’t your average spice farm; it’s a living testament to Zanzibar’s rich spice history. As you stroll through the verdant fields, the air is a fragrant blend of cloves, vanilla, and cinnamon. But it’s not just about the scents; it’s a tactile experience. Feel the rough texture of a nutmeg shell and taste the tang of fresh tamarind.

Local farmers, doubling as your guides, offer a behind-the-scenes look at traditional spice cultivation. Witness the intricate steps of harvesting, drying, and grinding—processes that have made Zanzibar a spice mecca.

For foodies, this isn’t just a tour; it’s culinary inspiration. So, if you’re wondering about Zanzibar things to do, a visit to Kidichi Spice Farm should top your list. You’ll leave not just with aromatic spices but also with a slice of Zanzibari culture that will linger long after your visit.

Kidichi Spice Farm near Stone Town is a sensory delight, immersing you in Zanzibar's rich spice history through fragrant fields and tactile experiences.
Kidichi Spice Farm near Stone Town is a sensory delight, immersing you in Zanzibar’s rich spice history through fragrant fields and tactile experiences.

8. Nungwi Beach

Ah, Nungwi Beach! This is the place where the Indian Ocean seems to stretch infinitely, its turquoise waters blending seamlessly with the sky. If you’re searching for Zanzibar attractions that offer a slice of paradise, look no further.

The beach is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Whether you’re into snorkeling, paddleboarding, or just floating aimlessly, Nungwi has got you covered. And let’s not forget the local fishermen who bring in their catch of the day—fresh seafood, anyone?

It is fringed by a lively village where you can immerse yourself in local culture. Traditional dhow boats dot the shoreline, and the air is filled with the rhythmic beats of Taarab music.

As the day winds down, the sky puts on a show of colors that words can hardly describe. It’s one of those must-see moments in Zanzibar that will make you reach for your camera, but don’t forget to take a moment to just breathe it all in.

Nungwi Beach, where the Indian Ocean meets the endless horizon in shades of turquoise, is an attraction that embodies pure paradise.
Nungwi Beach, where the Indian Ocean meets the endless horizon in shades of turquoise, is a Zanzibar attraction that embodies pure paradise.

9. Paje Beach

Imagine the wind in your hair and the thrill of soaring over azure waters. Welcome to Paje Beach, the kitesurfing capital of Zanzibar. Here, the conditions are almost always perfect for catching some air. But don’t worry if you’re not into kitesurfing; Paje offers a myriad of other coolest things to do in Zanzibar.

The beach itself is a long stretch of white sand, a blank canvas for footprints and sandcastles. Families, couples, and solo travelers alike find their slice of heaven here. It’s one of those essential destinations in Zanzibar where time seems to slow down, allowing you to savor every moment.

Nearby, you’ll find local vendors selling everything from fresh coconuts to intricate henna designs. The atmosphere is laid-back, but there’s an undercurrent of excitement that’s palpable. It’s a place that invites you to be as active or as relaxed as you like.

As the sun dips below the horizon, the beach transforms into a social hub. Bonfires light up the shore, and the sound of laughter and music fills the air. It’s a spot that captures the island’s essence in a single experience.

Paje Beach, Zanzibar's kitesurfing hub, offers thrilling adventures and a range of cool activities for everyone.
Paje Beach, Zanzibar’s kitesurfing hub, offers thrilling adventures and a range of cool activities for everyone.

10. Makunduchi Festival in Southern Zanzibar

If you’re searching for the coolest activities in Zanzibar that immerse you in local culture, set your sights on the Makunduchi Festival. This annual extravaganza takes place in the southern Zanzibar village of Makunduchi, a locale renowned for its rich traditions and vibrant community spirit.

As you step into the festival grounds, the air fills with the exotic aroma of spices and the soulful melodies of Taarab music. Dancers in traditional Zanzibari attire captivate the crowd, their intricate moves a visual feast. This is a must-see in Zanzibar for anyone eager to unravel the island’s cultural fabric.

For the gastronomically inclined, the festival is a culinary journey. Relish the local Zanzibari biryani or sip on freshly squeezed sugarcane juice. It’s a sensory experience that tantalizes every taste bud.

What makes this festival truly special is its unifying atmosphere. It’s a melting pot where locals and visitors alike share stories, laughter, and a sense of community. In essence, the Makunduchi Festival isn’t just an event; it’s a celebration of Zanzibari life, offering a slice of the island’s soul that you’ll carry with you long after you leave.

The Makunduchi Festival in southern Zanzibar offers a vibrant cultural experience not to be missed.
The Makunduchi Festival in southern Zanzibar offers a vibrant cultural experience not to be missed.

11. Prison Island

Ever wondered where to go in Zanzibar for a blend of history and natural beauty? Set sail to Prison Island. Contrary to its ominous name, the island is a sanctuary of tranquility and home to giant Aldabra tortoises. Your boat glides over crystal-clear waters as you approach this intriguing destination.

Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the tortoises, some of which are over a century old. It’s a place where time seems to stand still. Wander around the island and you’ll stumble upon the ruins of a prison that was never used; it’s now a historical relic that adds a layer of mystery to your visit.

For the snorkeling enthusiasts, the coral reefs surrounding the island are a vibrant underwater world waiting to be explored. It’s a destination that offers a chance to swim alongside colorful fish and maybe even a dolphin or two.

The island also has a small café where you can sip on fresh coconut water while soaking up the sun. Exploring this island is among the best things to do in Zanzibar that offers a little bit of everything—history, nature, and relaxation—all wrapped up in one unforgettable experience.

Prison Island, a blend of history and natural beauty in Zanzibar, is a tranquil sanctuary home to giant Aldabra tortoises.
Prison Island, a blend of history and natural beauty in Zanzibar, is a tranquil sanctuary home to giant Aldabra tortoises.

12. Cheetah’s Rock

Imagine a place where you can get up close and personal with some of the world’s most incredible animals. No, it’s not a zoo; it’s Cheetah’s Rock, one of the unique places in Zanzibar for animal lovers. Here, ethical animal interaction takes center stage.

You’re not just observing; you’re participating. Feed zebras, stroke a cheetah, and even share a laugh with a hyena. Yes, you read that right—a hyena! It’s an engaging thing to do in Zanzibar that defies expectations at every turn.

The experience is educational, too. The passionate staff are eager to share their knowledge about wildlife conservation. You’ll leave not only with amazing memories but also with a newfound respect for these magnificent creatures.

And let’s not forget the setting. Nestled in a lush forest, Cheetah’s Rock feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It’s a haven where you can truly disconnect and immerse yourself in nature.

So, are you ready for an adventure that’s as enlightening as it is exhilarating? Cheetah’s Rock is waiting for you.

Cheetah's Rock in Zanzibar offers unique and ethical animal encounters for enthusiasts.
Cheetah’s Rock in Zanzibar offers unique and ethical animal encounters for enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Incredible Things to Do in Zanzibar

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Zanzibar? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Zanzibar:

What’s the best time to visit Zanzibar?

The best time to visit Zanzibar is during the dry season, which spans from June to October. This period offers pleasant weather with less rainfall, making it ideal for beach activities, wildlife safaris, and exploring the island’s cultural and historical sites. The shoulder months of November and December are also favorable.

What activities can be done in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar, an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, offers a plethora of activities for travelers. Here are some of the top activities you can indulge in while visiting Zanzibar:

  1. Beach Relaxation: Zanzibar boasts pristine white sandy beaches. Popular beaches include Nungwi, Kendwa, Paje, and Jambiani.
  2. Snorkeling and Diving: The clear blue waters of Zanzibar are home to vibrant coral reefs. Mnemba Atoll and Tumbatu Island are among the best spots.
  3. Spice Tour: Zanzibar is often referred to as the “Spice Island”. Take a guided tour of a spice farm to learn about the cultivation of spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  4. Stone Town Tour: Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stone Town with its historic buildings, narrow alleys, and bustling markets.
  5. Dhow Cruise: Sail on a traditional wooden dhow, especially during sunset, for a serene experience.
  6. Visit Prison Island: Also known as Changuu Island, it’s famous for its history and the giant Aldabra tortoises.
  7. Dolphin Tour: Head to Kizimkazi to see and swim with dolphins in their natural habitat.
  8. Jozani Forest: Visit the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, home to the endangered Red Colobus Monkeys.
  9. Cultural Tours: Engage with local communities, learn about their way of life, and even take a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional Zanzibari dishes.

Do I need a visa to enter Zanzibar?

Whether you need a visa to enter Zanzibar depends on your nationality. Many nationalities, including those from many Western countries, can obtain a visa on arrival for tourism purposes. However, it’s advisable to check the specific visa requirements for your nationality before traveling to ensure a smooth entry into Zanzibar.

Stunning sunset over the beach of Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Stunning sunset over the beach of Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Is Zanzibar safe for tourists?

Zanzibar is generally safe for tourists, with a welcoming and hospitable local population. However, like many tourist destinations, it’s important to take common-sense precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings, avoiding walking alone at night in unfamiliar areas, and respecting local customs and traditions. Stay informed about any travel advisories before your trip.

How many days in Zanzibar is enough?

The ideal duration for a trip to Zanzibar largely depends on your interests and the kind of experience you’re seeking. However, for most travelers:

  • Short Stay (3-4 days): This is enough time to explore Stone Town, take a spice tour, relax on a beach, and perhaps do one additional activity like snorkeling or visiting Prison Island.
  • Medium Stay (5-7 days): With a week in Zanzibar, you can thoroughly explore Stone Town, visit several beaches, take a spice tour, go snorkeling or diving, take a dhow cruise, visit Jozani Forest, and engage in other activities like kite surfing or dolphin tours.
  • Long Stay (8-14 days): A longer stay allows you to truly immerse yourself in the island’s culture and beauty. You can visit multiple beaches, take day trips to nearby islands, engage in several water sports, explore the local villages, and even take a few days just to relax and soak in the island vibes.

What’s the local cuisine like in Zanzibar?

Get ready for a culinary journey! From mouth-watering seafood to aromatic spices, Zanzibar’s cuisine is a melting pot of flavors. Don’t leave without trying the Zanzibari biryani; it’s a must-see in Zanzibar’s gastronomic scene.

What is Zanzibar best known for?

Zanzibar is best known for its stunning white-sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and rich cultural heritage. Often dubbed the “Spice Island,” it’s famous for its spice plantations, offering a sensory feast of aromatic cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adds to its allure.

Is it worth visiting Zanzibar?

Absolutely, Zanzibar is a must-visit destination for beach lovers, history buffs, and adventure seekers in Africa. With its idyllic beaches, vibrant marine life for snorkeling and diving, and a rich tapestry of cultures in Stone Town, the island offers a unique blend of relaxation and exploration that’s hard to match.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Zanzibar

So, you’ve made it to the end of this whirlwind tour of Zanzibar’s most captivating spots. From the azure waters to the spice-scented air, every corner of this island paradise offers something extraordinary. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, or someone in between, there’s no shortage of things to do in Zanzibar.

But let’s be real—this list barely scratches the surface. Zanzibar is a place that needs to be felt, not just seen. It’s where you’ll find yourself lost in the moment, whether you’re watching the sunset paint the sky in hues of orange and pink or listening to the melodic tunes of Taarab music in a local café.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack those bags, book that flight, and let Zanzibar sweep you off your feet. Trust me, it’s a journey you won’t soon forget.

And there you have it! Your ultimate guide to Zanzibar, sprinkled with local insights and wanderlust-inducing details.

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The top things to do in Zanzibar for all types of travelers
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