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Aerial view of Zanzibar Island in Tanzania

Things to do in  Zanzibar

Queen of the spice islands

With a UNESCO World Heritage-listed capital, beautiful beaches, and a lush national park, the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar is an ideal spot for travelers who want a mix of relaxation, history, and natural discovery. The main city of Stone Town is full of historic structures and is a great place for immersing yourself in local culture. While many of the Zanzibar’s attractions are located in the city, the island is small enough to explore in its entirety—some of the best things to do in Zanzibar include visiting remote beaches, conservation areas, and spice farms.

Top 8 attractions in Zanzibar

Stone Town

The oldest part of Zanzibar City and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town is best known for its blend of European, African, Arabic, and Asian architecture, as well as its lively food scene and coastal cool. From towering minarets and white stone houses to cobbled market streets, every turn offers something to snap, making this island old town a must-see for any new arrival.More

Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park

Established in 2004 as the only protected park in Zanzibar, Jozani-Chwaka Bay is home to several animal species unique to the island. Travelers who wander the thick forests of this 19-square-mile park will likely spot the indigenous Zanzibar red colobus and families of Skyes monkeys. Travelers say close encounters with these playful creatures are one of the major highlights of any trip to Jozani, and a lucky few may even spot the indigenous Zanzibar Leopard—a wild cat found nowhere else on earth.The surrounding mangroves at Chwaka Bay are also home to more than 40 species of birds, making it a popular destination for travelers looking to check some of these two-wing wonders off their lengthy Life Lists. A well-kept boardwalk that winds through the lush coastal flora makes navigating Jozani’s scenic landscape a breeze.More

Nungwi Mnarani Aquarium and Marine Turtle Conservation Lagoon

Located on Zanzibar’s northernmost beach, Nungwi Mnarani Aquarium is home to the Marine Turtle Conservation Lagoon, a community-led project aimed at safeguarding sea turtles. Visit to see hawksbill and green turtles in a tidal pool, learn about marine life in the Indian Ocean, and even take part in the center’s ongoing release program.More

Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe)

Built in the 17th Century, Old Fort is one of the main attractions in Stone Town and perfect starting out point for first-time visitors to Zanzibar. Its giant stone fortress once protected the city from an outside attack, and it was later used as a prison to house local lawbreakers. Today, the Old Fort has been transformed into a cultural center that caters to tourists interested in exploring the history of the place and purchasing souvenirs like popular paintings and handmade jewelry.The open-air theater is the perfect spot for travelers to catch a live dance performance or experience the local live music scene. The Old Fort also provides space for major festivals and even has an information desk for travelers in search of tips, advice and guidance from residents in the know.More

House of Wonders (Beit-al-Ajaib)

Please note: House of Wonders is temporarily closed. House of Wonders, which is home to the Museum of History and Culture, is not only the largest—but also the tallest building in Stone Town. Built in 1883, the palace was the first building on the island to have electricity and the first in the region to have a working elevator. Since the early 2000s, House of Wonders has showcased a permanent collection of artifacts related to Swahili and Zanzibari culture.Travelers can explore the grounds, which include a traditional Swahili boat, old-world fishing tools, and famous ships, or wander the halls that offer an up-close look at traditional garments, historic portraits of royalty, and ancient furniture taken from former sultans’ homes. A visit to House of Wonders provides travelers with a window into the local culture and the island’s rich history.More

Darajani Market (Marikiti Kuu)

Daranji Market (Marikiti Kuu) is Stone Town's primary market bazaar—it’s a one-stop-shopping experience for anyone looking to pick up fresh seafood, vegetables, and spices. A stroll through the market gives you an excellent introduction to the ingredients used in Zanzibari cooking and is an ideal spot to pick up souvenir spices.More

Mtoni Palace

This ancient palace on the western shores of Zanzibar was the birthplace of the late princess Salme and today is among the top destinations for travelers to the island. Travelers can tour the grounds aboard a traditional donkey cart and wander through the Persian baths, main palace and beautiful botanical gardens.Though this ancient structure is in ruins, Mtoni Palace provides visitors with a look into the Arabian royal past that played such an important role in the development of Zanzibar. Visitors can wander through what remains of the old reception hall and trace the Omani family footsteps through the palace garden, palace baths and remnant of the royal courtyard.More
Mwanakwerekwe Market

Mwanakwerekwe Market

This traditional African market is one of the largest and busiest in all of Zanzibar. Local Tanzanians wander the streets as the sun rises—or hop aboard rusty metal bikes just after the call to prayer—to collect fruits, vegetables and other family essentials well before the day kicks off.Travelers can explore dozens of vendor stalls where cheap produce, fresh meats, dried maize meal, local crafts and inexpensive imported clothing line the narrow passes of this covered market. The thick smoke of cooking food mixes with dust, sweat and the sound of shouting voices, making a trip to Zanzibar’s Mwanakwerekwe Market a truly African experience.More

Top activities in Zanzibar

Snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll

Snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll

Stone Town Private Walking Tour
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Stone Town Private Walking Tour

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Zanzibar Full Day experience

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All about Zanzibar

When to visit

The best time to visit Zanzibar is between mid-June and September, when the chance of rain is at its lowest. Like elsewhere in the region, there are two rainy seasons: the long rains, which start in March and run until June, and the short rains, which take place in November and December. Note that as Zanzibar is a majority Muslim island, many restaurants are closed during Ramadan, so it’s not the best time for vacationers.

Getting around

There are all sorts of ways to get around Zanzibar. Taxis are widely available in Stone Town, but they can be harder to find in other parts of the island. If you’re heading out to somewhere further afield, you may wish to book a taxi for the day or go on a guided tour—though budget travelers may prefer to hop aboard dala dala, shared taxis (usually converted trucks or minibusses) that generally run along fixed routes.

Traveler tips

If you want to try authentic Zanzibari cuisine, head over to Lukmaan Restaurant in Stone Town. This well-known spot has an extensive menu of quintessential dishes, from seafood curries to bokoboko, a wheat porridge sweetened with honey. There are also tons of options for vegetarians, including beans, rice, and stewed vegetables. Wash it all down with a glass of date milk or some green grape juice.

People Also Ask

What is Zanzibar best known for?

Zanzibar is well known for two things: its white-sand beaches and its spices. (In fact, it’s sometimes referred to as a “Spice Island,” and spice farm tours are a popular activity here.) Music fans will know the island as the birthplace of rock legend Freddie Mercury, the front man of the band Queen.

Is there a lot to do in Zanzibar?

Yes, there is a lot to do in Zanzibar. Popular activities include touring the historic attractions in Stone Town, visiting spice plantations, and learning how to cook local food. Zanzibar is also a beach destination, with plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, and just laze around on powdery white sand.

Can you drink alcohol in Zanzibar?

Yes, you can drink alcohol in Zanzibar—but you won’t see alcohol in local restaurants and you’re not supposed to bring any booze with you to the island. Many hotels and resorts catering to international travelers do have alcohol available; some hotels don’t offer it, however, so be sure to check your property’s policies if you need to know before you go.

What are the do’s and don’ts of visiting Zanzibar?

Do make sure to visit Stone Town and learn about the island’s rich culture and history—Zanzibar offers much more than just beaches. Don’t wear revealing clothing (except at foreigner-focused resorts or on the beach), as the island is conservative, and doing so may be perceived as disrespectful to local cultural values.

How many days in Zanzibar is enough?

While many travelers opt to spend around a week on the island, three days is enough to get a feel for Zanzibar. This will give you enough time to hang out on the beach, tour Stone Town, visit a spice farm, and try your luck at spotting endemic creatures in Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park.

Do I need malaria pills for Zanzibar?

Yes, you need malaria pills for Zanzibar, and it’s wise to bring insect repellant to decrease your chances of getting bitten. Traveling to Zanzibar also increases your risk of exposure to certain food-borne illnesses. Make sure you talk to your doctor about what vaccines you’ll need well in advance of your trip.


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