ZANZIBAR ISLAND (UNGUJA)

Zanzibar Island (Unguja) is the main island of Zanzibar. It’s well-known for historical Stone Town, beautiful beaches and nature, both on-land and the surrounding coral reefs.

There is also a variety of different beach destinations, where everyone can find their own preferred choice. The main choice is between Zanzibar City area (including Stone Town), northern beaches (Nungwi and Kendwa), North East (Matemwe, Kiwengwa, Pwani Mchangani) and East Coast (Michamvi, Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani).

There are also several less well-known beaches, like Fumba and Makunduchi areas. On the coast, espeacially on the western coast of Zanzibar, there are some smaller islands with hotels as well.

Zanzibar Island is the home for most of Zanzibar’s population. Nowadays Stone Town is the main port and commercial centre of the whole Zanzibar. It also hosts many cultural events and festivals.

Unguja is very easy to reach. Many international flight companies fly to Zanzibar Airport close to Stone Town. There are also local flights from Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Nairobi and Mombasa. Many travelers coming from mainland Tanzania prefer to take a passenger ferry – it takes less than 2 hours. Please ask for more advice.

The other main island of Zanzibar is Pemba Island, which is much less visited by tourists but equally beautiful, on it’s own, unique way.

Check out our short guides for some of the main destinations.

TOWNS AND VILLAGES

Stone Town

Historical Stone Town is the cultural center of Zanzibar

Stone Town is a recommendable stop for all who visit Zanzibar. It’s the cultural hub where you can find everything. Historical information, international and local restaurants, shopping for everything you might want, and many hotels for all budgets. Stone Town is also full or Airbnb’s, like this Historical House with a Rooftop.

Stone Town was constructed from coral stone during the 19th and 20th century. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. This has uplifted the face of the historical city remarkably, and still does. As the whole historical part of town is protected, i Stone Town you can really walk in the same environment the sultans did.

The most popular evening spot in Stone Town must be the Forodhani Gardens, with street food and comfortable cafes. It gets busy around sunset and continues until around eleven.

Eating in Stone Town

In Stone Town, there are plenty of choices. Especially local Zanzibari cuisine and Italian food are easy to find. There are also Chinese restaurants, sushi, and Middle Eastern food available.

For a meal to remember, a booking at the Emerson on Hurumzi rooftop is a must. Thre full meal with live music is an experience! The view over the town and the ocean is a great plus.

Forodhani Gardens street food is a must, but make sure you get your food from a reliable stand. That means, go where the locals go. If it looks too good it is too good.

Zanzibari museums

Stone Town is the home of the Zanzibari museums, like the People’s Palace Museum, The Old Slave Market and Hamamni Baths. You can visit them by yourself, but if you want to learn a lot in a short amount of time, booking a guided tour is the best use of time, and gives you many more perspectives to Stone Town as well.

Shopping in Stone Town

Shopping in this town can be highly rewarding. The big shops on Kenyatta Street are easy for souvenirs, but if you have more time in your hands, head to the local designer shops. Gizenga street and then Changa Bazaar Street are great places to start with.

The local food market also hosts many spice stands, but the same area also has several spice shops, which usually have lower prices.

Zanzibar City

Stone Town is just a fraction of the whole Zanzibar City, the capital of Zanzibar. As Stone Town is the main historical city part, the whole urban area is full of old palaces. Zanzibar City is also full of modern buildings, shops, restaurants, beach resorts and international offices.

It is surprising how nice beach experiences it is possible to get in the city. There are many high quality resorts with reasonable prices just 10 minutes drive away from Stone Town. It’s also easy to just spend a day at the pool in places like Zanzibar Beach Resort or Mbweni Ruins, even if you stay somewhere else.

Some of the most known neighborhoods of Zanzibar City are: Chukwani near to the airport, Mbweni with beautiful beaches, Mlandege with big offices and modern buildings, Bububu with busy local life and great beaches as well.

Main historical sites in Zanzibar City

With the lush gardens, ocean and easy access to Stone Town, Zanzibar City is a home to many palace ruins. Most well-known palaces are Mbweni, Mtoni and Maruhubi. The old palace of Princess Salme, now called Salme Gardens, is less known, but beautifully restored.

Kendwa

Kendwa village is the youthful option for your stay in Zanzibar. Every saturday there is a party in the Kendwa Rocks Hotel. When the Saturday happens to be full moon, the party turns into a full moon party. This is also good to take into consideration in case you do not want to hear the music whole Saturday night.

There are many snorkeling and diving opportunities in Kendwa. The village itself is small, but there are some restaurants and shops outside the hotels. This is the rasta beach of Zanzibar.

 

Nungwi

Nungwi village is the most lively beach spot in Zanzibar. It’s located in the most northern tip of Zanzibar Island. Due to its wonderful location – good diving, perfect sand beach and a possibility to swim even during low tide.

Nungwi is the biggest village in Zanzibar, and therefore there are many hotels, restaurants and shops. There are also special acitivities such as the natural aquarium, where the turtles from fisher nets are brought back to heal.

From Nungwi you can find anything between the most budget hostels to the most luxurious beach resorts.

View Tours

 

Matemwe

Matemwe village is the perfect get-away from all hustle and bustle of other beaches and town.This is the place where locals and local expats prefer to spend their holiday time. It’s also the ideal destination if you are looking for a peaceful boutique hotel.

Matemwe beach will make you feel relaxed. The village is small, but there are many small-scale hotels by the beach that offer wonderful food. The beach itself is magnificent – over 20 kilometers of perfect white sand. It’s possibe to walk all the way to the villages of Kiwengwa and Pwanimchangani.

Another thing that lures poeple to come to Matemwe is the proximity of Mnemba Island. Mnemba is known as one of the best snorkeling and diving destinations in Zanzibar. From Matemwe it’s only a 30 minutes boat trip away.

ZANZIBAR EAST COAST

Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani offer activites and a sense of community

The east coast of Zanzibar usually refers to the villages of south-eastern stretch of the beach. It starts from Uroa village, then Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani. It has a distinctive, relaxed atmosphere with mainly small hotel establishments, lots of local life and kite surfers.

These villages and the less densley populated spaces in between offer beauitful tidal beaches, opportunity to casually visit Zanzibari villages, and to walk the beach while trying out small cafes.East coast of Zanzibar offers lots of variety in accommodation options. Reasonably priced hostels and backpacker hotels are next to 5 star resorts.

Paje – a paradise for kite surfers and low budget travellers

A long sand beach, shallow waters and wind at almost any day of the year – this is a perfect spot for kite surfing! Top it up with wide selection of hotels of different price ranges, especially from the lower end of the spectrum.

But no need to be a kite surfer to fully enjoy the east coast of Zanzibar. There are plenty of things to do in and around Paje. It’s a great base when you want to explore the island and nearby waters. Kizimkazi, village known for dolphins living near by, is just a short drive away. Jambiani village is a walking distance away, Jozani Forest on the way when you drive to Paje, and historical caves all around.

Paje also has some great beach bars and nightlife, with live music several nights a week. A great spot if you are looking to meet new people and enjoy some cocktails.

Jambiani – an excellent choice for cultural experiences

Jambiani village has many good hotels, but best it’s known for it’s cultural experiences. Jambiani is also one of the main areas for seaweed farming. You can always find the women at the beach during low tide. Nowadays, there is also a soap factory that uses seaweed as the main ingredient.

Bwejuu – great for peace lovers

In Bwejuu you will always find a nice, peaceful hotel to relax in. The village itself is very calm but offers some services – shops, restaurants, bike renting. No hustle, but you’re not trapped in your beach resort either.

While Bwejuu is not in the center of the traveler activities of Paje and Jambiani, it’s still near and a short taxi ride (or a bit longer bike ride) away from them.