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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.