The name Zanzibar immediately conjures up images of an island paradise with soft-sand, white beaches and shimmering azure waters. But, the Zanzibar Archipelago is so much more than romantic coastlines and blissful sunsets – these islands offer a kaleidoscope of sights, smells and tastes which feed your soul and leave you wanting to return again. Zanzibar is without a doubt a tropical dream destination, ideal for getting away from it all, but it is also a fascinating destination from a historical and cultural perspective, as well as being a top adventure and eco-tourism destination.
1. Blissful beach destination
Zanzibar is the home of idyllic beaches, balmy weather & warm tropical waters. This archipelago is renowned for clear warm waters, coral reefs and rich marine diversity making it a perfect under-water destination for snorkelling and diving. If it is lazy days along white sandy beaches that you are after – Zanzibar is hard to beat. But, in addition to the perfect beach destination, Zanzibar is also full of options for nature lovers, culture vultures, and adventurers.
2. Unique and vibrant culture and architecture
Zanzibar is fairly undeveloped and enjoys semi-autonomy from mainland Tanzania. The colourful history and rich heritage can be seen in the strong Arabic, Indian, African, Persian and European influences and adds a vibrant dimension to the island. Exploring the cobbled alleyways of historic Stone Town’s old quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you encounter a captivating blend of diverse architectural styles in the mosques and houses interwoven to create this charming destination.
Old mansions and palaces, such as the House of Wonders, the old Turkish Baths, as well as lively bazaars, market stalls, and shops all, overwhelm the senses with their energy and detail; which tell the story of a long and tumultuous history. Zanzibar is predominantly Islamic and this is evident in the lifestyle of the locals and the design of everything from furniture and fabric to jewelry and crafts. Look out for the famous carved teak Zanzibar doors. The Dhow Countries Music Academy is a great place to get a feel for the local music style known as Taarab – which is a blend of classical Swahili poetry, percussion, and rhythm infused with a myriad of influences from the Middle East, Africa, India and the West.
3. Exotic spices
Zanzibar Island is well known as the Spice Island due to the farming and processing of aromatic spices like cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemongrass and black pepper. Visit spice plantations to learn about the process and history of these crops, their medicinal and culinary uses. Follow the aromas and sample the delicious blend of flavours in the market street food and traditionally prepared dishes.
4. Romantic getaway
Not just aromatic, but also romantic – it’s an ideal place to spice things up. With some of the most beautiful lodges and settings in the world, how can the archipelago not be the perfect place for romance?
It’s the perfect place to take long walks on the beach, relax beside the water and drink cocktails as the sun sets. Zanzibar is, of course, a popular honeymoon and wedding destination.
5. Breakaway – escape the crowds and do your own thing
For those looking for something even less populated and developed the neighbouring islands of Pemba, Mafia, Chumbe and Mnemba make wonderful destinations where you are likely to have entire stretches of beach all to your self. There are more than 50 smaller islands that make up this archipelago and many beautiful lodges to choose from. Rent a scooter (moped) to explore the narrow streets and beautiful coastline at your own pace, away from the crowds. The roads are rough in places and the traffic can be a bit hair-raising, but it is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful weather and go on tailor-made adventures to the lesser-known corners of the islands.