Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago located 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania. With turquoise-blue waters, shallow sandy shores and many unexplored islands that look deserted it is a breathtaking spot for a relaxing escape. Explore historic Stone Town in the old quarter of Zanzibar City, or tour the tiny fishing villages along the coast, one more scenic than the other.
The ideal Indian Ocean experience
With turquoise-blue waters, shallow sandy shores and many unexplored islands that look deserted it is a breathtaking spot for a relaxing escape.
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Zanzibar Town on the western side of the island, is the heart of the archipelago, and the first stop for most travellers. It is divided into two halves by Creek Road, once a creek that separated Stone Town (Mji Mkongwe) from ‘The Other Side’ or Ng’ambo, where a small community of slaves once lived and which now accommodates the growing new city with its offices, apartment blocks and slums.
While Zanzibar Town may be the archipelago’s heart, Stone Town is its soul. Walk through its alleyways, overhung with wooden balconies and witness characteristics that have traveled from every shore of the Indian Ocean. You will easily lose yourself in centuries of history. Each turn you take hides new wonders that you can experience with all five senses.
From a school full of children chanting verses from the Quran, to an abandoned Persian bathhouse, or the scent of roasting coffee beans coming from a coffee vendor with his long-spouted pot fastened over a coal fire.
Sense the presence of thousands of lost souls at Stone Town which was host to one of the world’s last open slave markets. Be sure to join an organised tour for the opportunity to uncover hidden history facts and to connect with local residents.
Other historical landmarks include the Palace Museum & House of Wonders, also known as Sultan’s Palace, one of the most prominent historic buildings in Stone Town and well worth a visit. The Palace Museum is situated in the waterfront and it was built in the 19th century to house the Sultan’s family.
After the 1964 revolution the site was used as a Government building and re-named to “The People’s Palace.” Nowadays it serves as a museum, showcasing relics of the past Sultan family and is a fascinating exhibition of Zanzibari and Swahili culture. To fully experience majestic Zanzibar be sure to visit Forodhani Gardens and join a spice tour to learn all about the island’s greatest industry.
Zanzibar experiences ideal holiday weather for most of the year. The heat of summer is seasonally often cooled by windy conditions, resulting in pleasant sea breezes, particularly on the North and East coasts. Being near to the equator, the islands are warm all year round, but officially, summer and winter peak in December and June respectively. Short rains can occur in November but are characterised by short showers which do not last long. The long rains normally occur in April and May although this is often referred to as the 'Green Season', and it typically doesn't rain every day during that time.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago located 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania consisting of Zanzibar Island (locally, Unguja), Pemba Island and many smaller islands. Get there by plane or by taking a short 2 hour ferry-ride from Tanzania’s capital, Dar Es Salaam.
Explore the world heritage site of Stone Town in the old quarter of Zanzibar City, or tour the tiny fishing villages along the coast, one more scenic than the other. Visit Pempa island, separated by only 100km of sea from Zanzibar. You will be amazed by how different the two islands are. Contrary to Zanzibar island who has a well developed tourism infrastructure, Pempa remains untouched by the outside world. Much of the coast is lined with mangroves and lagoons, however, there are stretches of sand and some small idyllic uninhabited isles.
The healthy coral reefs, the steeply dropping walls of the Pemba Channel and the numerous different species of fish provide the best diving experience in all East Africa. Clove farms that creep up hillsides and land planted with fruit and spice trees show how fertile the hilly terrain of Pempa really is, unlike Zanzibar’s sandy flat land. In the days of Arab traders, the island was aptly called the Green Island (Jazirat al Khuthera).
Watch local farmers load crates of luscious mangoes onto outbound boats, or experience life in a traditional fishing village, with women farming seaweed on high tides and men setting sail on their fishing dhows. If you do decide to take the short trip to Pempa, you will not be disappointed.