Off the coast of Tanzania, sits a beautiful archipelago known as Zanzibar. It comprises over 40 islands, including a number of private, uninhabited and inhabited islands. The two largest and most popular islands are Unguja, also known as Zanzibar, and Pemba. Zanzibar is a great destination to unwind, chill, relax and explore after your Tanzanian safari. Zanzibar is well known for its numerous white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and thriving coral reefs. While the beaches are without a doubt the main attraction for most tourists, Zanzibar has much more to offer than just relaxation beaches and water sports. Zanzibar has a variety of interesting attractions to visit, including local markets, historical ruins, forts, forests, spice farms, caverns, and museums.
So, which are the best places to go in Zanzibar? In this guide, we will take a look at the top attractions to visit in Zanzibar, including hidden gems which are worthy visiting. You’ll discover the perfect spots for petting and feeding animals, the top beaches to visit, the must-visit natural swimming pools, the best spice farms to tour, ancient ruins to explore and the best places to see turtles, tortoises and butterflies. This article will highlight the Top 20 Must-See Places when visiting Zanzibar.
1. Zanzibar Beaches
Surrounded by beautiful coastlines, Zanzibar has some of the nicest beaches in East Africa, making it a perfect beach holiday destination. Whether you are looking for a place to chill, watch the sunset or enjoy nightlife, there are myriad of beaches to choose from. There are plenty of activities for water sports enthusiasts, including snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, windsurfing, sailing on dhows, kite surfing, jet skiing and sunbathing. Zanzibar beaches are great places to see marine life, such as colorful fish, turtles, tortoises, whale sharks, and dolphins. With so much to see and do, Zanzibar beaches are the perfect spots for a fun and relaxing vacation. Nungwi, Kendwa, Bwejuu, Paje, Michamvu, Jambiani, Pongwe and Matemwe are some of the best beaches in Zanzibar.
2. Jozani Forest
One of the best excursions in Zanzibar is a trip to the Jozani Forest. It is a primate’s haven. If you love monkeys and nature, you will have a great time watching the endangered Red colobus monkeys and Sykes monkeys while exploring the lush green forest. Other wildlife to watch out for includes birds, chameleons, butterflies, Bushbabies, and antelopes. Usually, a tour to Jozani Forest also combines a visit to the nearby mangrove forest, where visitors can see different types of mangroves.
3. Spice Plantations
Before leaving Zanzibar, make sure you get a spice farm experience. Dubbed as the ‘Spice Island’, Zanzibar has a vast range of species and tropical fruits. During a guided tour to the spice plantation, you’ll learn a lot about the history of different spices, their origins, how they are grown, harvested and packed, as well as how locals blend them in their cooking. Additionally, you’ll also get a chance to sample some of the local delicacies prepared with the fresh spices. Among the spices you’ll find on your Zanzibar spice farm tours are turmeric, cloves, black pepper, chillies, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. The best spice farms to visit in Zanzibar include Tangawizi Spice Farm, Kizimbani Spice Farm, Kindichi Spice Farm, Mussa Abasi Village Spice Farm, Village Green Spice Farm and Bwamzee Spice Farm.
4. Zanzibar Butterfly Center
Not too far from Jozani National Reserve, you will find Zanzibar Butterfly Center, a community run project. If you are a butterfly enthusiast, put this tropical garden on your bucket list. Inside the netted area, you can see different species of beautiful butterflies of varying sizes and colors. You can walk around the area watching butterflies in different stages of development, learn about their life cycle and even get an opportunity to see and hold chameleons.
5. Forodhani Gardens
Nestled in between the Old Fort and the sea, Forodhani Gardens is a small public waterfront area. It is a favorite chilling base for visitors and locals and “a must-see attraction” when in Stone Town. During the day, you can take a stroll along the coast as you watch amazing sea views and the locals dive into the sea. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset. At night, it is transformed into a great food market with live performances from the local people. If you want to enjoy local vibes, this is a great place to try some local food, such as Zanzibar pizza, shawarma, and grilled seafood.
6. Cheetah’s Rock
If you want to experience unique wildlife, experience Cheetah’s Rock – a rescue wildlife center in Zanzibar is worth a visit. It’s a fantastic place to get up close and personal with wildlife. And don’t be fooled by the name, this sanctuary is home to many other animal species besides Cheetahs. Here you’ll have a unique opportunity to pet, feed, and interact with a variety of animals, including Cheetahs, white Lion cubs, Tigers, Lemurs, Zebras, Bushbabies, Hyenas, and Monkeys. Along with interactions with wildlife, you’ll learn about each animal’s history, how they came to be here, and how they are cared for.
7. Old Slave Market / Anglican Cathedral
Want to learn more about Zanzibar’s history and the history of the slave trade in East Africa? Don’t miss the Old Slave Market in Stone Town. During your tour, you’ll have a chance to explore the underground chambers that served as holding cells for slaves before being sold, as well as learn about slave trade history and its closure. Inside the chamber there are photographs and exhibits displaying the dark history of the slave trade and sculpture in memory of the slave trade on the outside.
8. Baraka Natural Aquarium
Another awesome attraction in Zanzibar is Baraka Natural Aquarium. Visit this place if you want to see, feed and swim with the green turtles.
Another place where visitors can get up close with turtles is the Jozani Sea Turtle Sanctuary.
9. Kuza Cave and Cultural Center
Another interesting attraction that ought to be on your Zanzibar itinerary is Kuza Cave in Jambiani. This hidden gem is a nice spot to take a refreshing dip in the cool, crystal-clear waters below, inside the cave. During the cave tour, visitors are entertained with Swahili songs and dances accompanied by drumming from locals. For nature lovers, the forest surrounding the cave is home to the Red Colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys, Bushbabies, several varieties of butterflies and bird species. The adjacent cultural center is a great place to interact with locals, learn about their culture, and take Swahili cooking classes.
10. Ngezi Forest
Love reconnecting with nature? You’ll definitely enjoy a trip to Ngezi Forest. Located on Pemba Island, Ngezi Forest is a protected tropical rainforest with a variety of plant and tree species. There are well-defined trails to explore the forest. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some of the animals that call this forest home, such as Pemba flying fox, birds, vervet monkey, and red colobus monkey.
11. Freddie Mercury House
If you are a fan of Freddie and queen, spare some few minutes to visit Freddie Mercury House to get an insight on his childhood. Inside of the home where Freddie Mercury spent some of his early years, there is a small museum that showcases some of his exhibits. You’ll see artifacts such as his photos, original manuscripts of his songs, costumes he wore during his performance, a piano and a detailed history of his childhood.
12. Chumbe Island Corral Park Nature Reserve and Marine Park
Chumbe Island is one of the most magical places to visit in Zanzibar. It is a perfect place to unwind away from the crowds. Dotted with incredible coral reefs, myriad of marine life and surrounded by a beautiful forest, Chumbe Island is one of the best examples of marine conservation efforts in Zanzibar. Additionally, it provides access to one of the finest snorkeling destination in the Island of Zanzibar. There are tons of marine animals that you can see here, including starfish, lobsters, turtles, dolphins, stingrays, octopus, eels, reef sharks and plenty of tropical fishes. There are also numerous coconut crabs of varying sizes to be seen here. Visitors also get to enjoy forest walks and delicious meals.
13. Hamamni Persian Baths
Built in the late 19th century, these ancient bathhouses used to be public baths for sultans. Though no longer operational, during a guided tour to Hamamni Persian Baths, you learn more about the different rooms and their uses, including the rooftop where cisterns for heating used to be kept.
14. Changuu Island
A trip to Zanzibar is not complete until you visit Changuu Island. It is one of the most famous Zanzibar attractions and a popular spot for day trip excursions. It is the perfect place for visitors interested in feeding and getting up close to giant tortoises. Changuu is not only famous for its tortoises but also for its beautiful beaches, making it a popular destination for snorkeling, swimming and relaxation.
15. Zanzibar Kilosas Conservation
Zanzibar Kilosas Conservation is “a must-see” on any trip to Zanzibar. Located in Nugwi, this is a small zoo where you can learn about wild animals and interact with them. Some of the animals you can find here include Dik diks, Monkeys, Ostriches, Turtles, Chameleons, Bushbabies, Tortoises and Snakes. During your visit, you can feed and pet animals.
16. The Old Fort of Zanzibar
The Old Fort, or “Ngome Kongwe,” as it is known locally, is one of Zanzibar’s most well-known historical sites. Situated on the outskirts of Stone Town overlooking the Forodhani Park, the fort was constructed in the 17th century, making it one of the oldest buildings in Zanzibar. A walk through these ancient ruins provides visitors with a glimpse into the island’s past.
To sum it up, Zanzibar is a stunning, fascinating, and diverse island with something to offer for everyone. Beach lovers and divers will find a paradise in Zanzibar. Additionally, if you’d like to explore the Island of Zanzibar beyond its beaches during your vacation, you’ll find many things to do here so you can be sure to find an attraction that interests you.