The island of Zanzibar boasts pristine white sand beaches, ubundant sunshine, exotic Swahili dishes, a hospitable people. In the historic Stone Town you’ll find Arabic and Swahili inluences, winding lanes with minarets, carved doorways and 19th century palaces. If your idea of a fun is to mix a culture with lazing on the beach then you just found your next destination!
This atmospheric and mystical town is the cultural and historical heart of Zanzibar.The fascinating maze of winding lanes leads past numerous houses and mosques, wonderful cafes and restaurants, shops and bazaars. I loved getting off the tourist trail and just get lost in the backstreets but added some landmarks, markets and museums in this itinerary if you like more focus ;)
Dress appropriately, 98% of the population is Muslim.See detail page
Changuu also known as Prison island is an inhabited island and only a 30 minute boat ride from Zanzibar. The island saw use to confine rebellious slaves in 1860s, but no prisoners were ever housed here instead the island became a quarantine for yellow fever cases. And Changuu island houses a hundred of endangered giant land tortoises. I love tortoises! Lucky me! I was blown away by their sizes and ages. Some of them are between 165 and 180 years old. I was told that I could approach them, pet them and even feed them, so I did!
Bring your swimwear and sunscreen!See detail page
To experience the best of Zanzibar’s food, head to the Night Market that happens each night in the Forodhani Gardens. Indulge in seafood, meat skewers, Zanzibar pizza (!), snacks, local beer, exotic fuits and desserts. The hawkers can be a bit pushy, but do not let that annoy you too much. The food is great!See detail page
The Darajani Bazaar is the main market in Stone Town and specializes in food (seafood, meat, fruits, grains, spices), but there are also shops selling a number of different goods, from touristy curios to consumer electronics. The covered meat and fish sections are worth checking out. The colours, the smells and the way the butchers go about their cutting are something completely different from the Western world ;)
Go early to see the wet market in full swing.See detail page
This converted museum used to be the Sultan’s Seyyid Said’s palace and gives an interesting insight in the Zanzibari royal family in the 19th century. It contains a few valuable items Sultan's family left behind, deals with the international trade affairs of the Sultanate of Zanzibars and shows Sultans' furniture and various modern amenities that were introduced to Zanzibar under Sultan Barghash. It includes the living quarters of Sultan Khalifa II bin Harub, and his two wives, each of whom had very different tastes in furniture ;) The exibition is dusty and out-dated but nevertheless informative for an hour or so.
Do not miss the wonderful view from the balcony.See detail page
The Sultan built the House of Wonders to show off: it has marble floors and was the first building in Stone Town with electricity and the first in East Africa with an elevator. The front door was made wide enough so it could fit an elephant! It is still one of the grandest structures on Zanzibar, but awfully neglected and in disrepair. You can only admire the House of Wonders from the outside, it not safe to enter anymore.😢See detail page
This massive, bastionned structure is the only major Arab castle still standing in East Africa. It’s quite impressive from the outside, much less from the inside. It had different uses from a prison to a tennis court and you can feel that they haven’t found the new ‘it’ yet. The current main feature is an open-air amphitheater. I had a lot of fun watching the finals of Zanzibar’s break dance competition, check for any scheduled local shows and events to enjoy the fortress in a non-touristy way.See detail page
Just before the rainy season hits the island, it is so hot and humid that it’s totally impractical to be outside between 11 AM and 4 PM.
1. Urojo at the Night Market, a mix of potatoes, fritters, coconut chutney and lemon/mango sauce.
2. The funny tourist boat names.
3. The best coffee and cake in Stone Town, at Zanzibar Coffee House.