Zanzibar comes with everything you would expect from an idyllic Indian Ocean Island – pristine beaches, beautiful resorts and endless blue skies. But what really sets it apart is everything just waiting to be discovered off the well-trodden tourist route – fascinating history, traditional lifestyles and welcoming people, which together make Zanzibar the ultimate holiday destination for those who to head off the beaten track.
Certain parts of the island are far quieter, less developed and more authentic. If you love the idea of wide empty beaches and a relaxed atmosphere, then the south-east coast of Zanzibar is the perfect place for you.
Getting lost in Stone Town is an essential part of your Zanzibar holiday. The maze of tiny roads paired with large crumbling buildings means it’s almost impossible to orientate yourself – but just embrace it and make the most of wandering along the streets while absorbing the beauty of the ornate carved wooden doors and vibrancy of local life.
Head into the Jozani Forest, a nature reserve and one of the only place in the world where you can see the red colobus monkey. There are a number of trails led by excellent local guides who will teach you about the forest’s fauna and flora.
Eat like a local
The daily bread in Zanzibar is chapati, which is served with most meals to mop up the sauce from a delicious octopus curry or even for breakfast with eggs.
Head to Jaws Corner Near St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Stone Town for a cup of strong black sugarless espresso, a sweet treat or two and some great conversation with the locals.
Biryani, a rice dish made with loads of spices and meat or fish, is one of the most popular meals in Zanzibar. Ask the locals for their favourite spot – or head to the restaurant with the most customers!
Experience authentic culture
While in Stone Town, it’s definitely worth strolling along the pier near Forodhani Gardens, which leads onto the main Stone Town beach. There is always a whirlwind of activity going on here – so take a seat and watch the dhows glide past and daily life unfold in front of you.
Learn more about the crafts Zanzibar is most famous for by visiting the textile workshops to see how the island’s fabrics are made, or visit the wood workshops to watch the beautiful carved doors and wooden beds being made.
Money saving tips
Don’t be afraid to bargain in the markets or in the local shops – in fact, the sellers expect it! Learning a few Swahili phrases will go a long way.
You may be approached by locals offering their services as guide for the day. You can take them up on this, or politely decline, but keep in mind that they tend to work on commissions and will take you to specific shops they have agreement with and get a cut from any sales. This may not always be the best or most value-for-money shop.
Remember to draw cash and exchange money when you’re in Stone Town, as it’s one of the only places with ATMs. You’ll be able to change money in the resort areas as well – but with less choice, the rates won’t be as good.