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Hotels in Zanzibar

An archipelago of paradise islands sitting just off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is a destination sure to evoke anyone’s spirit of adventure. It’s most famous for being the birthplace of Freddy Mercury. It was also the setting for the world’s shortest war (lasting less than 38 minutes), and provided a base for the explorer Dr David Livingstone when he launched his expeditions into East Africa.

Back in the 19th Century when Livingstone visited there were no hotels in Zanzibar. The Sultan let him stay in his house, and the building is now the headquarters of the Zanzibar Tourist Corporation. Since then hundreds of hotels have been built, most of them in and around the capital of Zanzibar Town, so unlike Livingstone you won’t have to rely on the kindness of sultans.

Zanzibar is made up of two main islands, and a huge number of smaller ones. Unguja Island is where most of the accommodation is. Pemba Island is quieter, with very few commercial buildings but with lots in the way of nature reserves and beautiful beaches. There aren’t many hotels on Pemba Island, although there are one or two luxury resorts specialising in diving and agritourism.

Zanzibar Town is where most of the hotels are, and most of the sights too. It was once an Arab capital, settled by Africans, which welcomed traders from around the globe. As well as exotic fruits and spices, the town also had a notorious slave market. Head to the Anglican Cathedral to learn about Zanzibar’s role in the slave trade: there’s a tour of the underground cells where slaves were kept before auction, as well as a memorial sculpture.

The historic centre, known as Stone Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The winding lanes are packed with stalls and curio shops selling everything, from headscarves to voodoo symbols. Some of the grandest buildings have been transformed into luxury hotels.

Wander along the waterfront and admire the palatial buildings. The grandest of all is 19th Century House of Wonders: the first building on the island to feature electricity.

One of the biggest reasons to visit Zanzibar is to enjoy the beaches, all of which are amazing. For the best coastline, head to the north east. Coastal coral reefs keep the bay calm and clear, while the deep shelves make it great for swimming and snorkelling.

Fishing villages and small resorts crowd this stretch, with the area around Kiwengwa proving particularly popular with Italian tourists. Plenty of large hotel chains have based themselves here, and there are plenty of B&Bs and independent hotels around Pongwe for those looking for a peaceful break.