72 Hours in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is the kind of place that's relaxing and rejuvenating while still possessing an eclectically vibrant urban feel. The tangle of alleys in Stone Town are a sharp contrast to the white sandy beaches and impossibly teal waters found mere minutes away. It's a place full of culture, religion, natural beauty and endless surprises. In short, it's pretty much heaven! Exotic beaches, electric energy and more succulent mangos than you could ever eat await you in Zanzibar!
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Kendwa Rocks

Kaskazini A, Tanzania

I can honestly say that few beaches have taken my breath away the way that Kendwa Rcoks did. It is seriously one of the most pristine and beautiful places! Take a dip in the warm sparkling teal waters, then grab a lounge chair under a thatched umbrella on the beach and watch the day slip away. There's a bar and restaurant nearby if need a pick-me up, but prepare for a day of ultimate relaxation in paradise.

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Mercury's Lounge Zanzibar

Mizingani Road near the Ferry Terminal

Did you know that Freddie Mercury lived in Zanzibar as a child? I didn't either before a visit to the island. But remnants of his time here are everywhere and many places are named after him. Mercury's is set directly on the beach and it's expansive patio is ideal for people watching while sipping an adult beverage. Be sure to read through the drink menu as some of the names and descriptions are seriously giggle-worthy!

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Dhow Palace Hotel

Kenyatta Rd, Bububu, Tanzania

I was floored by this hotel - it is gorgeous! Each floor and room of this place is filled with intriguing decorations and rooms feature AC and fans. Showers are giant tile Roman-style tubs (gah!) and the grounds are a perfect combination of whitewashed walls and lush greenery. A massive continental breakfast is included, it's centrally located and the staff is all too eager to help you with any and everything you need.

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Changuu Private Island Paradise

Prison Island, Zanzibar City, Tanzania

When in Stone Town, be sure to take the 30ish minute ferry ride from the beach over to Prison Island. This island has a little bit of everything - beaches, historical landmarks, animal refuge and even a hotel. Chill on the beach or tour the remains of the prison which was used in the 1800's as a yellow fever quarantine. Perhaps the highlight of the island though are the giant tortoises that live there, some of which are hundreds of years old!! You can feed them bunches of spinach and even hold some of the young (re: small) ones.

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Masingini Forest

Masingini Forest, Tanzania

Located less than 10km from Stone Town, Masingini Forest sits on the highest point of the island and is a symbol of conservation. Most of Zanzibar island has been clearcut for agricultural purposes and Masingini stands as a nature preserve for hundreds of species of flora and fauna. There are hiking trails through the forest and guided tours available to learn about conservation efforts.

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Old Fort

Mizingani Rd, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania

The Old Fort of Zanzibar has become something of a beacon of activity in Stone Town. It's the oldest structure on the island, dating back to the 1600's and today hosts nearly daily cultural activities and performances. It's a gathering place, starting point for many tours of Stone Town and the surrounding countryside and a lovely place to wander on a lazy afternoon near the water.

Eco and Culture Tours

Hurumzi St, Tanzania

There's no shortage of guided tour operators in Zanzibar. Of all those you can pick from, I highly recommend Eco and Cultural Tours. Their focus on sustainable tourism and insistence on hiring locals and paying a living wage is what sold me. They can set up any type of tour for you, from ocean sailing excursions, to spice tours and dolphin watching cruises.

Kizimkazi Mosque

Zanzibar City, Tanzania

Kizimkazi Mosque is actually located in Dimbani, a village not far from Kizimkazi. This mosque is considered to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest Islamic mosque in East Africa. It's humble look and modest vibe hide it's long history through centuries of settlement on the island. Ladies, be sure to bring a head scarf if you plan on entering the mosque.

Spice & Stone Town Tour

1261, via dunga, Tunguu,, Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you visit Zanzibar and don't go on a Spice Tour, I honestly think you have done yourself a disservice. You will learn so much on these tours, get to see some of the countryside, visit local farms and see how many on Zanzibar make their living. Half and full days tours are available and be sure you come hungry because at the end of the tour you'll get to try tons of fruit and buy some spices from the farm to take home.

Darajani Market

Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania

Few things help you get an inside look into a new city like a stroll around a local market. Darajani is in the heart of Stone Town and is always bustling with activity. It's a blast to the senses and is the perfect place to grab some mangos, bananas, spices or local handcrafts. While it can feel a bit chaotic and claustrophobic at times, it's well organized by type of product and is a fantastic way to delve deeper into life in Zanzibar.

This place is ideal for those looking to get a bit off the beaten path in Zanzibar. The east coast beaches of Matemwe are far less crowded than those in the south or north and offer true island solitude. Seriously, could the sand be any more powdery white?! You won't want to leave this quiet side of the island where snorkeling is endless and days end with fresh fish grilled on the beach and local beers in hand.

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Nakupenda Beach

Indian Ocean Apartments, Mwaya St, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Ever wonder what it would be like to be stranded on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean? A trip to Nakupenda Beach will give you a taste of just that. From Stone Town, hop on a boat on the beach (you can combine with a trip to Prisoner Island if you want) and head for the open water. This strip of sand gets larger as the tide rolls out and while it feels abandoned, there are almost always locals grilling fish on the beach. Be sure to slather on the sunscreen as there isn't any shade cover on the island.

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Forodhani Gardens

Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania

Chances are, you'll wander through Forodhani Gardens dozens of times during your stay in Stone Town - the latticework of roads and alleys are so confusing that you'll often end up here by mistake over and over again. However, views of the water are spectacular and on any given night there are food vendors grilling or frying up the day's catch with local music to accompany.

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Kiwengwa caves

Kaskazini B, Tanzania

I've always been a huge proponent of getting subterranean whenever possible in a new destination. There is something magical about heading underground that can't be beat. When on the east side of the island, don't miss Kiwengwa Caves, a very low-key and lesser known attraction. Not many people visit, so chances are you'll have a private tour to learn about the geological history of the island.

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House Of Wonders

Mizingani Road, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

For good primer course in all things Swahili history and culture, the House of Wonders is the place to go. The building is the one of the largest and is the tallest on the island and is placed prominently near Forodhani Gardens and the main beachfront. It was originally built as a ceremonial hall and had the first elevator in East Africa.

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Zanzibar Ferry Terminal

Malindi Rd, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania

Don't be fooled, the Ferry Terminal is actually a beach from which you can hire small boats for an hour or a day. From here you can easily access Prisoner Island or any number of other small islands off the coast of Stone Town. But more than a boat hub, this beach is a wonderful place for people watching. You'll no doubt be approached by local vendors selling everything from coconuts to sunglasses, which will only help immerse you in the beach vibes of Stone Town.

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Tembo House Hotel

Forodhani St, Stone Town, Tanzania

This waterfront hotel is spectacular. Rooms are spacious and the staff is incredibly friendly and attentive. BUT, the main draw of Tembo House, even if you aren't staying here, is the restaurant. The expansive patio flows seamlessly into the beach and evening dining here is punctuated by candlelight and a gorgeously lit courtyard and pool.

Livingstone House

Malawi Rd, Zanzibar Town, Tanzania

Dr. Livingstone I presume? This house, from the 1800’s, was a starting point for many European explorers heading into the depths of the African continent. David Livingstone was one of the most famous of them all and he used this house as a home-based on several occasions. After he died in Zambia while searching for the source of the Nile, his body was brought back to Zanzibar. Today the building is home to the Zanzibar Tourist Corporation.

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The Z Hotel Zanzibar

PO Box 4807, Nungwi, Tanzania

Centrally located and right on the beach in Nungwi, Z Hotel is a true slice of luxury. The grounds are posh and lush without any hint of pretentiousness. Even if you aren't a guest here, you must visit and chill on the deck with a cocktail! They have a great happy hour and watching sunset from here is the stuff of magic!

Shiv Shakti Temple

Hurumzi St, Tanzania

While Stone Town is full of churches and mosques, I was quite surprised to run into a Hindu Temple while wandering the alleys. It's not a huge or overly elaborate temple, but I love visiting places of worship for their peace and calm. It's a great place to pop into during a day walking around Stone Town and grab a moment of silence.

Beautiful Eyes

hurumzi 223, Stone Town, Zanzibar City 3164, Tanzania

For those looking to sharpen their photography skills or learn how capture the spirit of Zanzibar, a photo walk or workshop with Beautiful Eyes might be in order. This small shop arranges walks through Stone Town and offers advice on local customs and how to approach locals you may want to photograph.

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Safari Blue Tours

P.O.Box 4056 | Zanzibar Sand Bank, Tanzania

Want an unforgettable day in Zanzibar? Hit up Safari Blue Tours and arrange a day of sailing around Menai Bay to the SW of the island. It'll be a day full snorkeling, swimming and dolphin watching. Oh yeah, did i forget to mention the DOLPHINS?! It is so incredible to see them in the wild swimming alongside your boat. Snacks and drinks will provided all day long as well.

Obama Beach

Zanzibar, Tanzania

For a taste of local nightlife, Obama Beach (yes, it's named after President Obama, but no, it has absolutely nothing to do with him) is a great option. They blair dance tunes until the early hours of the morning and know how to throw a great party. It's situated right on the beach in between Kiwengwa and Pongwe and there are beach bonfires on an almost nightly basis!

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As home to one of the last populations of Red Colobus Monkeys in the world, Jozani Chwaka is a very special place. There are trails that take you meandering through the jungle and guides will point out plant species along the way. The Monkeys are the main draw though - they're friendly, active and you can hear their calls throughout the forest. A visit here is a bit on the rugged side, but it's a great contrast to the chaos of Stone Town.

Rooftop Restaurant

Baghani St, Tanzania

Prepare yourself for stunning skyline views of Stone Town from the Rooftop Restaurant. Admittedly, the food here isn't the absolute best in town, but the views are! It's a wonderful place to kick back for a few hours around sunset, sip a cold drink and watch as Stone Town winds down for the day.

Last updated at Oct 24, 2015