Zanzibar 101: A Travel Guide with Away to Africa

Contributed by Away to Africa

Describing Zanzibar as a breathtaking tropical paradise is accurate, but it’s still an oversimplification for such a dynamically diverse and multifaceted place. Complement this image with a profoundly rich history, vibrant old-world city life, and a blend of cultures, all set against powdery white sand beaches, pristine blue ocean, and bright sunny days, and you will have a more accurate representation of what Zanzibar truly embodies.

A semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, Zanzibar is an archipelago nestled off the coast of East Africa. The local inhabitants, known as Zanzibaris, are predominantly Muslim. Swahili, English, and Arabic are the main languages spoken in Zanzibar. The name ‘Zanzibar’ traces back to Arabic and Persian roots, and translates roughly to “black coast” or “the coast where Black people live.”

Zanzibar comprises many small islands, in addition to two large ones – Pemba and Unguja. The capital, Zanzibar City, is located on Unguja, the main island, which is colloquially referred to as Zanzibar. Also situated on Unguja is Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrated for its rich history that includes European imperialism, an Arab ruling class, and the slave trade. In 1964, racial tension culminated in a revolution, with the exploited African majority overthrowing the Arab landowning minority.

Stone Town remains steeped in this compelling history. Today, it is a vibrant fusion of traditional African, Arabic, Indian, and European cultures, heavily influenced by Swahili and Islamic elements. It’s a bustling mosaic of activity, marked by narrow, winding, cobblestone streets, ornate doorways, and historic landmarks such as a former sultan’s palace.

A visit to Stone Town is also an aromatic adventure, with market stalls brimming with spices. Zanzibar, once known as the Spice Islands, is still referred to as such by locals due to its primary economic driver – the production of legendary spices, including cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg.

In stark contrast to Stone Town are Zanzibar’s northern villages, Nungwi and Kendwa. These seaside havens are popular tourist destinations. With warm weather year-round, Nungwi and Kendwa are renowned for their pristine beaches and tranquil ambiance. They are often cited as among the best places on Earth for relaxation and rejuvenation, away from everyday stress. In 2007, Nungwi Beach was voted the 5th best beach in the world by the UK newspaper, The Guardian.

Ocean lovers also frequent Nungwi for its exceptional diving opportunities. Visitors can be seen swimming with sea turtles, admiring bottlenose dolphins, and catching a glimpse of the elusive coelacanth fish, once thought to be extinct.

Regardless of what you’re seeking from a travel experience, Zanzibar undoubtedly has it all. 

Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite things to do, places to stay, and restaurants to dine at while visiting this mesmerizing wonderland that is Zanzibar. 


Abeid Amani Karume Airport

Named after the island’s first president, Abeid Amani Karume Airport is Zanzibar’s main international airport. It’s conveniently located a short distance from both Zanzibar City and beachside villages like Nungwi. The airport, with its three busy terminals, welcomes up to 1.5 million travelers a year and frequently receives chartered flights from Europe.


Nwungi Beach Studios

For budget-conscious travelers, Nwungi Beach Studios is a charming option offering clean, cozy, and affordable accommodations. This hotel features eight en-suite rooms and is just a short walk from the beach.

Nwungi Dreams

Nwungi Dreams is a boutique, resort-style hotel perfect for those seeking relaxation. Located on the northern tip of Nungwi, it offers a secluded retreat from the hustle and bustle of the village. This beautiful property is situated directly on the beach.

Bamboo Zanzibar

For travelers seeking a luxury experience, Bamboo Zanzibar is a contemporary oceanfront property designed by renowned Zanzibar-based architect, Lucas de Oteyza. The hotel’s innovative design blends its interiors with the surrounding cliffs, coastline, and ocean, creating a seamless indoor/outdoor ambiance.


Stone Town

This ancient trade center and UNESCO World Heritage Site is steeped in history. The narrow, winding, cobblestone streets of Stone Town are a vibrant mix of food, languages, religions, people, and architecture from African, Asian, Arabic, and European cultures. Take a stroll, absorb the atmosphere, and shop from local market vendors.

Spice Tour

A unique and relaxing experience, Zanzibar’s spice tours allow you to delve into the island’s main economic sector – its spices. You’ll explore spice plantations in Zanzibar’s Masingini Forest, learning about (and tasting!) the various spices and fruits grown on the island.

Safari Blue Tour

The Safari Blue Tour sea excursion takes you out onto the Indian Ocean on a traditional Arab sailboat known as a dhow. Onboard, you can enjoy tropical drinks and fresh seafood, as well as swimming, snorkeling, and viewing the stunning wildlife of Zanzibar. Don’t miss the chance to spot and possibly swim with dolphins!


Lukmaan in Stone Town

Lukmaan is a legendary restaurant offering the best of local Zanzibari cuisine. Open daily, this charming establishment offers dine-in, takeout, and delivery options.

Night Market in Stone Town

The nightly food market in Forodhani Gardens is a cultural feast where you can enjoy a variety of local delicacies. Vendors offer everything from fresh fish and grilled seafood to pizza, fresh fruit salads, and sugar cane juices. It’s also a great spot to simply hang out.

Cape Town Fish Market in Stone Town

This relaxed restaurant serves delicious seafood and sushi made with fresh ingredients. Overlooking the Zanzibar Port, it’s not only a great place to eat but also a lovely spot to unwind.

Beach Baby in Nungwi

Beach Baby is a laid-back dining spot with a rooftop bar that serves drinks and dinner. Known for its great food and sunset views, it’s also a fantastic place to grab breakfast at a reasonable price.

Z Hotel Rooftop in Nungwi

The rooftop of this luxury boutique hotel is the perfect place for indulgence. Unwind after a long day and watch the sunset while enjoying fine dining and drinks.

Upendo House in Stone Town

Designed for foodies who love fusion cuisine, Upendo House serves dishes made fresh with 100% local ingredients. The menu is an eclectic mix of Indian, Swahili, and Mediterranean gastronomy, and the location offers beautiful sunset views.



Away to Africa is a destination management company that orchestrates several travel experiences to Zanzibar, Tanzania, each year. Away to Africa also hosts trips to 14 other countries across Africa, including Ghana, Togo, Benin, Morocco, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, Nigeria, Madagascar, Egypt, Senegal, and Seychelles. Their personalized group travel packages encompass accommodation, gourmet traditional food, and cultural tours. An Away to Africa representative accompanies the group throughout the journey, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience 24/7.

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