Zanzibar Island, also known as Unguja, is by far the largest and most famous of the islands that make up the Zanzibar Archipelago. Zanzibar has such a diverse coastline that there are plenty of different experiences across the main island, from vibrant culture in the south to idyllic barefoot luxury in the north. There is plenty to see beyond stately palm trees, white beaches and water the colour of malachite – we’ve collected the best places to visit based on our numerous visits (and you can read here for the best time to visit Zanzibar).
Off the main island are also a series of much smaller islets that offer a more exclusive, away-from-the-crowds experience and are perfect for honeymooners and romantics. We take a look at where to go in Pemba, Mafia, Chumbe and Mnemba below.
First, a look at the different areas of Zanzibar, where to go and what to expect at each:
Zanzibar East Coast: home to the island’s best and most idyllic beaches, the east coast is home to a wide range of lodges and hotels but the tidal aspect of the Indian Ocean may mean you have walk to go swimming or snorkelling.
Zanzibar North Coast: as a rule, the further north on Zanzibar you go, the more private and less crowded the beaches are. The north coast is also least affected by the tidal range.
Zanzibar North-east Coast: the island’s prime location, most of Zanzibar’s top-end accommodation is set on the north-east beaches. The diving is excellent here, there’s not much tidal variation and the archipelago’s best reefs of Mnemba Island lie about a kilometre or half a mile offshore.
Zanzibar South Coast: the further south you go on Zanzibar, the more populated it becomes. And with people, comes culture – head south for cultural and spice tours along with more opportunities to engage with the locals.
Zanzibar South-East Coast: there are plenty of beaches and resorts on the south-east of Zanzibar but the tidal range is more marked than other regions.
Zanzibar West Coast: there are fewer lodges on Zanzibar’s west coast and it feels a little more remote but it is, of course, home to Stone Town, located on the island’s central-west coast.
Stone Town: Zanzibar’s historical capital No visit to Zanzibar would be complete without exploring the narrow, cobbled streets of Stone Town, a World Heritage Site and former capital of the main island. There are several places of interest scattered around town, not least Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), a former sultan’s palace. Absorb the history, culture and cuisine of this former slave and ivory port on guided tours, or simply wander around at your own pace.
Zanzibar’s ‘Other’ Islands
Some of the best places to go in Zanzibar take you even further into the African island experience. The Zanzibar Archipelago is dotted with spots that have never made it onto the global map – we love sharing these secret treasures with clients who enjoy an authentic and laidback beach vacation.