Visiting Zanzibar is like going to a literal paradise here on Earth.
Okay, so this much we know: life is short, and the list of things to see and do is long, so better to get on our horses now and experience life, right? There’s no sense in waiting for the timing to be perfect or for retirement. The time to live is now.
Marrakesh. Casablanca. Havana. Zanzibar. What do all these exotic locales all have in common?
Yes, their names make you dance. In an instant you can taste them, hear them, touch them. Havana smells sweet with cigar smoke and the sounds of salsa music. Marrakesh wafts of hookah and bustling vegetable markets. But what about Zanzibar? What do you see, smell, taste, when you hear that word?
For me, I see the color turquoise. I see crazy-blue water, sugary beaches and fried fish for supper. I wiggle sand between my toes and replace my alarm clock with snorkel fins. When I think Zanzibar, I see, smell, and hear the sounds of paradise.
Why Zanzibar is Perfect for Everyone
The Zanzibar archipelago is truly one of Earth’s magical places. And while this island chain off the coast of Tanzania offers a wellspring of activities, Zanzibar also seems to encourage a “do-nothing” approach. You can arrive and spend all day, every day with activities: spice farm tours and visits to Stone Town, scuba diving and kayaking. Or, as soon as your plane touches down, you’re headed straight to the beach with a book, suntan lotion, and no agenda.
It’s your call. The glory of Zanzibar is this: adaptability. Zanzibar can adapt to anyone’s needs. Plus, it’s absolutely gorgeous. These islands meet you exactly where you are, so to narrow down any Zanzibar agenda, let’s commit the following five words to memory:
Five Words Everyone Traveling to Zanzibar Must Know
If you’ve ever heard of The Spice Islands, chances are it is referencing Zanzibar. Why? Omani Arabs colonized these islands in the late 18th century and they quickly planted acres of spices—starting with cloves—which transformed the islands into a worldwide hub for the spice trade. Vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. Sign up for a spice tour and you’ll sample all four of these potent spices. (source). Oh, and pssst: spices are great (and packable) gifts for loved ones! Interested in learning more about the spices of Zanzibar? Click here.
Pronounced “dow,” as in rhyming with “cow,” these elegant, traditional sailing vessels are seen all over Zanzibar. They are Arab-engineered boats with long, thin wooden hulls. As 98% of Zanzibar’s population is Muslim, dhows have been long been used here for transportation and cargo. Fun fact? Dubai recently built the world’s largest dhow at nearly 300 feet long, 33 feet high! (source) Most dhows you’ll find in Zanzibar are small and intimate, ideal for a romantic sunset cruise.
Zanzibar’s biggest attractions aren’t just world-class beaches but also bustling urban hubs like UNESCO-designated Stone Town. The island’s capital city is a must-see, with its tangled history of slave trade and colonial charades (Learn more about Stone Town). The Darajani Market is the city’s central heartbeat, so schedule a Stone Town tour and spend time weaving through this market. It literally bursts at the seams with burlap spices, drying fish, and textiles. Zanzibari merchants are especially kind, and they’ll welcome your patronage, so be sure and leave room in your luggage for gifts.
Zanzibar wouldn’t be the destination it is today without the crystalline Indian Ocean surrounding it, and all that lives beneath the surface. Over 500 species of marine life call Zanzibar’s coastal waters home, while bathtub-warm temperatures hover around 80 degrees year-round. So. Good. At Mnemba Atoll you’ll discover blue-spotted rays, bottlenose dolphins, and hundreds of other creatures to dive or snorkel alongside. Oh, and did I mention it’s a nesting ground for endangered green sea turtles? (source)
After an unofficial scouring of the planet for the most beautiful beaches on Earth, it’s conclusive: Zanzibar tops the podium. Anywhere you stay on the islands, (Where To Stay?) you’re bound to find your own patch of paradise. Easy Travel has worked on Zanzibar for decades to find the very best places to stay, and we often recommend Nungwi Beach, voted a Top 100 Beach on the Planet (source), as well as one of the island’s most swimmable beaches.
If you plan to visit Tanzania for safari or to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you would be remiss not to schedule some “dhow-n” time in Zanzibar. Flights are cheap, infrastructure is well-established, and Easy Travel can customize your island getaway in a flash, however you see fit. Whether it’s Stone Town and stand-up paddle boarding, spice hunting and scuba diving, or strictly books and suntans, the choice is yours.