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Things to do in Zanzibar

If you are planning on a thrilling vacation to East Africa, Zanzibar, Tanzania is the place to visit. With its picturesque beaches and fascinating history and culture, the place is sure to amaze you with its splendor. Located on the coast of Tanzania, the Zanzibar Archipelago includes more than fifty islands. There are many things to do in Zanzibar that will keep you amused throughout your vacation.

Zanzibar Tanzania

The abundance of natural beauty and cultural sights on the islands are rewarding. Guided tours are available to experience the real taste of East Africa. There are plenty of exciting things to do in Zanzibar for those who have a thing for history and architecture. Visiting the Stone Town is of them. When in this historic town, be sure to visit the Palace Museum, the Arab Fort, the House of Wonders and Dr. Livingstone’s House. Besides that you’ll be able to see the bustling Zanzibar market, countless mosques, cathedrals and winding alleys. There are some great gift shops here. Buying souvenirs and local handicrafts from the shops in Stone Town is in fact one of the most popular things to do in Zanzibar. A tour to the harem of Sultan Barghash at Marahubi should be on your list of things to do in Zanzibar if you are interested in learning about the history and lifestyles of rulers. Other than that tourists can also visit the Prison Island. The place was used as a site for keeping slaves who misbehaved. It is located in close proximity of the Stone Town. The place is fringed with beautiful coral reefs and beaches where you can see giant tortoises. Be sure to add this place to your list of things to do in Zanzibar; you’ll have a great time here.


Places to visit in Zanzibar


If you are looking for fun places to visit in Zanzibar, don’t forget to visit the spice plantations. Spices like cinnamon, pepper, cloves and nutmeg have a deep connection with the history of this region. These spices were brought by the Sultans of Oman during the period of slave trade. Tourists can see these plantations outside the Zanzibar town and get a chance to dazzle their senses with fresh spices. Learning about the use of these spices in different ailments is one of the most popular things to do in Zanzibar. Jozani Forest is another great place to visit in Zanzibar. The forest is located in the central eastern region of Zanzibar Island. Tourists visit the forest mainly to see the rare species of the Red Colobus Monkey. For beach lovers, visiting the northern coast should be on top of their list of things to do in Zanzibar. Tourists can see some great beaches here. Besides that, the place offers tremendous diving and snorkeling opportunities for those who like to indulge in adrenaline rushing activities. When in Zanzibar, be sure to visit Kizimkazi village located on the southern part of the island. Tourists can take a short boat trip from here and get a chance to see bottle-nosed dolphins here. It’s truly a rewarding experience!

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Built between 1870 and 1888, Hamamni Persian Baths were the first public baths constructed in Stone Town, Zanzibar. The historical building was used for the same purpose until 1920. Today, Hamamni Persian Baths are one of the most famous tourist attractions of Zanzibar because of their architecture and history. The name ‘Hamamni’ comes from the neighborhood where the historical building is located. The baths were referred to as Persian because the architects who worked on the construction project were from Shiraz, an Iranian city.

The building has a complex structure with several rooms used for different purposes. The structure contains underground water pipelines that were used to carry water to hot and cold baths. Hamamni Persian Baths, which were constructed on the order of a Sultan named Barghash bin Sid, were mainly used by wealthy Zanzibaris because of the entrance fee.
Situated right across from the Zanzibar Cultural Arts Center, Hamamni Persian Baths are definitely worth a visit. Today, although there’s no water inside, the baths are a good place to escape midday heat and dry air. Some parts of the historical building are now being used as private residences while others remain open to the visitors.

Also known as Ithnashiri Dispensary, the Old Dispensary is located on the seafront, halfway between the harbor and the Palace Museum. The historical building is one of the most well-built and well-decorated buildings of Stone Town, Zanzibar. The building owes its name to the fact that its ground floor was used as a dispensary in the early 1900s by an Indian merchant named Haji Nasser Nurmohammed.

In 1990, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture was given the responsibility to restore the building. This was the time when the Tanzanian government was working on the renovation of all the historical buildings located in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
The Old Dispensary is infamous for its unique structure which has characteristics of European, Indian, and traditional Zanzibari architecture. The wooden carved balconies adorned with colorful decorative glass are a trademark of traditional Indian architecture.

On the other hand, the main structure which is constructed using coral rag and limestone reflects the influence of Zanzibari architecture on the historical building. The inside of the Old Dispensary is just as sophisticated as its interior. The building has a vast covered courtyard and carved bridges connecting the two floors of the structure.
Because of its unique architecture, the building receives thousands of tourists every year and has also won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Regarded by many as the most beautiful building of Zanzibar, the House of Wonders houses the city’s Museum of History and Culture. The building which was built in 1883 as a ceremonial palace for a Sultan remains the tallest and largest building in Stone Town, Zanzibar even today. Since this was the first building in Zanzibar to have electric lights and lifts, the residents of Zanzibar instantly named it Beit el Ajaib, meaning Palace/House of Wonders.

With its magnificent tiers of slender steel pillars and spacious balconies, the building looks grand and catches the eye of tourists at the first glance. The structure of House of Wonders is influenced by both European and Tanzanian architecture. The mangrove ceilings, wide central yard, and elaborate wood carvings on doors add to the majestic beauty of the museum.

In addition to the architecture, the ancient artifacts displayed in the museum are also a prime attraction for tourists. The museum exhibits portraits of Zanzibari Sultans, ceremonial kangas, ancient fishing tools, and many other objects of historical value. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 tourists and Tanzanian residents visit Zanzibar to see this massive architectural masterpiece. The number reflects the building’s importance to the tourism industry of the country.

Exploring a country’s history is always a fascinating experience, especially when it’s presented in an organized manner in a museum. Peace Memorial Museum is one of those very few museums in the world that provide their visitors a chance to explore history in the pleasantly quiet and peaceful environment of an island. Designed by a British architect named JH Sinclair, the domed building of museum was inaugurated in 1925 as a memorial to those deceased during the World War I.
Located in the cultural heart of Zanzibar Island, Stone Town, Peace Memorial Museum exhibits a magnificent collection of artifacts from the age of Sultans and Chinese explorers.

In addition to this, the exhibits of Peace Memorial Museum include an old palm oil powered bicycle lap and medical chest of Living Stone, a Scottish Congregationalist and explorer. The museum also has a lush green garden where tourists can sit down to take a break and enjoy the natural beauty of Zanzibar. The garden is home to land tortoises and a variety of floral plant species. To conclude, Peace Memorial Museum is a perfect place for those who want to explore Tanzania’s history during their tropical beach holiday in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar, which is often referred to as a tourist heaven, is infamous for its magnificent white sand beaches and clear blue waters. In addition to the natural beauty, the island is also home to some of the most stunning manmade landmarks which add to Zanzibar’s tourist appeal. The Old Fort of Zanzibar is one of such landmarks that attract thousands of tourists every year because of their distinctive architecture. The Old Fort, which is also known as the Arab Fort, was built in the 17th century with the purpose of protecting the island from the Portuguese armies.

The fort, which was also used as a prison, was transformed into a ladies’ tennis club by the British. Today, it mainly serves the purpose of Zanzibar’s art and culture center. Due to its open-air, artistic environment, the fort has been used as the screening venue for the International Film Festival. The open-air theater hosts several contemporary and traditional music, dance, and drama performances every month.

In order to better serve the tourists, various arts and craft shops, a café, and bookshops have also been established in several rooms of the fort. The Tower Workshop, which is located in the west tower of the Old Fort, displays a stunning collection of artifacts prepared by local craftsmen. So, pay a visit to the Old Fort of Zanzibar to explore the historical ruins and attractions of this 17th century architectural masterpiece.

Located to the north of Zanzibar, Pemba is a largely undiscovered island lined with mangroves and lagoons. Pemba’s terrain is hilly and fertile, planted with various fruit and spice trees, particularly cloves, bananas, and coconut trees.
With untouched coral reef, abundant marine life, and steep drop-offs, Pemba Island is one of the top destinations for diving and snorkeling in Tanzania. Untouched and beautiful in every way, Pemba Island is mainly visited by individuals who come to dive, snorkel and relax in the secluded atmosphere of the island.

70% of the island’s population resides in Chake Chake, the largest town of Pemba Island. Chake Chake also boasts a museum, a small airport, and several cafes and restaurants. The island also hosts a bullfighting event every year, which is an import from the Portuguese. In addition to this, tourists can also spend their time visiting archeological sites of the island, such as Ras Mkumbuu, Mkama Ndume, and Chwaka ruins.

The best time to visit Pemba Island is during the dry season, from July through to late October. The place receives heavy rains in April and May and should therefore be avoided in these months. Pemba Island can be accessed via flight from Dar es Salam, Zanzibar, and Arusha.

Lying only 160 kilometers south of Tanzania’s tourist heaven, Zanzibar, Mafia Island remains one of the most secluded tourist attractions in Tanzania. With white sandy beaches, dazzling clean waters, and lowland rainforests, Mafia Island can rightly be called the hidden gem of the Indian Ocean. Mafia Island’s coastline is protected and, unlike the two neighboring islands, Zanzibar and Pemba, the beach is littered with spiny mangrove roots and floral debris, exactly the way it was when it was first discovered. The island offers the perfect laidback, relaxed environment for individuals who are looking to enjoy a peaceful vacation with family or friends.

Since Mafia Island is located between the Rufiji River and the Indian Ocean, it has an unparalleled variety of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. The place is famous for scuba diving, snorkeling, and deep sea fishing. In addition to this, Mafia Island offers a host of land activities, including guided excursions, picnic daytrips, bird watching, and road safaris.
With two airlines providing regular service from Dar es Salam to Kilindoni airport, getting to Mafia Island is very convenient. The flight to Mafia Island takes about 30 minutes only and costs 69 to 110 USD, depending on the airline.

The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, or the ZBC, was built to preserve the natural habitat of these delicate and beautiful insects and offered impoverished members of society a chance to earn an honest living by working in the Centre. The butterfly farming trade is maintained quite well by the staff and boasts a beautiful garden which attracts tourists and locals in droves every year. Finances to maintain the Centre are generated by exporting the pupae of these magnificent insects abroad, along with some attractions that are mesmerizing to visitors.

The Centre is a tourist attraction as well as an NGO and can be found right near Jozani National Park, which is based on an island called Unguja. The exhibit comprises of literally countless species of butterflies, all of which can be found on Zanzibar living in the wild. The large and well maintained enclosure offers visitors both a visual and an interactive experience, allowing them to learn more about these stunning but delicate creatures. The revenues that are generated with such activities are utilized to maintain the reserve and for other local projects that can benefit the community such as alleviating poverty. The Centre also works closely with a number of charities and environmental organizations.