Whisper the word and I promise it will set sand between your toes. Go ahead. Give it a try. Close your eyes, say Zanzibar, see what emerges. For me, first I smell spices. Then a gentle, onshore breeze guides me further towards the Indian Ocean where I begin to hear lapping waves until my feet reach a powdery beach. Finally, bathtub-warm water wraps around my ankles and an agreeable tidal tug invites me to swim, to jump in.
Are you ready to jump into Zanzibar? We are.
When planning to visit one of the single most beautiful islands on the planet, we understand that you want to plan it right. But where do you start? Where do you stay? There are innumerable hotels and different sides to the island, so how do you begin?
In truth, Zanzibar acts much like its own little world. It’s the largest island in an archipelago 23 miles off the Tanzanian coastline. The grouping is a constellation of islands with a dramatic history of colonialism, independence, and foreign influence. And beaches.
The best place to start when getting acquainted with Zanzibar is to think like a compass. Let’s start with ours pointed north. We’ll spin clockwise around the island to give you an overview of what to expect in every region. By the end you’ll have a much stronger idea of where to stay.
Sound good? Okay, let’s jump in.
Starting at the northern-most tip you’ll find Nungwi. This is a large village that offers a smattering of waterfront hotel and guesthouse options fairly close together. If you’re looking to rub shoulders with other travelers, this is an excellent option. There are accommodation options on both sides of the peninsula.
On the northeast side of Zanzibar you’ll discover a long, unending beach with beautiful accommodations, all nudged up to some of powdered-sugar sand. This is where most upper-end hotels are located. If you’re a diver the northeast is closest to Mnemba, a popular offshore diving site.
Further south you will reach some more jaw-dropping beaches with larger, garden-style resorts. Most are all-inclusive packages that exist along this idyllic beach, and all provide stress-free grounds to relax, eat and drink, and play in the sun. There is a Forest Reserve nearby, too.
While most visitors to Zanzibar head straight for the beaches, you will not want to miss Stone Town’s charm. The Old Town is designated a UNESCO site and its labyrinthine streets reveal a tapestry of rich architecture, history, and flavors. It’s worth of a day trip, at least, but consider staying a night to get the full experience.
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