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Indian Ocean holidays on the exotic 'spice island'
The Zanzibar archipelago is a jewel in the Indian Ocean, just 60 miles off Africa's east coast. Few names evoke such a romantic image as the main ‘spice island’ of Zanzibar. The capital, Stone Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a fascinating maze of narrow streets, while on the east coast pristine beaches beckon visitors to the reef-protected warm waters as traditional wooden dhows sail by. Across from the main island, the small sister island of Pemba offers away-from-it-all escapes.
Zanzibar holiday highlights
Zanzibar is reached by a two-hour boat journey from Dar es Salaam or the recommended short flight from Dar es Salaam or Nairobi. The historic part of Zanzibar’s capital (Zanzibar Town) is Stone Town – UNESCO World Heritage listed and the cultural heart of the island. This coastal city is a real mix of cultural influences, with labyrinthine alleyways, Sultan’s palaces, weathered historic buildings, intricate architectural details and bustling curio stalls – a real assault on the senses. Visit the House of Wonders, Stone Town’s largest building, built in 1883 for the second Sultan of Zanzibar, and now a museum dedicated to Zanzibar’s history and culture. Wander around the old forts and vibrant markets, and visit the site of the former slave market. Then head to one of the rooftop restaurants for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
Stone Town makes for a great day or two of exploration, but the ‘stay longer’ reason here is Zanzibar’s stunning palm-fringed beaches, lapped by warm Indian Ocean waters. The perfect tonic following a safari, or a beach holiday in its own right, Zanzibar’s beaches offer something special. Amongst the island’s best are beautiful Nungwi at the northern tip of the island, and Bwejuu beach on the south-eastern coast – voted one of the top island beaches by Condé Nast Traveller. Most of the beaches are around an hour away from the airport. Spend your days simply soaking up the sun, enjoying pampering spa treatments, indulging in wining and dining, trying your hand at watersports or snorkelling amongst the colourful corals.
Stone Town is where you’ll find Zanzibar’s main cultural sightseeing, but it’s worth taking a tour of the traditional farms, which grow cloves, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. The experience is undoubtedly popular with holidaymakers, but it’s a real sensual insight into the spices that have such an influence on the local cuisine.
The closest national park to Zanzibar is Selous, approx. one hour 45 minutes’ flight away. But all national parks and reserves can be easily reached via a short flight or two and a road transfer so any of our Kenya or Tanzania safaris can be extended with a Zanzibar beach stay.