Zanzibar Island: Top 5 things to do and see

Exploring the Top five Things to do in Zanzibar Island in just one day! Follow me as I take you through this journey through the gorgeous island of Zanzibar.

Top things to do in Zanzibar!

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island of Tanzania off Dar-es-Salaam. It is easy reachable by boats ($ 80 return travel) and by aircrafts (20 minutes flight time). It is important to carry your passport as you enter the island, otherwise things can turn difficult like they did for me :)

The beautiful island has lots to offer to everyone - fantastic street food, amazing street life, gorgeous beaches and Great Bazaars to explore the local way of living. There was a time when Zanzibar was believed to be an extremely expensive holiday destination, but not anymore. It can be done on a backpacker's budget as well and I can say that with my personal experience :)

1. Walk the streets of Stone Town, and play with the kids :)

Outside the Madrassa...
Always a pleasure to click the kids :)

Stone Town is the oldest part of the island and also the most populated one. If you want to explore the life of island, and you must, you have to start with the Stone Town. This part is inhabited by people who have come and settled in Zanzibar in the last many centuries as well as the local Tanzanian people. Indians and Arabs have assimilated and also contributed significantly to the development of Zanzibarian culture.

For someone like me who loves street life so much, walking through the streets of Zanzibar was a dream coming true! There is activity at every street corner, and if you love street photography, its a wonderful place to be. People are generally very friendly, and its possible to have conversations with may people as many of them do speak English, though most the common language is Swahili.

I have always loved clicking children, and I got some fantastic opportunities to click them here. They are friendly, playful and full of energy - just like kids anywhere else in the world :)

2. Explore the local Bazaars

Haggling at the fruit market...

There are multiple Bazaars where the locals shop. As I visited them, I divided the most important ones into five different Bazaars based on what's sold there - Darajani Bazaar, Fruit Bazaar, Spices Bazaar, Fish Bazaar and finally Tourist Bazaar. Each market has something special to offer - the exotic fruits of fruits markets, the morning auctions at the fish market and so on.

All of these can be done on foot only and also within just one day. Most of these markets are also close by and often merge into one other. Markets are not just great place to walk around and take pictures, but also a great place for shopping. I recommend buying coffee here, which is also locally grown on the island - vanilla coffee is a popular pick.

3. Try out the excellent vegetarian street food and coffee

My favourite - Coffee :)

I am a vegetarian and whenever I visit a new place I try and locate the best vegetarian food in the area. Zanzibar, surprisingly, was super easy to do this. Some of the best vegetarian food to be tried on the streets include coffee, locals fruits, Indian pakodas and local Ice cream with fruits. The food is not available all at one place, but you need to explore the town to find these. I found most of them as I got lost looking for something else, often a coffee shop :)

I met the man above at a very small street-side coffee shop, and after a brief chat about India agreed to get his picture clicked :) By the way, if you love coffee, its easy to bond with the locals here who are always on the small street shops and drinking cups and cups of black coffee over long conversations.

4. Hunt the exotic, historical doors of Zanzibar

One of the oldest doors in the Stone Town

Just as you enter the old town, one of the things which strike first are the gorgeous doors of Zanzibar. Almost every single house is adorned with these beautiful wooden doors, which almost invite you to come inside. The colours and textures of these doors make them all very enigmatic, and many of them are preserved by the local body.

The doors in the town are of four key types, and the most important and common ones are the Arab and Indian doors - both visitors who came for trade to Zanzibar and then settled down a few generations ago. Its easy to identify these doors by the way they look. I couldn't do this, but if you visit the town and have time to meet some locals, please try and get into one of these old homes and come back here and tell me the story :)

5. Walk around and swim in the blue-green water of Zanzibar beaches

A young lad cycling on the beach!

Zanzibar is famous world over for its beaches. The white sand, blue-green water and beaches which are practically without any intruding crowd, make Zanzibar a favourite destination for all honeymooning couples.

This is changing now with all travellers who travel to Tanzania, certainly make it a point to visit the island, while many specially come to the country for Zanzibar. And one of the biggest attractions are the beaches. There are beaches on all sides of the island, and you can find party spots as well as solitude spots almost everywhere.

Beyond Zanzibar...

The popularity of Zanzibar often overshadows the popularity of some of the other islands in the vicinity. Some of the islands beyond the main island are:

  1. Mafia
  2. Pemba
  3. Mnemba
  4. Tumbatu
  5. Bongoyo & Mbudya

Read more about these islands in the article here. The only way to travel between these islands is by hiring boats, which can be a little expensive. I would not recommend going to these islands if you are short of time or money. But for visitors who plan a longer trip (a week or more) should certainly include some of these in the itinerary.

How to reach Zanzibar?

There are two ways of reaching the island:

  • Air: its a short 20 minutes flight from Dar-es-Salaam and that's a popular mode for most foreigners. Of course, flying in is more expensive. The airport here also has flights from Europe, East Africa and Middle east. Read more about flights to Zanzibar here.
  • Boat: Boats are the mode used by locals as well as budget travellers. For a local it costs $ 15 and a foreigner pays $ 40 (one way). The boats are all air-conditioned and also serve food and some non-alcoholic drinks on-board. If you get sea-sick easily, you must be prepared for some tough times as the water can get rough without much warning (happened to our boat on the return trip).



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