The Spice Islands
With its palm-fringed white sand beaches, warm turquoise ocean water, and a rich history and culture, it's no wonder Zanzibar has become one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. Whether you want to explore the winding cobblestone alleyways of Stone Town or relax on the beach, Zanzibar offers the perfect respite for every traveler.
Zanzibar is made up of fifty islands off the coast of Tanzania. It is a place steeped in centuries of tradition. It is often referred to as a cultural melting pot due to its prominence as a major trading port during the 19th century as well as being one of the last open slave markets in the world. You'll find heavy Arabic, Indian, European and African influences in everything from the art and culture to the architecture. Arabic-style houses with their recessed inner courtyards rub shoulders with Indian-influenced buildings boasting ornate balconies and latticework, and bustling oriental bazaars alternate with street-side vending stalls.
Along the coast, village life remains very much the same as it has for centuries, bustling spice markets, white-sailed dhow boats and pristine palm-fringed white sand beaches.
Walking the winding cobblestone allies lined with Zanzibar doors, you will surely lose yourself in the magic and richness of this island culture.
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Geographically, the main island of Unguja is only around 40mks across and 100kms from north to south at its widest points. The island itself is fairly narrow, with a ridge running through its middle from north to south. Its eastern shores feature powder white sand beaches flanked by barrier reefs. On the western edge, the UNESCO world heritage site of Stonetown.
Nungwi - Right on the northernmost point of the island, the beach that surrounds this area is truly stunning. Stunning turquoise waters and white sands make a perfect postcard setting. There are a variety of accommodation styles available here from backpackers hostels to luxury villas. This bustling beach community provides lots to see and because of the number of hotels in the area, plenty of places to try for sundowners. Visitors should be aware that hotels built on the coral cliffs, you'll lose the beach at high tide.
Kendwa - Just down the road from Nungwi is Kendwa, the quieter neighbor to the west. Kendwa beach looks out onto Tumbatu island. This beach is good at all times of day and doesn't face the challenges the other beaches do of shallow beach causing the tide to retreat a fair distance. There is not quite the variety of accommodation as other areas
Paje - One of the more popular Southeastern beach towns on Zanzibar is Paje. It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy swimming in the ocean but also interacting with other travelers. There’s a good selection of bungalows, small restaurants, and beach bars. Paje is one of the better areas on the island to go if you are interested in learning how to scuba dive or try other water sports like windsurfing and kite surfing.
Matemwe - Matemwe village, on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar, looks out onto the island of Mnemba. Unlike most of the other beaches in Zanzibar, Matemwe has been able to remain relatively untouched by tourism. As with many of the beaches on Zanzibar, the high and low tide does have a great variance, but it is still possible to swim here throughout the day.
Kiwenga/Pongwe - Further south from Matemwe lies Kiwenga and Pongwe. The beaches are similar to most beaches on the eastern shore, forming a wide band of white sand exposing the seaweed farms. At high tide, the waves come right up to the edge of the palm trees. For those looking for simply some time on a beach and a great deal of privacy, this is possibly the best beach for you.
Pemba Island - Next, hop on a light aircraft or take the passenger ferry to conservative Pemba, in the archipelago's northerly reaches. Experienced divers and fishermen will love the challenges of the deep Pemba Channel, romantics will enjoy the comparatively quiet sandy stretches and naturalists can seek out a clutch of endemic species in the indigenous forest of Ngezi.
Time of year - Zanzibar is an equatorial paradise, with a warm climate and almost no seasonal variation (high temperatures are between 82 and 91 degrees F year-round). As such, the only consideration you need to account for when making Zanzibar travel plans is precipitation. March through May is the monsoon season, when the islands get about a twelve inches of rain per month. It's also the least touristy season, so plan accordingly
Transportation - you can arrive in Zanzibar by ferry or plane. Planes fly daily from either Arusha or Kilimanjaro airport. There are also international flights from Johannesburg and Nairobi. The ferry runs several times a day from Dar es Salaam and takes about 90 minutes.
Weather - 28.4°C / 83.1°F is the average sea temperatures off Zanzibar. There are 12 hours of daylight each day due to the islands location along the equator
Currency - The main currency is Zanzibar is the Tanzanian Shilling (Tsh) however, USD is widely accepted. Please note that USD notes must be printed 2003 or newer. Older notes are not accepted in Tanzania.
ATMs - There are several ATMs in Stonetown however many ATM's have a maximum withdrawal amount of 400,000Tsh per transaction which can cause the fees to add up rather quickly.
*Credit cards are accepted at major tourist spots and hotels.