40 Things to do in Zanzibar (Part 1)

By Mark Wiens 31 Comments

If you missed Part 2, check it out here!

The Zanzibar archipelago of islands is located in the Indian Ocean, about 25 km off the coast of Tanzania, East Africa. Unguja Island is the largest and most populous island, also referred to just as Zanzibar Island.

This list of things to do in Zanzibar only pertains to the island of Unguja.

1. Take a Ride on a Dhow – Traditional Sailboat

The traditional sailboats are called dhow’s. Hire a sailboat to enjoy a Zanzibar style cruise on the Indian ocean!

Tanzanian Dhow
Take a Ride on a Dhow

2. Jozani Forest Jozani Forest

Small adventures can be arranged through travel agents around Zanzibar to see birds and the famous Red Colobus monkeys that centrally dwell in the Jozani forest.

3. Jaws Corner Coffee Shop Jaws Corner Coffe Shop - Stone Town

Jaws Corner coffee shop in Stone Town is the ultimate place to drink a few cups of black coffee, chat with others and contemplate plans for the rest of the day.

4. Beit El-Ajaib (House of Wonders) Zanzibar House of Wonders

Built by Sultan Barghash as a ceremonial palace, the House of Wonders is now the Zanzibar National Museum. Not the most exciting museum, but it is a decent place to learn some of the history of the island archipelago.

Open 9 am – 6 pm Mon – Fri, 9 am – 3 pm Sat and Sun
Adults – 5000 TSH

5. Old Fort

The Old Fort was build by Omani’s in order to protect against the Portuguese. Now it is part of the Zanzibar Cultural Center and also offers a number of curio shops on the inside of the fort walls.

Old Fort Zanzibar
Zanzibar Old Fort

6. Spice Tour Zanzibar Spice Tour

A tourist oriented tour, yet it shows spices grown on the islands of Zanzibar like cloves, vanilla, nutmeg and all kinds of natural flavors everyone adores! Interesting tours that can be arranged at most hotels or tour agencies.

7. Zanzibar Pizza

Unlike any pizza you’ve ever had, this Zanzibari creation is more like a stuffed roti. Basic composition includes pastry dough filled with an egg and handful of pizza-like ingredients and then fried up in oil and margarine…TASTY!

8. Slave Market Old Slave Market - Zanzibar

From 1830 – 1873 it is estimated that around 600,000 slaves were traded from East Africa to Persia, Arab countries and Indian Ocean Islands. Today the old slave market is a solemn reminder.

9. Shop for Souvenirs and Antiques Shopping Zanzibar

Stone Town is full of curio stores and antique shops selling a huge supply of African handicrafts as well as unique gifts from Zanzibar. Zanzibar style wooden chests are among my favorites!

10. Zanzibar Butterfly Center

The Zanzibar Butterfly Center features a great display of butterflies in a beautiful tropical environment. For more information visit their official website.

11. Darajani Market Darajani Market - Stone Town, Zanzibar

Located on the edge of old Stone Town, Darajani market is a great local market to enjoy local sounds, smells, and flavors of local life.

12. Old Arab Ruins

Located all over the island of Zanzibar with a few sites close to Stone Town are historical ruins. Mbweni, Mtoni Palace, Maruhubi Palace and a series of old Persian baths make good historical day trips around Zanzibar.

13. Prison Island / Changuu Island

A 30 minute boat ride from Stone Town will get you to Prison Island Zanzibar. A quiet resort, a haven of giant tortoises and the old prison ruins make it a decent day trip.

A boat should cost $30 – $40 and can fit up to 12 people or so. There is an island park charge of $4 per person. One can easily arrange a ½ day trip including snorkeling from a hotel or tour agency.

Prison Island, Zanzibar
Things to do in Zanzibar – Prison Island

14. Lukmaan Restaurant Lukmaan Restaurant

Popular by locals and tourists searching for some of Stone Town’s best food, Lukmaan Restaurant serves a menu that isn’t far from perfection. Coconut vegetables, roasted bananas, stews, pilau and biryani, can all be washed down with some fresh passion or tamarind juice. Lukmaan is a must!

15. Beit El-Sahel (Palace Museum)

What was once the palace of the sultan, is now a museum displaying his role on Zanzibar.

16. Old Dispensary Zanzibar Old Dispersery

It was quite quiet the time I went in, but it is a very nicely preserved building, nice to see from the outside and have a quick wander around the interior.

17. Livingstone House

A house where David Livingstone stayed as well as many European missionaries spent time before setting off into continental Africa. Nowadays it is an interesting house to see and has become the office of Zanzibar Tourist Corporation.

18. Shakti Temple

An old Hindu temple catering mostly to the Indian community within the maze of alleys in Stone Town.

19. Mishkaki Skewers Mishkaki Kebab

Marinated skewers of succulent chicken and beef grilled over charcoal is a flavor to look forward to when visiting Zanzibar.

20. Kidichi Persian Baths Kidichi Persian Baths

Located just outside of Stone Town, the Kidichi baths were originally built by Sultan Said and used for freshening up and relaxing.

Click here to check out part 2

31 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Aleksandra

    7 years ago

    I stumbled upon your blog while traveling in Thailand. I think I read everything you posted about their food and had lots of fun watching your videos. I’m even more happy that in my next trip, this time to Zanzibar, I can still rely on your advise! Thanks sooo much!

    • Aleksandra

      6 years ago

      Hey Mark, it’s me again. I actually managed to sing up for a day cooking class at Lukman’s. It was great! Thanks for this recommendation.

  • Lulu

    8 years ago

    Hi Mark
    Thank you for the info, Zanzibar has always been one of my favorite destinations I would like to visit. Since I was a child , the name “Zanzibar” made me want to visit the place. the pictures show that it a beautiful place with lovely beaches. ????????????????

  • Thomas @ World Wild Travel

    11 years ago

    Great list of things to see and do. I’m currently in Stone Town and have found a few things to do tomorrow morning!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Hey Thomas, great to hear you’re in Stone Town, have a great time!

  • Anne

    11 years ago

    Hi Mark, I used to live in Zanzibar as a child and am very interested in its history. I love your photos. you have a great ‘eye’ for detail.
    Just a note: the slave market picture that you have included as no. 8. here is the underground chamber under St Monica’s Guesthouse. However this chamber was never used for slaves.
    The guesthouse fact it was built after the slave trade was stopped in Zanzibar in 1872 and had nothing to do with the slave trade. An expert on the architecture and history of Zanzibar, Prof. Abdul Sheriff has said, with proof ,that it was probably built for storage of medicines in 1905 and was never used for slaves. This fact does not detract from the history of slavery on the island of Zanzibar. But the need for tourists to have a shocking experience seems to have eliminated the facts of this case.

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Hey Anne, thanks so much for stopping by, great to hear you grew up in Zanzibar and are very interested in its history. Thanks for the added input about St. Monica’s Guesthouse, good to know that! I’ll try to update my info.

  • Vicky

    12 years ago

    One month today and I will be in Zanzibar doing as many of these suggestions as possible 🙂 Woohoo! Thanks for the tips!

    • Mark Wiens

      12 years ago

      Great to hear that Vicky, have an awesome time! Will you staying in Stone Town or on a beach, or both?

  • Lodhimy

    12 years ago

    Thanks Mark, greast info. Pls leave this crap on slavery aside. A lot of b…..s is written about it misleading visitors or capitalising on it.

  • Rebecca

    13 years ago

    Zanzibari pizza? Sounds delish!

  • crazy sexy fun traveler

    13 years ago

    some places sound really interesting, e.g. I would check out all the markets, the prison and butterflies…

    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      Thanks, I’m sure you would have a fantastic time!

  • Lily (Explore for a Year)

    13 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve never considered visiting Zanzibar before, but it looks heavenly. Gorgeous photographs, especially of the old fort and Prison Island.

    – Lily

    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      Thanks Lily! Though it’s a bit off the radar for many travelers, the island of Zanzibar is truly one of the most remarkable destination. Hope you get a chance to visit soon!

  • Tijmen

    13 years ago

    Zanzibar has always been one of the destinations I would love to visit. Always see and hear good things about it. You only have these dhow’s sailboats in Zanzibar right?

    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      Dhows can also be found all along the E. African coast. I think cruising on the Indian ocean in a dhow is one of my favorite things to do in the world!

  • Phil

    13 years ago

    Hey Mark,
    Great stuff. Looks like I need to go to Zanzibar! Link for part 2 not working though, unless I’m missing something…

    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      Thanks Phil! I’m sure you will love Zanzibar when you make it! I was just waiting till both articles are published, going to link them right now!

  • Katrina

    13 years ago

    I loved out trip to Zanzibar! Possibly my favorite beach in the world is in Kwale Island, off the coast of Unguja. The water is an amazing color. Hope to go back some day and check out some of the places on your list that we missed. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      Cool Katrina, I have never been to Kwale Island, that sounds incredible as well! There are so many cool islands and things to do around Unguja. Hopefully we can both get back to islands again soon!