Zanzibar is the ideal destination after a few days of safari, Maasai culture and nature walks in Tanzania. In this post we explain you how we lived our trip, and we make you a list of must-see in Zanzibar in 10 days.
The island of Zanzibar is very different from mainland Tanzania, and has all the ingredients to enjoy a few days of relaxation for those seeking tranquility, and to feed the “explorer self” of all those who want to discover incredible places beyond the beaches, meet authentic villages, or diving.
Among its differences, there is a very relevant one at a cultural level, which is that the majority of its population is Muslim, unlike mainland Tanzania, where the population is mostly Christian. This detail makes the clothing, decoration, food, routines and customs, its history or its temples of worship are very different, and suddenly, it seems that in the same trip you live two totally different destinations.
The blue waters, fine white sand and waves for the more adventurous make it an ideal place to end the trip to Tanzania with a few days of sun and beach. But there is much more, so in this post we explain what to see in Zanzibar in 10 days.
Stone town (2 days/1 night) :
The first stop was in Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We stayed 2 full days, and we found it to be enough. The charm of Stone Town is, in large part, its history full of miscegenation and decadence, and how it invites you to get lost in its narrow, labyrinthine streets full of craft stores and local products. One of Raquel’s passions is to know the typical clothing and fabrics of the places where we go, and this is precisely something we recommend in Stone Town: go into the fabric stores and enjoy everything they make with their kitenges.
To tell the truth, in Stone Town we were a bit overwhelmed at first by the people and the tourist hunters. In all honesty, what is beautiful about the city is also overwhelming as it is full of tour and experience peddlers. They offer you everything: safaris in the Serengeti, visits to the famous bank sands (sandbanks that disappear with the tides), visits to see huge turtles brought from the Seychelles, and everything they can.
But its streets, market and locals make Stone Town one of the mandatory stops in Zanzibar if you stay 10 days. And if not, look at the pictures, it is really a city with a lot of charm. And don’t miss the sunsets on their terraces! Two top places: The Sunset Bar at the Africa House and The Beach House Restaurant. And for lunch, you can’t miss the Emerson Spice Secret Garden restaurant: marvelous!
Stone Town is a must on your list of things to see in Zanzibar in 10 days. Although after two days of being there we wanted to leave to explore the island from end to end, if you have a more cosmopolitan profile, you like to wander the streets and discover terraces, clubs, hotels or restaurants, or you want to soak up its culture with its museums, this city is ideal to stay longer. We are more about nature!
Visiting the Southwest Zanzibar: Kizimkaze (2.5 days/2 nights)
The southwestern part of Zanzibar is one of the least touristic areas of the island.
We stayed in a hotel in front of the sea in Kizimkaze village, where we enjoyed wonderful sunsets every day. It is an ideal place if you want to escape from the typical route defined in the island, see a much more local and quiet part, and not get carried away by the myriad of tours that can get to sell you in other areas. Also, the funny thing is that from other areas of the island, they end up going on day trips to sandbanks in the south-west, so you’ll find locals who can take you and you’ll be right there. We explain below.
Our hotel was that resort .
Kizimkaze is ideal if you want to do the famous blue safari that consists of visiting paradisiacal islands (the secret islands), eating freshly caught lobsters and snorkeling in some of the beautiful coral reefs that the island has. Always in a respectful way, without touching them or taking anything home with you.
We did the Blue Safari directly with Dulah, a local we met or “met” in town, for a total price of 100 usd (all inclusive). Tip: they usually tell you to leave in the morning, but ask to leave earlier than the rest. We left at 8 am, saw dolphins along the way, and were alone on our sandbank for about 2 hours. We also had the advantage that we were closer than other boats that leave from other points of the island and go to the same area. Then, around 11 o’clock, other visitors began to arrive. Only three more boats came, but the luxury of being alone was also the grace of the day. So when you talk to your local guide, suggest that you leave before anyone else. Another tip: you can go by dhow, the traditional boats of the island, but that increases the cost a lot, not all the locals have one, and if they have to rent it from an owner, that also complicates things for them. We prefer to go with a simple boat, and do it directly with Dulah.
During the 3 days in Kizimkaze we also took the opportunity to rent a motorcycle and explore the surrounding area.
One of the activities we did was to visit the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. We went on our own, and the visit is well worth it. It is about $10 to $15, and you will be accompanied by a guide who will explain all the fauna and unique vegetation that lives there. It is the only national park on the island, and the only remaining redoubt of tropical forest, since most of the island’s tropical areas have been reduced by agriculture. It is about 50 square kilometers, where there is also an extensive mangrove area. But the main reason to visit this place are the Red Colobus. It is the only place in the world where this primate species lives. Their colors, the shape of their face, or their hands without thumbs make them very special. In addition, they are intolerant to the sugar in ripe fruit, so they essentially feed on plants, shoots, seeds and very green fruit.
Paje and Jambiani (3 days / 2 nights)
It is perhaps the area we liked the most: it is quiet, and the village part is very authentic. And besides, the hotel where we stayed we fell in love: super nice, super quiet, good food and with the best pools we have ever been. And your staff was unbeatable. It happens to us quite a bit when we travel to places like this, that we feel that hotel staff are “trained” to be insultingly gracious, too polite, too helpful. And we don’t like it at all. We don’t like to feel better or different. We don’t like to have our napkin taken away, or our chair pulled closer to us when we sit down. And neither that for fear of not knowing the answer, or going beyond the protocol, authenticity is lost. It happens a lot. Well, at the Mwezi Boutique resort that doesn’t happen. They treat you very well, but as equals. They have a sense of humor, they are true cracks in what they do, self-confident and without any kind of complex disguised as servitude, so rooted, unfortunately, to the African continent.
The hotel is located in Jambiani village, and you can book it here. And that’s not all. It is an ecological hotel: the cabins have natural ventilation, and are made and painted with ecological materials of low environmental impact. All the lighting is LED low consumption, they are supplied with solar panels to provide hot water, and reuse the water from the bathrooms to take care of all the landscaped areas. They want to be as self-sufficient as possible. This hotel is spectacular, both for its aesthetics and its staff and philosophy. It is, we would say, a beautiful place that respects the place where it is and applies environmental awareness in its facilities.
The hotel has several types of rooms, some facing the pool and others not, but they are all very cool. Plus, it feels like it’s never crowded (and it was!) there’s plenty of silence and privacy. Instead of cement or tiled floor, it has sand from the beach, so that all the time it gives you a feeling of relaxation and freedom, as if you were at the beach all day. During our stay we wanted to try different cabins, and we loved them all! It also has two swimming pools, one of which is more spectacular.
This area is ideal for kite surfing, as there are not many waves and the wind is quite strong. Xavi made the first steps of his life here. There are many hotels that offer kitesurfing courses or other activities such as dancing, you just have to search and even if your hotel does not offer activities, the neighboring hotel may offer them and they will welcome you without problems. We booked the kitesurfing at a little stop on the beach, next to the Sherazade Hotel, and Raquel was also able to book several hours of Afrodance with a private teacher who came from Stone Town. If you want to feel Africa in your veins, dance their notes!
Since we did not want to leave the Mwezi Boutique Resort, and we still had more days left, we decided to extend our stay and rent a car to visit the rest of the island. Normally, we go on the road and book accommodation wherever we go. But the connection with the Mwezi and his team was such that we decided to have it as our base camp and discover the island in a different way.
Another tip in Jambiani: visit some of the natural caves. We went first to Kuza Cave, but we found a queue, and although the girl told us that it was quite clear of people downstairs, she actually meant that there were about 20 people. We felt that paying $10 for something that looked very touristy was not worth it.
But we looked on the map, and found another one, the Swahili Cave, and went there. We ran into a super nice guy, first he showed us the cave to see if we wanted to stay (that’s appreciated!) and told us it was all ours. The surprise? We realized we were only carrying money for one! It was $8.00, and we told him to go to the hotel and back, and he wouldn’t let us. He told us it was our lucky day, and not to worry. These things that happen while traveling, and bring a smile back to your face. We were totally alone for an hour. We asked him for his phone number to go afrodancing one night, as he told us there was a local party at the Red Monkey Bar. We wanted to see him again and give him the money, and we wrote to him, but in the end it didn’t come up, and he told us to forget it, enjoy the island and come back. That’s how Tanzanians are. We did go to the bar, and we recommend it 100%: authentic local nightlife, rhythm in the veins, and styles that Raquel could not stop analyzing. We enjoyed your art a lot!
One of the mandatory stops of our days with car on the island was the Nungwi beach, the most famous of all Zanzibar. So that’s where we went: We’re telling you about it!
The north of Zanzibar: Nungwi and Kendwa (1 day)
The towns of Nungwi and Kendwa are Zanzibar’s most famous beach and tourist destinations. Popular for its beaches, sunsets and hotels. There is no tour or travel guide that does not mention these two villages to see in Zanzibar.
We dedicate only one day to visit it.
Nungwi is a traditional fishing village and where fishing boats are still made. It is very curious to see how groups of women enter the beach with nets and celebrate their catch right in front of you.
What didn’t we like? The overcrowding of Hilton-type hotels. Authentic beasts of construction, in front of the beach, with enough activities so that you almost don’t even think of touching the sand in front of you, so that you almost don’t get out of there. Those types of hotels that you find in any beautiful beach area of this planet, aseptic, replicas of each other. It is true that it is not Cancun, everything is “disguised” as cabañitas, but in reality there is too much cement behind it. And that means that there are three times as many people on the beach, in the bars, in the streets. That the stores are less authentic and have more things from China than from Zanzibar. But if you look for it, it has its authentic side, like all places in this world.
We liked Kendwa better than Nungwi, we thought the beach was nicer and the sunset was better. We also found it less touristy, and as you may have noticed, we generally don’t like very touristy places.
Visiting the Northwest of Zanzibar: Pingwe and Michamvi Peninsula (1/2 days)
If you follow the road from Paje and Jambiani upwards, you come across Pingwe. The truth is that we went there expressly to see, before booking, what the famous restaurant at The Rock was like. We saw it at low tide, and were not at all surprised. We realized how touristy it was to cross a strait of a few meters to say that you had been in a “floating” restaurant. The menu seemed quite “European” to us, both in terms of the dishes and the prices. Typical instagram site, but nothing authentic. So we went just ahead, to a local bar that made us some delicious calamari. Later we will explain you which is our real floating and authentic restaurant on the island. Read on!
In the afternoon we went to the other side of the peninsula, to Michamvi Beach. We found it quite different from the rest of the beaches, and to get there you pass through unpaved roads full of palm trees, tropical vegetation and lots of local life. The beach was practically a lake. No waves, super calm, and the best: an ideal place for sunset. There is a luxury hotel at the end of the beach and several bars of different styles. Some are livelier, with chill out type music, and others are quieter. We went to the Kati Kae Bar, and had two delicious smoothies while watching the sun disappear in front of us.
What to see in Northwest Zanzibar: Kiwengwa and Pongwe (1/2 day)
Kiwengwa and Pongwe are two villages located on the west coast of Zanzibar, above Pingwe.
We were caught at sunset in Pongwe, where we met a Maasai guide, and with whom we shared our knowledge of soccer. It is incredible the admiration they have for Barça. Soon a group of children appeared running and shouting “Hakuna Matata, Hakuna Matata!”. What energy they had! They kept dancing, jumping, teaching us Swahili words and touching Raquel’s hair, apparently they found her color curious. We were playing with them, until it started to get dark and we decided to go back to the hotel before it got dark. If you have to prioritize and decide what to see in Zanzibar and this area doesn’t give you enough time, we don’t think anything will happen.
The most beautiful beach of Zanzibar: Mtende Beach (1/2 day)
Whether you want to see Zanzibar in 10 days, or if you have less time, we believe this beach is a must-see, a hidden gem that you must see. Mtende Beach is located in the south of the island and is the most distinct beach of all as it is surrounded by a cliff. It is a cove type, more secluded, and we found it to be the most beautiful beach in Tanzania.
To get there, you can go by motorcycle from Jambiani or from Kizimkaze, you will pass through local villages where you will see almost no tourists. You can tell it is far from Nungwi as there is little sign of westerners. On the way to Mtende Beach you will see an impressive baobab tree on the side of the road.
The beach has two restaurants on top of the rocks. The first one you will see right away, the second one is farther away, it is called Usamba Rock, and you have to either walk along the beach (at low tide) or go inside the island where there is another road that leads to it (10 minutes walking maximum). We went to eat at the second one, we had two lobsters, the place was spectacular, and the views were incredible but something was not in very good shape because after two hours Raquel had an allergic reaction. Nevertheless, this place has remained engraved in our minds as one of the most beautiful on the island. And yes, this restaurant was authentic.
Note: If one day you get food poisoning from eating something bad, such as seafood, and you do not have antihistamines on you, you should drink cow’s milk (1 liter if possible). This is a home remedy we were told about in Mexico and had to resort to, and it worked in a matter of minutes. In Tanzania as well.
The pictures above were taken at low tide, it is important that before going to Mtende Beach you check the tides because at high tide the beach disappears under the sea :).
Final thoughts on how to spent 10 days in Zanzibar
In 10 days you have plenty of time to enjoy all of Zanzibar. If for some reason you only have 5 days, that’s fine, enough time to visit Stone Town in 1 day, and then relax in one of the hotels on the island and visit some of the most emblematic points at your own pace, with a motorcycle or car.
We hope that our 10-day trip to Zanzibar has inspired you to go and enjoy it. If you have any questions you can comment on the post and we will be happy to answer them.
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