Welcome to Zanzibar, one of the most magical and beautiful places on earth!
It’s no wonder that Zanzibar – a Tanzanian archipelago located off the coast of East Africa – has been named one of the top 15 most beautiful places to visit in the world! With its stunning beaches, fascinating culture, and rich history, there’s something for everyone.
From the spice plantations of Pemba to the ancient ruins of Stone Town, these are must-see attractions that will take your breath away. It was a tough choice but from my visit, here are my favorite most beautiful places to visit in Zanzibar, Africa…
1.Take a journey with the monkeys in Jozani Forest
If you’re an animal lover, Jozani Forest should be on your itinerary when visiting Zanzibar. This dense forest is home to the rare and endemic Kirk’s red colobus monkeys, as well as the blue Sykes monkeys, which can only be found in East Africa.
As you embark on your journey through the forest, you’ll be greeted by playful and curious monkeys, who might even jump onto your shoulders! These beautiful creatures are known for their distinct, reddish-brown fur and striking blue faces.
In addition to the monkeys, Jozani Forest is also home to other fascinating wildlife, including bush babies, duikers, and a variety of bird species. As you make your way through the lush greenery, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the local flora and fauna from your knowledgeable guide.
Not only is Jozani Forest a unique and exciting place to visit, but it’s also an important conservation area. The forest is protected and managed by the Zanzibar government, to preserve its biodiversity and cultural significance.
So, don’t miss the chance to have an up-close and personal experience with these incredible primates in their natural habitat. A journey through Jozani Forest is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Zanzibar!
2. Explore Stone Town
If you are a fan of architecture and history, Stone Town should be at the top of your Zanzibar bucket list. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an enchanting labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys that is steeped in history.
The city’s architecture is a testament to the different cultures that have shaped it over the years, including Arab, Indian, and European influences. The buildings are characterized by intricate carvings, decorative balconies, and unique wooden doors. As you wander through the city, be sure to look up and admire the stunning rooftops, too!
You can take a walking tour of the city, where you can learn more about its fascinating history. Some of the must-visit attractions in Stone Town include the House of Wonders, the former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and the Old Fort, which was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century.
While you are in Stone Town, don’t miss the chance to explore the city’s bustling markets, where you can find everything from fresh produce to beautiful handmade crafts.
Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, a visit to Stone Town is not to be missed. It is a place where you can step back in time and experience the vibrant history of Zanzibar.
3. Feel the Zanzibar vibe in Forodhani Park
When you think of Zanzibar, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? The lively and bustling Forodhani Park should be on your list of places to visit while in Zanzibar. The park is situated in the heart of Stone Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s a favorite hangout spot for locals and tourists alike.
Forodhani Park is the perfect place to indulge in the authentic flavors of Zanzibar. Every evening, local food vendors gather here to serve up some of the most mouth-watering dishes you’ve ever tasted. The aromas of grilled seafood, Zanzibari pizzas, and traditional sweet treats fill the air, creating an atmosphere of culinary heaven. You can take your pick from the wide variety of dishes on offer and enjoy them in a picnic-style setting, right in the park.
Apart from the food, Forodhani Park also has a lively vibe with street performers and musicians entertaining visitors as they enjoy their meals. The view of the Indian Ocean, the famous House of Wonders, and the Old Fort also add to the charm of the park.
If you’re looking for a true taste of Zanzibar’s vibrant culture, head over to Forodhani Park in the evening. With an open mind and a hungry stomach, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience!
4. Go back to the history of Old Slave Market/Anglican Cathedral
As you explore the vibrant streets of Stone Town, don’t forget to stop by the Old Slave Market/Anglican Cathedral. This historical site serves as a poignant reminder of Zanzibar’s dark past when the island was a hub for the East African slave trade.
The Old Slave Market was once a bustling trading center where enslaved men, women, and children were bought and sold. Today, visitors can tour the underground chambers where slaves were held before being auctioned off to the highest bidder. It’s a haunting experience, but an important one that sheds light on the brutal realities of slavery.
In the 19th century, the site was transformed into the Anglican Cathedral, which stands as a powerful symbol of hope and resilience. The cathedral was built on the former slave market to commemorate the end of slavery in East Africa and to honor the memory of those who suffered there.
Inside the cathedral, you’ll find beautiful stained glass windows and a striking marble altar.
It’s a serene and peaceful space that stands in stark contrast to the horrors that once took place in the same spot.
Visiting the Old Slave Market/Anglican Cathedral is an important reminder of Zanzibar’s past, but it’s also a testament to the island’s resilience and hope for a better future. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in history or social justice.
5. One of the miracles of nature: Kuza Cave
If you’re looking for a unique experience in Zanzibar, Kuza Cave is one to add to your itinerary. This natural wonder is located near Jambiani and is sure to leave you in awe.
The cave is hidden in the cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean and can only be accessed by a short hike through a tropical forest. As you approach, the opening to the cave is framed by the stunning view of the turquoise waters below.
Upon entering, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an otherworldly landscape of stalactites, stalagmites, and crystal-clear pools. The cave’s formations were created by the slow drip of water over millions of years, resulting in an intricate web of shapes and textures that seem almost impossible.
For those seeking a spiritual experience, Kuza Cave is said to hold strong energy and has been used for ceremonies and rituals for centuries. Local healers believe the cave’s waters possess healing properties, and visitors are encouraged to take a dip and experience the revitalizing effects for themselves.
Visiting Kuza Cave is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether you’re interested in geology, or spirituality, or just enjoy exploring the natural world, this hidden gem in Zanzibar is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories.
Don’t forget to bring a camera, as the stunning views inside the cave are something you’ll want to capture forever.
6. Visit the Old Dispensary
Old Dispensary, also known as the Ithnashiri Dispensary, is a fascinating historical building in Stone Town. As you approach the building, you’ll be captivated by the intricate details on its façade.
The Old Dispensary served as a health center for the Zanzibari community, providing free medical services to those in need. Today, it’s been restored and turned into a cultural center that offers visitors a glimpse into the island’s rich history.
Inside, you’ll find displays showcasing traditional Swahili and Zanzibari handicrafts, as well as exhibits about the building’s history and the community it served. A small museum displays medical equipment and photographs from the Old Dispensary’s days as a functioning health center.
If you’re a fan of architecture or interested in learning more about Zanzibari culture, a visit to the Old Dispensary is a must. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and they’re happy to answer any questions you may have.
Don’t forget to take some time to explore the surrounding streets of Stone Town, as they’re filled with other historic buildings and colorful markets.
7. Precious time at Mtoni Palace Ruins
As you stroll through the Mtoni Palace Ruins, you can feel the history emanating from every stone. This ancient palace was built for Sultan Seyyid Said in 1828. The palace was the site of many royal weddings and lavish parties, and its ruins stand as a testament to the opulence of the time.
Walking around the palace ruins is like taking a journey through time. You can see the grandeur of the palace in its heyday through the remnants of the main gate, reception hall, bathhouse, and water storage tanks. The palace’s location is perfect for enjoying stunning sunsets, and the palace walls provide a stunning backdrop to photographs.
While the palace is no longer in use, it is still worth visiting to learn about the history and cultural significance of the building. You can hire a local guide to take you through the palace ruins and tell you about its past and present.
The Mtoni Palace Ruins is a true gem in Zanzibar’s history, and if you’re a history buff, you should make sure to include a visit to this iconic place in your itinerary.
So don’t forget to add Mtoni Palace Ruins to your list of must-visit places in Zanzibar, and enjoy precious time exploring the ruins.
8. St Joseph’s Cathedral, one of the most important historical buildings
If you’re looking for a dose of history and stunning architecture, St Joseph’s Cathedral is a must-visit attraction in Zanzibar. Built between 1893 and 1898, this beautiful cathedral is one of the oldest and most significant buildings on the island.
The cathedral’s exterior boasts stunning Gothic-style architecture, with intricate details and beautiful stained glass windows that allow natural light to shine through. As you step inside, you’ll be blown away by the grandeur of the interior, with high ceilings, beautiful pillars, and ornate decorations that make for a truly impressive sight.
Beyond its architectural splendor, St Joseph’s Cathedral also holds significant cultural and historical value. The cathedral was built on the site of the former slave market, making it a powerful symbol of the island’s dark past and its journey toward freedom and equality.
But the cathedral is not just a historical site; it remains an active place of worship for the local Catholic community. So, when visiting, remember to respect their customs and dress modestly out of respect for their beliefs.
A visit to St Joseph’s Cathedral is not only an opportunity to learn about the island’s past but also to experience the spirituality and sense of community that it holds.
So, take your time to appreciate the stunning architecture, soak in the atmosphere, and learn a little about Zanzibar’s fascinating history.
9. A nature touch at Zanzibar Butterfly Centre
If you are looking for a unique experience with nature in Zanzibar, you definitely cannot miss out on the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre. Located in the small town of Pete, this center is home to a wide range of butterfly species, all of which are indigenous to Zanzibar.
As you walk around the Center with your knowledgeable guide, you will get to witness the butterfly life cycle from egg to pupa to butterfly. The vibrant colors and patterns of these magnificent creatures will leave you in awe and inspire you to care for their habitat. The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre is an important conservation project aimed at protecting the environment and supporting local farmers who are actively involved in butterfly breeding.
The admission fee you pay goes directly to support the community and the preservation of the butterfly’s natural habitat. You’ll learn how local farmers are trained in butterfly breeding and micro-loans are offered for them to start their businesses. You will also learn about the importance of sustainable wood logging and how the Centre supports this alternative approach by investing in the fast-growing casuarina tree.
Not only is the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre a great way to learn about conservation, but it is also an opportunity to experience nature firsthand. The surrounding area is a nature lover’s paradise with nearby cultural and historical landmarks and nature reserves waiting to be explored.
So, take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the tranquil world of butterflies at the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre.
10. Prison Island, a must-visit attraction
If you’re planning a trip to Zanzibar, make sure to include Prison Island on your itinerary. This little piece of paradise, also known as Changuu Island, is just a short boat ride from Stone Town (15 minutes) and is a must-visit attraction. The island was later used as a quarantine station for African slaves. Today, it’s a popular destination for tourists who want to enjoy the island’s crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches.
One of the highlights of a visit to Prison Island is the opportunity to see giant tortoises up close. These gentle giants can live up to 150 years and weigh as much as 500 pounds! You can even feed them if you like, but be careful not to get too close to their snapping jaws.
Another popular activity on the island is snorkeling. The waters surrounding the island are teeming with colorful fish, and you might even spot a few dolphins if you’re lucky. There are plenty of tour operators on the island who offer snorkeling trips, so it’s easy to arrange a tour.
If you’re interested in history, make sure to visit the old prison building and learn about the island’s fascinating past. The prison is now a museum, and you can see artifacts from the island’s past as a quarantine station.
All in all, a visit to Prison Island is a must-do activity in Zanzibar. It’s a beautiful, historic, and unforgettable place that you won’t want to miss. So make sure to add it to your itinerary!
11. The Rock, the most famous restaurant in Zanzibar
Located on a small rock in the Indian Ocean, The Rock is a truly unique restaurant that should not be missed during your trip to Zanzibar. Accessible only by boat during high tide and short wade during low tide, it’s a memorable experience from the start.
Once you arrive, you’ll be treated to some of the freshest seafood on the island, as well as a stunning panoramic view of the ocean. The menu offers a variety of seafood dishes, as well as some meat options for non-seafood eaters.
The prices at The Rock are higher than many other restaurants on the island, but the experience and the view make it worth it. Booking in advance is highly recommended, as this restaurant is very popular and tends to fill up quickly.
Not only is The Rock known for its delicious food and unique location, but it’s also a popular spot for watching the sunset. Imagine sitting on top of a rock in the middle of the ocean, sipping on a cocktail, and watching the sky turn orange and pink as the sun sets behind the horizon.
Overall, The Rock is an unforgettable dining experience that should be on every foodie’s bucket list. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to treat yourself, this restaurant is a must-visit during your trip to Zanzibar.
12. Paje Beach, the place where the party and relaxation hold hands
If you’re looking for a vibrant and lively atmosphere, Paje Beach is the perfect place for you. This beach is one of the most popular spots in Zanzibar, attracting locals and tourists alike. It’s the place to be if you want to party and let loose, but it also offers plenty of opportunities to unwind and soak up the sun.
The beach is surrounded by numerous bars and restaurants that offer a variety of delicious drinks and snacks. From fresh fruit smoothies to mouth-watering cocktails, you can find it all here. In the evenings, the beach comes alive with music and dance, creating a lively and upbeat atmosphere that is truly infectious.
But if you prefer a more relaxed and laid-back experience, you can find that too at Paje Beach. With soft white sand and crystal clear waters, this beach is perfect for lounging in the sun and enjoying the calming sound of the waves. You can also take a stroll along the beach and enjoy the beautiful scenery, which includes picturesque palm trees and turquoise waters.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, Paje Beach also offers plenty of opportunities for watersports, such as kite surfing and windsurfing. And if you want to explore the underwater world, you can go snorkeling or scuba diving and discover the vibrant and colorful marine life that calls this beach home.
In short, Paje Beach is the perfect combination of relaxation and fun.
Whether you’re looking to party or unwind, you can find it all here. So grab your sunscreen and join the party!
13. Snorkel or dive around Mnemba Island
Mnemba Island is one of the most popular spots for snorkeling and diving in Zanzibar. It’s located on the northeast coast of the island, and it’s home to some of the most beautiful and diverse coral reefs in the world.
Snorkeling around Mnemba Island is a fantastic way to explore the underwater world of Zanzibar. You’ll have the chance to see a variety of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins if you’re lucky! The water around Mnemba Island is clear and calm, making it a great place for beginners to try snorkeling.
If you’re an experienced diver, then you won’t want to miss the opportunity to dive around Mnemba Island. The dive sites around the island offer a unique and diverse range of marine life, including reef sharks, octopuses, and nudibranchs. The coral reefs are healthy and vibrant, making it an unforgettable diving experience.
To snorkel or dive around Mnemba Island, you’ll need to book a tour with one of the many dive operators on the island. Most tours will take you to two or three different dive sites, giving you a chance to see as much as possible.
So, if you’re a fan of the underwater world, don’t miss the chance to snorkel or dive around Mnemba Island. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget!
And there you have it, folks! The top 15 most beautiful places to visit in Zanzibar. We hope you enjoyed our journey through this breathtaking island and that you found some inspiration for your next adventure. Whether you’re looking for historical sites, natural wonders, or just a good time, Zanzibar has it all.
Make sure to pack your sunscreen, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable trip. Don’t forget to try some delicious local cuisine, meet some friendly locals, and take in the stunning scenery.
Gary Nunn – Videographer, photographer and writer
Gary is an award winning full time professional photographer and videographer with too much wanderlust for his own good. Fueled by strong coffee, you’ll often find him wandering well off hiking trails in search of interesting photographic subjects or scenery to video. Self taught and with the use of pioneering digital techniques, he quickly built up a strong client base and has worked with many prestigious organizations, including GQ, BBC, London Fashion Week, Grazia, Sky, Metro, Vogue Italia. He specializing in evocative images of people, places and cinematic videography and his goal is to make the viewer look twice and engage. As well as a penchant for good design, travel, starting up new businesses, the ketogenic diet and Hungarian Vizslas, he also has a huge affection for Chicago, Bucharest, Scandinavia, Croatia and absolutely everywhere in Italy. Find Gary on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or his Website.