What comes to your mind when you think of Africa? For some people, the continent is a perfect tropical getaway from fast-paced city life, but others are not as enthusiastic about visiting a land off the beaten tourist track where danger lurks at every corner. If you want to embark on a wild African adventure while staying on the safe tourist side, head over to Zanzibar: home to fine spices, vibrant culture, rich historical heritage and scenic beaches, this Tanzanian region has everything it takes to help you find both peace and excitement against an exotic backdrop.
The flavors of Zanzibar: Embark on an enchanting spice tour
The Zanzibar Archipelago is sometimes referred to as the Spice Islands, and for a good reason: in the era of Omani reign, much of the region’s arable land was transformed into spice plantations, and the herbs grown here were shipped to Europe, Asia and Middle East. Today’s spice tours include interesting and information-packed lessons on traditional spice sowing and collecting techniques, as well as tastings of exotic fruit and different Zanzibar dishes seasoned with locally grown cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, vanilla and other mouth-watering herbs. During your stay in Zanzibar, sign up for a tour of herb plantations: the experience will leave a sweet taste in your mouth and encourage you to try more of Zanzibar’s appetizing delicacies!
History and culture up close: Take a walk around Stone Town
Stone Town is the best place to learn everything you need to know about Zanzibar’s fascinating history and unique cultural identity. Due to its outstanding historical importance, the town was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000, and its charming narrow alleys reflect both the local spirit and foreign influences. Here, stylized Indian lotus flowers carved into lavish doors stand side by side with verses taken from Quran, and European-looking edifices are intertwined with cute traditional homes with stone benches (barazas) lined up on verandas.
A monumental tour: Shadows of the past still linger in Zanzibar
As far as historical sites are concerned, a number of noteworthy monuments that date back to the 16th-19th century period are scattered around Stone Town. The House of Wonders built by Barghash bin Said, second Sultan of Zanzibar in the 19th century, stands on the site of an ancient palace of Zanzibari queen Fatuma, and it now serves as the Museum of History and Culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast. Opposite the House of Wonders, Forodhani Gardens stretch along the coastline, inviting tired tourists to sit back and enjoy gentle sea breezes in the shade of exotic trees. The Old Fort is perched next to the House of Wonders, and it was built in the 17th century as the main fortification to defend the island from the Portuguese. The Fort is nowadays one of Stone Town’s biggest tourist attractions, so check it out during your tour of the town.
Tanzania’s cleanest beaches: Where the ocean marries silky sands
In addition to its historical and cultural value, Zanzibar is also known for its pristine beaches and adrenaline-pumping water sports. In Kizimkazi, in the southern part of Zanzibar, tourists can go dolphin watching and swim with these fascinating sea creatures, while Nungwi, up north, is one of the best-kept Zanzibar secrets where you can lounge around silky sands in the shade of coconut palms or go snorkeling and scuba diving for first-hand encounters with amazing marine creatures. Off the coast, you can even spot humpback whales, dolphins and whale sharks during a boat tour!
A trip to the market: Witness a colorful display of local produce
Zanzibar’s colorful markets are a refreshing sight for sore traveler’s eyes: with abundance of fresh seafood, bread, spices and handcrafted items such as clothing, wooden figurines and artwork, the Forodhani Gardens Night Market and Darajani Central Market are a shoppaholic’s paradise. Local merchants are friendly and you can haggle with them once you set your eyes on lovely mementos to take back home. As a general rule, prices in Tanzania are lower than in other touristy African countries (even for luxury goods!), so if you have some extra bucks and luggage space to spare, you will truly be a lucky Zanzibari camper!
With its enchanting beaches, vivid streets, appetizing spices and rich historical and cultural heritage, Zanzibar is a true pearl in the Indian Ocean, and it definitely deserves a place on every avid tourist’s bucket list. Are you ready to take your African adventure to the next level?