CREATE THE BEST ZANZIBAR ITINERARY
Discover the diverse beauty of Zanzibar — a tropical paradise in East Africa with stunning white sand beaches, beautiful coral reefs teeming with sea life, and vibrant culture. It makes the perfect destination for an unforgettable vacation and I am here to plan your Zanzibar itinerary.
This 7 days in Zanzibar itinerary will help you have an opportunity to experience all that this bucket list destination has to offer.
Though I am not even the biggest beach person (I am normally more about the Swiss Lakes and Alps), I fell head over heels in love with this gorgeous island and cannot only recommend visiting Zanzibar but also cannot wait to go back. Why? Whether you’re looking to relax at a beachfront resort, explore colorful villages and ancient ruins, or be enchanted by spectacular sunsets over turquoise waters on a sailing cruise – Zanzibar has it all.
I visited – as you might do yourself – Zanzibar after my safari on Tanzania’s mainland – after seeing some of the most amazing animals in the Serengeti Park (and some other national parks), I really needed a rest and why wander far away if Zanzibar is around the corner?
TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR ZANZIBAR ITINERARY
But first things first – here are some important security and general travel tips before we talk about the Zanzibar itinerary and the best places to visit on the island.
Here are some facts
- Archipelago Makeup: Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands.
- Spice Islands: Known as the “Spice Islands,” Zanzibar is famous for nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper.
- Stone Town: Stone Town is Zanzibar’s historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Birthplace of Freddie Mercury: The lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, was born in Zanzibar.
- Swahili Culture: Zanzibar is a pivotal center of Swahili culture and language.
- Clove Production: It is the world’s leading producer of cloves.
- Tourism: Tourism is a major part of Zanzibar’s economy, with its beautiful beaches and coral reefs.
- Dhow Building: Traditional dhow boats are still built by hand in Zanzibar.
- Religion: The majority of Zanzibar’s population is Muslim.
- Revolution: Zanzibar had a revolution in 1964 which led to the merger with Tanganyika to form Tanzania.
- Red Colobus Monkey: The Zanzibar red colobus monkey is endemic to the island and a significant draw for wildlife enthusiasts.
- Mix of Influences: Zanzibar has Arab, Persian, Indian, and European historical influences.
- Language: The primary language spoken in Zanzibar is Swahili. English is also widely used, while Arabic has historical significance and is spoken by some residents.
- Conservation Efforts: Zanzibar has several conservation projects, including Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park.
VISA FOR ZANZIBAR
Visitors to Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania, generally need a visa to enter, and this can be obtained at any Tanzanian embassy or consulate, or on arrival at the airport or seaport in Tanzania. There are single-entry, multiple-entry, and transit visas available, an e-visa system is also in place, which allows travelers to apply for a visa online before departure.
I got my visa on arrival (in Arusha, Tanzania mainland) and it was an easy process. The fee is $50 and you can pay in cash or by credit card (Apple Pay did not work, so I highly recommend having some cash on you just in case).
The visa policy is subject to changes, so it’s advisable to check the latest requirements with the Tanzanian embassy or through official Tanzanian immigration sources before planning your trip.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ZANZIBAR
The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool (we are talking about cool for African standards), dry months of spring. This period offers optimal weather for exploring the island’s beautiful beaches, and historical sites, and engaging in water sports like diving and snorkeling with visibility being at its best. These months also coincide with the long dry season, characterized by warm temperatures and minimal rainfall.
From December to February it’s hot and dry, suitable for those who prefer warmer (or let´s say HOTTER) weather. However, this is also a peak tourist season, and prices may be higher.
November and from March to May see heavier rains, which can affect beach activities and travel plans but can also be a good time for budget travelers due to lower prices.
It’s wise to avoid the heaviest rains in April and May for outdoor activities.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ZANZIBAR
If you’re planning a trip to this stunning paradise, you’ll want to make sure you pack everything you need to ensure a comfortable stay. While you can buy some wonderful things in Zanzibar, you might not be able to find everything you might be used to from your own country.
Here’s a list of items you shouldn’t forget to bring along:
Sunscreen – Zanzibar is hot and sunny most of the year, so it’s essential to pack sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from UV rays. Make sure to apply it regularly, especially if you’re planning a day at the beach. Do not underestimate the African sun!
Swimsuit – A swimsuit is a must-have item for your Zanzibar vacation. Whether you prefer one-piece or two-piece, make sure to pack a comfortable, breathable swimsuit to allow you to move freely and enjoy the water.
Light clothing – Pack light and airy clothing, such as cotton and linen, as the climate in Zanzibar is hot and humid. Loose-fitting outfits will provide breathability to help keep you comfortable throughout the day.
Insect repellent – Mosquitoes are common in Zanzibar, so it’s essential to pack some insect repellent to avoid getting bitten. This will also help to prevent mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria or dengue fever.
Water shoes or sandals – As you’ll be spending time by the sea, it’s a great idea to pack some water shoes or sandals. These will protect your feet from sharp rocks, broken shells, and other hazards on the beach. Yes, they are normally ugly as heck but I never regret wearing them.
Snorkeling gear – The coral reefs of Zanzibar are some of the most beautiful in the world, so consider bringing along some snorkeling gear to explore this extraordinary underwater world.
Waterproof Camera – Don’t forget to pack a camera to capture all of the fantastic moments of your trip. With so much natural beauty to behold, you’ll want to snap pictures of everything to share with friends and family back home.
Hat and sunglasses – Protect yourself from the intense heat with a hat and sunglasses. The sun can be quite strong in Zanzibar, and having these items will help to ensure you remain comfortable and safe while enjoying all the island has to offer.
By packing these items, you’ll be well-prepared for a fantastic time in Zanzibar. Remember to pack light, practice sun safety, and take plenty of pictures to commemorate your journey!
HOW TO GET AROUND IN ZANZIBAR
Navigating your way around Zanzibar can be a challenge, so I am sharing my experiences and tips on be some essential tips on how to get around Zanzibar with ease.
Public Transport: Taking the dala-dalas
Dala-dalas are local minibusses that are a cheap and convenient way to get around Zanzibar. They are the most popular mode of public transportation on the island – but mostly for the locals. You can find dala-dalas in most towns and villages, and they are responsible for connecting different parts of the island. The downside of traveling by dala-dalas is that they can be overcrowded, slow, and uncomfortable – there is no real timetable, so be patient and see it as an experience.
The Comfortable Way: Taking taxis
Taxis are a more comfortable option than dala-dalas. You can find taxis at taxi stands or by just flagging them down in the street – you can also ask your hotel staff – they normally have their “own drivers” or know reliable drivers. Taxis are not as cheap as dala-dalas, so you should expect to pay more. Taxis are also an excellent option if you’re traveling with a group of friends or family.
Bike Rentals: The Adventurous Route
Bike rentals are a great way to explore the island at your own pace. Zanzibar has many bike rental services available in most of the tourist areas. You can rent a bike for a day or a week, and prices start at 7,000 Tanzanian shillings per day. However, Zanzibar’s roads can be unpredictable, which can make cycling a bit dangerous, especially if you’re not a confident cyclist. Rent a bike with caution and always wear a helmet.
Walking: The Slow but Steady Way
One of the best ways to explore Zanzibar is on foot. Walking around the island gives you the chance to experience firsthand the island’s unique culture and breathtaking scenery. You can walk to the Stone Town area, the spice farms, and other must-visit sites. If you are not in a hurry, then walking is an excellent way to get around the island, and it’s free!
Boat transport: A different adventure
Zanzibar is an island, and the best way to explore it is by taking a boat tour to neighboring islands or even visiting the main city, Dar es salaam. Boat trips can take you snorkeling, scuba diving, or provide a sunset cruise. Boat transport is an excellent option if you want to experience something unique and different from what you’re used to – and often it is the only way to get to to the many different island aroudn Zanzibar.
Guided Tours: The easy way
Going on a guided tour is the chance to learn from a local expert. A knowledgeable guide can share insights about the island’s history, culture, and hidden gems that you might miss on your own. Zanzibar is a relatively safe destination, but there are potential risks like pickpocketing or getting lost.
However, guided tours often follow a strict 7-day Zanzibar itinerary. This can be frustrating if you prefer to explore at your own pace or want to deviate from the plan.
Since I visited Zanzibar on my own, I booked private guided tours (which included the taxi and boat ride) and could decide what exactly to do – of course, it costs more than if you do guided tours with others but everything comes with up- and downsides.
The fastest way: Mopeds
Mopeds are a popular mode of transportation in Zanzibar, providing an easy way to navigate the island’s varied terrain, from bustling city streets to more rural pathways.
They are widely available for rent to tourists who can provide a valid driver’s license and are comfortable with the local driving conditions. However, it’s important for riders to be cautious, as road quality and traffic patterns can differ significantly from what they may be used to in their home countries.
The independent way: Renting a car
Renting a car in Zanzibar is possible for those who hold an international driving permit along with their valid national driver’s license. There are several car rental agencies available, including international and local options, and vehicles can be picked up at the airport, in Stone Town, or at major hotels.
It’s a convenient option for those wanting to explore the island at their own pace, but driving in Zanzibar can be challenging due to narrow roads, informal traffic rules, and occasional poor road conditions. I, after speaking with many locals, do not recommend renting your own car for the island.
SAFETY IN ZANZIBAR
Zanzibar is generally considered a safe destination for tourists with typical safety precautions advised for travelers.
Petty crimes like pickpocketing or bag snatching can occur, especially in crowded areas such as markets or bus stations. Take care of personal belongings, avoid isolated areas at night, and be cautious when swimming due to strong currents in certain areas.
In terms of health, protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and follow food and water safety guidelines to prevent illness.
As always, checking with travel advisories from one’s home country before departure is prudent for the latest safety and security information.
The official currency of Zanzibar is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS), which is used throughout the archipelago.
Most hotels, tour operators, restaurants, and (smaller) shops accept US Dollars (some even Euros) However, it’s good to have some local currency for everyday transactions. Credit cards are accepted at larger hotels and more established businesses, but smaller shops, local markets, and rural areas require cash. Some might charge a small fee when accepting credit cards.
ATMs are available, particularly in Stone Town and at the airport, but can be less reliable as you move to more remote parts of the island.
TIP: Exchange money at reputable banks or authorized bureaus and be aware of the exchange rates.
MORE TRAVEL TIPS FOR ZANZIBAR
LOW AND HIGH TIDE / EBBE AND TIDE
Low tide is when the ocean’s water reaches its lowest level along the shore, and high tide is when the water rises to its highest level. These changes occur due to the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun on the Earth’s oceans, usually happening twice a day. This makes “sandbanks” disappear and appear -yes, it is no magic :). Also, in some parts of the islands, the tide changes more than in others. Keep that in mind – especially when booking island trips, ask for the timing of a high tide, so you can see the sandbanks slowly disappearing!
When visiting Zanzibar, which has a predominantly Muslim population, here are five tips to ensure a great trip:
- Dress Modestly: Wear conservative clothing that covers the chest and knees, especially when outside beach resorts and when visiting Stone Town and other non-tourist areas. At the beaches, you can wear bikinis but it is forbidden to be topless.
- Respect Religious Practices: Be aware of Islamic prayer times and cultural practices. Non-Muslims are not allowed inside most mosques in Zanzibar, so always ask for permission before entering sacred sites.
- Ramadan Observance: If visiting during the holy month of Ramadan, exhibit respect for fasting practices by not eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours.
- Alcohol Consumption: While alcohol is available in tourist areas and resorts, be discreet with alcohol consumption out of respect for local customs, and avoid public intoxication.
- Social Interactions: Physical contact between men and women in public is minimal, and public displays of affection are frowned upon.
PLACES TO VISIT IN ZANZIBAR IN 7 – 10 DAYS – ITINERARY
You will most likely arrive to Zanzibar via the international airport which is located near the capital city of Zanzibar – Stone Town. If you are staying 5 days in Zanzibar, I suggest making Stone Town your base – to explore the city and do some amazing day trips to the surrounding (stunning) islands.
STONE TOWN – 5 DAYS
1 DAY – STONE TOWN CITY TOUR
Stone Town is a culturally rich and historically significant destination. This beautiful town is a treasure trove of historical artifacts that date back to the 19th century. Despite its name, Stone Town is a living, breathing community that has thrived for centuries.
The town is decorated with stunning coral stone buildings that add to the town’s unique charm. And let´s not forget the impressive doors that are particularly charming and photogenic.
The town itself is rather small and you will most likely not need a full day to explore it – join some walking tours to learn more about the city
The town is a vibrant tribute to East Africa’s struggles with slavery and colonialism. It is known for its narrow alleyways, bustling markets, and beautiful beaches. Stone Town is an ideal destination for those wandering through charming old streets, eating delicious street food, and discovering the town’s rich cultural history.
You can learn about the town’s architectural heritage by exploring its many historic buildings and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the House of Wonders, the Old Fort, and the Forodhani Gardens.
The town has played a crucial role in history, including its link to the spice trade – you can visit a spice farm to learn about the importance of different spices in the Zanzibar Region and the impact they had on European colonization.
1 DAY – MNEMBA ISLAND & SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS & SNORKELING
INFO: This part of the one week in Zanzibar itinerary is surely not set in stone. It really depends on what tours you book as many tour operators combine several different activities together. And if you do private tours, you can also arrange it accordingly.
Plan one day for a boat trip to one of the prettiest spots in the Indian Ocean.
Mnemba Island is an exclusive island paradise located about 4.5 kilometers off the northeastern tip of Zanzibar. Renowned for its breathtaking beauty and luxurious privacy, it’s encircled by a pristine coral atoll that’s teeming with vibrant marine life, making it a world-class spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.
This private island functions as a conservation area for a variety of sea creatures, including the endangered green turtle and a plethora of tropical fish species.
The island is accessible only to guests staying at the &Beyond Mnemba Island Lodge, an exclusive beach resort with a limited number of bandas (traditional palm-thatched huts), ensuring an intimate experience for all visitors.
And yet, you can enjoy an AMAZING day trip to Mnemba Island. While you cannot get off Mnemba Island, you can see the surroundings, including the sandbank which was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, and swimming! This area is like a dream.
This area though is rather busy and touristy (and the coral reefs here are dead) – its beauty is beyond words, and it is easily accessible from Stone Town, so it does not really surprise.
TIP: There are different tours – they often differ in the exact places they stop, so have a look at which one makes the most sense to you. However, what most tours have included is the BBQ lunch and drinks that are included in these tours!
1 DAY – PRISON ISLAND AND JAZANI ISLAND
One of the must-sees in Zanzibar is Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, just north of Stone Town.
During the 1860s, the area served temporarily as a detention site for insubordinate slaves. Despite its name no permanent prison structures were ever erected. Instead, the island was repurposed as a quarantine zone for individuals afflicted with yellow fever.
The existing prison structure, built in 1893, coined the island’s current name. In 1919, the British governor of Seychelles introduced four Aldabra giant tortoises to the island, which now houses a tortoise sanctuary that attracts numerous visitors, some tortoises living over a century.
The island’s beach, known for its stunning sand and clear waters, is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, offering a tranquil escape.
Given its proximity to Stone Town, this tour will not take long. Depending on the tour you take, you could combine it with a trip to Jozani Forest.
Located approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Zanzibar City in the South Region, Jozani Forest is a conservation treasure and the last indigenous forest on the island.
This 10 square kilometer forest is a mix of woodland, swamp, and evergreen thickets. It acts as a sanctuary for various species unique to the island, including the elusive red colobus monkey, the small Zanzibar leopard, and two types of antelope: the Zanzibar duiker and the sunni.
The Kirk’s red colobus monkey, known locally as ‘kima punju,’ once faced the threat of extinction but has rebounded thanks to dedicated conservation efforts. The population of these monkeys in Jozani Forest has reached about 6,000, highlighting the success of these environmental interventions.
It is a rather small forest and probably not comparable to many other forests I have been to, yet it shows you the other side of the country – away from the beaches.
INFO: There was a sign that photographing and filming were not allowed (only for an extra amount of several hundred dollars), yet the guides encouraged us to take some photos, so I took a few snaps.
1 DAY – NUNGWI & KENDWA
Nungwi, situated at Zanzibar’s northernmost point and bordered by Kendwa to the south, is renowned for its dazzling white sands, luxurious five-star resorts, and stunningly vibrant water hues.
As one of Zanzibar’s most sought-after destinations, it naturally attracts a large number of visitors, contributing to its lively and bustling atmosphere.
It’s challenging to find a secluded spot to relax without interruption from vendors, known locally as “beach boys,” or the presence of other tourists. Such is the trade-off for spending time in this highly popular and idyllic location.
One main reason for the popularity and the crowds of tourists is the beaches. The reason for this is that the tidal variations in the area are not as pronounced, and there’s a greater abundance of sand compared to seaweed and coral, which are more common on the eastern coast.
Then, in the afternoon, head to Kendwa Beach.
Kendwa, lauded as one of Zanzibar Island’s premier beaches, graces the northwest shoreline with its expansive swathes of white sand and the awe-inspiring sunsets it hosts.
The beach offers a variety of activities to engage visitors, ranging from snorkeling and scuba diving to sunset cruises and beach volleyball. Additionally, Kendwa is uniquely home to skydiving in Zanzibar, offering an exclusive and thrilling experience for adventure-seekers visiting the beach.
This is also one of the best places to watch the sunset, so you can end your day with a wonderful evening here.
1 PUNGUME ISLAND & MANGROVES
Oh, what would Zanzibar be without the many stunning sandbanks and little islands close by? My first ever trip in Zanzibar was actually a little sandbank near the gorgeous Pungume Island – a rather unknown gem that will leave people speechless.
Dolphins, healthy coral reefs, pretty fishies, and more – this site of Zanzibar is less visited and ideal for those who want to escape the crowds.
Also, the tours are normally combined with a trip to Mongroves* – or if you book a private tour, make sure to ask them to show you the Mongroves as well.
Pungume Island is just south and there were not many guided tours I have found online – it should be easy for you though to find a tour once you are in Zanzibar.
*Mangroves are a type of tropical coastal vegetation that forms dense forests and is characterized by roots submerged in saltwater. These trees play a crucial ecological role by stabilizing shorelines, improving water quality, and providing habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.
1/2 DAY: NAKUPENDA
“Nakupenda” translates to “I love you” in Swahili, a name you’ll find apt once you discover its charm. A stunning sandbank located off the coast of Stone Town, Nakupenda is easily accessible, with just a 20-minute boat journey separating you from this slice of paradise.
The short trip is a small investment for the rich rewards of its scenic beauty. Again, you can combine this excursion with other spots mentioned on this 7-day itinerary for Zanzibar.
Or you can just enjoy this island on its own and use the rest of the day, to either prepare to continue your journey (and fly home) or spend the rest of the day in Stone Town or head to your next destination for the next few days.
WHERE TO STAY IN STONE TOWN
LUXURY: For a luxury hotel with access to the beach, Park Hyatt might be the perfect choice for you. You also have access to an outdoor pool, a spa and wellness center, and a restaurant.
MID-RANGE: I stayed at the gorgeous Shabha Boutique Hotel in the heart of Stone Town. It is a 5-10 minute walk to the beach, but the unique and pretty interior made me fall head over heels in love.
MID-RANGE: Here is another mid-range hotel just at the beach. Tembo B&B Apartments also has an outdoor swimming pool and beautiful rooms.
EAST COAST – 2 DAYS
How to get to the East Coast from Stone Town? The easiest way to get to the East Coast is by taxi. Though there is a bus from Stone Town to the East Coast, the bus is not that reliable and with luggage you might have to walk quite a bit to your hotel. A hotel ride might be anything between $ 30-45.
If you stay in Zanzibar for 7 days, I suggest moving for the last two days and really just relaxing. The East Coast is perfect to add to your itinerary for Zanzibar as here it is where you will find tranquility and some “alone time”.
There are several beaches along the East Coast – you can choose from places like Jambiani, Page, Bwejuu, and many more areas.
This part of the island is less busy and less touristy though you will find many accommodations and also shops and restaurants (especially in Page).
A likely reason for the quieter atmosphere could be due to the tidal patterns, with low tide (or ‘ebbe’) drawing the water back hundreds of meters from the shore, which isn’t conducive to swimming. However, with the tides changing twice daily, there are still opportunities to enjoy the water when the tide is in.
While there were women offering massages at the beach (which I truly enjoyed), I hardly came across those Beach Boys who wanted to sell me things – truly a blessing after some crazy days in the more popular areas.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THIS ITINERARY FOR ZANZIBAR
With its diverse cultures, customs, and traditions, amazing landscapes, a variety of unique activities, and an effortless sense of relaxation, it’s safe to say that Zanzibar is a remarkable choice for a tranquil vacation. Whether you are looking for fun and adventure-packed days or leisurely and restful moments, Zanzibar has something to offer – all within the comfort of warm tropical sunshine.
This Zanzibar itinerary has shown you the best places on the islands so that you can make the most of this extraordinary destination on how to spend 7 days on Zanzibar – or even longer.