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Written by Savi, 31 Comments

A week in Zanzibar offers everything you could possibly want – palm-fringed beaches, powdery white sand, historical villages and towns, colourful markets, and. This offbeat island, just off the east coast of Africa, is ideal for travellers who enjoy going off the beaten path. Here’s a low-down on everything you need to plan an ideal week-long holiday in Zanzibar

couple on Zanzibar beach
Happy bunnies ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Why Choose Zanzibar?

After spending 2 weeks in Zanzibar, we would say Zanzibar is ideal for 3 kinds of travellers

    1. Those who want to experience the gorgeous panoramas of places like Seychelles or Maldives, but on a budget. Unlike those 2 countries, Zanzibar has several all inclusive resorts that are quite budget friendly
    2. Those who love acquainting themselves with the rich culture and complex history of a new country but also want scenic panoramas and gorgeous beaches.
    3. Those who want a luxurious yet unique honeymoon destination or romantic getaway. There is no shortage of uber-luxurious resorts and hotels in Zanzibar. This ensures honeymooners have access to the best of amenities while exploring the little villages, spice plantations, and remote beaches of Zanzibar

Know before you go

      • You need to furnish yellow fever vaccination certificates upon reaching Zanzibar, so make sure you have them on you upon reaching the country
      • Tanzania offers Visa On Arrival to citizens of most countries including India, UK, and USA for a fee of USD50. You will be asked to fill a short form upon arrival, following which the visa is granted. It was a pretty seamless process for us and we were not asked for any supporting documentation.

 

Best time to visit Zanzibar

June to October is the best season to visit Zanzibar as the weather is cool yet dry. However December to February is a great period too. The weather is hotter but it is dry and crowds are lesser. We visited Zanzibar during November and while some afternoons got too hot, we enjoyed the overall experience.

 

Getting In To Zanzibar

A lot of tourists who are already on mainland Tanzania take the direct ferry from Dar es Salaam (3 hours) or a short flights (15 minutes).

But if you are flying directly to Zanzibar, you will find the island itself is pretty well connected to most countries. We were in India before this trip, so we flew from New Delhi to Zanzibar with Ethiopian Airlines (roughly GBP 500 per person for return flights) because of a convenient connection. However the plane was messy, the food bad, and the service well, non-existent! We’d recommend choosing another airline if you can find one that offers convenient connections to Zanzibar from your port of departure.

 

Transfers within Zanzibar

It is best to have a taxi, which will take you from the airport to your hotel, booked before you land in Zanzibar! You can compare the prices offered by your hotel with a local taxi provider. Usually private transfers cost anywhere between USD 10 (Airport – Stone Town) and USD 50 (Airport – Chwaka Bay).

We booked all our transfers with Lukman after reading good reviews about him on Tripadvisor. It is best to contact him over Whatsapp at +255 776 416 155. We got his number from Tripadvisor – he was prompt in responding and punctual when it came to pick ups and drop offs. The prices he charged were competitive, so no complaints there. Would recommend him if you’re visiting Zanzibar. Say hello to him from us ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Budgeting for your holiday in Zanzibar

You budget will depend vastly upon the kind of accommodation you choose. It is possible to book nice hotels or AirBnBsย (you get around USD 30 off for your first booking using this link)ย starting at USD30 but if you’re there to spend a special occasion or a honeymoon, then there are some expensive but stunning luxury hotels too.

In addition to the cost of flights and hotel bookings, expect to spend about USD 70 per person per day (on transfers, occasional activities, and 2 meals per day) when you budget for your trip. Of course this indicative cost can increase or decrease depending on variables such as how much you intend to move around on the island, whether you enjoy fine dining or street food, or whether you are a heavy drinker on holiday.

 

One week Itinerary for a holiday in Zanzibar

When you are crafting your itinerary for a week long holiday in Zanzibar, we would suggest spendingย 2-3 days of the week in historic Stone Town and 4-5 days of the week in a beach-side hotel.

 

Staying in Stone Town

We’d highly recommend combining your stay at a beach-side hotel with a short stay in the historical and cultural capital – Stone Town, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most tourists visit Stone Town on a day trip but we recommend spending at least 2-3 days absorbing it’s sights and sounds. There are plenty of hotels in the area. We suggest choosing a boutique hotel in the old town for a real experience. But do beware of the following factors:

      1. Due to historic buildings and risk, there are no electric kettles in the rooms
      2. You can expect lots of stairs and winding pathways as these are old buildings, so not disabled friendly
      3. There can be a lot of mayhem in the town, so expect to hear the sounds of Stone Town early in the morning

If none of these things bother you, then we would highly recommend a unique stay in Stone Town. It is an unparalleled feeling to be in the midst of so much history, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the market. There is no better option than Emerson on Hurumzi – this gem is a refurbished historic building with the most scenic terrace restaurant in Stone Town. Rooms are colourful and full of character. Try opting for a room with a private terrace but you could literally pick any room and you’ll fall in love. Their home-cooked breakfast is hearty and delicious but the Zanzibari feast ($35 per person, including a 4 course meal and entertainment) at their famous rooftop teahouse and restaurant is unparalleled – book a place and arrive before sunset. Watch the sun set over Stone Town and dig into scrumptious fare as local singers regale you with their tunes.

Bedroom at Emerson on Hurumzi in Stone Town Zanzibar
Gorgeous rooms at Emerson On Hurumzi
Bedroom with private terrace at Emerson on Hurumzi Stone Town
Morning breakfast views from our own little private terrace ๐Ÿ™‚
tea room at Emerson on Hurumzi
The tea room – it’s like stepping back in time

 

Staying at the beach

When it comes to choosing beach side properties, there is no dearth of options in Zanzibar. If you like partying, then choose a beach-facing hotel or guesthouse in the villages of Nungwi or Kendwa.ย If you’re on a budget and you like really quiet places, then Resort Filao Beach is a good option. The hotel is affordable and scenic and the staff is lovely. However there is absolutely nothing to do in the area and there are no shops or restaurants. This means you are confined to the premises of the hotel – great if you’re after some privacy but not for you if you’ want to explore the island. The only walking excursion here is a visit to Chwaka village and its fish market.

Making friends with Masai at Filao Beach, Chwaka Bay
fishing boat in Zanzibar
A fishing boat at low tide in Chwaka bay

Mnemba Lodge – A Luxurious Haven

If you’re on your honeymoon or celebrating a truly special occasion (like us- we were there for our tenth anniversary!), then we’d recommend an exquisite private island getaway at AndBeyond Mnemba Island. Here barefoot luxury reigns supreme. Open-air villas are enveloped by trees and white sands. Both the colour of the water and beach sand at Mnemba Island are right out of a picture postcard – it’s easy to spend hours just relaxing by the beach, sipping on cocktails.

Each villa comes with its own private butler, so you can have said cocktails and all your meals wherever you want – by the beach, in your villa, lying down in a canopy in the middle of nowhere, or even on a float in the middle of the ocean. Everything from local delicacies and freshly-caught fish to continental salads and main courses is on offer.ย  We loved their desserts, especially their chocolate fondant. Just writing about it makes me want to go back for more

A stay here isn’t without its cons – open-air villas can get a tad hot during peak summer months, despite the fans. They are also not apt for light sleepers – there are plenty of doves on the island, which make for impeccable photographs but can be disturbing for light sleepers. For this reason we’d deem it ideal for adventurous luxury travellers. Other than that, AndBeyond Mnemba is the perfect island getaway in Zanzibar – an ideal way to relish an indulgent beach break with your partner in paradise.

Mnemba Atoll is ideal for water sports, especially snorkelling and diving. But we would also urge you to try their dhow boat cruise in the evening – watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean as you sip on sundowners and feel the wind in your hair.

AndBeyond Mnemba villa
Super spacious villa with utmost privacy at Mnemba
“Lounging” space outside the villa – check out the colour of the water ๐Ÿ™‚
snorkelling at AndBeyond Mnemba resort
The water at Mnemba is perfect for swimming and snorkelling
dinner at the beach at AndBeyond Mnemba lodge
Dinner setting at sunset – we didn’t feel like leaving
sunset dhow boat ride at AndBeyond Mnemba lodge
Dhow boat ride with champagne and snacks – yes please ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Things to do in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a unique destination in the sense that there aren’t too many landmarks you would want to ‘see’. Instead some of the richest things here can be experienced just by staying in the middle of the action and wandering in the by lanes or by a beach. Having said that, here are ten things to do and experiences we would definitely recommend in Zanzibar

      1. Watersports – diving, snorkelling, boating – you can take your pick! Mnemba Atoll has some of the clearest waters for water sports
      2. Walk to the fishing villages in Chwaka bay (if you’re staying in the area) and interact with the locals
      3. Sample street food at Forodhani Market – try the Zanzibari pizza, samosas, and freshly-squeezed fruit juices or if you don’t have a strong tummy, just soak in the atmosphere
      4. Acquaint yourself with local spices and local fare at Darajani Market in Stone Town
      5. Book a meal at the scenic restaurant The Rock. To be honest, the location is gorgeous but the food at The Rock could be better for the price. For this reason, we’d suggest dropping by for a drink or starters.
      6. Walk around Stone Town exploring historic gems such as the Old Fort and shopping for souvenirs. Walk along the port at sunset
      7. Party the night away at the full moon party at Kendwa Rocks
      8. Make friends with giant turtles at Canguu (Prison Island) on a day trip
      9. Enrol yourself in an experiential activity such as a cooking class, a village walk, or a school visit
      10. Admire the sunset from a dhow cruise – did you know dhow boats have been used by merchants coming to Zanzibar since the Spice Route days? Even today, goods are transported from Tanzaniaโ€™s mainland to Zanzibar on dhows each day. If youโ€™re holidaying on the island, you MUST hop on an old-school dhow boat and sail on calm waters as the sun sets around you
beautiful architecture in Stone Town
Walk around the historically rich quarters in Stone Town – beautiful architecture
Loved interacting with locals here
spice market in Stone town Zanzibar
Heavenly aroma of spices as soon as you enter the market
dinner and sunset at the rooftop restaurant at Emerson on Hurumzi
Have sundowners and dinner at the rooftop restaurant of Emerson on Hurumzi even if you aren’t staying here
dhow boat cruise at Sunset in Zanzibar
Take a sunset dhow boat cruise

That’s it. Everything you need to know about planning a week long holiday to Zanzibar. If you have any other questions, please leave them down below ๐Ÿ™‚

31 thoughts on “One Week Itinerary For Zanzibar: The Ultimate Guide The Spice Island

  1. wonderful write-up as-usual.. never knew Tanzania was so beautiful… you guys keep rocking and stay blessed ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. What a great guide- Zanzibar wasnโ€™t even on my radar but after watching you guys there on Instagram and reading this blog itโ€™s been added to the list for sure! What blue waters and what a beautiful historical town! And as usual, the way you describe destinations has me wanting to book a plane ticket immediately!

    1. Hey Vani – yes it will be hot but it’ll also be dry which is why December is one of the good months to visit Zanzibar (blue waters, no rain)

  3. Hi savi n vid… I was waiting for your write up on Zanzibar. We will Be in Zanzibar for 3 nights after our Masai Mara visit. What all we must do in our time as we want to rest for 1 day at least at our beautiful resort The Zanzibari.
    Thanks ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

    1. Hey Neha – you can pick and choose your favourites from the above but I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Old Town and some time to relax at the beaches ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Savi. I have one query. What currency is widely accepted in Zanzibar. Dollar or their shillings. Which is more convenient to use. And thank you so much for showing us a precious gem that we can visit.

  5. Such a wonderful post guys. Thank you! Just one question-I have been reading up a lot on Tanzania and most guides ask to dress conservatively in Zanzibar. I totally understand that you need to respect the culture of the place you are visiting but do you think as a single woman there is any extra precaution to be taken?

    1. Hey Akanksha – Not really. As long as your elbows and knees are covered and you’re not flashing very expensive equipment, you’re good ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Not more than what you would take in a country like India ๐Ÿ™‚

      Other than that, just wear covered clothes when going to religious places

  6. Hi there!

    I wanted to ask if you decided to spend a week in Zanzibar instead of spending that week in mainland Tanzania? If so, was it worth it to spend the entire time in Zanzibar, having travelled all the way to Tanzania?

    I am currently deciding on whether I ought to spend three/four days in Zanzibar, and three days near Arusha (to make short trips to surrounding safaris)

    1. Hey Jin – Your plan sounds great. We had recently been on safari and wanted a relaxed break, hencewhy we opted to fly in and out of Zanzibar ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Hi – Did you book the Dhow boat cruise ahead of time? I am planning my trip to Zanzibar right now, so appreciate any pointers on this!

    1. Hey you don’t need not book the Dhow cruise in Zanzibar ahead of time. Just a day in advance works – so you can book it upon getting there ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Moving around the island ends up being one of the biggest expenses for people visiting Zanzibar. Obviously using the dala dala would keep transport costs down, but for those people who don’t want to travel in hot, cramped buses for hours at a time there are shuttles instead! These effectively work like shared taxis, collecting you directly from your accommodation and dropping you at the next place. The price is only $10 p/p to go anywhere on the island and quite often you get the car to yourself anyway! Only downside is that departure times are set… so check the schedule fits with your plans.

  9. Thank you for this guide, super helpful! Had a few questions, do you think Zanzibar is safe to travel alone for a female? Also did you tip daily? In terms of getting around the Island, is this difficult? Appreciate any tips ๐Ÿ™‚ love reading your blogs from little NZ ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Don’t think there should be any problems in solo travel. It seemed safe. You can get around the island either by private car hire or local transport which is not a hassle. Tipping is not expected but always appreciated ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Hey was wondering if I could club Zanzibar with safari trips in Tanzania… Will 8-10 days be sufficient to do both? Also have u heard or been to the animal safaris in Tanzania?

    1. Hey

      That’s the best plan and most people do that. 10 days should be enough for that. Unfortunately we haven’t been to any safaris in Tanzania

  11. Hi guys,

    Lovely website, especially the photos. I am planning a trip in November, still haven’t finalised a destination but Zanzibar is definitely in the list. However, i wanted to know how safe is the stone town? is there a strict code of decorum to be followed here (i have heard they can be quite conservative)? I am someone who loves immersing myself in different cultures and Zanzibar does look enticing.

    1. Hey

      It’s safe. Not quite sure what you mean by strict code of decorum ๐Ÿ™‚

      It didn’t feel stifling or anything of that sort. We loved Zanzibar.

  12. Hey, I was planning for a Honeymoon trip to Zanzibar in Feb’20. My only concern is temperature. Is it going to be really hot or if it is ok yo go in Feb.

    1. Hey Aakash,

      You might find more reliable information on Google weather ๐Ÿ™‚ we went in November and the weather was beautiful at that time. Not quite sure about Feb

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