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10 Best Things to Do in Zanzibar for Solo Travellers
Just 50 Kilometres off the coast of the African nation of Tanzania, and surrounded by the turquoise-blue waters of the Indian Ocean, is the tropical archipelago of Zanzibar.
Once Africa’s greatest ancient world trade hubs, this island is known for its melting pot of different cultures and unique mix of buildings and culinary culture.
Zanzibar is a place of a thousand stories and the solo traveller that is willing to take the time to explore this ancient tropical escape will find an adventure unlike any other.
Wander the narrow alleys of the historic Stone Town as you cut through streets of ancient buildings with tile decorated balconies and intricately carved doors.
Rest on white sandy beaches as wooden dhow boats sail along the coast or escape to a more rural life in a countryside that is dotted with rich smelling plantations that are the reason Zanzibar is known as the “Spice Island”.
Experience world-class snorkelling and scuba diving, visit vibrant beach bar locations or watch the sunset from a rooftop garden. Zanzibar has all you could imagine and more.
No matter what you hope to see in this little part of paradise we have got you covered with our Zanzibar Travel Guide containing the 10 best things to do in Zanzibar.
- An Easy Guide to Tanzania & 5 Critical Tips for Solo Travellers in Tanzania
- How to Visit the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania’s Greatest Treasure!)
How to Get to Zanzibar Island
There are two main ways to get to Zanzibar and many choose either to get a light aircraft flight or by taking one of the high-speed ferries.
Flights to Zanzibar usually fly out of Arusha Airport near the Serengeti National Park. After all, what could be better than spending some time unwinding on a tropical island after an intensive safari experience in Tanzania.
Flights usually take around 1.5 hours to reach the island and will have you starting your Zanzibar experience at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, which is only a 15-minute drive from the historic Stone Town.
Another way to reach Zanzibar is by taking a high-speed ferry out from the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Salaam.
The ferry leaves four times a day, takes around two hours and costs approximately $45 USD for the journey. It is one of the most scenic routes to get you to the port of Zanzibar city.
The 10 Best Things to Do in Zanzibar
Zanzibar has a variety of unique and interesting locations for travellers to explore and activities to experience.
As part of our Zanzibar Travel Guide, we have listed 10 of our favourite things for solo travellers to do in Zanzibar.
1) Stone Town
Stone Town is a city of great historical importance in East Africa. Its architecture is rich and diverse and many of its buildings date as far back as the 19th century.
The town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 due to its diverse mix of architecture and cultures with a range of influences such as Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements being found throughout the old quarter of Stone Town.
The town’s unique history and heritage make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Zanzibar.
As a solo traveller, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time whilst exploring the spice bazaars and towering archways of this ancient city!
There is a huge variety of activities for travellers in Stone Town so we have listed some of the best for you to check out below.
Top activities to do in Stone Town
- Visit the Forodhani Gardens Food Market where dozens of food stalls sit right on the city seafront and provide a delicious selection of local Zanzibar cuisine for you to enjoy
- Visit the Zanzibar old fort which is set on the promenade and is free to enter! The fort contains an art gallery and souvenir market and is a great way to spend a few hours in the city
- Make sure to visit the Palace Museum which is based at the former Sultan’s Palace and will give you a glimpse into this island’s unique history from its ancient roots all the way to its 1960s revolution
- Enjoy drink on the rooftop of the Africa House Hotel as you watch the fisherman’s wooden dhow boats return from a day at sea. This is a must-see for Zanzibar as nothing truly creates a sense of tropical escape like watching dozens of wooden ships return to the harbour while a golden orange glow fills the sky
- Visit Zanzibar’s national museum which is unofficially known as the “House of Wonders” and is located on the seafront in Stone Town. Not only is it an impressive building but it’s a perfect place to start your Zanzibar solo trip as it helps you learn about interesting locations all over the island.
Top Hotels in Stone Town
Stone Town has dozens of different hotels for travellers to enjoy and we have listed some of our favourites below.
1) Double Tree by Hilton, Stone Town
- For the solo traveller seeking to enjoy a premium comfort stay then the DoubleTree by Hilton is a great option to check out.
- Set in the heart of the town and only a five-minute walk from the shoreline it is in the perfect location.
- The hotel is designed in traditional Swahili architecture and is renowned for its premium service.
2) Zanzibar Coffee House Hotel
- For the solo traveller looking for a more budget but charmingly boutique option the Zanzibar Coffee House Hotel offers an authentic experience in one of the oldest Arabic homes in the city.
- It is a stylish hotel with relaxed interiors, antiques and rich fabrics.
3) Lost and Found 57 hostel
- If you’re seeking a cheap backpacker-friendly option which allows you to stay with other like-minded travellers, then the Lost and Found 57 hostel is the perfect place to rest your head.
- Located in the heart of Stone Town in a stunningly renovated townhouse this is the perfect place to enjoy a drink on the balcony while making new friends from all over the world.
- Staff are friendly and also help with bookings for local tours throughout Zanzibar.
2) Take a Local Village Tour
Visiting one of the rural villages dotted around Zanzibar is the perfect way to get an insight into the local people’s daily life. It is also a nice way to support the local economy and enjoy a side of Zanzibar that standard tourists never see.
There are organised tours to the coastal village of Jambiani which allow you to see local fishermen, the village herbalist and a seaweed farm as well as enjoy a traditional Swahili lunch.
You can also enjoy a 4×4 quad bike off-road adventure tour through remote African villages, farm lands, and plantations.
It is important to remember that taking pictures of people without permission is not widely accepted in African nations. If you’re going to take your camera make sure to remember to ask before you take a snap!
3) Enjoy a Traditional Dhow Boat Sunset Journey
There is no better way to enjoy the waters of Zanzibar than by taking a sunset cruise on a traditional fisherman’s Dhow boat.
Watch the coast glide by as your boat passes fishing villages and watch dolphins leaping from the blue waters of the warm Indian Ocean. Enjoy an ocean swim or just lounge on the front of your boat and take in the smell and sights of the sea.
There are a variety of different boat trips such as dinner cruises or party boats so always make sure to do a little research and pick the one that best works for you.
Most of the sunset cruises depart from the main towns on the west of the island and you can take cruises from the town of Nungwi or Stone Town.
4) Take a Spice Tour
Discover why Zanzibar is called the Spice Island and visit some of the unique spics plantations found all over the island which grow spices like vanilla, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and many others.
Many of the island’s hotels offer this experience and it usually involves having a local guide take you to one of the island’s many plantations where you can walk among the fields and learn about the history of the spice trade on Zanzibar.
This is also a great experience to combine with a local cuisine cooking class as it allows you to see the whole journey of spice through Zanzibar and learn how to make a new dish to show off when you return home from your solo travels!
5) Enjoy a Blue Safari Around the Island
Blue safaris are a full day trip that focus on seeing the beautiful coral reefs that surround the island.
One of the best blue safaris starts at the stunning south coast village of Fumba, where you will take a trip out on a traditional dhow boat to the beautiful Menai Bay.
There are also tours that allow you to swim with the wild dolphin pods and snorkel over the vibrant coral reefs of diverse and tropical fish life.
6) Visit the rare red colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest
Jozani Forest is a mangrove and tropical rainforest national park located in the south-central region of Zanzibar. It is a unique marine and animal environment and is the only protected national park on the island.
Jozani Forest is also home to the rare red colobus monkey species that is only found in this unique part of the world and as you walk the boarded paths you will get to see these beautiful monkeys up close.
The forest is also home to a variety of other unique animal species such as the Sykes monkey, bush babies and more than 50 species of butterfly which can be seen fluttering between the forest trees.
There is also the rumoured existence of the possibly extinct Zanzibar leopard residing in the forest.
It was last seen in 2018 on a documentary camera trail, sparking renewed interest in this incredibly rare animal which hasn’t been seen in person for nearly 18 years.
7) Visit the Rock Restaurant
To the southeast of the island, just off the coast of Michanwi Pingwe beach, you will find the somewhat unusual sight of the Rock Restaurant which is built on a rock formation sat in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The Rock Restaurant makes for stunning scenery as you enjoy a meal while surrounded by the crashing waves of the ocean and this is definitely one of the most scenic meals you could hope to ever enjoy.
Availability is limited, so make sure to book ahead of time.
8) Visit Prison Island
The Changuu Island or more commonly referred to as Prison Island is a former slave prison found just off the coast of Stone Town. Today it is now the home of giant tortoises.
Visiting here means you can feed the tortoises and learn about their conservation. You can also enjoy walking through the forest or sunbathing on the white sandy beaches.
The island is surrounded by a coral reef which is a great place for swimming and snorkelling and the water is dotted with colourful starfish and tropical marine animals.
9) Enjoy a Full Moon Party at Kendwa Rocks
For those looking for a little more nightlife during their solo travels through Zanzibar, the Kendwa Rocks Hotel on the north of the island holds a Full Moon Party once a month.
This is a great event to let loose at and meet other travellers. There are also regular Saturday parties if you aren’t there at the time of the full moon.
The party plays a variety of reggae African beats and the food and drinks attract locals and travellers alike.
Dance the night away barefoot in the sand as you watch traditional leopard print clad dancers and fire twirlers provide guests with a stunning show. Alternatively, you can simply rest around one of the many campfires and exchange stories with other travellers.
10) Catch Some Sun at the Stunning Nungwi Beach
The village of Nungwi is found on Zanzibar’s north west tip and is one of the island’s most stunning beaches.
The tide doesn’t head out too far (like it does in some other areas of Zanzibar island), and it isn’t overrun with tourists yet. This makes it a great location to soak up the sun and enjoy a good book.
There is a variety of hammocks and cabanas that you can use and a good mix of restaurants that you can enjoy along the beach.
You can also explore Nungwi village with a local Swahili meal or visit the local turtle sanctuary on this part of the island.
No matter what you plan on doing in Zanzibar you’re guaranteed to enjoy an escape unlike any other found in this world.
From its diverse mix of cultures and interesting history to its stunning tropical sunsets and vibrant coral reefs, Zanzibar is one of the world’s best island paradises.
In summary, here’s the list of our top recommended things to do as part of our Zanzibar Travel Guide for solo travellers:
- Stone Town
- Take a Local Village Tour
- Enjoy a Traditional Dhow Boat Sunset Journey
- Take a Spice Tour
- Enjoy a Blue Safari Around the Island
- Visit the rare red colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest
- Visit the Rock Restaurant
- Visit Prison Island
- Enjoy a Full Moon Party at Kendwa Rocks
- Catch Some Sun at the Stunning Nungwi Beach