A mesmerising tropical breathing space and one of the leading holiday destinations in Africa, Zanzibar is very popular with couples, friends and families seeking nothing more or less than pure exotic tranquillity. It is likely that this island has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and this area of Tanzania was already a busy maritime trading region by the late medieval period.
Although tourism is a key sector of Zanzibar's economy, the island is also renowned for its spice trade, and produces vast quantities of popular cooking spices such as cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. A major event in the local calendar is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which has been held annually since 1997 and is is considered to be the largest festival in East Africa.
The main attraction of the island, besides the spectacular natural scenery, Stone Town is a fascinating historic district with intriguing 19th-century architecture, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
See the Palace Museum, where you can learn about the story of the Zanzibari royal family in this formidable former sultan's home. The House of Wonders, meanwhile, is another former Sultan's palace that dates back to the 1880s and has a museum showcasing the history of local culture.
The 19th-century Old Dispensary also contains a museum exhibiting the history of Zanzibar, and is noted for its beautiful stained glass decorations and unique blend of European Neoclassical and Indian architectural styles. Another striking historic landmark is the Old Fort of Zanzibar, which is the oldest building in the Stone Town district and dates back to the 17th century.
Featuring some of the finest sandy beaches in Africa, if not the world, Pemba Island is surrounded by breathtaking coral reefs and is devoid of crowds, which will certainly appeal to holidaymakers seeking a secluded, rejuvenating environment. This lush, highly undeveloped island, which is called 'The Green Island' in Arabic, is approximately 100km from Zanzibar and overlooks incredibly clear lagoons.
Where to eat out in Zanzibar – suggestions
For some delicious, freshly prepared Mediterranean, try the House of Spices restaurant in Stone Town, or enjoy some fantastic Ethiopian-themed cuisine at the Abyssinian Maritime Ethiopian Traditional Restaurant. You can also have tantalising seafood and fusion dishes at 6 Degrees South Grill and Wine Bar, or head to The Silk Route if you're looking for some divine Indian cuisine.
Accommodation – ideas
One of the most deluxe Zanzibar hotels is the Zanzi Resort, which is particularly popular with honeymooners. Other sought-after hotels include the value-for-money Sunset Bungalows, the affordable and elegant Sea Cliff Resort & Spa, the exquisite Breezes Beach Club & Spa in Bwejuu, and the photogenic Melia Zanzibar in Kiwengwa.
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