Zanzibar Sights & Attractions

While Zanzibar’s beaches are a good enough reason alone to visit this unspoiled island, don’t miss the fascinating sights of Stone Town and other must-see attractions during a honeymoon or romantic getaway.

Must-see sights in Zanzibar, include…

Stone Town

Discover the cultural and historical heart of Zanzibar and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili meaning ‘ancient town’), the atmospheric old capital of Stone Town is one of the most unique cities in the world – an exciting blend of Arab, Middle Eastern, Indian and African cultures.

Get pleasantly lost in the city’s maze of narrow winding alleyways crammed with Arab and Indian-influenced architecture.

Along the way discover bustling oriental bazaars, mosques, palaces and grand Arab mansions decorated with ornately carved brass-studded doors and enclosed wooden verandas that closely resemble the medinas of the Arabian Peninsula.

Check out the castellated battlements of the 16th century Arab Fort, the marble-floored rooms of the Beit-el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), personal artefacts of the sultan at the Beit al-Sahel (the Sultan's Palace) and the wooden balconies at the sumptuous four-storey Ithna’asheri Dispensary.

Read more about Stone Town

Livingstone's House

Visit the house where the great explorer lived before commencing his last journey in 1886 into the African interior.

Many missionaries and explorers also used this house as a starting point for the mainland. It’s located just a short walk from town and can also be reached by taking a dalla-dalla.

Maruhubi Palace Ruins

Built by Sultan Barghash in 1882 to house his large harem, the once-imposing Maruhubi Palace Ruins was almost totally destroyed by fire was in 1899.

Today you can wander around the the remaining ruins that include columns, an overhead aqueduct and some small reservoirs covered with water lilies. The ruins are located north of Zanzibar Town just west of the Bububu Road.

Mtoni Palace Ruins

Stroll around the ruined walls of the once magnificent Mtoni Palace, which was built by Sultan Seyyid Said as his residence in the early 19th century.

By the mid-1880s the palace, with its balconied exterior, large garden courtyard complete with peacocks and gazelles and a mosque was abandoned.

To get an idea of how the palace once looked read Emily Said-Reute's Memoirs of an Arabian Princess. The ruins are located just northeast of Maruhubi Palace.

Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park

Follow the Pete-Jozani Mangrove Boardwalk above the mangrove forest and salt marsh, spotting crabs and colourful tropical fish feeding in the shallow waters.

Or choose from three hiking trails – Paddock Forest, Monkey and Mangrove – that wind through dry coral rag forest; each takes around 30 minutes. Look out for the rare and endemic Kirk’s red colobus monkey (photo), with its spiky white whiskers, black face and rusty brown coat.

Look out also for blue monkeys, tiny duiker and suni antelopes, more than 50 species of butterfly and around 40 species of birds, including brightly coloured sunbirds, kingfishers and blue-cheeked bee eaters.

The nature reserve contains around 100 tree species within its 1000-hectare area and is the largest conservation area in Zanzibar. Jozani forest lies about 38km southeast of Stone Town. You can visit on your own or take a guided tour. The park is open daily 7:30am to 5pm.

Mangapwani Caves

Take a stroll around this large natural cave with a freshwater pool and then enter the man-made cavern once used to hold slaves after the abolition of slavery in 1897.

The slaves were held here in grim conditions until they were secretly transported to ships and onward to the slave markets of Europe and the Indian subcontinent. The caves are located 20km north of Stone Town.

Misali Island Marine Conservation Area

This one-time reputed hideout of notorious pirate Captain Kidd is now an uninhabited marine sanctuary, which was created in 1998 with the goal of maintaining the island’s ecosystem in harmony with the local fishermen.

Relax on a choice of gorgeous soft white-sand beaches, hike nature trails as you look out for flying foxes and vervet monkeys, and go snorkelling or diving above lush coral gardens inhabited by more than 40 types of coral and teeming with 300 species of colourful tropical fish.

The island is also a nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles and home to a large colony of nocturnal coconut crabs.

Misali Island lies just 9km off the coast west of Pemba, an easy day trip. Guide tours can be arranged at the visitors centre.

Vumawimbi Forest Reserve

Take a guided tour along a short nature trail that winds through the protected forest canopy of the Ngezi Vumawimbi Forest Reserve.

To see Scops owls and other nocturnal birds, simple call in advance to arrange an evening tour with the caretaker.

More about Zanzibar…

Latest update: Zanzibar Sights & Attractions: 3 January, 2023