Zanzibar: The Spice Island
There aren’t many destinations that can satisfy our inner beach bum and our thirst for culture. Zanzibar is that place. Inhabited for nearly 20,000 years and a constant hub for the intercontinental spice route, this Tanzanian island has been shaped by the many nationalities that have graced its shores. The mash-up of cultures, architecture and cuisine, mixed with white-sand beaches and a vibrant reef, make it Africa’s most alluring island.
Where to Stay
On the remote beaches or in the historic Stone Town
Tucked on the eastern beaches of Bwejuu, this Omani-style retreat will make you feel like a sultan(a). Each room is designed with key-hole arches, bronze lanterns, four-poster beds and an ocean view (yep, every room has one). Oh and did we mention the yoga classes led by a legit Indian yogi?
Zanzibar’s favorite coffee house and java growers had such a cult following, they opened a hotel in the adjoining 19th-century house in the heart of Stone Town. Airy spaces with African textiles and antiques offer an authentic Zanzibari experience--and the best cup of morning joe on the entire island.
Where to Eat
Dine on a rooftop, an island and at a buzzing night market
The Tea House
Prepare to be wooed. This rooftop restaurant atop a Swahili mansion offers 360-degree views of Stone Town and the sea, along with live music and a perfectly exotic menu. Book in advance and order the passion-fruit ceviche.
A coral rock in the Indian ocean with a tiny kitchen and 12 tables--this is undoubtedly one of the dreamiest dining experiences in all of Africa. Make a day of it and enjoy the drive to beautiful Michanwi Pingwe, then head into the waters (wading, walking or boat, depending on the tide) for a seafood dinner with a side of sunset.
Zanzibar Waterfront Food Court
Each night, the Stone Town waterfront turns into a bustling food fair with live musicians, artists, travelers and locals. Get a taste for Zanzibari cuisine and nibble your way through the open-air food stalls, sampling samosas with coconut chutney, chapatti pizzas and a bounty of seafood grilled to order.
What to Do
Grasp Zanzibar’s scale, beauty and diversity
Life in Stone Town Tour
To this day there are no definitive maps of Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town; so don’t be too cool to hire a guide. Follow the local insiders at Zanzibar Different Tours through the city’s labyrinth to discover the Zanzibari way of life--and stop for lunch in a local’s home.
Tangawizi Spice Farm
Learn how Zanzibari spices have flavored the country’s history with a walk through the lush forest and rolling farms on this sprawling estate. Here, you can touch and taste fresh lemongrass, cardamom, lychee, jackfruit and vanilla--and sample a dozen other exotic (and aphorodisaic) delights.
The Sand Bank
Set sail on a traditional dhow boat toward Bawe Island. Hop out for snorkeling among the corals and tropical fishes. Then continue on to the Sand Bank, an otherworldly island that emerges with the changing tides and offers up near-constant views of abundant birdlife and comical ghost crabs.
What to Skip
Take to the water, not the air
The 30-Minute Plane Ride
Unless you’re already in the Dar es Salaam airport, it will take you longer to fly to the beaches than to just hop on a ferry and make your way by water. In addition to saving yourself some time and money, you’ll get to enjoy the coastal scenery and get a little culture en route.
What to Pack
A lightweight Scarf
While you don’t need to cover your head like the local Muslim ladies, it’s always good to have something to drape over your shoulders in religious spaces and highly local spots like the market or the port.
You know that India-style tunic in the back of your closet? Now’s the time to break that baby out. A lightweight linen with a little embroidery will keep you cool, covered and globally chic.
A One-Piece Swimsuit
Be a bit more discreet while relaxing on the beach with a cute 1950s-style suit. It will have better bum coverage (modesty is key here) and still be cute enough to flaunt back home.