Zanzibar's very name summons up images of the exotic. And this tropical island off the East African coast lives up to that billing with palm-framed beaches, whitewashed villages, tasty Asian-African cuisine, and traditions that stretch back hundreds of years.
What We Love
Dhows: The ancient lateen-rigged sailing vessels that crowd Stone Town harbor carry tourists on local cruises and cargo across the Indian Ocean.
Freddie Mercury: OK, you won't actually find the late, great lead singer of Queen in Zanzibar. But this is where he was born (to Indian Parsi parents) in 1946.
Best Known For
Stone Town: Named after the coral blocks used to construct many of its buildings, Zanzibar's capital is a treasure chest of traditional Swahili architecture, including historic palaces, forts, and mosques.
Beaches: Talcum-powder-fine sand is the order of the day at Zanzibar's glistening strands. Top beaches include Nungwi and Kendwa at the island's northern tip, and Kiwengwa and Bwejuu on the east coast.
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Who It's Best For
Old-School Romantics: The bygone buildings, the smell of saffron, the call of the muezzin, the harbor full of old wooden sailing craft ... Zanzibar is for those who wish they'd been born in a different era.
Music Fans: Even if your visit doesn't coincide with the world-famous Sauti za Busara world music festival in February, Stone Town is a great place to catch African tunes, especially the island's own taarab music.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
This Isn't Jungle Land: Although there are a few attractions that exhibit African "big game" on Zanzibar, the real wild life is on the Tanzanian mainland at places like Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
Zanzibar Is Conservative: While bikinis and beer are tolerated at the island's beach resorts, visitors should respect local customs by dressing modestly and acting appropriately away from the beach.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.