7 Days in Zanzibar: Stone Town, Beaches & More

7 days in Zanzibar

Africa has always been a fascinating destination for us, and it was on top our bucket list for a long time. For my 30th birthday, we booked a 2 weeks trip to Zanzibar and Kenya. It was a tough decision considering we had to choose with the likes of Tanzania, Namibia, Madagascar, South Africa, and Zambia. We chose Zanzibar for its beaches, and Kenya for wildlife parks. In this blog post, we talk about our 7 days in Zanzibar.

What to pack for a trip to Zanzibar

When preparing for a trip to Zanzibar, it’s essential to consider the tropical climate of this stunning island paradise. With its warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year, lightweight and breathable clothing is a must to stay comfortable in the heat. Here are a few items you’ll want to pack and why:

  • Good quality backpack: We recommend the Lowe Alpine Airzone Trail for its durability and comfort.
  • Microfiber towel: Compact and quick-drying, it takes up less space than a regular towel.
  • Swimwear: Essential for seaside activities.
  • Swimming mask and snorkel: Must-haves for snorkeling.
  • Sun cream: To protect against the strong sun.
  • Underwater camera: Perfect for capturing photos and videos while snorkeling.
  • Travel adaptor: Zanzibar typically uses Type G electrical outlets. An international travel adaptor is a versatile option for all your travels.
  • Comfortable footwear: Opt for lightweight and breathable shoes that provide adequate support and ventilation for walking in the warm climate.
  • Flip-flops and sandals: One for the beach, one for walking around.

7 Days in Zanzibar: Our trip to Nungwi

So off we went to Zanzibar then, and more precisely to Unguja, the main island of the Archipelago. The first stop of our 7 days in Zanzibar was Nungwi, on the north side of the island. Nungwi was just a small fishing village until the late 90s when tourism completely transformed it. Today, it is a popular destination featuring numerous resorts, bars, restaurants, and just about all that tourists need. Nungwi Beach with its beautiful blue-turquoise waters, caught our eyes as soon as we arrived.

Nungwi beach
Nungwi Beach

We stayed at Papaya Guesthouse, a comfy and affordable place within walking distance of the beach. It features minimal bungalows and a nice garden where they serve breakfast. We enjoyed our stay at Papaya and would recommend it. If you fancy hotels with a sea view, then the Z Hotel would be a great chice. Friends of mine who stayed there recommended it to us and it seems to be a popular spot around.

Take it Pole Pole

Life in Zanzibar is slow-paced. Everybody takes their time, no rush at all. It was all quiet, relaxed, and peaceful. Their motto is “pole pole” which means “slowly slowly” or “take it easy”.

In these places, you get to stop and think of all the pressure we constantly have in our western world. The sensation lived in those moments truly makes you embrace their way to be. We certainly took our time during our stay in Nungwi and went pole pole 😊 .

Days 1 and 2 were dedicated to total relaxation at the beach. I decided to change my style and got my head full of brides. It took three hours to get it done by two ladies working simultaneously. I simply waited patiently and enjoyed one of the best sunsets ever seen. Sunsets in Africa are known to be gorgeous….and experiencing them firsthand was immensely beautiful. 

Zanzibar's sunset
Sunset at Nungwi Beach

I thought brides were cool, but I was really happy to discover they suited me well! In addition, I soon became popular around. The locals used to call me “Kiduku”, which means “the man who shaved his head sides”. Kids and elders used to salute me like “Good morning Kiduku” or “Hey Rasta, how is it going”. Yes, I was very proud of that 😊

Diving in Mnemba Atoll

The big 30s day had arrived for me. Time to enjoy the present from my loved one which consisted of two dives in Mnemba Atoll, the largest conservation area in Zanzibar. We went with the Spanish Dancer Divers as they had great reviews and were pretty popular around, and we were not disappointed. Their team is great, and they are professional and friendly.

A magnificent birthday

The first dive was in the area of Kichuani, a vertical wall full of corals. The second one was in Wattabomi, with easy slopes featuring a sandy bottom full of plate corals. The visibility was great and, in both areas, we saw thousands of coral fishes, including a scorpionfish. The day went on really well and we enjoyed the dives very much.

Mnemba Atoll
Diving in Mnemba Atoll

For those of you who don’t dive…you should try, it’s a truly unique experience 😉

After the dives, we still had some time to swim in the crystal-clear waters of Nungwi. We enjoyed another magnificent sunset and then we got dressed up for the special evening. We treated ourselves to dinner on the Z Hotel’s balcony overlooking the sea. The food was great and the staff was fantastic. I could not have ever imagined I was going to have such a wonderful birthday.

A visit to Stone Town

During our 7 days in Zanzibar we couldn’t miss a visit to Stone Town, so we booked a tour to the capital Zanzibar City. With its historical center of Stone Town, Zanzibar City is one of the main highlights of the island. UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 2000, Stone Town has experienced an incredible mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African cultures.

We took a guided walking tour where we explored the main highlights of the town. Stone Town is interesting. The houses made of corals give it a red, warm look and you can smell different flavours of spices in the air. Although only a small town, it features a large variety of landmarks for it has been influenced by multiple cultures. Definitely a town out of the ordinary and worth a visit.

Our walking tour in Stone Town

The walking tour started with a visit to Freddie Mercury’s birthplace house, today Tembo House Hotel, and place of pilgrimage for the biggest fans of the celebrity. While walking around the streets we admired the houses made of corals, with the porches beautifully decorated in Indian style. Every porch has a unique look because back then, every Indian family had a status symbol that they carved at the doors to recognize the different families.

We passed by the Old Fort, which was the first building created in Stone town. Today it hosts the Zanzibar Film Festival. Then we visited The House of Wonders, the former Sultan’s residency which was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and the first building in East Africa to have a lift.

Freddie Mercury’s house
Freddie Mercury’s house

Although the House of Wonders was pretty unique, the Anglican Cathedral of Christ Church is the one that impressed us the most. This church was constructed in a large area that used to host the biggest slave market in Zanzibar. Just beside the church is a monument dedicated to the slaves and a museum on slavery’s history. The museum hosts a large collection of pictures of those times and makes you follow a path where you go through the entire history of slavery in Zanzibar. You can also access the grotto where the slaves used to be kept before being sold.

This experience was absolutely shocking: a sad, but at the same time, educating place.

Our final stop was the Darajani Bazaar,  the Stone Town’s market where you can find any sort of local food.

7 days in Zanzibar
Darajani Bazaar

We got a bit of Stone Town’s flavour but it was time for us to head to Paje.

If you are planning to stay a bit longer, check out the best hotels in Stone Town


How to get around in Zanzibar

No official public buses are operating in Zanzibar. The dala dalas are privately owned minibuses that depart only when they are full. It is a good option if you are patient enough and willing to wait till the bus departs. Or, if you are lucky enough to see one passing by the street and that will stop to pick you up! This option is the cheapest one to get around Zanzibar but the slowest. In addition, the buses are usually packed with people, so do be careful with your belongings.

Taxis and tour companies are inevitably the best choices

During our 7 days in Zanzibar, we always got around by taxi or private transfers. We found it to be the best way to get around Zanzibar because they pick you up at your location. They do tend to increase the prices whenever they see tourists, and you will need to haggling a bit to get a fair price. If you want to avoid haggling, you could book your transfers in Zanzibar from the widget below. 

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The long beaches of Paje

We spent the last 3 of our 7 days in Zanzibar discovering Paje and its surroundings. Paje is a village on the oriental coast of Unguja. If you love water sports, this is the right place for you: surfing, kitesurfing, and jet skiing are amongst the most popular activities around. Paje beach is nice, with white sand and blue water. Just the way we like it. However, be mindful of the tides that change the level of water rapidly and without notice. We experienced low tides quite frequently in Paje. This means you could walk towards the water for minutes, but never reach a decent depth for swimming.

Day 1: Relax and treats

On the first day, we were too tired, so we had a delicious lunch at one of the many restaurants on the beach and watched the people having fun on the jet skis. We stayed at Take it Easy Guesthouse. The owner Marco treated us very well. The rooms were clean and comfortable, the breakfast they served was good, and the guesthouse was just within walking distance of the beach. Moreover, they have a nice balcony where we enjoyed morning breakfasts and chilled out at night while sipping cold beers.

In the evening we dressed up and went to The Rock, a popular seafood restaurant built on the top of a rock, right in the middle of the sea. We enjoyed the sunset sipping our cocktails, treated ourselves to a crustaceans-based dinner, and just marvelled at the clear sky full of stars.

The Rock Restaurant Zanzibar
The Rock Restaurant

Day 2: Seaweed farming experience and Michamvi Kae

The next morning, we got up early to enjoy the beach in full. As the tides were low, we could experience watching local women cultivating red seaweed on the beach. There were several rows of sticks accurately aligned and the ladies were working on them…it seemed like they were cultivating a field, except that was on a beach.

We heard that Zanzibar is one of the top exporters of red seaweed and Paje is the main producer. The cultivation of this plant has been traditionally reserved for women. In fact, 90% of people occupied in this sector in Paje are females. Sadly, red seaweed is getting harder to grow in this area due to sea warming.

Seaweed farming Zanzibar
Seaweed farming

For the other half of the day, we hired a taxi and went to Michamvi Kae beach. This beach is located in a bay and it is known to be one of the best places to watch sunsets in Zanzibar. On the beach there is a bar where they serve cocktails and fish too. The food was nice but the service was extremely slow (always remember: pole pole!). We took our time and enjoyed swimming, sunbathing, and taking photos at sunset.

Michamvi Kae beach
Michamvi Kae beach
7 days in Zanzibar
Sunset at Michamvi Kae beach

A visit to Makunduchi

For our last day in Paje, we decided to do something different and experience the everyday life of those who live outside the tourism radar. We heard Marco’s brother-in-law is a driver and he is originally from a village called Makunduchi, not too far from Paje, so we took our opportunity and asked him to show us his village. Before heading to Makunduchi, we bought some stationery and sweets as we also wanted to visit the local school.

A walk around Makunduchi village

First, we went to the popular square where locals celebrate the “Mwaka Kogwa”; a Persian celebration during which people fight in a ritual battle and burn a hut at the end. The direction of the smoke from the burning, tells locals what the future holds for them.

Makunduchi village
Makunduchi's Square

We then walked around the village. There are no roads as such in Makunduchi and some still live in mud-made houses. Most people have their garden with livestock and plenty of fruit plants. It was interesting to learn about local traditions and lifestyles directly from a local guide. We noticed that, even if living conditions are far from those of western countries, they are still decent and people are happy with the little they have.

A visit to Makunduchi school

Finally, we arrived at the school and asked the director for permission to visit the classes. The students seemed very excited to have visitors; we were welcomed like superstars!! The teachers explained to us most of the students come from poor families and likely will face a future of poverty. Because of this, kids tend to start working at a very early age and abandon school.

The teachers took our visit as an opportunity to raise awareness among students of the importance of continuing education, and we certainly decided to play our part. We handed over the stationaries and the sweets and also had some little chats with the students. We made some small English and Italian classes and finally wished good luck to all, especially to last year’s students. For them, we were now “those who came from very far away to advise not to miss school and study hard”.

Makunduchi Zanzibar
Makunduchi's school

Time for conclusions...

The visit to Makunduchi school marked the end of our 7 days in Zanzibar. It was truly a unique experience, very touching and emotional. These kinds of experiences make us realise we are lucky to live the way we do and we should appreciate it.

At this stage, it was time for us to move on; the next morning we had an early flight to Mombasa. We really enjoyed Zanzibar and its people. I had a fantastic birthday which I will never forget. Nungwi’s amazing beach is second to none, and Stone Town with its multicultural influence, is truly a marvellous town. Learning about seaweed cultivations in Paje was both interesting and sad at the same time. Makunduchi will always hold a special place in our hearts and we are still in contact with some of the locals.

We hope you enjoyed this post and that it will give you some inspiration to plan your next trip to Zanzibar.

If you want to see more pictures of this trip, check out our Instagram page.

Don’t forget to read about the highlight of our visit to Kenya: Safari Africa: Discovering Tsavo East and Amboseli.


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