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Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town
Stone Town

Stone Town was constructed during the 19th century...

...and hasn’t changed much since then.

You can enjoy beautiful views of the ocean...

...and discover what remained...

...from its rich history.

Stone Town is something of a labyrinth...

...with small alleys that offer places to shop and eat.

The atmosphere is unique and romantic...

...and you can watch some beautiful sunsets over the ocean.

Stone Town

Stone Town

Bursting with Swahili atmosphere and infused with Arab styles, Stone Town is an utterly beguiling African city.

A labyrinthine tangle of winding alleyways at the heart of Zanzibar’s capital, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers in many ways a scene virtually unchanged since its 19th century heyday. As maritime gateway to East Africa, wealthy merchants settled in Stone Town and traded in skins, spices, ivory and slaves. Their lavish palaces, mosques and fine houses remain – albeit often concealed and sometimes half-ruined – and discovering these hidden architectural gems is part of Stone Town’s magical appeal.

Lining the waterfront and tucked within the tortuous maze of narrow streets, many venerable Swahili homes and palaces have been renovated into boutique hotels, filled with sumptuous fabrics, harlequin stained glass and antique furniture. Behind their heavily carved doors and intricate lattice shutters are soaring Omani arches and cool concealed courtyards. The hotels range from unpretentious hostels to internationally acclaimed hotels of imposing elegance.

Stone Town is an African city experience like no other with Swahili life overtly on show. The Swahili speak an African language of the huge Bantu family (kiSwahili being its formal, linguistically correct name) and the Swahili people are a cultural mix of African, Arabic and Indian Ocean roots. Amid souvenir shops and snack bars, groups of uniformed school children zip by bike to class, old men sit on stone baraza benches hunched over games of bao, and the sprawling market offers an intense sensory experience, thronging with shoppers and stacked with everything from household essentials to all the island's fruits and spices and the ocean's fish and seafood.

You can watch dhows leave the harbour, see braziers flicker to life in Forodhani Gardens’ nightly food market, hear muezzins call the faithful to prayer, and follow histories as diverse as those of David Livingstone, Princess Salme, Freddie Mercury and Tippu Tip.

And at the end of the day, you can indulge in a romantic rooftop dinner, a meal in a courtyard restaurant or simple street food. Whether it’s fiery curries, fresh seafood platters or creative chapatti wraps, all are infused with wonderful Swahili influences. Like everything in Stone Town, it’s always an enticing fusion.

Stone Town

Stone Town: in detail

Trips visiting Stone Town

Just ideas, we'll always tailor-make a trip for you


Map

Turaco Safari

12 days • 4 locations • 2 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

This top-value holiday idea combines two safari areas with a week on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. Photograph lions and elephants, then relax under the palms on a powder sand beach.

Visiting Selous, Ruaha and 2 other areas

US$4,550 - US$5,030 per person

Read more about the Turaco Safari

Map

Turmeric Beach Holiday

7 days • 2 locations • 1 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

Relax on powdery white beaches and snorkel over colourful reefs on Zanzibar’s picturesque east coast before heading on to Stone Town to explore the labyrinth of cobbled streets.

Visiting East Coast Zanzibar, Stone Town

US$1,940 - US$2,890 per person

Read more about the Turmeric Beach Holiday

Map

Masala Beach Holiday

9 days • 2 locations • 1 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

Two luxuriously elegant hotels offer relaxation on Zanzibar’s beach-front and exploration of Stone Town. Combine peaceful tranquility with fine dining, indulgent comforts and vibrant culture.

Visiting Stone Town, Northern Zanzibar

US$5,390 - US$7,360 per person

Read more about the Masala Beach Holiday

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Ginger Beach Holiday

7 days • 2 locations • 1 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

Combine historic Stone Town with the palm fringed beaches of Zanzibar’s beautiful east coast, staying in two lively hotels with plenty of facilities and activities on offer.

Visiting Stone Town, Michamvi Peninsula

US$1,100 - US$2,020 per person

Read more about the Ginger Beach Holiday

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Regal Sunbird Fly-in Safari

12 days • 5 locations • 2 country
KILIMANJARO AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

Experience the highlights of Tanzania with a safari in the country’s famous northern parks followed by historic Stone Town and the palm-fringed beaches of Zanzibar, staying in high-quality accommodation throughout.

Visiting Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater and 3 other areas

US$7,780 - US$12,040 per person

Read more about the Regal Sunbird Fly-in Safari

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Cinnamon Beach Holiday

7 days • 2 locations • 1 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

Explore Zanzibar’s east coast beaches and historic Stone Town, with this good value, family friendly beach holiday.

Visiting East Coast Zanzibar, Stone Town

US$1,220 - US$1,400 per person

Read more about the Cinnamon Beach Holiday

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Red Colobus Monkey Safari

11 days • 3 locations • 2 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

This luxury holiday suggestion combines a wildlife safari in Ruaha National Park with a week on Zanzibar, exploring Stone Town’s narrow streets and relaxing on a palm-shaded beach.

Visiting Ruaha, Stone Town and 1 other area

US$5,260 - US$6,510 per person

Read more about the Red Colobus Monkey Safari

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Coconut Beach Holiday

6 days • 2 locations • 1 country
DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT TO DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT

A luxurious island getaway split between a small boutique hotel in Stone Town and your own sumptuous private villa on a spectacular swath of white sandy beach.

Visiting Stone Town, Michamvi Peninsula

US$2,190 - US$4,300 per person

Read more about the Coconut Beach Holiday

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Map of Stone Town

Choices for where to stay in Stone Town


Most recent reviews of our trips to Stone Town

Click below to browse all 333 reviews from Stone Town.
All from our travellers; all are in full & unedited.


98%
333 reviews since August 2007
Excellent
318
Good
17
Average
1
Poor
2
Terrible
0
Giovanni from Biot

Arrived 16 Oct 2020, 14 nights

"Excellent vacation"

"Excellent vacation...it was exactly the kind of experience we were looking for …" Read Giovanni’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr G from California

Arrived 22 Aug 2020, 28 nights

"My Aug 2020 trip"

"Maruska put together a trip in 3 days and did an exceptional job …" Read Mr G’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Muz from Colchester

Arrived 11 Feb 2020, 23 nights

"A wonderful safari and beach experience"

"One of our best holidays ever...Expert Africa have come up trumps again. …" Read Muz’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr & Mrs P from Barcelona

Arrived 21 Feb 2020, 16 nights

"a wonderful holiday"

"Everything worked very well. We were met and well looked after wherever we went …" Read Mr & Mrs P’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr & Mrs S from E Sussex

Arrived 8 Dec 2019, 21 nights

"Xmas beach Holiday"

Overall rating: Good

CC. from Porto Alegre

Arrived 9 Nov 2019, 13 nights

"Tanzania is awesome"

"We are very happy with our experience. Lyndsey was very helpful all times. …" Read CC.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Dr & Dr S. from Knutsford

Arrived 3 Nov 2019, 15 nights

"Amazing trip to Selous, Ruaha and Zanzibar"

"The camps, hotels and transfers all worked seamlessly. We had a brilliant trip …" Read Dr & Dr S.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Ms S. from Bainbridge Isla

Arrived 21 Oct 2019, 20 nights

"Oct/Nov 2019 trip"

"We had a wonderful trip with many momentous adventures …" Read Ms S.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Good

J and C from Clayton

Arrived 16 Sep 2019, 17 nights

"Fantastic Trip"

"We had a wonderful trip thanks to the fantastic support of Jessica …" Read J and C’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Family G from Newbury

Arrived 29 Aug 2019, 16 nights

"The safari/ beach holiday"

"Excellent - all went to clockwork, thank you. …" Read Family G’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

See all Stone Town reviews

When to go to Stone Town

Our month by month guide: What it's like to visit Stone Town in Zanzibar


Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Zanzibar in January

As on the Tanzanian mainland, January typically marks the start of the short dry season in Zanzibar. Conditions are likely to be hot and mostly dry, with temperatures exceeding 30ºC, although it is not uncommon to get a tropical shower in the afternoons. January can feel very humid at times, and this is particularly noticeable in Stone Town, although this can be tempered by the cooling sea breeze. New Year is one of the most popular times to visit Zanzibar, with many hotels being fully booked over the festive period. The island generally becomes much quieter after 10th January, and prices drop too.

  • Mostly hot with the occasional shower.
  • High humidity, which can be relieved by the refreshing breeze.
  • Very busy over New Year, with high prices and long minimum stays often
  • Quieter and better value later in the month.
  • Wind from the northeast, and so the southwest coast is more sheltered.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in January

Zanzibar in February

The weather in February is fairly similar to January, with days typically being hot and sunny although expect the occasional rainy spell. The humidity remains high, however the coastal areas often have a refreshing breeze. Zanzibar is fairly quiet in February, and with comparatively low prices it can be excellent value for money. At this time the wind blows from the northeast, and so the southwest coast is often more sheltered and there can be good diving in the Menai Bay. The northeast winds can also lead to good conditions for kite surfing, with many kite surfers heading to the southeast coast and Michamvi Peninsula. For music lovers, Stone Town hosts an annual African music festival ‘Sauti za Busara’ each February. The dates of the festival change each year, so chat to Expert Africa for details.

  • Variable: mostly hot and humid with some cloud and rainy spells.
  • Fewer tourists and comparatively low prices.
  • Popular time for kite surfing, especially around the southeast coast.
  • North easterly wind, better diving in the south west of the island.
  • ‘Sauti za Busara’ music festival in early February.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in February

Zanzibar in March

March sees the start of the ‘long rains’ in Zanzibar, although the exact start date varies every year. The weather can be unpredictable, with a combination of hot sunny days, rain showers, and the occasional tropical storm. The arrival of the rains lowers the humidity, and it can also lead to some beautiful sunsets – most obviously on the west coast where you can watch the sunset over the ocean. Prices remain low during March, and the island is likely to be relatively quiet. Diving is generally not recommended during the rainy season, as variable conditions can lead to reduced visibility from rainfall runoff, and choppy water.

  • Hot and humid, leading to heavy rains later in the month.
  • Low prices, and the island is comparatively quiet.
  • Variable weather leads to poor conditions for diving.
  • The start of the rains can lead to beautiful sunsets.

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in March

Zanzibar in April

April is typically the wettest month of the year in Zanzibar, and the long rains are in full force. The average rainfall is more than 250mm during this month, and tropical storms are common. Flooding regularly occurs, which can impact the quality of the roads, and consequently cause difficult, slow journeys across the island. Many of the hotels and beach lodges close at this time, so accommodation options can be limited. Having said this, prices are at their lowest, and if you don’t mind the risk of bad weather you can get some real bargains. Despite the poor conditions, Easter weekend is often popular, and advance booking is recommended. Due to the strong likelihood of rain and poor conditions diving is inadvisable at this time.

  • Heavy rain and tropical storms expected throughout the month.
  • Areas of flooding leading to poor travel conditions.
  • Many hotels close for refurbishment at this time.
  • Low prices and few other tourists.
  • Diving inadvisable due to heavy rain and reduced visibility.

Our view

A time to avoid if possible

Weather in April

Zanzibar in May

The long rains continue into May, and as with April you can expect thunderstorms and heavy showers, although these typically ease up towards the end of the month. Parts of the island can experience flooding, causing damage to roads and impacting travel times. The temperature typically drops a little in May, with a daytime average of around 25ºC. The rains lead to a lower humidity too, and mornings and evenings can feel a bit cooler. Many of the hotels and lodges are still closed, however a handful stay open and prices remain low. While diving is possible, the rain and storms mean that diving conditions are not at their best.

  • Continuation of the long rains, with thunderstorms and lightning.
  • Flooding common, but conditions becoming drier as the month progresses
  • Drop in temperatures, with cooler mornings and evenings.
  • Prices low, and many hotels remain closed.

Our view

A time to avoid if possible

Weather in May

Zanzibar in June

June marks the start of the long dry season in Zanzibar. While the island still gets rainfall, especially early in the month, it’s becomes less likely as the month progresses. Temperatures remain steady, with daytime highs averaging 25ºC, and it likely to be mostly dry. Any rain you do experience is likely to be in shorter bursts rather than heavy storms and hours of continuous rain, although conditions vary from year to year. The wind direction switches to blow from the southeast, and the northeast coast is likely to be more sheltered at this time. Diving conditions can be variable, and while they are generally good there can be some rough days.

  • Variable weather: mostly hot and dry, with some rainy showers.
  • Wind from the southwest, and more sheltered in the north east.
  • Diving conditions variable, dependent on the wind and rain.
  • Lower prices and generally good weather can lead to great value.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in June

Zanzibar in July

July is a very popular time to go to Zanzibar, and this coincides with the long dry season. July and August are the school holidays throughout much of Europe, and Zanzibar can often be busy with families. Weather conditions are generally hot and dry and pretty ideal for a beach holiday, however there is still a chance of an occasional short shower. Conditions for diving are typically pretty good, however this will be dependent on recent weather conditions. The Zanzibar International Film Festival takes place in July, with lots of people flocking to Stone Town to soak up the atmosphere. The dates for the festival change every year, so chat to Expert Africa for details.

  • Typically hot and dry with clear skies, although showers are possible.
  • Can become very busy, with many families traveling during holidays.
  • Zanzibar International Film Festival takes place in Stone Town.
  • Great beach weather result in high prices.

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in July

Zanzibar in August

August is one of the most popular times of year to visit Zanzibar, and with good reason; this is one of the driest months and it is typically hot with clear skies – ideal for relaxing on the beach. Many families choose to visit during August, and the island can be busy, and this is particularly noticeable in Stone Town and around the more popular snorkelling sites. High demand can mean that many of the more popular hotels and beach lodges can be booked up more than 6 months ahead, so advance booking is crucial. Due to the popularity and great beach weather prices are high.

  • Hot and sunny, generally ideal for relaxing on the beach.
  • Popular time for families and the island can be busy.
  • High demand leads to higher prices, and advance booking is essential.
  • With little rain falling and causing soil run-off, the sea is clear.

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in August

Zanzibar in September

September is an excellent time of year to visit Zanzibar. Weather conditions are typically very good, with clear skies and temperatures ranging from 20¬–30ºC. September is also one of the driest months, averaging 50mm of rain during the month, however rain showers are still possible. Due to the great beach conditions prices remain high, however with fewer families travelling in September the island can be a little quieter at this time. September to December are often some of the calmest months at sea, which can result in superb conditions for diving. The wind typically blows from the southeast, and the northeast coast can often be a little more sheltered. You can find some beautiful snorkelling and diving spots around Mnemba Island.

  • Warm temperatures and clear skies, with the off-chance of rain.
  • Fewer families travelling, and the island can be a little quieter.
  • Great beach weather means that prices remain high.
  • Relatively calm seas result in good conditions for diving.

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in September

Zanzibar in October

October is the tail end of the dry season and you can generally expect hot, dry conditions. The short rains typically start in early November, and so this does mean that there is an increased likelihood of rainy spells as the month progresses. October remains a popular month to travel, particularly so during the European half-term school holidays, and advance booking is advised. With high demand and great weather prices remain high, however there are some long-stay special offers to be found. South-easterly winds mean that the northeast coast can be more sheltered and conditions for diving can be good.

  • End of the dry season, generally good beach weather.
  • Increased chance of rain, particularly near the end of the month.
  • Popular with families during the half-term school holiday.
  • High demand means prices remain high.
  • Northeast coast generally more sheltered.

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in October

Zanzibar in November

The short rains start during November, however their exact start varies year on year. You are likely to experience a mixture of hot, dry days with the occasional tropical shower, however we find that short showers can actually be quite refreshing. With the start of the rains the humidity can shoot up and while the coastal properties tend to receive a pleasant cooling breeze Stone Town and the island interior can feel quite hot and clammy. Prices drop in November and there are some real bargains to be found. This time of year can be great value for money, especially near the start of the month when the weather conditions are very comparable to late October. The demand is generally lower, and the island starts to feel much quieter.

  • Variable weather: mostly hot and dry but with some clouds and rain.
  • Hot temperatures, with humidity on the rise.
  • Less busy than October, and with lower prices it can be great value.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in November

Zanzibar in December

December falls in to the short rainy season, and the weather can be variable. Days are likely to be hot and humid, with the occasional patch of rain, although showers can be a blessing in disguise as they help to lower the temperature. Early December is fairly quiet and prices are low, however this changes dramatically over Christmas and New Year. The festive season, from around 20th December to 5th January, is arguably the most popular time to visit Zanzibar. Prices are at their highest, and long minimum stays are imposed. Due to the very high demand booking early is essential, especially if you’re a group or a large family. Expert Africa recommends booking six months to a year in advance, or even more if possible.

  • Variable weather, with a mix of hot, sunny days and tropical showers.
  • High humidity, which may be mitigated by the cool ocean breeze.
  • Quiet with lower prices earlier in the month.
  • Busy and exceptionally popular over Christmas and New Year.
  • Advance booking over Christmas and New Year is essential.

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in December

Zanzibar fact file

Useful information and advice to help you prepare for a trip including Stone Town.


Excursions in Stone Town

Optional extra day-drips and excursions possible whilst your staying within Stone Town. Talk to us: these are usually best arranged before you go.


Jambiani Village Tour

Jambiani Village Tour

Half-day - mornings

Tear yourself away from the soft white sands of Zanzibar to get under the skin of the history and culture of Jambiani village. Join a knowledgeable local guide to discover the intricacies of day-to-day life in this traditional coastal village, with much of the profits being ploughed back into the community.

More about Village Tour
Jozani Forest Tour

Jozani Forest Tour

Half-day or combine with other tours

For nature lovers, Jozani Forest is a must. One of the last sanctuaries of the red colobus monkey, it features a diverse range of habitats, from mangrove forests to salt marshes. Keep your eyes peeled for other forest residents, including Sykes’ monkey, bushbabies, duikers and more than 40 species of bird.

More about Jozani Forest
64% (5 reviews)
Princess Salme Spice Tour

Princess Salme Spice Tour

Half-day

Discover the captivating story of the smart and rebellious Princess Sayyida Salme, the youngest daughter of Sultan Said. Join a knowledgeable local guide to follow in her footsteps through palaces and plantations, as well as the fascinating Zanzibar spice trade on a working plantation.

More about Princess Spice Tour
90% (4 reviews)
Prison Island Tour

Prison Island Tour

Half-day

Escape the hustle and bustle of Stone Town on a 30-minute boat ride to Changuu Island, now commonly known as Prison Island. This is your chance to find out about the darker side of Zanzibar history, as well as to get up close with the island’s Aldabra giant tortoises, and to engage in a spot of coastal snorkelling.

More about Prison Island
Stone Town Discovery Tour

Stone Town Discovery Tour

Half-day

Spend a morning wandering through Stone Town’s maze of alleyways with an erudite Zanzibari resident, meeting the locals, marvelling at its fusion of architecture and cultures, learning about the food, music, beliefs and everyday life, for an utterly fascinating experience.

More about Stone Town Tour
89% (16 reviews)
Swahili Cooking Workshop

Swahili Cooking Workshop

Half-day or combine with other tours

Zanzibar’s cuisine and culinary influences are as exotic as the island itself. This genuinely authentic culinary workshop will take you to the heart of the spice farm region, teach you how to select and blend an array of spices, create souvenir blends, and guide you through cooking a traditional Swahili meal.

More about Swahili Cookery
80% (1 reviews)
Zanzibar Dhow Safari

Zanzibar Dhow Safari

Full day - approx. eight hours

Discover the coast and islands of the Menai Bay from a traditional Zanzibari dhow. Explore this beautiful marine conservation area with a local guide, snorkelling over coral reefs, swimming through mangrove lagoons and keeping an eye out for dolphins. To top it all, you’ll also be treated to a fabulous beach barbecue.

More about Zanzibar Dhow Safari
80% (1 reviews)

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