The best time to visit Zanzibar depends on several factors, especially what you want to do there. The weather in Zanzibar has a hard word to say in making the decision. It also matters a lot if you want to visit the island as a package with a safari on the mainland, where you can explore the most beautiful safari parks in Tanzania.
Reasons to visit Zanzibar
Zanzibar has become an increasingly popular destination in recent years. The African island in the Indian Ocean has much to offer at any time of the year. Still, I must admit that it is essential to identify the best time to visit Zanzibar to ensure that you will have a dream vacation.
Here are the main reasons to visit Zanzibar, from my point of view:
- the weather in Zanzibar means pleasant temperatures all year round
- long beaches with white sand
- the color of the water is an intense turquoise
- very positive and smiling people
- the holiday atmosphere
- lush vegetation
- Instagrammable resorts
- variety of exotic fruits
- architecture with influences from several cultures (Arabic, Persian, African, and even European)
- affordable prices for accommodation, food, and services
- the excursions you can do on the island
- sensational sunsets
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Where to stay in Zanzibar
If there is something that Zanzibar does not lack at all, it’s accommodation. You will find a lot of guesthouses and hotels in Zanzibar for any budget, right on the beach, where you can admire dreamy views.
I stayed in 4 different areas of Zanzibar, and I can say that my favorites are Paje, Nungwi, and Kendwa. These are my recommendations for accommodation in Zanzibar, depending on the budget:
- budget: Fatuma House– pool, delicious breakfast, beach
- mid-range: Mahali Zanzibar– gorgeous pool, great view, delicious breakfast, large rooms, beachfront
- luxury: Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa– pool, restaurant, luxury decor, beachfront
Best time to visit Zanzibar
Climate in Zanzibar
The climate in Zanzibar divides into two seasons: the dry and rainy seasons. Obviously, the best time to visit Zanzibar is the dry season, which lasts from July to September, plus or minus June and October. If you arrive in Zanzibar in January and February, again, it’s possible that you will not experience rain except exceptionally rarely.
The rainy season lasts from November to May. The rainiest months are March, April, and May. Therefore, if your goal is to go to the beach and explore the island as much as possible, you probably don’t want too much rain and already know which months to avoid. These months are not the best time of year to visit Zanzibar.
READ ALSO: Things to do and places to visit in Zanzibar
What are the hottest months in Zanzibar?
The warmest months in Zanzibar are December, January, and February, with temperatures reaching an average of 28 degrees Celsius and a maximum of 32. This means that even in the hottest months, it’s not so hot that you cannot stay outside.
Considering the precipitation in Zanzibar, February has the fewest showers of the three warm months. Therefore, the temperature is not an issue when considering the best time to visit Zanzibar.
Least busy time to visit Zanzibar
The predominant religion in Zanzibar is Islam, so the months it’s possible to be Ramadan are the least crowded. These also coincide with the rainiest season, which lasts from March to May.
However, the rains do not last all day, so your stay in Zanzibar would not be a total failure. You may be fortunate not to rain too much during that period. If you can accept certain aspects, it’s very ok to visit during this period when you can enjoy the beaches with fewer tourists.
The busiest time to visit Zanzibar
The most crowded period to visit Zanzibar coincides with the peak and dry season, from June to October. If you want to see the island during this period, you must make sure that you book your hotel at least two months in advance because the demand is very high, and the best accommodations will be booked in advance.
Suppose you want to enjoy your time in Zanzibar as much as possible but still not be surrounded by many tourists. In that case, I recommend directing your attention to Pongwe, Jambiani, and Kiwengwa. They are less touristic, although lately, finding a place in Zanzibar that is not stormed by the wave of tourists is challenging.
Most expensive time to travel to Zanzibar
Predictably or not, the most expensive time to visit Zanzibar coincides with the dry season, which is also considered the best time to travel to Zanzibar. The hotels increase the rates in July- September because the demand is very high. However, the price differences are not enormous, and the price of a week’s vacation in Zanzibar can increase by around 15-20%.
Cheapest time to visit Zanzibar
I think it goes without saying that the cheapest time to visit Zanzibar coincides with the rainy season, and the temperatures are a little lower, although not by much. March, April, May, and November are the most affordable months in Zanzibar from a budget point of view.
During these periods, you will find reduced rates at hotels and restaurants or excursion packages usually organized on the island. You can also find offers on souvenirs during this period. If the budget is the main criterion for managing your vacation in Zanzibar, these months might suit you perfectly.
Best time to travel to Zanzibar if you want to combine the wildebeest migration
The Great Migration occurs from July to September, the beginning of October. Many tourists choose to add to their vacation in Zanzibar a few days of safari in the most important parks in Tanzania. Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and others are among them.
⇒ Book here a 2-day safari in the Serengeti with flights included
Although it’s pretty expensive, especially if you want a minimum of comfort, safari in Tanzania is worth every penny spent. I 100% recommend doing this if you’ve made it to that part of Africa because the safari experience can’t be compared to anything else. I have already written several articles on this topic, and I recommend you to read them:
- Everything you need to know before going on safari in Tanzania
- 5 days safari in Tanzania – complete itinerary and costs
- 5 outfit ideas for safari in Tanzania
The best time to visit Zanzibar if you want to attend festivals
Several festivals occur yearly on the island of Unguja, aka Zanzibar. They are not all included in the same period, but they are very different, and you can choose which one you want to participate in…if you want. These are the biggest festivals in Zanzibar:
- The Swahili Food Festival – takes place in October and is dedicated to Swahili cuisine
- Zanzibar International Film Festival – takes place at the beginning of July and awards films from Dhow countries
- Eid El-Fitr – a celebration that takes place at the end of Ramadan and whose date varies every year
- Sauti za Busara – a music festival, takes place in February
- Fashion Week Zanzibar – a festival dedicated to design and fashion, takes place in September – October
The worst time to visit Zanzibar
If you ask me, the worst time to visit Zanzibar is when it rains the most. April, May, and November are stormy, which can prevent any activity you want to do on the island.
No matter how good you think the offers to visit Zanzibar during this period, I recommend avoiding the mentioned months. Heavy rain means mud, mosquitoes, and a greater risk of contracting diseases and flooding in some places. Who wants to visit an exotic destination with lush vegetation and white sand beaches to spend time locked in a hotel room?
The absolute best time to visit Zanzibar
I would be tempted to answer this by saying the dry season is the best time to visit Zanzibar, but the truth is that it depends. Of course, July – September is the best if you want to be sure you get rid of precipitation, but you have to consider that they are also the most crowded and expensive months to visit Zanzibar.
So, I would head towards the end of January and the whole month of February, June, and October to explore Zanzibar. During these periods, the chance of rain decreases significantly; if it happens, there will be isolated cases. The island is not so crowded, and several festivals occur during this period.
Things to know before you travel to Zanzibar
How to get to Zanzibar
Few companies fly directly to Zanzibar, most stopping in Dar es Salaam. You can get to Zanzibar either by plane or by ferry. The new airport is called Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, which is newly opened and located about 5 km from Stone Town.
The ferry also leaves Dar es Salaam and arrives in Zanzibar in about an hour and 40 minutes.
Best areas to stay in Zanzibar
The island is beautiful and has places that are worth visiting. However, when it comes to accommodation, I have two or even three favorites. The first place is Paje, where we met the most tourists and had a happy, fun atmosphere.
If you want the same thing but a little more developed, go to Nungwi or Kendwa. They are located next to each other. For relaxation, peace, and a holiday in Zanzibar with as few tourists as possible, I found this in Kiwengwa.
How many days do you need in Zanzibar?
Although it’s not a tiny island, only certain parts are touristic. The beaches are limited and generally quite similar, and the trips you can take in Zanzibar can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Therefore, the optimal number of days for Zanzibar would be around ten, at least one week, and a maximum of 2.
Do I need malaria tablets for Zanzibar?
Although there are malaria cases in Tanzania, this disease is uncommon in Zanzibar. Anti-malaria pills are not mandatory but are recommended to ensure you don’t contract this disease. Therefore, it’s up to everyone to choose whether to take them before traveling to Zanzibar. You should know that they are taken a few days before the trip and during and after.
Best tours in Zanzibar
- Prison Island tour
- Jozani Forest
- snorkeling and swimming with dolphins
- walking tour in StoneTown with lunch
- visit at a spice farm
- parasailing in Zanzibar