Zanzibar is like another country, when you compare it to mainland Tanzania.
And up until about 50 years ago, it was – in fact today the region is still semi-autonomous. Historically a major player in the spice and slave trades, Stone Town, the main city, reflects its Arab, Indian, British and African influences in its culture and architecture: mosques and churches share blocks with bazaars and former palaces; elaborately carved wooden doors are decorated with Indian or Arab motifs (Indian doors have rounded tops, Omani styles are rectangular); and if you climb to the covered terraces on top of several hotels you can lounge on cushions and persian rugs while watching the sun set over the rooftops.
Whether it’s the bathwater-warm Indian Ocean that draws you to this region of Tanzania, or the history that earned Stone Town it’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a visit to Zanzibar is an altogether different experience than what you’ll find on the mainland. It may be only a few miles away, but these islands are definitely a world apart.
TIP: Zanzibar is hot and humid, so if air conditioning is a must for you, be sure to look at accommodations that have their own guaranteed power sources. Electricity in Zanzibar comes from the mainland and goes out often, so smaller resorts reserve their generators for their kitchens, not for cooling the rooms.