Burgeoning guesthouses and vibrant nightlife are beginning to characterise northern Zanzibar, above its pleasant, white-sand beaches, warm sea, nautical heritage and good diving opportunities. A few hours' drive from Stone Town, past increasingly rural villages, this is the heart of the island's budget tourism industry. Focused around Nungwi village on the northernmost tip, and to a much lesser extent the golden sands of Kendwa, on the northwest coast, this bustling backpacker centre appears to offer every component of the perfect holiday to its sun-kissed guests: cheap accommodation, fresh seafood washed down with daily cocktails, and a lovely outlook. It is crowded though and the development not always attractive, so it's well worth escaping the 'Nungwi Strip' to seek out the quieter, more spectacular beaches of the northeast coast and Kendwa, the small turtle sanctuary, and the terrific local coral reefs. For a more cultural experience, head down the coast to the 16th-century Swahili ruins at Fukuchani and Mvuleni or the busy market at Mkokotoni, or venture across the water to Tumbatu Island.
Nungwi is traditionally the centre of Zanzibar's dhow-building industry, and, over the last decade, the coastline here has rocketed in popularity to become one of the island's busiest beach destinations.
On the west cost, about 4km south of Nungwi, is the tiny village and beautiful beach of Kendwa. What a relief after the noise and crowded development of Nungwi!
On the west coast of the island, about 21km south of Nungwi, Mkokotoni is a lively fishing village. Although there's no accommodation here that we could find, it's worth a short detour to soak up some rural atmosphere and vibrant village life.
There are some remains of large houses dating from the 16th century in Northern Zanzibar that are worth a short stop if you're driving this way.