Comoros is an off-the-beaten-path destination you have to visit. I’ve been wanting to travel to Comoros for years, and finally last month I spent some time backpacking there. Before I went there, I had never heard anyone traveling to Comoros. Most of the people haven’t even heard of this place, and it’s one of the least visited countries in the world. It definitely was the most remote place I’ve ever traveled to, and even in the capital city, my phone had no signal. As Lonely Planet says:
“Haphazardly scattered across the Indian Ocean, the mysterious, outrageous and enchanting Comoros islands are the kind of place you go to just drop off the planet for a while. Far removed from the clutter that comes with conventional paradises – sprawling hotels, neon discos – the Comoros are so remote even an international fugitive could hide out here.”
Comoros consists of three islands: Grande Comore, Mohéli, and Anjouan. There’s also a fourth island, Mayotte, but that’s part of France. Grande Comore is the main island with the smallest international airport I’ve ever been to, and the capital city, Moroni.
The official languages are French, Arabic, and Comorian. Because I don’t speak any of those languages, I sometimes had difficulties getting myself understood. I’ve been trying to learn French for years, but it’s hard, and the pronunciation feels impossible for me! But somehow I managed to get by, and I always found people who spoke English as well. I tried to learn Comorian but only managed to pick up three words: Thank you, water, and hello. What more do you need? I also found out that most people understand Swahili as well which is a good thing for me because after traveling several months in East Africa, my vocabulary is a bit wider than in Comorian.
If you are flying from the mainland Africa, Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airlines fly to Moroni. Ethiopian Airlines flies only three times a week, but Kenyan Airways has flights every day. AB Aviation is a Comorian airline company flying between the Comorian islands, and also from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and Mahajanga in Madagascar. Their booking system on their website didn’t really work when I was trying to find prices for flights, so it’s best to book your ticket through a travel agency if you are already in Comoros.
When flying in, you have to pay for a visa that costs either $50 or 30€. So definitely have Euros with you as it’s a way cheaper!
There’s also an option for a ship. I was initially planning to take the ship from Comoros to Madagascar, but everyone was telling me that it’s not worth it. It takes three to four days, and it’s only a little bit cheaper than flying. You can also take boats between the islands, and apparently, there’s even a ship going to Zanzibar.
If you want to travel between the islands, the only option is the boat. Yes, AB Aviation flies between the islands, but they cancel the flights all the time. If you want to fly, let’s say from Grande Comore to Mohéli, but there are more people who want to fly from Grande Comore to Anjouan, they only have one flight that day, and it’s from Grande Comore to Anjouan. It doesn’t matter if you have booked your flights, and are already at the airport. I didn’t even bother trying, so I opted for the boat which is described as a death trap in Lonely Planet (more about that later).
Traveling on land, you have options for a taxi, hitchhiking and minibuses. If you want to go to the international airport, you can find shared taxis near Volo Volo market in Moroni. A private taxi to the airport is more expensive and costs 15-20€. Minibuses going to Chindini or other places in the south can be found in front of Hotel Karthala. As always in Africa, you should start traveling early because all of the minibuses and boats leave in the morning.
Because of the remote location, Comoros is a bit more expensive than other East African countries. I wasn’t prepared for that because you can’t really find any information online.
Where to Stay
If you read this post, you know that I spent my first night sleeping at a house of a local girl I had never met before. My arrival to Comoros was kind of disaster as I missed my connecting flight there and had to take the next one arriving late at night when everything was closed. Also, my luggage didn’t arrive, and I didn’t have any cash either. You can read the full story here, it was definitely an adventure and worth a read. However, I was lucky to experience the hospitality of Comorian people already on the first day of arrival. Here is a picture of the local girl’s place I got to stay on the first night :
You can’t book anything in advance using booking sites like Booking.com, Agoda, etc. because none of the hotels in Comoros use those! That’s why I didn’t have a hotel for the first night. You could try emailing some of the places, but it’s best to arrive there and then find a place. I don’t recommend arriving in the middle of the night like I did, and it wasn’t my initial plan either.
After the first night, I ended up staying at Jardin de la Paix which was one of the nicest ones for the price I paid (30€ for a single room). I checked out other places as well and found something for 20-25€, but they were without a bathroom and were overall just crappy. Even the room in Jardin de la Paix is overpriced because anywhere else in East Africa you would pay around 10 € for a room like that. But as I said earlier, Comoros IS an expensive country.
If you want something more luxurious, stay at Itsandra Hotel which is probably the most expensive hotel on the island. You can also book a room on their website.
Things have changed after a year, and you can now book several hotels online on Booking.com.
These are the best hotel options I found for Moroni:
Golden Tulip Grande Comore Moroni Resort & Spa
Luxury hotel featuring a private beach, an outdoor pool, and free wifi.
Also quite an expensive option. This place is a 6-minute walk from the beach.
And for Mohéli:
Moheli Laka Lodge is a beach resort in National Marine Park of Moheli in Nioumachoua. All of the rooms have a private terrace and ocean view, direct access to the beach and a private bathroom.
Honestly, I’ve never felt safer in Africa. Of course, I always try to be careful and avoid walking after dark, and I also take a good care of my belongings. But in Comoros, I never felt scared to take out my camera and take pictures, which is something I definitely didn’t do in Antananarivo for example. I also felt safe to hitchhike. The local people are so warm and friendly, and I haven’t heard anyone getting robbed there. But as always when traveling, a good travel insurance is necessary – especially when you’re traveling to remote places like Comoros. I highly recommend World Nomads travel insurance because it’s great for long-term travelers and you can also buy it when you’re already on the road.
Talk to the Locals
First of all, I want to start by saying that Comorian people were one of the warmest and welcoming people I’ve met! They did everything to help me in every situation. Starting from the first night when I didn’t have money for the visa, didn’t have a place to stay or food to eat and my luggage didn’t arrive either. Or when I was going to Mohéli, my new friend Ridjal did EVERYTHING to help me (you can read the story here). So talk to the locals! They are not going to rip you off or ask for money, like in so many African countries. They are just genuinely trying to help you and hang out with you.
Comoros is a Muslim country, but a rather liberal one I would say. Not all women covered up their hair, but no one wasn’t wearing a mini skirt either. I made sure to dress conservatively, and most of the time I was wearing a long maxi skirt with a T-shirt covering up my shoulders. I had a normal bikini when I went swimming, and it was fine because usually there was no one around. You can have a beach all to yourself in Comoros! Just in case I also had a swimming T-shirt and shorts with me, but I never felt uncomfortable swimming in my bikinis. Even though it’s a Muslim country, they sell alcohol in some restaurants and nightclubs, but it’s very expensive.
Things to Do in Comoros
I spent half of my time in Grande Comore and half of the time in Mohéli. Check out my Mohéli post here.
Moroni is the capital city of Comoros, but it’s just like a small village if you compare it to other capitals in East Africa. Go to the Volo Volo market (if you don’t mind the smell, there was a lot of garbage), walk along the coastline, see the Friday Mosque or go to the beach. You may have to take a taxi to the beach, but it’s quite cheap. There are two nice beaches: Itsandra Beach and a bigger public beach before that when coming from Moroni. I was trying to find you a name on Google maps, but there’s no name for the public beach. However, if you can find restaurant Le Sim Sim on Google maps, that’s where the beach is located! Also, if you are looking for a nice place to have a dinner, I really recommend Le Sim Sim! Otherwise, you can find a plenty of restaurant options in the center of Moroni.
When it comes to beaches, there are so many unspoiled, secluded beaches in Comoros. Head to the north of Grande Comore for one of the best ones! From the north, you can also find Lac Sale.
Itsandra Beach is a private beach belonging to the hotel but it’s not actually a private beach because I went there many times. The owners of Jardin de la Paix go there almost every afternoon and recommended it to me. There aren’t that many locals, though, so if you want a private beach that’s pretty much it. There was usually no one else there. The other beach in Moroni is a bigger public beach, and you can also find more locals there.
Just a short ride away from Moroni is a town called Iconi. Here you can see the famous Ikoni Mosque and sea cliffs where women jumped to their deaths in the early 19th century rather than being kidnapped by Malagasy pirates. You can also hike up to a hill to see a volcanic crater. It’s a nice and easy hike. I did this hike with my new friend Ridjal, and we “hired” some local kids to show us the way.
Hike Mount Karthala to See an Active Volcano
This volcano is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. I really wanted to do this hike, but it was rather expensive (100€). What finally made me not to do it, was the fact that it was a rainy season, and hiking would have been much more challenging (and maybe even unsafe). Also, because of the rainy season, the humidity was pretty much 100%, and I was sweating by just doing nothing, so hiking a mountain wasn’t something I wanted to do. But if you are traveling to Comoros during the dry season, do this! The hike takes pretty much a whole day, you start early in the morning (like 4-5 am early), and you’ll be back when it’s dark. You could also opt for an overnight hike, but that’s even more expensive. If you’re interested in hiking to see other active volcanoes in Africa, check out also my experience climbing Mount Nyiragongo in DR Congo.
See the Beautiful Nature in Mohéli
Getting to Mohéli was so complicated, and the adventure really deserves its own post, so check out my other post here if you want to know how was the trip taking boats Lonely Planet describes as death traps.
There’s more information about Mohéli in that post, but I just want to add this island for the list of things to do in Comoros. The nature in Mohéli is very beautiful and unique. You can see giant turtles laying their eggs, Livingstone bats (the biggest bat in the world!), baobab trees, whales, dolphins, and the island is full of beautiful beaches.
Enjoyed the post? Pin it or share it! And check out my other Comoros post here!
Gabriela you have captured what travel is about for me. I am also a solo female traveler and to get off the beaten track and away from the comercial areas really is something truly unique and brave. I have only been to North Africa. I think I am pretty well travelled and even I said where is this when I saw the title. I love the photos and I cant wait to read through more of your wonderful content.
I love exploring off the beaten path destinations! Haha, I didn’t know about Comoros either a few years ago! 😀
What a hidden gem! I had never heard of Comoros before but now it’s on my travel radar. I can’t believe how difficult it is to book accommodation there though – will avoid arriving late in the evening as you suggested!
Yes, Internet is extremely slow there and they don’t really have any tourists there. So no booking sites in use 😀
I’ve never heard this before. But just read it and say “wow, it’s such a strange place” . Accommodation not good but the landscape is so beautiful here. I hope I can go there soon.
It’s a beautiful place, and I really hope more people would visit!
Thanks for this insight on a off-beaten path! I’ve been wqnting to go for years to Madagascar, I guess that this was great information to plan a trip around those Eastern African island!
I also traveled to Madagascar but that experience wasn’t so nice… Comoros was lovely!
Talking about an off the beaten track destination! You traveled there by yourself and met your new friend Ridjal over there or did he travel with you? It must have been pretty amazing being practically the only tourist out there! How did you find this country?! 😀
I met Ridjal in Comoros. He was a friend with my hotel’s receptionist who organized someone to take me to Iconi. Ridjal and his friend were taking me to Iconi when their car broke down, and I then ended up taking a taxi with just Ridjal to Iconi and he came hiking with me 😀
Cool story! 🙂
What an enchanting place! This looks like such a wonderful and off the beaten path place to go to. Did you learn more about Comoros while you were travelling in Africa?? I have to admit travelling to Africa has loooong been something I want to do. Reading your post has given me even more determination to finally get there. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
I hope you can travel to Africa! There’s so much to see. Also, check out my other African posts if you need more ideas 🙂
This is so cool! I’ve never read anything about Comoros, but I totally want to go now! Iconi looks super cool and it just looks awesome! This is definitely a good resource.
Yes, many people have never heard of it but it’s definitely worth a visit!
Looks so colorful and unspoiled! Love your photos. Different from Mayote, it seems, had a friend who visited. Still, great place to spend few days relaxing. Thanks. 🙂
Yes, it’s an unspoiled place with beautiful nature 🙂 Haven’t been in Mayotte so I can’t comment but Comoros is less visited than it.
You’re right, I’d never heard of this place! But I love that you were brave and intrepid enough to visit. You often find the kindest locals in the places that remain ‘undiscovered’ by tourism, and it was so nice of your driver’s sister to put you up for the night 🙂
Yes, it was so nice of her, and definitely an interesting experience for me to see how the locals live there!
Wow! Comoros looks absolutely stunning! I must admit to never having heard of it before but I would definitely love to visit some day after reading this. I think travel is so much more exciting when you travel off the beaten path and experience places like this! Thanks for sharing!
I love traveling to off the beaten path destinations like this! I hope you can visit Comoros as well 🙂
What an interesting place! I haven’t heard of Comoros before, to be honest. I am surprised how costly the rooms are and 20 eur without a bathroom? Oh my… It would be really cool to hike to an active volcano but if it’s considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes, I’m not quite sure I’d want to do it 😛
This is really an informative and comprehensive guide to the country! You definitely went off the beaten path. 🙂
Yeah, the rooms were just shitty there 😀 Anywhere else in Africa you would get a much better room for that price. If you read my other Comoros post, you can see that in another island you have to pay 25€ for a room without electricity or running water…
Comoros is definitely a new one for me! Now it is definitely on my radar and I would love to go here! I love off-beat places and this place sounds like the most off-beat of them all! Not being able to book a hotel ahead of time? Sleeping at your driver’s sister’s house? Incredible! Comorians seem like genuinely kind and friendly people. I’ll be saving this post for future reference.
I hope you can visit! It’s a wonderful place even though traveling can be a bit challenging.
Comoros seems like a really nice place and not touristy at all. I love off beaten places like this. I would love to do this hike and see the Karthala volcano. Moroni and Iconi sound like really nice town to see too 🙂
I hope you can make it there! 🙂
Im going there next month! Thanks for the great article on Comoros…a country which I have struggled to find helpful information on. Keep up your great travels and thanks for sharing your adventures with us!
Wow, that’s great! I still haven’t met anyone else who has been there 😀 Enjoy Comoros!
Wonderful write-up, thank you. Know anything about the Moroni -> Dar es Salaam ferry or think Ridjal might? Not sure if it still exists or not but have seen it referenced in a few places. Trying to find info on it is pretty tough. Seems like a cool way to depart Comoros after flying in.
Hi! Sorry, I don’t have any current information about the ferry :/
i am from comoros, and Gabriella said it right, less known small country but we are very kind people. we are a mixture of different origins from the past, because of our geographic location, many boats from every where in the past passed by , found that beautiful islands and decide to stay, that why there is no unique color for comoran people, you can find people look like indians, others look like arabs, europeans, athers a mixture of all of those races, i even have a grand ma of 90 years old who looks like a portugese, an i was like what the heck? how come she looks like portugease? what the link? well, now you see, even portugal passed by, after all why not them? then let’s mention onother special thing in Comoros, this is the islands where you can see the moon so near you as if it is in front of you and following you, soemtime i just stop and talk to it, why you’re following me? so big , so bright , gorgeous at night when no electricity sometimes , but who care if there is no electricity, because you can even sew your clothes at night with the light of the moon, have you seen that Gabriella? be carfeul though at full moon in comoros you can walk at 2 am in the morning and think it’s day, so keep your watch in hand please otherewise you will be lost. The meaning of comoros is the moon islands, now you know why. we’re muslim and comoran people are very gentle and very proud people, sondon’t expect to see someone in remote villages come and begg you money, we will come to help you out and we will open our house for you freely so to discover our culture.try also to learn 2 to 3 local words, people will love you more: yedje (how are you), marahaba (thank you) lala wunono ( good bye) massihu memam ( good night). we cook different cultural menus, you can feel indian spices sometimes, but we have also the french baguette (don’t forget france is with us!).
Thank you for your comment 🙂
Very useful informations. Wrote well!
I just consider spontaneous trip to Comoros,so it was fine to found your website!
Thank you so much! Nice to hear that it was useful.
Hi Gabriela, great to read your blog, so little information on the web about Comoros. I cannot remember how I came across these islands this year, but after a bit of research on Google, I decided I wanted to visit. I am now all booked up and ready to go in September 2019.
I do have a question for you though if you can advise, is it possible to travel around Comoros with just Euro’s or do should I get local cash in Moroni ?