Zimbabwe is not a ‘lost African wonder’. The country is a tourist goldmine that is home to world class attractions some of which are of archaeological and historical significance to the continent. Zimbabwe is the gateway to regional tourist destinations and is the glue that binds regional tourism together.
Zimbabwe has been under-reported, grossly misrepresented and often vilified, the result of which has been a shunning of the local tourism industry by mostly western tourists. However, the situation is changing and the trend has begun to reverse itself, thanks to social media and other forms of information sharing that continue to destroy and discredit biased reporting.
Unlike other regional destinations, Zimbabwe is by far a tourist goldmine that is home to world class attractions some of which are of unparalleled cultural, archaeological and historical significance to the continent. The country is host to some of Africa’s highest ranking attractions and is the major gateway to regional tourist destinations.
Zimbabwe is also a distinctive destination in that it is home to an array of unique ancient ruins that are not only of historical and archaeological significance but are relevant to understanding ancient African kingdoms and civilizations. Most common are the Great Zimbabwe Ruins in Masvingo, Khami Ruins in Bulawayo, Danangombe in Gweru and the smaller Naletale Ruins in Shangani.
As requested, we have put together a list of Top Seven local places to visit, a combination of which offer an insight into the country’s history, ecology, diverse culture, impressive archaeology, pristine wildlife and a bit of mystery. The list is not definitive and is not in any particular order. It simply provides a brief overview of the attractions being covered, a selection of which is based on reviews.
Victoria Falls is an entry point for most inbound tourists and those destined to other regional destinations. The small town is home to Victoria Falls National Park, the mighty Zambezi River and Africa’s biggest attraction, Victoria Falls. It is the central tourist hub for southern Africa and the gateway to regional destinations. The town with a reputation for being Africa’s vacation hotspot is a favourite for different visitors, most of whom are safari and extreme sports enthusiasts, adventure-seekers and photographers because of a myriad of endless activities.
Victoria Falls is also the adrenaline capital of the world where avid thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies from all over the world flock to experience and engage in some of the baddest, craziest, wildest and most extreme sports only available in this town. Among these are bungee jumping, white-water rafting, high-wire, gorge swinging and other activities conducted by Shearwater and Wild Horizons.
Victoria Falls, the attraction, otherwise locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders), is the biggest tourist attraction in Africa. The Falls is the largest waterfall in the world and is located on the Zambezi River bordering Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is one of the greatest natural wonders among the Seven Wonders of the World due to the sheer volume of its water. Victoria Falls has five main gorges all located and best viewed from Zimbabwe. Its location within a game reserve is convenient as it allows for game viewing and safari. The Falls are part of UNESCO World Heritage Protection site.
The best way to view The Falls is either by walking, by air or simply going on a Zambezi Cruise aboard one of many boats offering Cruise Safaris. For a better view of the Falls, a scenic flight over Victoria Falls would probably be the best idea unless if one prefers a micro-flight instead.
A trip to this spectacular and timeless attraction is worth every moment. Your experience at this world-class, all season attraction may also vary depending on your chosen time of visit. For instance, your view of the Falls may either be obscured and hindered by water spray or, it may be unobscured also depending on the chosen time of your visit. Perfect timing is everything especially if one is to capture timeless memories to last a lifetime.
A trip to Kariba is one that every visitor to Zimbabwe should include in their itinerary. Kariba is located in the Zambezi Valley close to the biggest man-made reservoir, the Kariba Dam. The town, originally built to accommodate construction workers of the Dam is home to the iconic Lake Kariba, one of the most popular resorts in Zimbabwe. The lake is a popular destination for avid fishermen, safari enthusiasts and nature lovers. Lake Kariba has been designated a Recreational Park thus gaining protected area status under Zimparks.
Lake Kariba is a unique and exciting safari destination that is of spectacular beauty. It is a photographers’ paradise and holiday mecca studded with islands and placid backwaters. Nestled within the mountains and forests, the white limbs of dead trees protruding from placid waters are a remarkable sight. Lake Kariba is home to spectacular bird-life and wildlife and is also a fisherman’s paradise.
The iconic trees whose nature has become synonymous with Lake Kariba have been dead since the great flooding of the Zambezi Valley sometime between 1958 and 1963. Lake Kariba is a great place with something for everyone. In addition to fishing, one can enjoy bird-watching and game-viewing on a river cruise aboard one of the many local houseboats that operate and service the area. Matusadona National Park is close-by and it can be added to your itinerary at your request.
Close to Lake Kariba is Mana Pools National Park, part of UNESCO World Heritage Protection site. The Pools are one of the most remarkable conservation areas in Zimbabwe covering 2,500 square km of river frontage, islands, sandbanks and pools. Mana Pools is flanked by forests of baobab, ebonies, mahogany and wild figs, and boasts of diverse wildlife plus over 300 species of bird-life. These pools have the biggest concentration of crocodiles and hippos as well as buffalo and elephants.
Heaven on earth is the best way to describe Mana Pools, and it is Zimbabwe’s best kept secret. The remoteness of Mana Pools and the fact that it remains uninterrupted by any human settlements is the sole reason for its attractiveness. This is one of the last true wilderness areas in Africa and the most remote national park in Zimbabwe. In January 2013, Mana Pools was designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance.
In winter, Mana Pools National Park has the highest concentration of wildlife in the continent. The best way to enjoy seasonal game viewing is either by walking, driving or by canoe. The best time for game-viewing is between September and October as the water is full and animals flock to the river to drink. Otherwise, one should consider visiting from March to August as the weather during that period would be perfect.
The Great Zimbabwe Ruins located in Masvingo are a national monument that are of cultural, archaeological and historical significance to the country and the African continent. The ruins are part of UNESCO World Heritage Protection and are the most extensive, best preserved remnants of an ancient kingdom and civilization in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Great Zimbabwe monument, locally known as Dzimbabwe (Houses of Stones), in reference to other similar stone structures in the country, are a national symbol. It is also where the name Zimbabwe is derived from. Another national symbol, the bird, featured in Zimbabwe’s national flag, its previous currencies and other national monuments is symbolic of the carved soapstone bird effigies that were found in these Great Zimbabwe ruins.
Great Zimbabwe and other similar monuments scattered throughout the country are great for historical excursions and perfect for history and culture buffs, archaeologists, photographers as well as other sight-seers.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park, home of Cecil the Lion and where his seven cubs and Jericho still live, is situated in Matabeleland North Province between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. It is the largest national park in Zimbabwe and boasts of tremendous selection of wildlife. Hwange National Park is home to Africa’s Big Five including black and white rhino, over 100 bird species and a diverse range of habitat. It is where Zimbabwe’s endangered animals are protected and is one of the world’s last great elephant sanctuaries. A Hwange Safari excursion is a great addition due to its close proximity to Victoria Falls.
Hwange National Park is a true representation of a genuine Africa, an untamed wilderness with very few tourists, offering the best game viewing experience paralleled to none in the continent. The vast expanses of Hwange are home to Africa’s largest population of the endangered wild dog including more elephants than anywhere else in continental Africa.
Matobo, a small district 35kms outside Bulawayo is home to UNESCO World Heritage protected sight of Matobo Hills which encompass the Matobo National Park. This dry area embodies everything that is indicative of Zimbabwe and its tourism industry: history, ecotourism, nature, biodiversity, archaeology, spirituality, geography and geology.
The Matobo Hills are a place of great archaeological, historical and cultural significance to Zimbabwe and Africa, but are also of spiritual significance to local communities. The Hills are home to World’s View, a sacred place locally known as Malindidzimu and where Cecil John Rhodes is buried.
The Matobo National Park is a small but beautiful nature reserve steeped in ancient mystery and some say, mystical powers, and is popular for its majestic and mysterious balancing rocks. Due to a high concentration of ancient San Rock Art in nearby caves, the park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage status in 2003. It is home to the endangered white rhino and a variety of other animal species including ostrich, cheetah, leopard, hippo, zebra, kudu and more.
Matobo National Park has a variety of fauna comprising 16 different types of fish, 88 mammal, 175 bird and 39 snake species. It has the highest concentration of bald eagles and breeding pairs in the world. When it comes to flora, the Park is a place of high botanical diversity boasting of over 200 species of trees, some of which include gum tree, fig and acacia. There are also many herbs, aloes and over 100 grass species.
Matobo National Park is perfect for culture and history buffs, regular sight-seers, spiritual pilgrimage, nature lovers, conservationists, ecologists and geographers. Activities and safaris offered include bird watching, fishing, game viewing, yoga, running, hiking, horse rides.
The Eastern Highlands are a paradise! This is a land of fantastic waterfalls, rivers and lakes, hills and mountains, wildlife and vegetation. Hidden within the beautiful landscape are magnificent sights, fantastic walking trails, beautiful scenic drives and great places to stay.
The highlands are the beautiful mountainous range in the eastern part of Zimbabwe bordering Mozambique. It is home to three mountain regions: Bvumba (Vumba), Chimanimani and Nyanga which contains Mount Nyangani, Zimbabwe’s highest peak and Mtarazi Falls, Africa’s highest waterfall. Nyanga is also home to Nyanga National Park, most of which was Cecil Rhodes’ private estate, which is also home to the Rhodes-Nyanga Hotel and Rhodes Museum.
The Eastern Highlands are simply a paradise for nature and waterfalls lovers, In addition to Mtarazi Falls, this region is host to other spectacular and fantastic waterfalls such as Nyangombe Falls, Pungwe Falls, Chipungu Falls, Nyamuziwa Falls,Thomberutedza Falls and Bridal Falls in Chimanimani.
This region resembles an enchanted garden stretching over 300 kms and is known for its cooler weather and wet climate, unlike any in Africa. Bracing fresh air make this sparsely populated highland country a favourite holiday destination for avid bikers, golfers, hikers, mountain climbers as well as those who enjoy bird-watching, trout-fishing, boating, game drives, horse riding, picnicking or simply relaxing in the crisp mountain air. Whatever your interests, a visit to Zimbabwe’s scenic Eastern Highlands will be an unforgettable experience.
Zimbabwe, despite its size, is a treasure trove of attractions with lots of hidden jewels and secrets ready to be shared with the outside world. Support local tourism, visit Zimbabwe!
Unleash your wanderlust! Explore, experience and discover beautiful Zimbabwe!