Being in the south of the African continent, you just know that the attractions of Zimbabwe are going to include amazing countryside, incredible geographical features, and masses of interesting wildlife. It’s a hugely diverse country, and did you know it only gained sovereignty from Britain as recently as 1980? Let’s have a quick whizz around the top attractions of Zimbabwe shall we?
1 Great Zimbabwe
One of the most fascinating attractions of Zimbabwe is the one for which the country is named. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Great Zimbabwe was once the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe and an important trade centre. The ruins date from medieval times and are a marvel of construction since no mortar was used to build the huge walls.
2 Victoria Falls
If you can visit only one of all the things to see in Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls should be it. Traditionally called Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘the smoke that thunders’, this is the world’s largest waterfall (when based on height and width). While the views are better during the dry winter months from around May to August, April is a fantastic time to experience the sheer volume of water that plunges over the cliff and into the gorge. This is when the Zambezi River is at its fullest. The permanent spray from the waterfall has caused a small rainforest to form here and you’ll see plenty of baboons and vervet monkeys as you walk along the paths to the edge of the gorge. You may hire an umbrella or a raincoat, since the spray is like a heavy monsoon shower coming down, but part of the fun is actually to get soaked: It provides welcome respite from the dry heat of a typical day in this part of Zimbabwe. Bring your passport along so that you can go onto the Victoria Falls Bridge linking Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia. From here you can do a bungee jump you’ll never forget!
3 Hwange National Park
Zimbabwe has many fantastic national parks and Hwange is the largest. There is a huge variety of wildlife to be seen here, from different species of antelope to giraffes, zebra and lions. The one species you won’t be able to miss is the African elephant. There are so many elephants living in the park that they need to be culled sporadically. Keep your eyes peeled especially near the pans and dams to see herds of elephants bathing. There are shaded viewing platforms and picnic spots throughout the park but for a great sundowner, head to Sinamatella Camp, which is located on an escarpment with views that stretch forever.
4 Lake Kariba
The border between Zimbabwe and Zambia is not only home to the one of the world’s largest waterfalls, but also to its largest artificial lake by storage capacity. If you love fishing, Lake Kariba is definitely one of the top attractions of Zimbabwe, especially for tigerfish. Even if you don’t like fishing, though, you’ll find plenty to see and do at Lake Kariba. There is an abundance of wildlife in the lake itself and in the surrounding parks, from crocodiles and hippos to elephants. Listen out for the cry of the fish eagle too. Go hiking or riding along the shores or take a boat cruise. You can even rent a houseboat here.
Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown affected the country’s capital quite badly but Harare is slowly picking up the pieces. It’s a surprisingly modern city and it provides an interesting glimpse into life for urban Zimbabweans. Harare is also home to attractions like the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences, the National Archives of Zimbabwe, Heroes Acre, Chapungu Sculpture Park, the National Botanical Gardens and the Mukuvisi Woodlands Environmental Centre. See economics in action at the Tobacco Floor or browse the Mbare Musika market. After sunset, check out the vibrant club scene.
Founded in the mid 19th century by the Ndebele king Lobengula, Bulawayo is also known as the City of Kings. It’s one of the most pleasant urban places to go in Zimbabwe, with its wide boulevards and beautiful if slightly crumbling Victorian architecture. The National Gallery, Bulawayo is located here, as are the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe and the Bulawayo Railway Museum. There are some great parks here and you’ll find plenty of places to shop, including the Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre just outside of town. Bulawayo makes for a wonderful base from which to explore southern Zimbabwe attractions like the Khami Ruins, the Matobo Hills National Park and the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage.
7 Eastern Highlands
Most of Zimbabwe’s places to go are located in hot and quite dry landscapes. The Eastern Highlands, however, make for a pleasant contrast. This mountain range that forms the border with Mozambique has a cooler climate and a variety of ecosystems houses animals like the samango monkey as well as small antelope species and leopards. The Chimanimani and Nyanga National Parks have plenty of waterfalls and streams. Mutare is the main city in this part of the country.
Even though I know the countries of southern Africa are very similar, I’d be happy to go and see the differences. Having been to South Africa I wonder how different the experiences in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Tanzania are. I’d love to check out the attractions of Zimbabwe. How about you?