Over the last 20 years, tourism to this northwestern Zimbabwean town has skyrocketed. More than a million visitors a year now come to behold the town’s main attraction, Victoria Falls, twice the size of Niagara Falls, and the largest curtain of flowing water in the world. More than a mile wide and plunging over a 330-foot drop, the falls are a thrill-seekers’ paradise, with options ranging from rafting to bungee jumping. Just walking in Victoria Falls National Park can be an adventure, however, when you might run in to a crocodile or get soaked any minute with the falls’ powerful spray. Victoria Falls town is just miles from Zambia and Botswana, too; day trips to these countries to check out their game-rich wildlife preserves is a must.
1. Victoria Falls National Park: Explore the park’s dense woods, heart-stopping unfenced drops, and stunning views. When the falls are at peak flow, it pays to wear a raincoat.
2. Zambezi River: Take on the ancient, 1,678-mile-long river at the bottom of Victoria Falls between August and mid-January, when water levels are at their lowest. Whether you opt for a boozy cruise where you can sit back and soak up the scenery or something more adventurous, like whitewater rafting or boogie boarding, there’s a way to experience this majestic river that’s just right for you.
3. Shopping: Need a break from wildlife parks? Stock up on quirky crafts, locally made handicrafts, and safari clothing at the Trading Post shopping center, also known as Landela Centre. Nearby, in the large gallery on Livingston Way, you’ll also find Shona wood and stone carvings.
4. Elephant riding: Who hasn’t always dreamed of riding an elephant? These hour-long journeys through Victoria Falls National Park on the backs of native elephants make for an unforgettable way to take in views of the falls and the surrounding wildlife.
5. Local fare: Take a step back from the hustle and bustle of Victoria Falls and tuck into an authentic home-cooked meal in the Chinotimba Township. Tsitsi, a local resident who works for Backpackers Bazaar, opens her home (and kitchen) to tourists who crave an atypical experience.
6. Zambezi National Park: Beginning on the outskirts of Victoria Falls town, this 25-mile-long park stretching along the Zambezi River is known for its beautiful sable antelope and a good number of hippos and crocodiles.
7. Crossing into Zambia: Check out Victoria Falls from yet another angle, just miles away on the Zambian side. Incredible, head-on views, fewer tourists, and the nearby historic, colonial town of Livingstone make it worth a day trip across the border.
8. Bungee jumping: Not for the faint of heart, this high-adrenaline sport spells a 364-foot plunge off Victoria Falls bridge, past some of the most spectacular views in the world. Other daredevil options include gorge swinging, zip lining, and abseiling.
9. Chobe National Park: Only an hour-long drive from Victoria Falls, this park in Botswana is known as Africa’s top elephant sanctuary, with roughly 50,000 of the massive animals freely roaming the park.
10. Hwange National Park: A two-hour drive from Victoria Falls, Hwange is among Zimbabwe’s most accessible wildlife parks. Visitors are practically guaranteed to see zebras, buffaloes, giraffes, and more.
There are pros and cons to visiting Victoria Falls during both the wet and rainy seasons. The rainy season typically lasts from November to April, creating an especially hot and humid environment. The falls are at their most spectacular from March to April, at the end of the season, though dense spray tends to obscure views at that time. During the dry season, which runs from May to October, the falls are at lower water levels, but you’ll find—in September and October especially—the clearest conditions for taking photographs. (The dry season is a better time for game-viewing, too.) The best times of day to visit the falls are around opening and closing when the light is at its best and there are fewer tourists.
Visas: To enter Zimbabwe, most foreigners require a visa, which can be obtained in advance from an embassy or a consulate or, in some cases, at the airport. All foreigners must have proof of vaccination against yellow fever and cholera. For complete visa details and requirements, check the website of the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, D.C.
Transportation: There are no direct flights to Victoria Falls from overseas, but Air Zimbabwe offers daily flights from Harare, the country’s capital, and British Airways and South African Airways operate daily flights from Johannesburg. Victoria Falls’s recently upgraded airport is about twelve miles from town. Bus companies such as City Link have routes from Harare to Victoria Falls.
The majority of crimes committed in Victoria Falls are non-violent. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching does occur, so avoid carrying valuables and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Proper planning and vigilance are the best ways to avoid any criminal incidents.
Malaria is prevalent throughout Zimbabwe, including in Victoria Falls, so preventive measures should be taken prior to traveling. FYI: June through August are low-risk malaria months.
1. Victoria Falls town is located in southwestern Africa, in the northwestern corner of land-locked Zimbabwe, where the country forms borders with Zambia, Namibia and Botswana.
2. Zimbabwe’s major daily publications are both government-owned: the Herald, which is based in Harare, and the Chronicle, which is based in Bulawayo. NewsDay, the Financial Gazette, the Standard, and Zimbabwe Independent are all private weeklies.
3. Before Scottish explorer David Livingstone arrived at Victoria Falls in 1855 and named the site after his queen, the falls were known in the Makololo language as Mosi oa Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders.”