Zimbabwe may be one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, but it is perhaps better known as one of the more troubled nations on the continent. From its independence, in 1980, through Robert Mugabe’s ongoing reign, many tourists have left Zimbabwe off their itineraries. Despite the country’s reputation in the West, however, it has much to be proud of, and Zimbabwe has an astonishing array to offer tourists. It boasts one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, impressive natural attractions (such as Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world), and some of the most diverse wildlife on the continent.
In 2009, Zimbabwe’s longtime single-party rule ended, and the nation established a power-sharing government. Although Mugabe has yet to agree to the terms of the Global Political Agreement,
economic revival has begun, signali
ng a fresh beginning and a brighter future for this African nation.
The Top 8: What to Do in Zimbabwe
1. Victoria Falls:
These great cascades, located near the Zimbabwe–Zambia border in the Zambezi River, are undoubtedly one of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. An average of 550,000 cubic meters (19,420 cubic feet) rush through them every day. The falls and surrounding area are not only a national park but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; they have awed and inspired visitors for hundreds of years. A large number of water sports and extreme sports are available to tourists around the falls, from bungee jumping to white-water rafting. The town of Victoria Falls, on the southern bank of the Zambezi River, is easily accessible by bus and car and has a small international airport with daily domestic flights, as well as service to cities in South Africa and Namibia.
2. Chinhoyi Caves:
These dolomite and limestone caves are located near the town of Chinhoyi, a couple of hours from Harare. Within the caves is a large, deep blue pool, known as the Silent Pool. It is believed that the caves were once the hideout of the bandit Nyamakwere, who threw his victims into the pool to drown them. The pools in the caves offer super diving with great visibility and exciting underwater tunnels and caves to explore.
This inland sea, nestled in Zimbabwe’s breathtaking mountains, is surrounded by game reserves and a prime fishing and water sports area. Kariba is one of the largest manmade lakes in history, having once been a river. It is a lovely watering hole, feeding ground, and home to a myriad of mammals, birds, and fish, and it is dotted with small islands teeming with life. We highly recommend putting Kariba at the top of your itinerary.
4. Mbare Market:
Need to do some souvenir shopping? Or do you simply want to experience the buzz of African market life? If you are in Harare, visit the Mbare Market, where vendors sell everything you might wish for. Prices are almost never fixed, so be prepared to bargain.
5. Hwange National Park:
The largest national park in Zimbabwe, Hwange is located between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls and boasts one of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, including elephants, buffalo, zebras, and giraffes. Some of Africa’s most obscure and unusual mammals, such as the gemsbok, can be found here. Walking, driving, and horseback safaris in this massive park make for unforgettable experiences.
Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, located in the southwestern part of the country, is known for its vibrant art and music scene, colonial buildings, and tree-lined streets. Home to a large number of the nation’s museums, Bulawayo is a great city to spend some down time in before or after a tour in one of Zimbabwe’s national parks.
7. Matobos National Park:
A short drive from Bulawayo, this national park is one of Zimbabwe’s greatest tourist attractions, with its impressive granite outcrops and a large variety of birds. The greatest concentration of ancient San rock art can also be found in the Matobo hills. There is a small game park where visitors can see white and black rhinoceroses.
8. Great Zimbabwe Ruins:
Near the southern town of Masvingo reside the most impressive medieval ruins in sub-Saharan Africa. Dating between A.D. 1250 and 1450, the ruins possess the craftsmanship, size, and timelessness to make them one of the most impressive tourist destinations on the continent, a testament to the intelligence and skills of the ancestors of today’s Zimbabwean people. The ruins consist of two large stone enclosures and a conical tower, built from granite and soapstone. Similar ruins exist throughout the rest of Zimbabwe and in surrounding countries, but none can match Great Zimbabwe in magnitude.
When to Go
Zimbabwe enjoys a moderate climate year-round. Temperatures are higher and rain is more frequent between November and April. It is cooler between May and October.