Top 10 Destinations in Zimbabwe
The crowning jewel of Zimbabwe and certainly one of the best places to visit in the country, Victoria Falls is a small town on the east side of one of the world's great waterfalls. On the Zimbabwe side, the falls lie within the wildlife-rich Victoria Falls National Park. From a forest path which runs along the edge of the falls, there are a number of spectacular vantage points, although prepare to get very wet from the spray. Victoria Falls is the adventure capital of Africa with an array of air, water and land-based activities. For a spectacular birds-eye view, take a Flight of Angels helicopter ride or an exhilarating micro light flight over the falls, and for those brave enough there is the famous bungee jump.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s biggest national park and is one of Africa’s finest for wildlife. It also holds the title of one of the best places in the world to see elephants, thanks to the population of over 40,000 of these majestic animals. The vast amount elephants isn’t the only wildlife calling card to this incredible park. Herds of buffalo, zebras, giraffe and the powerful predators of leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs are all found here. Alongside over 400 different species of bird. The national park has public and private camping facilities so incredible wildlife encounters are available 24 hours. The park is situated on the main road between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls making it easily accessible after visiting the natural wonder. Although it is Zimbabwe's premier safari destination, Hwange is almost always quiet when compared to more famous reserves in other countries, making it a great option for an off-the-beaten track safari.
Located in the centre of Zimbabwe, the city of Gweru is the capital of the Midlands Province and the fifth largest city in the country. The city is a thriving industrial, commercial and agricultural centre, situated in one of Zimbabwe's finest cattle rearing areas and surrounded by extensive vineyards. Gweru is most famous for the Antelope Park, one of Zimbabwe's most popular tourist destinations. The park is home to the world famous ALERT lion rehabilitation programme as seen in the major UK documentary series 'Lion Country'.
Covering almost 1,800 acres of land, the Great Zimbabwe is a complex of ruins built by indigenous Africans believed to be the ancestors of modern Zimbabweans. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, the complex was once the centre of a vast empire known as the Munhumutapa Empire. There are three distinct architectural groupings known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure. Formed of regular, rectangular granite stones carefully placed one upon the other, all of the structures were built without the use of mortar. Despite this, the remarkable buildings have survived for seven centuries. The stone walls are up to 6 metres thick and 12 metres high with a section of wall running 60 metres long.
The capital of Zimbabwe is the gateway to the country’s incredible wildlife destinations. However, you’d be advised to not just pass through, because it is also one of the best places to visit in Zimbabwe. The city has plenty of attractions and boasts an enjoyable laid-back vibe. A city with many towering skyscrapers, it also has many spots of natural beauty. The Botanical Garden of Harare has 900 various species of tree and shrubbery to admire and is a great place to spend a day. If you visit in September or October you’ll see the purple blossoms of the jacaranda tree in full bloom. It’s also a place you can learn about Zimbabwe’s craftwork, a source of national pride in Zimbabwe on display in the National Gallery. To admire and photograph vast vistas of this intriguing city head to Kopje, a granite hill that rises out of the centre of the city.
Matobo National Park
Considered the spiritual home of Zimbabwe, Matobo National Park has some of the world’s most impressive granite scenery. As well as wildlife, including Zimbabwe’s highest concentration of white and black rhinos found in the game park section, the recreational park has Southern Africa’s highest concentration of ancient rock art. The 3,500 sites date back 13,000 years. The lunar landscape of balancing rocks, known as kopjes, giant boulders stacked on top of each other, as if they’re about to topple over, is an incredible sight. This site has an incredible history stretching back some 2,000 million years when molten rock erupted across the landscape. The Matobo Hills is still incredibly important to the local community with them used as shrines and sacred places. This national park is in the perfect location for people to visit when on the road to Hwange and Victoria Falls.
The mighty Zambezi flows into the waters of Lake Kariba, one of the world’s largest artificial lakes. Covering an area of 5,00sq km and holding 180 billion tonnes of water, Lake Kariba is an area of extreme beauty, the expanse of water reflecting the nearby landscape. Remote and slightly trickier to get to than Zimbabwe’s other wildlife destinations, those who do make the journey here will be rewarded with an incredible safari experience. As well as being home to the Big Five, the largest island on the lake has impalas, hippos, crocodiles and an array of birdlife. A wonderful way to experience the wildlife of Lake Kariba is by setting off on a houseboat or motorboat.
Bulawayo is one of Zimbabwe’s most attractive cities. The country’s second city is rich in cultural history. Founded in the 1840s by the Ndebele king, Lobengula Khumalo, it was colonised in 1894. The striking colonial architecture still stands today, lining the tree-lined avenues and streets. Walk down the boulevards to the beautiful parks full of jacaranda trees. The city’s attractions include the Bulawayo Railway Museum, where you’ll learn the history of the country through the extensive railway network, the Natural History Museum, Zimbabwe’s largest, a number of galleries and a cathedral. It is one of the best places to experience Zimbabwe’s cultural diversity as well as a relaxed atmosphere.
Mana Pools National Park
One of the country’s lesser known national parks, in part due to its remote nature, Mana Pools is a great venue to enjoy close encounters with the wildlife. Its name comes from the word for ‘four’ in the Shona language, after the four inland pools that are left from the oxbow lakes. Wildlife gathers around the banks of the Lower Zambezi, elephants, lions, zebras, leopards and cheetahs all stopping for a drink, creating the perfect photo opportunity. One of the things which makes this national park so unique is it allows you to head out on a walking safari. While this might seem slightly risky to some, the sense of adventure available is undeniable.
Zimbabwe’s fourth largest city has an incredibly picturesque setting, found at the foothills of the Eastern Highlands north of the Bvumba Mountains. Set in a valley and surrounded by rolling green hills, the city has a relaxed rural feel. Mutare means ‘metal’, the city’s name coming from its history as a fort when gold was discovered in the nearby Penhalonga Valley. The Mutare River flowed through with gold panning taking place in the same area. Its here you can visit the Mutare Museum and Murahwa Hill known for its rock paintings and Iron Age village.
Our handy Travel Guide resources cover everything you need to know when planning a visit to Zimbabwe. Have a browse through the below:
Best Time to Visit - Zimbabwe's climate and seasons
Tourist Visas - what you need to know before travelling to Zimbabwe
Top Travel Tips - time, health and money in Zimbabwe
About Overland Safaris - what to expect on an overland expedition
About Lodge Safaris - all you need to know about lodge accommodated safaris
Safari Wildlife Guide - where to find Africa's most iconic wildlife
Spotting Africa's Big 5 - our guide to the Big 5 and the best places to find them
Visiting Victoria Falls - best time to see one of the world's greatest natural wonders