10 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Zimbabwe

Jul 22, 2021

Most visitors to Zimbabwe are white-owned luxury safari lodges on game-rich reserves in the south, but few realize that the country has one of the world's great biodiversity hotspots in the Mashonaland West. Less-visited areas outside of the reserves offer a different side of this landlocked, east-Africa nation, one with an under-traveled and under-appreciated cultural identity.

This is one of the most politically volatile countries in the world, yet it is also home to magnificent reserves, such as the Hwange National Park. Travel here is safer than it is in much of the rest of the world, but always exercise caution when visiting national parks and reserves.

But with this exposure comes a huge benefit: wildlife that is still largely untouched by modern man. Africa's greatest parks feature few other tourists, and Zimbabwean wildlife and African heritage provide amazing experiences. Here are the best places to visit in the country.

Victoria Falls

Photo of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: en.wikipedia.org

Called the “Cathedral of the Seven Falls,” Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe's highest and most exciting waterfall. Standing 300 meters tall, the stunning fall is Africa's largest waterfall and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is easy to see why these gigantic waterfalls are regarded as one of the natural wonders of the world, but there's much more to do in this small, beautiful country than simply explore the falls and the nearby rainforest. The Zimba-Victoria Falls National Park offers an opportunity to view mountain scenery and to explore various wildlife species, such as hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and antelopes. Other activities include jeep safaris, visits to the native tribal villages, and bird watching.

Matobo National Park

Photo of Matobo National Park
Matobo National Park: en.wikipedia.org

A marvel in the southern African bush, Matobo is one of the oldest surviving National Parks, having been established in 1904. The core of the park is the Tsitsikama River and its famous falls which plunge over a 300-meter drop in the midst of the bush. Visitors enjoy breathtaking views of the river and the surrounding area while hiking or canoeing. The park is home to one of the largest and most impressive populations of elephants in Africa. Among other animals to see here are the impala, the warthog, and the springbok, which are larger and stronger than their African counterparts.

Hwange National Park

Photo of Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe's largest national park, boasting some impressive game parks, including the most popular, Hwange, and its star attraction, the largest elephant concentration in the country. To see one of the world's most captivating wildlife spectacles, visit the park during the full moon in October, when you can witness the elephant migration. The remainder of the park is made up of a variety of animals, including lion, giraffe, buffalo, warthog, antelope and zebra. The area of the park that is open to the public is one of the most remote, deep within the mountains of the lowveld. Hwange has the perfect climate for wildlife-viewing and is the perfect introduction for wildlife lovers. This park is also best visited at night as the wildlife is more easily seen. The best time of year for viewing is between April and September when the best times to visit are between the hours of 6 and 9pm when there is more light. There are three main entrances to the park, Shurugwi, Manzinusio and Goromonzi. The most convenient and widely used entrance to Hwange National Park is the entrance at Goromonzi.

Lake Kariba

Photo of Lake Kariba
Lake Kariba: en.wikipedia.org

It's no secret that Zimbabwe has been struggling financially for the past decade, but things have been particularly bad for the country since President Robert Mugabe began imposing an increasingly harsh economic policy in the early 2000s. If you want to know why Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world, you need only to look at the damage done by the government's policy of land seizures and expropriation.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Photo of Great Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe: en.wikipedia.org

Set high on a plateau, the site at Great Zimbabwe, or Bulawayo, as the colonial administrators called it, rises in a series of terraces from the Luangwa River. Although the exact reason for the original construction of this site has been much debated, there are some theories about how it might have been used. It may have been a fortress or administrative center or it could have been a religious site or the ruins of an ancestral burial ground, but no one knows for sure. Perhaps it was used as a place to observe the movements of the heavens. Astronomical charts showing the cardinal and celestial points and seasons can be found at Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Also found at the site are old irrigation channels and troughs that suggest water management was important. Buildings on the site include a central tower, where astronomical observations might have taken place, and a series of quadrilateral courtyards. The site can be reached by taxi or hire an excursion bus.

Bulawayo

Photo of Bulawayo
Bulawayo: en.wikipedia.org

Bulawayo is Africa's second-most-populous city after Johannesburg and capital of the Southern African country of Zimbabwe. It lies high on a plateau on the northeastern border of the country, with beautiful views of rolling hills in the surrounding area. Bulawayo has its charm to be sure, boasting a laid-back atmosphere, low crime rate, friendly people and good places to eat. The city is well endowed with cultural attractions. Laid out on a series of steep hills, the city has a unique profile of neighborhoods and the city's colonial architecture dates back to the 19th century. Top attractions include Bo-Matadi Wildlife Centre and Midlands Zoo, the National Museum and Bulawayo Central Hospital.

Nyanga National Park

Photo of Nyanga National Park
Nyanga National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Situated in the highlands of Zimbabwe, Nyanga National Park is part of the wilder, more pristine "chimanimani" (island) and "naked" regions, dominated by huge granite hills and rivers and filled with black-and-white Colobus monkeys, as well as rare colobus and African forest elephants, and western lowland leopard. One of the park's most popular day trips is to picnic in the cool waters of the Victoria Falls, where a cable car offers spectacular views. For a different perspective, visits to Nyanga may include flying into Hwange National Park's Mhudi dam, which is used as the world's largest irrigation project, as well as visiting Ngwesi village, an isolated village of primitive villagers that still follows traditional customs.

Beitbridge

Photo of Beitbridge
Beitbridge: en.wikipedia.org

Situated in eastern Zimbabwe, Beitbridge is located on the border with Zambia. Once a stone trading center with a storehouse of ancient weapons and armor, today the town offers visitors the opportunity to tour the century-old ammunition store that is stocked with old muskets and grenades. Hikers have easy access to the bush where one can find safaris, cave dives, river journeys, and more. If you have a little time to spare, take a flight into the Zambezi Wildlife Park, where you can observe large animals roaming around freely or tour the game trails of the open land.

Victoria Falls Safari

Photo of Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls: en.wikipedia.org

Victoria Falls is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. It's a place of great beauty, with magnificent views of the rain-washed, thundering falls and a wealth of natural wildlife such as hippos, crocodiles, and elephants. The falls are straddled by Zimbabwe's most famous park, Hwange National Park, which has a large population of wild game as well as the Victoria Falls Golf Course. A number of safari lodges exist in the area, including private safari camps and highly acclaimed game lodges. The sights around Victoria Falls offer a wealth of cultural and historical interest, including some of the world's oldest towns and ruins and some fascinating religious sites.

Kariba Dam

Photo of Kariba Dam
Kariba Dam: en.wikipedia.org

Kariba Dam is the largest dam in sub-Saharan Africa. Opened in 1963 and named after the site's former owners, Kariba Power Station uses the impounded waters of Lake Kariba to generate electricity for the surrounding country. The view of the dam from the visitor's center offers a tantalizing glimpse of its construction and its connection to the park. An aerial walkway allows a direct view over the waters of Lake Kariba and its inhabitants. The eerily calm lake provides a magnificent image of African scenery. A central walkway connects the viewing point with the adjacent Kariba Lion Park and the Lake Kariba National Park visitor's center. Tourists can also take a tour on a boat at the park to the center of the lake, where a touch tank helps to introduce visitors to the lion and leopard populations living in the park. The restored colonial buildings are interesting in their own right and the park is known for its equatorial forests and can be reached by short walks from the main buildings.