Beyond Victoria Falls – How to Experience the Best of Zimbabwe
Landscape captured during a Zimbabwe tour

A Zimbabwe tour would fall short of any curious traveller’s expectations if a trip to the Victoria Falls wasn’t included on the itinerary. But it would be a tremendous mistake to focus your entire Zimbabwe trip solely on the falls, and not include the other sights and sounds of this incredibly resilient nation in your travel plans.  

The urban streets of Bulawayo and Harare, lined with Jacaranda trees that put on a spectacular purple bloomed display in October, offer a superb culinary, cultural and shopping experience, while the surrounding natural and rural landscapes, full of fascinating people, plants and wildlife, make for the perfect escape for those wanting an adventure. 

Unlike its neighbouring Botswana, which is a land of sharp contrasts, Zimbabwe gives that real Africa vibe, the kind that tells the tale of old world safaris, where in the dense grassy thickets one can just imagine catching the glimpse of a lion’s eyes, watching every move you make. 

Travelling through this incredible country gives one the ultimate sense of freedom, with its wide open spaces a welcome change from the demands of everyday life. 

Whether you hope to explore this land at your own pace, venturing off the beaten track and creating uniquely unforgettable memories, or if you want to be guided through the most popular places, there is a Zimbabwe tour for every kind of traveller. 

This comprehensive guide will equip you with the essential knowledge that you’ll need to ensure a comfortable, safe, and thoroughly enjoyable Zimbabwe tour that takes you far beyond the roar of the Victoria Falls.

Natural rock formations seen during a Zimbabwe tour

Zimbabwe’s Best Kept Secrets 

Zimbabwe is known for a great many things, and if we are being completely honest, often it is not known for the best reasons. 

With its troubled political history often dominating headlines, travellers have for many years been hesitant about booking a trip to see the country. 

But times have moved on and these days, Zimbabwe is an up-and-coming tourist destination once again, and while it is the Victoria Falls that is hands down the most frequently visited place, Zimbabwe’s magic extends far beyond this iconic landmark. 

Vast national parks like Hwange and Mana Pools offer some of Africa’s very best wildlife encounters while Zimbabwe’s rich history is also a famous attraction, especially since it is home to many strange and wonderful archaeological sites. The evocative ruins of Great Zimbabwe, an ancient city built by the Shona people, stand as a testament to the country’s long and fascinating past. And then there’s the bustling cities, where the market places and night life give guests a completely different perspective, not just of Zimbabwe but of Africa as a whole. 

By balancing a wildlife adventure with some cultural exploration, Zimbabwe tours cater to all kinds of travellers, making it a truly remarkable destination, but only if you plan your trip just right. 

Here’s what you should add to your Zimbabwe holiday itinerary to ensure that you have a well-rounded experience that will have you ticking off your bucket list while leaving enough time to be in awe of a few unexpected destinations.

Natural Landscapes of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe For the Wildlife Enthusiast

No trip to Southern Africa would be complete without a safari, and while Zimbabwe is not exactly the best-known place to have such a holiday, it has a lot to offer the wildlife enthusiast. 

In Hwange National Park you can almost feel the earth tremble beneath your feet, the ground shaking with each powerful stride as the park’s famous elephants make their way across the endless plains. 

But Hwange National Park’s adventures don’t stop there.  

Lions are also commonly seen and with an experienced guide by your side, you’ll be in the heart of the action, not a spectator from afar. 

One of the most memorable experiences you can have while visiting Hwange is to track a pride of lions on foot (safely, of course). This is the sort of activity that will have the adrenaline coursing through your veins because nothing is quite as thrilling as hearing a lion’s roar echo through the tall grasses. 

This is Africa as it is meant to be experienced; untamed and exhilarating.

Further north, the stunning Mana Pools are the perfect place for exciting water-based adventures. 

Here, canoe safaris glide silently along the mighty Zambezi River, offering an incredible, and more importantly, a unique perspective of the wildlife as they go about their day. 

Elephants gently walk to the water’s edge for a thirst-quenching drink, while hippos bask lazily nearby, in the shallows. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a paradise for birding enthusiasts, with 100s of species flitting through the trees along the riverbank.

For those who love landscapes, a different kind of magic awaits in Matobo National Park.

Dramatic granite “kopjes” jut out from the landscape, creating a scenically stunning backdrop for wildlife encounters and landscape photos alike. 

This is a prime location to see the critically endangered black and white rhinos, which are carefully guarded by Zimbabwe’s successful conservation efforts. 

Matobo offers more than just wildlife, as you can also explore a variety of ancient rock paintings that tell stories of the San people who once inhabited this land. 

Zimbabwe’s national parks offer a kaleidoscope of experiences, making it a must-visit for any traveller seeking an authentic African adventure.

Rock art Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe For the Historically Interested 

Zimbabwe isn’t just a destination; it can take you on a journey through time, culture, and artistic expression, but only if you let it.

Zimbabwe’s history is rich and complex, and for those who specifically want to include something of a historical adventure in their Zimbabwe tour, there are a few destinations to keep in mind when making plans.  

One must-see place is Great Zimbabwe, which is essentially a sprawling stone ruin, the largest south of the Sahara. Here, the ruins whisper tales of the powerful Shona kingdom that once flourished centuries ago. The sheer scale and the intricate dry-stone architecture of Great Zimbabwe will leave you pondering the mysteries of this ancient civilization. 

Another historical wonder is the evocative ruins of Khami, which have become a testament to a later kingdom and are another popular and interesting attraction. At the same time, you can also visit the spiritual heart of the nation at Matobo Hills. 

Within the rocky natural structure of the Matobo Hills, you can look at ancient rock paintings that display the stories of the San people. You can also try your hand at balancing precariously atop granite boulders, the view from above offers sights of the most breathtaking vistas. 

For a unique blend of history and contemporary art, you should visit the Chapungu Sculpture Park. 

The park displays Modern Shona sculptures, inspired by the artist’s ancestors’ artistic traditions, which come alive amidst the natural beauty, creating a truly captivating experience.

And finally, there are the museums. A few of the ones worth visiting include the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences in Harare, the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, the Bulawayo Railway Museum, and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, also in Harare.

Zimbabwe for those who want culture 

There’s no better place to get to know the cultures of some of Africa’s best-known cultures than Zimbabwe. 

The most prominent culture that you will encounter during your Zimbabwe tour is the Shona people, who are the country’s largest ethnic group. They have an electrifying energy that comes alive during their traditional dance performances, with rhythmic drum beats becoming the background music to their vibrant costumes and infectious smiles. 

The best way to experience the culture of Zimbabwe is by getting away from the tourist trail and visiting a local village, where you’ll more than likely be welcomed with open arms. In the company of the people, you can learn, first-hand, about their way of life, and their traditional crafts. As the day passes, you can settle in and listen to their storytelling, something that holds much importance for their community and is often a celebration of their ancestral reverence. 

These events are not staged performances; instead, they are a chance to forge genuine connections and gain a deeper understanding of the Shona spirit.

For a taste of Zimbabwe’s more modern way of life, you should explore the bustling capital, Harare.

The city is home to museums brimming with historical treasures, while lively street markets overflow with colourful fabrics, handcrafted souvenirs, and the enticing aroma of local cuisine

Meanwhile, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, there is a unique blend of colonial architecture as well as a thriving contemporary art scene, which again are a nod to the Shona people. 

In the city, interesting art galleries showcase bold Shona sculptures and there are also energetic dance clubs waiting to be enjoyed. 

Bulawayo simply pulsates with a creative energy that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.

Cultures and food of Zimbabwe

Beyond the Usual Zimbabwe Activities

A Zimbabwe tour is what you make it. While travellers visiting Zimbabwe can look forward to safaris and cultural experiences, Zimbabwe is also a paradise for those wanting to add a little bit of action to their holiday. 

Zimbabwe caters to every kind of traveller, offering the perfect balance between heart-pounding thrills and soul-soothing break away from the daily demands of normal day to day life. 

If action is what you yearn for, you can get your heart racing with a white-water rafting adventure on the mighty Zambezi River. As you quickly move through the churning rapids, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, with a spray of cool water being a welcome refreshment in the African heat, you will no doubt feel alive again. 

For the ultimate adrenaline rush, you can take an exhilarating bungee jump over the Batoka Gorge, with the sheer drop into the abyss below leaving you breathless (in more ways than one!).

If pushing up your blood pressure is not your idea of the perfect holiday but you still want some activity, you can opt for a more tranquil experience by booking a cruise along the glassy surface of Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake by volume. There is something relaxing and unforgettable about watching the African sunset paint the sky in vibrant hues. It is a perfect end to a day of adventure and indulgence. 

While on the topic of something different, we can’t leave out the country’s accommodation. Travellers will often stay in tented accommodation, something that allows you to get closer to nature,  Zimbabwe is also home to luxury lodges, which offer guests a relaxing retreat after a day of pure adventure. 

If you can, choose a Zimbabwe tour, or plan your holiday in such a way that it will include a stay in one of the many luxurious lodges nestled within one of the national parks or in the cities, where plush amenities blend seamlessly with the surrounding wilderness. 

These sorts of lodges often have spas offering treatments that incorporate indigenous ingredients, like marula oil and locally sourced herbs, for a holistic rejuvenation experience.


Tips for Planning Your Zimbabwean Adventure

If you have got this far in our guide, you are probably already looking for a Zimbabwe tour. But before you pack your safari hat and binoculars, you must make sure that you have the necessary travel documents in order and it will also help to be in the know about some basic information, such as the right time to book your trip.

A Note about Visas

Visa requirements can vary depending on your nationality. 

Some nationals require a visa before they board their plane while others have the option of applying for a visa as they enter the country. And then there is a long list of countries that don’t require a visa at all when travelling to Zimbabwe. 

If you are travelling from the UK, you can apply for a visa when you arrive or, to save time, you can apply in advance so that your visa is ready when you arrive. If you are a US citizen, you will also need to apply at your port of entry, but only because the Zimbabwe Embassy in the US doesn’t have the option of applying for a visa before travelling. German travellers will also need to apply for a visa upon arrival. 

Along with a visa, you will also need a return travel ticket, money in your bank enough to cover your stay, and a passport valid for up to 6 months. 

To avoid any nasty surprises, make sure that you double-check the visa application process as it relates to your country before you arrive in Zimbabwe. 

The Best Time of Year to Travel to Zimbabwe 

To experience Zimbabwe at its finest, you must time your trip strategically. 

The sweet spot falls within the dry season, stretching from April to October.

During this time, which is winter, you can expect sunny skies and pleasant daytime temperatures to be the norm. 

These also happen to be favourable temperatures and conditions to experience prime wildlife viewing opportunities. With less water readily available, animals naturally congregate around permanent water sources like rivers and watering holes, making them easier to spot while on your safari.  

This time of year is considered the peak tourism season, so you should expect more crowds and potentially higher prices. 

If you prefer thinner crowds and don’t mind slightly warmer weather, you can consider travelling in the shoulder months like March or November. 

Just be aware that wildlife viewing might be slightly less predictable as rain, heat and vegetation overgrowth might result in fewer wildlife sightings.

Zambezi River Zimbabwe

This blog has only scratched the surface of the incredible adventures, rich cultures, and breathtaking landscapes that await in Zimbabwe.

Are you ready to swap travel dreams for an epic African odyssey?