A place for travelers to unlock the natural wonders of the world, including the famous Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is for those who love adventure. With three geographical regions, the country is filled with attractive sites and astonishing views.
Boasting multiple national parks that are home to the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo), you’ll have plenty of chances to catch a glimpse of some of Africa’s best-known wildlife. A welcoming nation that has multiple World Heritage Sites, you can spend days or weeks exploring Zimbabwe and still only scratch the surface.
Mauya – Welcome to Zimbabwe!
Zimbabwe has more recently made the news due to its instability within the government. With violence, disruptions, and a struggling economy, the country is working towards a brighter future. But even with their own struggles, Zimbabwe has remained upbeat and has always welcomed visitors to explore.
The people are known for their grace and kindness, which is just another reason that people fall in love with Zimbabwe. Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe and is known for its skyscrapers, line lanes, and questionable character. While word on the street doesn’t favor the capital, many people are on the fence about whether it is worth a visit.
But with fine dining, museums, markets, and bars, Harare can provide good entertainment. While you may be tempted to go directly on safari, Harare can be rewarding in itself and it is worth spending a few days exploring the capital.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Part of Africa, Zimbabwe has a long history that begins about 2,000 years ago. The San people were the first culture in the region, which were then taken over by the Bantu during their expansion. The Bantu made Iron Age pottery and greatly influenced the region.
As more cultures came and tribes were established, Zimbabwe changed. Many of the tribes that began years ago as still present in the country today.
During colonization, Great Britain claimed Zimbabwe and it was named Southern Rhodesia. While the country eventually became self-governing, Great Britain’s government still had the ultimate say in all of Zimbabwe’s affairs. In fact, many Rhodesians fought in World War II to support the United Kingdom.
But within time, Zimbabwe did gain its independence. In April of 1980, Zimbabwe was independent. However, the country has struggled in the past 20 years with instability and violence. Poverty and unemployment are major issues in Zimbabwe and the resulting elections have failed to find a solution.
Instead, the elections throughout the years have led to more problems are people seek the power to rule the nation. Protests went hand in hand with violence and the economy had collapsed by 2016. The most recent issues in 2019 were the price of fuel, which increased by 130%.
But while the country has struggled, the people have remained optimistic and are known for being extremely polite and overly welcoming to visitors. Also called Zimbabweans, the people are known for having a deep respect for their culture, heritage, and ancestry.
The culture of Zimbabwe is difficult to envision because it’s so diverse. With various tribes and foreign influences, the country truly is unique. But many traditions are upheld and there are strong beliefs in ceremonies or celebrations. The Shona people are the majority in the population but some of their main groupings are the Zezuru and Karanga.
The diversity of Zimbabwe continues in its languages. The country has 16 official languages including English. The main languages besides English are Shona and Ndebele. Shona is spoken by about 70% of its 15.09 million citizens (as of 2021), while Ndebele is spoken by about 20%.
Immigrant languages are also present and some of the most popular are Afrikaans, French, and German. For travelers, you can rely on English in urban areas but may be limited in rural areas. Although used by the government, businesses, and schools, it may not be the primary language spoken at home.
While your visa is one of the first important expenses of your trip, you also need to be prepared and plan the rest of your spending budget too. Zimbabwe is an expensive country and even backpackers will need to be ready to raise their budgets a bit.
But there are also a lot of different parts of your budget and one of them that can greatly increase the price is choosing to go on a safari. Other important parts of your budget will include airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
The airfare is the first part of your budget that you will need to consider and be prepared to pay a hefty price. The average cost of a flight from the United States (New York) to Zimbabwe is around one thousand dollars. However, that price can raise exponentially if you hesitate to make a reservation or book last minute.
On the flip side, if you book in advance, you may be able to find special deals that lower the price. Just don’t expect this from May to October as these months are considered the high tourist season and a popular time to visit due to lower malaria risk and almost no rain.
Travelers should know that September and October are the driest and hottest months. These peak tourist travel months are also some of the best times for you to view wildlife.
The next most important part of your trip will be your accommodation. There are a lot of options in Zimbabwe, but the most affordable options are a hostel or camping site. If shared or outdoor accommodation is not your preferred option, you can also look at guest houses.
Guest houses are another popular option that has a slightly higher price but is still affordable. Boutique guest houses or hotels are some of the nicest options, which don’t have the price of luxury locations. If you are staying in the city and want a western hotel, you should expect to pay a minimum of a few hundred dollars per night.
It’s also important to discuss safaris as a type of accommodation. Typically, travelers will book a safari, which includes lodging, meals, and activities. Safaris will also provide you with transportation to the park or reserve. However, the most affordable safaris will likely cost over one hundred dollars.
An all-inclusive safari will be more expensive and usually has a base price of a few hundred dollars per night. However, luxury safaris are very popular, and many have a base price of one thousand dollars some options can even be tens of thousands of dollars for a complete experience.
But the good news is that these types of safaris will cover the cost of transportation and meals, which means that you don’t have to worry about those as extra costs.
If you’re not going on a safari, you will need to purchase your food and plan the price accordingly with your budget. Eating locally is the best way to save money and there is a large variety within Zimbabwe’s cuisine.
Sadza, cornmeal porridge that is served as a stew with beef, is a popular dish. Nhedzi is a wild mushroom soup that’s another favorite. Peanut butter is also a staple within the cuisine and bota is a porridge for breakfast, while dovi is a stew with traditional meat and vegetables.
Game meat is very popular in Zimbabwe and you may have the chance to try exotic flavors like ostrich, warthog, or crocodile. Mopane worms are also served, dried or in a stew, and as a snack. For beef jerky lovers, biltong is a dried beef or game meat, which can be a perfect option for travelers on the go.
In relation to your budget, local establishments will cost a few dollars and is the most affordable option. Travelers who want to dine at a nicer location will pay a bit more, although it won’t be too much. On the other hand, meals in big cities and at fine dining establishments can be very expensive.
Drinks are also a part of your budget, but they can be affordable. Beer is the most affordable option and many options will cost a few dollars. Other types of alcohol will be more expensive and in tourist areas, you should expect to pay a fair amount.
How to Get Around
While there are big cities in Zimbabwe, the majority of the country is rather difficult to access because it is rural. Some of the top tourist destinations are even difficult to access without hiring a private driver. For safety and convenience, private drivers are one of the most popular methods of transportation.
Renting a car and self-driving in Zimbabwe can be hectic and dangerous because of the road conditions. Due to this, many people choose to hire a taxi or private drivers. While taxis can take you around for either half or an entire day for a moderate price, you can also book a private driver.
Private drivers with a company are usually more expensive, however, you’ll ensure that you’re taken on the best routes and won’t have to worry about navigation. For travelers who can’t afford a private driver, the other options include using local buses, taxis, and walking.
Local buses are the most affordable option and many journeys will cost a modest price while luxury buses or those going longer distances will cost more.
Walking is also a safe option when you are in touristy areas. However, you should always keep your belongings close by and be aware of your surroundings. Travelers should also avoid walking at night, especially alone.
Top Cities to Visit
With a vast landscape, there are a few different cities that have caught tourists’ eyes in Zimbabwe. From urban areas to those situated near national parks, there are a range of locations to choose from. To help you narrow down where you want to visit, here are the top city destinations in Zimbabwe.
As the capital of the country, Harare is a mega cosmopolitan city with tower skyscrapers and wide lanes of traffic. The city has multiple galleries and museums as well as historic sites. With plenty of green space scattered amongst the hotel, restaurants, and shops, one of the most popular times to visit is when the jacarandas are in bloom.
With a mixture of colonial and Victorian architecture, Bulawayo is a historic gem. The picturesque city is perfect for taking casual strolls or shopping amongst a variety of markets for fine crafts. The city is also nearby to a few parks to the southwest, which makes it a popular hub for travelers.
The nearby deepwater caves are what have put Chonhoyi on the map. For extreme adventurists, the caves have an expansive system for exploration. The town itself is rather small and there isn’t much to it, but with a laid-back vibe, it’s the perfect place to rest before you head underground.
Located in the highlands, Mutare is a popular spot because it is located close to Nyanga National Park. Here, the lush greenery is nested in the Bvumba Mountains and the Samango monkeys are a favorite site. With a small slice of civilization, this is an oasis before you hop off into the wilds of Africa.
With golf courses and vineyards, Gweru is a posh city in Zimbabwe that is often a favorite for travelers who want to experience South African sophistication. The city is a hit with all travelers, especially those who are coming with families.
Points of Interest
With amazing views and sites, there are plenty of points of interest in Zimbabwe that have become major hotspots. With so much surrounding nature tourism, some of the most popular places are national parks. Boasting numerous outdoor sites that are worth visiting, here are some of the top attractions in Zimbabwe.
Often considered to be a wonder of the natural world, Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s top point of interest and a must-see destination. Located on the Zambezi River and straddling both Zimbabwe and Zambia, the waterfall’s size is only rivaled by Iguazu Falls in South America.
Additionally, during certain periods of the wet season, it becomes the world’s largest. Although a stunning site, global warming has drastically affected Victoria Falls, and in 2019, after a heavy drought, the falls lost a significant amount of water. For those interested in seeing the falls, now is the time to do it.
Matobo National Park
Matobo National Park is one of the protected areas just outside of Bulawayo, which is famous for its stunning rock formations. The large bluffs and granite peaks provide a beautiful backdrop and the nearby Nswatugi Cave showcases some of Africa’s earliest history with hominids.
The Hove Wild Area is also nearby and gives you the opportunity to view African game animals like antelope, wildebeest, baboons, and leopards.
Nyanga National Park
With impressive dolomite rocks, the Nyanga National Park is one of Africa’s most visually stunning locations. The msasa and cypress trees that scatter the area are rather rare and are the perfect habitat for wildlife. With Old World monkeys, leopards, and lions, this park is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is the area that most people envision when they think of the African landscape. In this terrain, there are woods and groves, plains and flats, termite mounds, and watering holes.
With all of Africa’s most famous wildlife, guests have the opportunity to view hyenas, wild dogs, leopards, cheetahs, and elephants. This is also the face of Zimbabwe’s ecotourism and the most popular park in the country.
Mana Pools National Park
Fed by the Zambezi River, these pools are extremely popular for game-watching because of all the animals that come to rehydrate. Some of the favorite animals to spot in the Mana Pools National Park are crocodiles, hippos, and elephants.
Matusadona National Park
Perfectly preserved, Matsuadona National Park is a famous area within Zimbabwe because it reminds people of an untouched Rhodesia. The park is nearby the town of Kariba and the Kariba Dam, two additional popular attractions. With tranquility, this is the ideal getaway to escape the chaos of the city.
Get Out and Go
With a picturesque vision, Zimbabwe embodies the heart of South Africa and going on safari. The numerous national parks have been preserved to keep Zimbabwe’s unique wildlife safe and tourists are eager to catch a glimpse of the vanishing Big Five.
With plenty of adventure, Zimbabwe showcases its love of nature and proudly displays its culture. For anyone looking to explore this massive continent, Zimbabwe is one of the best countries to visit.