Previously known as Swaziland, the Kingdom of ESwatini is a culturally rich and majestic country located between the northeastern part of South Africa and the southern side of Mozambique.[su_gmap address=”ESWATINI” zoom=”8″]
The new name Eswatini means “land of the Swazis” was made into effect on April 19, 2019, by King Mswati III. This country is a gem to many tourists but is often overlooked due to its proximity to South Africa on the west and Mozambique on the right.
With a population of just over 1,357,161 million, the Kingdom of Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa.
Eswatini may not be a vast geographic location, but in the tiny kingdom, the diversity of things to do, places to stay, and culture, makes the country well worth a visit.
Eswatini Travel Guide: Things to Do, Places to Stay, Culture, and Travel Tips
Official languages: English, Swati (Swazi language), South African English
King: Mswati III
Currencies: Swazi lilangeni (pegged to the South African rand)
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Points of Interest: Hlane Royal National Park, Mkhaya Game Reserve, and more…
Average Flight Time: 26 h 25 min flight
Fun Fact: The late kings Sobhuza II ruled Swaziland for approximately 83 years; one of the longest absolute monarchies in the world’s history
Why Visit Eswatini (Swaziland)
eSwatini is one of the friendliest countries with very low crime rates in the Southern Africa region. Ruled by King Mswati III since 1986, it is the only remaining monarchy in Africa and one of the world’s few monarchies to preserve its culture and heritage.
Mbabane is the capital city of Eswatini, and other major cities are Manzini, Big Bend, Simunye and Piggs Peak.
The Kingdom of eSwatini is rich in culture and traditional customs that any traveler would love to experience. There are various cultural activities that take place throughout the year at this Kingdom such as the famously known Umhlanga Reed dance.
Best of Eswatini (Swaziland)
Agriculturally, Eswatini produces vast amounts of sugar cane from its large sugar cane acre farms. The best aesthetic artwork is produced in this country from embroidery in textiles, paintings, and clothing.
Tourism and the rich wildlife preservation contributes largely to the economy and GDP of this country.
The Bushfire Music Festival is one of the best events to attend in Eswatini, hosted annually around mid towards the end of May. The proceeds of this festival go towards charity and in helping boost the economy of Eswatini.
Best Places to Stay in Eswatini (Swaziland)
For some people, Eswatini can be little more than a day visit. However, the rich diversity of the things to do, see, and experience makes a one-week stay in the country extremely worthwhile.
Accommodation can start from as little as US$10 per night for a bunk in Veki’s Guesthouse or Bombaso’s Backpackers in Mbabane and higher.
There are plenty of other guesthouses that rise in price, and these can be found in various parts of the country.
In the two main cities, Mbabane and Manzini more upmarket hotels such as the Royal Sun Swazi and Royal Villas, provide exceptional accommodation and reasonable prices.
Rural Eswatini is what many tourists come to the country to experience. With impressive countryside staying in a tented camp or lodge is the perfect way to appreciate and absorb what the Swazi kingdom is best known for.
High up in the Lubombo Mountains, the Shewula Mountain Camp is a beautiful tented camp that at the right time of year offers some of the most amazing views anywhere in the world.
For a little more comfort, traditional lodges are popular places to stay. Venues such as Maguga Lodge and Mantenga lodge are extremely popular with tourists from all over the world.
Best Things to Do in the Kingdom of Eswatini
It may seem that there cannot be much to do is Eswatini being such a small country. This could not be further from the truth, making the country a real hidden tourist gem. High on the list of things to do in this Southern African country is nature and game.
Eswatini is considered by far to be the place in Africa to see the most Rhino. The Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve are one of the best places in the world to see a wide variety of African wildlife in their natural habitat.
The game reserve is exceptionally well managed and has won many national awards. This perfect example of a game reserve offers a variety of day visit hikes and safaris as well as overnight and multi-day “adventures” that allow the wildlife and nature of Swaziland to thoroughly soaked up.
#2 Sibebe Rock – a 3 Billion-Year-Old Attraction
Eswatini has a massive expanse of mountains, valleys, and rivers and the natural history dates back to prehistoric times. One of the oldest and most fascinating things to do, especially for those who like to hike is Sibebe Rock.
Very much a baby sister to Uluru in Australia this impressive granite dome is the second-largest in the world and sits just 10km outside Mbabane.
With very few tourists in comparison to its Australian rival, Sibebe Rock can be reached after a 4km hike and is well worth the trek.
A visit to the Shewula Mountain Camp is highly recommended to understand the Swazi people rich history. You will enjoy being immersed in the Swazi culture.
With the village walks with some of the most fantastic mountain views in Africa, this unique tourist experience is about getting up close to the rich culture and people of the region. Dancing and singing for a large part of the experience and of course, meeting a traditional healer is a highlight.
The Shewula Mountain Camp also offers a unique overnight experience sleeping in a traditional hut, fitted with showers and bathrooms of course, with the opportunity to feel part of the village and enjoy traditional food.
Where there are mountains, there are rivers. Where there are mountain rivers, there is white water rafting. For those who want an adrenalin-fuelled day out a trip down the Great Usutu River is a must.
Well organized tours create a unique way to experience this small piece of Africa.
#2 Visit the Baobab batik workshop to find the best batik made stock from cushions, clothing and table linen. The Swazi handcraft industry offers a variety of crafts to behold and buy. Most of the crafts are weaved from a special grass called the lutidzi.
#6 Village life of eSwatini
#3 Take a trip to the village and experience the village life of eSwatini and meet the locals to learn about the Swazi cultural practices at Matenga Nature reserve and cultural village.
Ensure that you attend the famous annual Umhlanga Reed dance if you are there between the end of August and the beginning of September hosted at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence in Lobamba, Kingdom of Eswatini.
Best Things to See in the Kingdom of Eswatini
As far as culture goes, one of the most significant events of the year must surely be the Reed Dance.
Taking place in August, the Umhlanga Reed Dance lasts about 8 days and is about girls from all over the country paying homage to the Swazi Queen Mother. The 7th day is especially spectacular as thousands of girls salute the Queen Mother and the Swazi king participates.
This is an exceptional event that is something that, once seen, will never be forgotten.
#2 Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Enjoy the scenery at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary by trailing at the Chubeka Trails while watching the wildlife.
There are various nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries at your disposal at Eswatini such as the Malolotja Nature reserve where you can go gliding through the forests at the Malolotja Canopy Tour.
#3 Lebombo Mountains of Eswatini
Visit the beautiful Lebombo mountains of Eswatini which are like no other you have seen anywhere in the world or the Makhonjwa mountains which are over 6,000 feet long which are about 3.5 billion years old.
#4 King Sobhuza II Memorial Park
Visit the King Sobhuza ii memorial Park which carries a rich history about the Kingdom of eSwatini and the longest time-serving king of the country from 1899 to 1982.
Ready to visit eSwatini? You’ll find these posts about Mbabane and Lobamba insightful.[su_button url=”https://fave.co/31aF9hO” target=”blank” background=”#0077be” color=”#ffffff” size=”6″ center=”yes” radius=”5″ text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px ” rel=”nofollow”]MORE TO SEE & DO[/su_button]
Best Places to Eat in the Kingdom of Eswatini
#1 Malandela’s Restaurant
#2 Lihawu Restaurant situated at the Royal Villas Eswatini serves the best African cuisine
#3 The Calabash Continental Restaurant in Ezuwlini which serves traditional dishes
Typical Costs to Eswatini (Swaziland)
Average Flight Cost: $1,928 – $2,251
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Affordable accommodation for one night would cost about L 450.00 per person for a shared room.
Most visitors enter Eswatini through South Africa, therefore the popular modes are road or air travel. A cheap return flight ticket from Johannesburg into Mbabane city would cost around 4000.00 South African rands.
A plate of food, depending on the dish, would cost you about Elangeni (L) 27.00 which is equivalent to South African 27 rands. In an expensive restaurant, a meal would cost you about L 70.00.
Transport: For a distance of 1 km, a metered taxi is around L 22.00
Hlane National Park: ~$25 per person
All-inclusive safari/tour: $460 – $980
Total Travel Cost
Expect to spend between on average between $1,500 to $2,500 depending on the number of days you plan on visiting the country. The cost of a luxury trip is two to three times the average cost, and for budget-friendly or backpackers, spending under $1,500 is very realistic.
Eswatini/Swaziland Travel Tips
It is advisable to find a tour guide if you are traveling to Eswatini for the first time to show you around and also give you an idea of the best places to go.
During the Summer season, Eswatini temperatures rise up to 29 degrees Celcius, it is, therefore, advisable to protect yourself against the hot sun with caps, sun hats or sunscreens.
Weather in the Kingdom of Eswatini
This is the average weather throughout the year in ºC
Best Months to Visit the Kingdom of Eswatini
The best months to visit are towards the end of August and the beginning of September. There are many events taking place at that time of the year such as the Swaziland Music Festival and the Umhlanga Annual Reed Dance and many others. This time of the year most animals come out from hibernation from the winter season, so when you visit the nature reserves, you are able to enjoy seeing them in their variety.
How to Save Money in the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland)
Avoid fancy hotels because the low GDP means that the most luxurious places are most likely to be more expensive for those businesses to sustain themselves.
The peak season of the year starts towards the end of August to the end of the year, with a lot of festivals so prices tend to be higher on accommodation and transport. Book earlier to avoid higher costs.
What You Need to Know: Safety Tips
There are various diseases that could affect a traveler in eSwatini such as Malaria which is thriving in the eastern part of the country. You need to have Malaria vaccines and mosquito repellant sprays at all times to protect yourself.
If you are using road transport, be careful at the border gate with people who may offer to help speed up the entry administration to avoid long queues. It is best to stand in the queue than to give a stranger your passport to get it stamped.
Culture & Customs
eSwatini is Monarch ruled country where the Swazi culture and customs are observed and practiced. The seasons of the year, winter to summer, hold greater meaning on Swazi culture which is a way of life for the people of the country.
The food, music, religion, and kinship play a significant role in shaping and identifying the Swazi culture.
Seasons of the year in the Swazi culture hold significant meaning, for example, the annual Umhlanga Reed dance takes place according to the calendar when the sun comes up right after winter and the beginning of Spring.
This spectacular event takes place annually for a week where over 40 000 maidens walk to the Royal Kraal to honor the Queen Mother by singing and dancing in this Reed dance. This cultural custom has been practiced for centuries in the Swazi tradition where the first 5 days of this ceremony are private while the last two days are more of a public celebration which attracts media and visitors from around the world.
The Reed dance is an opportunity for the Swati maidens to network and also celebrate their virginity as they transition into womanhood.
siSwati is the commonly spoken language in eSwatini followed by English which is the official language. Other spoken languages include Tsonga and Zulu.
The Swazi Lilangeni (SZL) or L
Tipping at restaurants or any points of sale, although not necessary is encouraged.
The beautiful Eswatini country is naturally dominated by a rainbow of the wildlife of animals that originate from within the country and those are adopted from other various parts of Africa.
The indigenous Eswatini animals include the African Elephant, Rock Dassie, Square-lipped rhinoceros, rodents many others. The country is also home to the big 5 and more than 500 various types of birds and over a hundred species of reptiles.
There are more than 130 types of mammals from African lions, African elephants, Cheetah, Tsessebe, Zebras, Black wildebeest, Nyala, Giraffes, Roan antelopes, the African Buffalo and many more.
Eswatini tourism embraces wildlife preservation through nature reserves, safaris and zoos. For a country with a smaller landmass, Eswatini has plenty of nature reserves with popular ones such as Mlilwane wildlife Sanctuary, Hlane Royal National Park, Malolotja Game Reserve amongst others.
Getting Around Eswatini (Swaziland)
The best mode of transport in urban areas or city centers of Mbabane and Lobamba are through metered taxis or a rental car.
Common public transport is through minibus taxis found at taxi stops which depart only when the taxi is full. The minibusses have set routes which means you will have to get off at certain points to walk to your destination.
The minibusses are able to connect you from one area to another, city to city and even to South Africa.
Entry & Exit Requirements for Eswatini (Swaziland)
The kingdom of Eswatini is best accessed by road. However, King Mswati III International Airport does have limited flights from Johannesburg, South Africa, for those who wish to fly.
International travelers will most likely have a connecting flight from a larger African country. Road transport either by car or bus is the most popular way to enter the country which is accessible from most parts of South Africa.
There are eleven border crossing from Eswatini to South Africa. However, the most common border is called Oshoek, on the South African side, and Ngwenya, on the Mozambique side. It is also the busiest border point but it only takes about 15-20 minutes to get done with immigration once you get to the border.
The roads in Eswatini are constructed to high standards and are well maintained, many people will say the streets are better than those in South Africa. Using a car to get to the country opens up a vast array of tourist activities and allows you to explore this naturally beautiful country with ease and considerable freedom.
Eswatini (Swaziland) Packing List
You need a passport, return ticket, travel visa and vaccines certificate to gain entry into the Kingdom of eSwatini.
The vaccines certificate are for the following diseases: Hepatitis A and B, Influenza, Pneumonia, Chickenpox, Shingles, Yellow fever, Rabies, typhoid, Measles Mumps Rubella, Meningitis, Polio and Malaria for areas in the eastern part of the country that are close to South Africa and Mozambique.
However, you need a travel visa which should be attached to your passport visiting as a tourist and for business purposes, regardless of the duration of your stay coming from most countries around the world.
South African nationals do not require a visa to enter into the Kingdom of eSwatini as long their stay is for 30 days or less.
Eswatini may be a tiny nation, but it is packed full of surprises and things to do without the need to travel far.
The Swati people are friendly, English is spoken, and South African Rands can be used in this country. Eswatini is a civilized and clean country. And its natural beauty is an attraction to tourists who want to explore the country deeper.
We hope you found our detailed eSwatini travel guide helpful. To help you get started on your trip, check out our other African travel guides, and read comprehensive details about Mbabane and Lobamba for additional information.
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