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Once upon a time, Zimbabwe was a shining beacon of tourism in southern Africa until political upheavals tainted its reputation. But in recent days as the country becomes more politically stable, the once vibrant tourism sector seems to be undergoing rejuvenation like a phoenix from the ashes.
Indeed this is to be expected because Zimbabwe is a land rich in diverse wildlife, dramatic landscapes, rich culture, and splendid ancient medieval ruins.
You will be surprised to find out there are over 30 attractions you can visit during your time there. And guess what? A two-week tour of Great Zimbabwe might not be enough time to see even half of these attractions.
So, here is a roundup of 10 Zimbabwe attractions you should see on your first trip to the country of Zimbabwe. Seriously, you’ll be back to Zimbabwe in no time.
10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN ZIMBABWE ON A VACATION
1. The Famous Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is considered the most iconic waterfall in the whole of Africa. And it is indeed one of the most spectacular waterfalls.
Located on river Zambezi and situated along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, these falls are a magnificent beauty. Here, the largest sheet of falling water on the planet tumbles down a cliff 108 meters (354 feet) high and 1708 meters (5604 feet) long and creates a mighty din.
Indeed the mist produced by this natural wonder can be seen clearly by a person over 30 miles away. I suspect this is why the locals have aptly named it Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “The Smoke That Thunders.”
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2. The Zambezi River
The Zambezi and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are linked because the latter is found on this great river.
Other than being the mother of these great falls, the Zambezi River is also significant in other aspects. It is not only the fourth-longest river in Africa but also the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from the continent. From its source in the dense Congo forest, it passes through six African countries before emptying into the ocean.
There are different breathtaking and fun activities to enjoy while here such as tigerfish fishing, white water rafting, and game viewing.
3. Great Zimbabwe Ruins
Among all the things to do in Zimbabwe, we can’t say no to prehistoric sites and medieval ruins. And you would not want to leave Zimbabwe before getting an opportunity to visit the Great Zimbabwe ruins.
The Ruins are the relics of the Great Kingdom of Zimbabwe and are believed to have been built between the 11th and 15th centuries AD. Chinese porcelain and Arab coins from East Africa show that this ancient city was once a powerful citadel of trade and commerce.
The ruins are divided into 3 main areas; the great enclosure, the valley, and the hill complex.
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4. Lake Kariba
Paying a visit to Kariba dam is one of the most important things to do in Zimbabwe. Lake Kariba is an artificial reservoir created as a result of the blockade of river Zambezi by the Kariba dam created in 1959 in order to generate power.
Indeed, Lake Kariba is the planet’s largest artificial water body in terms of volume. In terms of size, it stretches 140 miles in length and 25 miles across. Explore the lake on a houseboat, fish for tiger fish, play watersports, and watch wildlife on its southern shore.
5. Chinhoyi Caves National Park
Chinhoyi Caves National Park is the most mystic and one of the mysterious places you’ll visit in Zimbabwe.
Located 135 km (~ 84 miles) from the capital city of Harare, the Chinhoyi caves are a network of limestone and dolomite caves and tunnels with the top attraction being a crystalline blue pool located 50 meters below the ground.
Interesting fact: The caves provided refuge for Chief Chinhoyi and his people from raiding tribes hence where their name comes from. Apart from exploring the maze of underground caverns, visitors can also scuba dive in the pristine waters of the silent pool.
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6. Hwange National Park
Your time in Zimbabwe wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Hwange National Park. Hwange spans an expansive 5,655 square miles and is the biggest park in the country and one of the 10 largest on the continent.
Located at Zimbabwe’s border with Botswana, it is home to about 400 species of birds and over 100 species of animals. The park is also significant because it houses one of the largest populations of jumbos at around 40,000 elephants.
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7. The City of Bulawayo
What is so special about this city that it earns a place among top destinations in Zimbabwe you might ask?
Well, Bulawayo is a city steeped in a rich history and urban culture. Founded by the Ndebele king Lobengula in the mid-19th century, it came under the hands of the British after the Matabele war. The still existent colonial-era architecture makes walking the well-manicured flower-lined streets of Bulawayo akin to traveling back in time.
Interesting places to visit in the city include; Bulawayo railway museum, Chipangali wildlife orphanage, Nesbitt Castle, and Hillside Dams Conservancy.
8. Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools is a word in the Shona language that means four pools. The Mana Pools National park consists of biodiversity that exists around four inland pools created by the Zambezi River as its sojourn to the Indian Ocean.
You will find the wildlife to be different from that in other parks; with hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and zebras present in abundance. Fishing for tiger fish, Bream and Vundu are only allowed if you get a permit from the local authorities.
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9. Matobo National Park
Matobo National Park is not your average national park; apart from the wildlife, it houses an array of geological and anthropological features. The major highlight of this UNESCO World Heritage site is probably the giant granite boulders that seem to balance on top of each other.
These are also dotted with rock art believed to have been created by san Bushmen from 2,000 years ago. If you are a hiker, you can expect to enjoy your excursion at the Matobo recreational park.
10. Khami Ruins
As a testament that Zimbabwe is home to the most iconic medieval ruins in Africa is Khami Ruins National Monument located just 22 km (~ 14 miles) away from the city of Bulawayo.
While this archaeological site is not as grandiose as Zimbabwe ruins, it is impressive nonetheless. Khami which was the capital of the Torwa dynasty was built between 1450 and 1650 and then abandoned in the 19th century with the invasion of the Ndebele.
One of the most impressive aspects of this ancient city is the elaborate decorations and patterns that adorn the walls. Relics and artifacts discovered on the site can be found displayed in a small museum located at the entrance of the ruins.
If you made it this far, you’re the real MVP. Like every country, Zimbabwe has its challenges but these scars are what makes this country unique and desirable. And despite it all, Zimbabwe is an amazing country guaranteed to give a memorable experience, one that would last a lifetime.
The Best Things to do in Zimbabwe
In summary, these are the top 10 things to do in Zimbabwe:
- The Victoria Falls
- The Zambezi River
- Great Zimbabwe Ruins
- Lake Kariba
- Chinhoyi Caves National Park
- Hwange National Park
- The City of Bulawayo
- Mana Pools National Park
- Matobo National Park
- Khami Ruins
Interested in more Zimbabwe travel guides and tips? Be sure to check back later for amazing hacks and insider tips on having the time of your life in Zimbabwe.
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Wow Zimbabwe is incredible and blessed with splendid natural beauties. I loved the colors of water at Chinhoyi Caves National Park. The sunset shot of Lake Kariba is really stunning.
It sure does Yukti! You can see why it’s on the top of the list for destination travel to Africa. If you do plan on visiting Africa, you should have it on your wishlist.
Probably didn’t need too much convincing but your article has proved how much I’d love to see Zimbabwe. I love the photo of the hippo, how did you manage to catch that? I never really thought of Zimbabwe having ruins but I’d like to check those out as well.
Sounds good, Paul! Please keep us posted on your next Zimbabwe or African trip!
With so many interesting things to do in Zimbabwe, it looks like the perfect place to unwind and spend some amazing time with family. Seems like there is something for everyone to do. My family loves wildlife and everything natural. They would love to visit the iconic Victoria Falls too. And I am a big history addict. I would love to see the Great Zimbabwe ruins and the City of Bulawayo.
Hello Soumya, from your comment, visiting Zimbabwe would be a perfect destination spot for you and your family. Have you been to any other African country?
I am so glad that Zimbabwe becomes politically stable again. Hope to visit Zimbabwe soon as I would LOOOOVE to see Victoria Falls and zebras, hippos, elephants and crocodiles and all wildlife in the Mana Pools NP!
I’m glad it became stable as well Milijana. Zimbabwe has done quite a bit to establish its dominance for tourism in Africa. Please feel free to share your experience with us when you visit.
For us, it would be the safari tour that would definitely make us jump. Except for those animals in zoos, we’ve never seen the “classic” wild animals—elephants, zebras, tigers, lions, etc. Seeing them free in the wild and doing their natural thing would be better than the best zoo tour. Good thing because next year, we are planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. And because we want to be efficient in our out-of-the-country trips, we might include Zimbabwe as a side trip.
Wow, that’s pretty cool. I’m sure you’ll have a blast! What other mountains do you plan on climbing?
I really wanna visit Africa so badly ! But I was told it can be quite pricey, maybe it is just more during the great migration season ? That shot of lake Kariba reminds me of Lion King opening !! Hopefully one day I’ll save enough to make a trip there ! =)
Hello Jeremy, don’t let what others say deter you from visiting Africa. You can send $5000 on a trip to Hawaii or opt for a relatively affordable trip that’s just as fun for $1500. The same goes for a trip to Africa. I’ll be sharing tips on how to travel to Africa on a budget and will be sure to share it with you once I’m done writing that post.
I have never heard about Bulawayo, but it looks exciting and fun place to visit. I am not a big fan of wildlife safaris, but I would give it a try after reading your post since it looks fascinating.
Thanks for the comment Anshul! I’m glad I was able to change your mind in your interest in going on a Safari.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Zimbabwe but never actually visit. I’ve been thinking to do so for some time but I gave priority to traveling around Asia and Europe. Reading this, it definitely made Zimbabwe jump a few spots up on my bucket list. The Mana Pools National Park sounds amazing!
Hello Daniel, Mana Pool National Park is impressive. A lot of people never think of traveling to Africa, but after they take their first trip, they’re hooked. I’m confident you’ll have the same experience.
I’ve only been to one country in Africa and I’d definitely love to visit the rest of them. Zimbabwe is a total dream trip destination, I’m super jealous of this one. I’ve always wanted to see Victoria Falls and some of the national parks. I know I’ll get here one day, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Hello Eden, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you.
I have yet to visit Zimbabwe and am hoping to include it in our itinerary during our next visit to Africa. For so long, I’ve dreamed of visiting those stunning Victoria Falls and after reading your post, I am intrigued by the Chinhoyi Caves National Park – would love to add a visit to these caves on our itinerary as well. Thank you for sharing this detailed post – it will really help us plan our first visit to Zimbabwe.
Thanks for your comment, Aditi! I’m glad you found my post of things to do in Zimbabwe helpful. You should come back for some exciting posts on other African countries. We’re working hard to provide the best and most reliable information for travelers that want to visit Africa.
Thanks for the suggestions. I’m looking forward to making it to the Mana Pools National Park soon.
It’s my pleasure, Matt! Please let me know how I could be of support to you.
You’re a fun writer. I enjoyed reading your top activities to do in Zimbabwe. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the comment, Susan. I’m glad you like it.
Nice one Susan
I’ve been to a few country in Africa, and trying to decide on which one to visit next. This has made me add Zimbabwe to my list of possible options.
Hello Charee, that’s great to hear! Our goal is to share information on the best African countries to visit along with valuable insights on how to make your dream trip a reality.