Zimbabwe travel guide

Best time to visit Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe’s trump card is its whopping great swathes of wonderful wilderness packed full of game and birdlife. Its five fantastic national parks are a nature lover’s nirvana, each one offering a safari experience unique to the next, and contrary to inaccurate rumours of resistance, Zimbabwe’s people are some of the world’s friendliest and have a renewed enthusiasm for tourist interest – the only arms you’ll be greeted with will be open ones.
With frequent headlines highlighting the country’s troubled economy and political disharmony, publicity-wise, Zimbabwe’s taken a bit of a battering over the past decade, but it’s time to change that narrative. Yes, the country has been through its fair share of strife, but it’s now embracing something of a tourism reawakening – travel warnings have long been lifted, there is a fairer government in place and, crucially, the economy has stabilised thanks to dollarisation – really, there’s never been a better time to go.
Zimbabwe is...

a reborn destination; the country’s made a steady recovery and is the midst of a tourism renaissance.
Zimbabwe isn't...

unfriendly or dangerous
– it’s a beautiful and resilient place of huge, untouched nature.

Zimbabwe map & highlights


Zimbabwe is still finding its feet as a self-drive destination at the mo, so we would highly recommend an organised tour. Logistically, the challenge lies in that Zimbabwe’s domestic flight service is still in its infancy, and although the main road network is pretty good, as with most African countries, driving is slow and some off-road routes are almost impassable. Flying into Bulawayo, most trips will head west combining Victoria Falls with a safari at Hwange – you’ll have the option to extend further north to Mana Pools, or southwest to Matobo NP by road if you have the time.
Canoeing Hwange National Park Lake Kariba Mana Pools Matobo National Park Victoria Falls


Requiring neither previous experience, nor superhuman levels of fitness, a canoe safari is a really relaxing way to appreciate the incredible scenery and wildlife along the Zambezi River. Pick the right time of day to drift along the Lower Zambezi and you’ll see hippo, elephants, zebra and buffalo, all contentedly browsing the banks underneath the kind of spectacular sunset that only Africa affords.

Hwange National Park

The former home of the late ‘Cecil the lion’, Hwange is only a 2.5hr drive from Victoria Falls and is Zimbabwe’s biggest national park. Famed for its enormous elephant population, you can spot four of the Big Five (minus black rhino) in its forests and scrublands and it has an unfenced link with Botswana, the Chobe River and Namibia, so incredible sightings of huge herds on the move are frequent.

Lake Kariba

Quite tricky to reach, Lake Kariba rewards your effort with its staggering remoteness. A huge manmade expanse of shimmering water reflecting the beautiful scenery within which it sits, it’s known for its population of fish eagles and is home to islands including Chete, a road-free piece of land where leopards, lions, impalas, and lots of lions and crocs roam free.

Mana Pools

Down in the Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools is another really remote national park (a UNESCO-listed one no less) and what sets it apart from the others is that it has a riverfront – attracting lots of great game – and it’s unfenced too, so there’s every chance of a family of elephants strolling past while you’re having a snack. Safaris on foot are no longer allowed here, but better safe than stampeded.

Matobo National Park

Home to 3,500 ancient rock art sites and stony outcrops that you can sit above and gaze at, Matobo is a lesser-known national park with a really spiritual vibe. You can game drive, mountain bike and, unusually for Zimbabwe, take a walk with a ranger to see rhinos on foot there, and its hills are also the home of Cecil John Rhodes’ grave. A very atmospheric safari option for the thinkers out there.

Victoria Falls

Known locally as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, which means ‘the smoke that thunders’, just one glimpse of the spectacular Victoria Falls confirms why. An immense sheet of gushing water double the height of Canada’s Niagara Falls, this raging waterfall is one of the Earth’s is greatest spectacles and to see it front on as Zimbabwe’s unparalleled views permit, is to really feel the full force of its power.

Photo credits: [Top box: Oce Eeco] [Map intro: Hamish Evans] [Canoeing: Someone35] [Hwange National Park: Kay Adams] [Lake Kariba: Sophie ffrench-Constant] [Mana Pools: Babakathy] [Matobo National Park: Kay Adams] [Victoria Falls: Steve Jurvetson]

Written by: Polly Humphris
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