Zimbabwe’s Best National Parks and Historical Sites

Outdoors & Animals

Game Viewing in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe - photo credit Dana Allen

Some of Africa’s most spectacular natural landscapes, wildlife, and breathtaking vistas, can be found in Zimbabwe. It’s infamous Victoria Falls are a great place to start, but there’s so much more to this beautiful country. On your next African safari, make sure you leave time to see some of Zimbabwe’s spectacular national parks and unique historical sites.

Find the Big Five
Your Zimbabwe vacation wouldn’t be complete without embarking on an African safari to find the Big Five. Unspoiled Hwange National Park lies about an hour’s drive south of Victoria Falls, and is home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and a thriving elephant population. Hop in an open-top vehicle and head out on a game drive. The best times to go are dawn and dusk, when animals are more active than during the heat of midday.

Nyanga National Park, one of Zimbabwe’s oldest national parks, spans 47,000 hectares of the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The best thing about this park is how secluded it is. It’s a great spot to come to for wildebeest and zebra sightings, and also supports a population of majestic waterbuck, kudu, impala, sables, and eland. A mix of mountains, rolling green hills, and glistening rivers makes Nyanga truly unforgettable.

Zebras and Eland on the Plains of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zebras and eland on the plains of Hwange National Park

Walk with Lions, Swim With Elephants
Across Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba (you can get there via a short speed boat ride) is a safari experience with a twist. You’ll get the opportunity to experience what life is like in a luxury tented camp in Matusadona National Park, and, instead of journeying in an open-top vehicle, you’ll get the chance to head out on foot.

Early morning and late afternoon walks are led by a professional guide from the camp. The park is home to leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, and a dizzying array of antelope species. What’s a good way to cool off after a long day on safari? You can swim and fish in Lake Kariba, where the elephants come to bathe.

The excitement continues at Mana Pools National Park. In the dry season, you’ll find herds of elephant and buffalo, as well as hippo, waterbuck, kudu, nyala, and eland coming to the banks of the Zambezi River to quench their thirst. Hot on their heels are the lions and leopards that frequent the floodplains. The Mana Pools are also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 350 species, including the collared palm-thrush and African skimmer. Jump in a canoe for another unique take on an African safari expedition to take it all in.

Matusadona Cruise Boat and Elephant, Zimbabwe
Matusadona cruise boat and elephant

Discover Ancient Cave Paintings and Historic Ruins
In the Matobo Hills, just south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city (with some wonderful early Victorian buildings), you’ll find a place of immense beauty and rich history. Some of the most vibrant populations of birds call the Matobo Hills home, and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a black rhino. Take it all in from the point known as “World’s View”.

Cecil Rhodes' Grave, Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
Cecil Rhodes’ grave, Matobo Hills

It’s here where Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist who first founded Rhodesia, part of which would later become Zimbabwe, is buried.

The area is also home to some wonderful cave paintings, the best of which can be found at Bambata, Inanke, and Nswatugi caves. Witness how important the animals were to the ancient indigenous people, as they spent time painting elephants, giraffes, warthogs, mongoose, and kudu. Clay ovens and other historic artifacts have been found here too, some of which may date from 300,000 years ago.

Continue your archaeological hunt at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, where, according to legend, a palace was built to replicate that belonging to the Queen of Sheba in Jerusalem, between the 11th and 15th centuries. The ruins offer a wonderful glimpse of the Bantu civilization of that period, covering a pretty extensive area of 1800 acres. They are some of the oldest and largest structures in Southern Africa.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Plan Your Sightseeing Route
There are many ways to tackle the beautiful wilds of unspoiled Zimbabwe. If you’re keen to explore the country’s ancient cave paintings and ruins, alongside its landscape and wildlife, opt for a southern route that takes you from the city of Harare in the east through Great Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, the Matobo Hills, and Hwange National Park.

Suggested Itinerary:
9-Day Great Zimbabwe Experience

If you’re keen to get more up close and personal with Zimbabwe’s spectacular natural abundance, take a northern route from Victoria Falls through Hwange National Park, Kariba Lake, Matusadona National Park, and Mana Pools National Park.

Suggested Itinerary:
8-Day Zimbabwe Highlights

Or, why not do it all on a spectacular full-loop journey, where you can see everything Zimbabwe has to offer? It’s truly the vacation of a lifetime!

Suggested Itinerary:
15-Day Intimate Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls Helicopter Shot, Zimbabwe
Helicopter view of Victoria Falls

(Main Image: Game viewing at Hwange National Park | Photo credit: Dana Allen)