Zimbabwe is a beautiful African country, rich in resources and hardworking people. Despite political turmoil, it is a rewarding travel destination. Much of Zimbabwe's tourism industry revolves around its incredible natural beauty. It is a country of superlatives, thanks to Victoria Falls (the largest waterfall in the world) and Lake Kariba (the largest man-made lake in terms of volume). National parks such as Hwange and Mana Pools teem with wildlife, making Zimbabwe one of the continent's best places to go on safari.
Fast Facts About Zimbabwe
- Location and size: Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Mozambique to the east, Botswana to the west, and Zambia to the northwest. Zimbabwe has a total area of 150,872 square miles (390,757 square kilometers), making it comparable in size to the U.S. state of Montana.
- Capital: Harare
- Demographics: The country's population is approximately 16 million people. The average life expectancy is approximately 58 years.
- Languages: Zimbabwe has no fewer than 16 official languages (the most of any country). Amongst these, Shona and Ndebele are the most widely spoken, in that order.
- Religion: Christianity is the predominant religion in Zimbabwe, with Protestant Christians accounting for 85 percent of the population.
- Currency: The U.S. dollar was introduced as the official currency of Zimbabwe in 2009 in response to the hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar. Although several other currencies (including the South African rand and the British pound) are considered legal tender, the U.S. dollar is still the most widely used.
- Weather: In Zimbabwe, the summer months (November through March) are the hottest and the wettest. The annual rains arrive earlier and leave later in the northern part of the country, whereas the south is generally drier. Winter months (June through September) see warm daytime temperatures and cool nights. The weather is generally dry during this time.
- Best time to visit: Generally, the best time to visit Zimbabwe is during the dry season (April through October), when the weather is at its most pleasant. The lack of available water this time of year forces animals to congregate around rivers, lakes, and waterholes, making them easier to spot whilst on safari.
Key Attractions in Zimbabwe
- Victoria Falls: Known locally as "The Smoke That Thunders," Victoria Falls is one of the most impressive natural sights on the African continent. Located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, it is the world's largest waterfall. There are walkways and viewpoints on the Zimbabwean side, whereas adrenalin-fuelled activities such as bungee jumping and whitewater rafting abound on the Zambezi River.
- Great Zimbabwe: The medieval capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the late Iron Age, this ruined city of Great Zimbabwe is now one of the most important archaeological sites in sub-Saharan Africa. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and comprises three connected complexes full of ruined towers, turrets, and walls all magnificently engineered and constructed from stone.
- Hwange National Park: Located in western Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park is the largest and oldest game reserve in the country. It is home to the Big Five and is especially famous for its huge herds of elephant and buffalo. Hwange is also a haven for several rare or endangered species, including the South African cheetah, the brown hyena, and the African wild dog.
- Lake Kariba: On the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe lies Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world. It was created in 1958 by the damming of the Zambezi River and supports an incredible variety of bird and animal life. It is famous for houseboat vacations and for its population of tigerfish (one of the most sought-after game fish in Africa).
Getting to Zimbabwe
Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (formerly Harare International Airport) is the main gateway to Zimbabwe and the first port of call for most visitors. It is serviced by several international airlines, including British Airways, South African Airways, and Emirates. Upon arrival in Harare, you can catch a domestic flight to several other areas of the country, including Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city.
Visitors to Zimbabwe will need to check whether they need to apply for a visa in advance. Visitors from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all require a visa, which can be purchased at the port of entry. Note that visa rules change frequently, so wherever you're from, it's a good idea to double-check the latest regulations with your nearest embassy.
Medical Precautions for Visiting Zimbabwe
Several vaccinations are recommended for safe travel to Zimbabwe. In addition to regular vaccines, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza vaccines are all strongly advised. Malaria is a problem in Zimbabwe, so you will need to bring prophylactics. Ask your doctor which ones are best for you. For a full list of medical requirements, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.