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After a decade in the doldrums, Zimbabwe is starting to attract travellers back to its many glorious attractions. With five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including mighty Victoria Falls, a few impressive national parks and one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most significant ruins, there is much to see here. Best of all, you will be off the tourist trail for much of your journey, and encounter a warm welcome from locals who are keen for tourists to spread the good news about Zimbabwe.

Essential info

AIRPORTS: Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls
AREA: 390757km²; 33% the size of South Africa, slightly larger than Japan
POPULATION: 14.2 million
LANGUAGES: Shona, Ndebele, English, 13 minority languages
CURRENCY: The Zimbabwe dollar (Z$) is being phased out in favour of a multi-currency system. US dollars and South African rand are used for most transactions, but currencies from British pounds to Indian rupees are also legal tender. At the time of writing, US$1 was equal to about Z$35 quadrillion (Z$35,000,000,000,000,000).

Top experiences

  • Feeling like David Livingstone as you explore the little-visited ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the greatest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Staking out one of Hwange National Park’s several-dozen pans, to spot one of the world’s largest elephant populations
  • Mana Pools National Park, over 2000km² of hippos, crocs, zebras, elephants and lions – all wild and unfenced
  • Discovering the otherworldly granite formations of Matobo National Park, where you can also see San rock art and several species of eagle
  • Feeling Zim’s urban pulse in capital Harare, and catching some local Chimurenga or Jit music at a venue such as Pakare Paye Arts Centre

Did you know?

Zimbabwe takes its name from the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, which was once a city of up to 20000 people with a dominion stretching across Southern Africa. Its name is thought to derive from one of two early Shona phrases: dzimba dza mabwe (great stone houses) or dzimba woye (esteemed houses). Along with Mapungubwe in Limpopo, South Africa, the site shows an African civilisation achieving a relatively high level of sophistication 1000 years ago, with traces of culture, commerce, religion and politics.

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