One of the most stirring sights in Africa, the Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. It is where the mile-/kilometer-wide Zambezi River suddenly plunges 30 stories into the Bakota Gorge, at times spilling water at a volume of more than 2 million gallons/7.6 million liters per second. Rainbows, mist and the tremendous roar of the water stir the senses—few other natural wonders match the raw power of the Victoria Falls.

The first European to see them was David Livingstone on 17 November 1855, during his 1852-56 journey from the upper Zambezi to the mouth of the river. The falls were already well known to the local people and the Matabele named them Mosi-au-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders,” because of the cloud of spray that rises above them. Livingstone named them in honor of Queen Victoria.

Livingstone’s fantastic stories attracted many European adventurers and travelers, and the town of Victoria Falls quickly grew. The famous Victoria Falls Bridge and Victoria Falls Hotel were both built in 1905. Today there are numerous hotels, attractions and activities around town and no shortage of operators to organize it all.

The falls themselves can be seen within the Victoria Falls National Park, where there are many viewpoints. There’s another major viewing point from the Victoria Falls Bridge that connects Zimbabwe to Zambia. It can be crossed on foot and the border guards will issue you a day pass to access the bridge, which serves as no-man’s-land between the two country’s borders. We highly recommend this view, as the angle up the gorge of the Zambezi to the

center of the falls is spectacular. If you are feeling daredevilish, you can bungee jump—a 360-ft/110-m plunge—off the bridge.

Apart from the falls themselves, there are few sights, but there are lots of activities below and above the falls and on the Zambezi River. During most of the year, you can go whitewater rafting (the rapids are world-class), canoeing, elephant and horseback riding in the surrounding bush, and for the very active, rappeling or gorge-swinging (flying fox and rap jumping) in the Batoka Gorge.






The Victoria Falls Hotel

This hotel a short walk from the falls still operates in full colonial splendor and should be seen even by those not staying there—they simply don’t build them like this anymore. Especially recommended is high tea—a sumptuous spread of dainty sandwiches, cream cakes, tea and coffee that is served on the hotel’s terrace every afternoon. 2 Mallett Drive, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-44751. http://www.africansunhotels.com.


Victoria Falls National Park

The moment you arrive in the town and hear the roar and see the “smoke that thunders” rise skyward, you’ll be lured down the main street to the entrance of the Victoria Falls National Park. There the smooth-flowing Zambezi River changes character and plunges into the Batoka Gorge in a profusion of white water.
First-time visitors to the falls are often surprised to find that it can’t all be taken in from one vantage point on land; rather, it’s seen from several viewing points along a paved, winding path on the opposite side of a narrow gorge, and there’s no sweeping perspective. But seeing it one piece at a time has its own rewards—each viewing point isolates and reveals another aspect of this spectacular place.

Victoria Falls actually consists of several falls separated by islands in the river: The most impressive are Rainbow Falls, Devil’s Cataract and Main Falls. The best time to see the falls is during July or August, midway through dry season. The volume of water over the falls is at its peak just after the rains end (March to May), but this is a poor time to go—the force of the falling water at the base sends a mist shooting up to a height of more than 500 ft/150 m, which obscures some views of the falls.

Even during the dry season, you can get plenty wet from the mist and you will need a raincoat and a covering to keep your camera and binoculars waterproof. Indeed, it’s strong enough to support a lush forest of ebony and mahogany on the opposite side of the gorge, even when the rest of the countryside is parched.) At the apex of the dry season—around the end of October—the water flow at Victoria Falls has diminished considerably, and although it’s nice, it’s just simply not as impressive as in July or August.

The main entrance to the park is on Livingstone Way just before the immigration offices at the Zimbabwe-Zambia border post. Phone 13-42294. http://www.zimparks.org.

Zambezi National Park

Covering the area on the upper Zambezi above the falls themselves, this park has a wide variety of larger mammals including the Big Five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and white rhino, as well as zebra, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and impala, and in the river, crocodile and hippo. The Zambezi is also home to a large variety of fish and is famous for its bream and fighting tiger fish. Along Zambezi River Drive there are 25 picnic sites in attractive, shady riverine vegetation where you can picnic or fish. You can also visit on vehicle game drives or a river cruise. The tour operators can organize these. The entrance is 3.7 mi/6 km from town on Zambezi River Drive, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-42294. http://www.zimparks.org.


Crocodile Ranch and Nature Sanctuary

This commercial crocodile farm produces crocodile leather for wallets, handbags and other luxury items, and visitors can walk around the palm lined enclosures on walkways and bridges to see the crocs and learn all about them from the informative guides. There is always a possibility of being able to hold a baby crocodile or see the eggs. Other animals there include monitor lizards, duikers and ostriches. There’s a tea room and shop. Any of the tour operators can organize a visit there. Along Parkway (2.8 mi/4.5 km from town), Victoria Falls. Phone 13-4576.


During most of the year, you can go white-water rafting on the Zambezi, and most of the rapids are world-class. There are a number of adventure-travel companies in town, and over the years a number of other adventure activities have started up around the falls. These include canoeing and kayaking on the upper Zambezi above the falls, elephant and horseback riding in the surrounding bush, and for the very active, rappeling or gorge-swinging (flying fox and rap jumping) in the Bakota Gorge.

The Victoria Falls can also be seen from a twin-engine plane that flies for about 15 minutes up and down and over the falls—if you’ve gone this far, we recommend this flight (it’s not a budget breaker, and it’s worth every penny). A longer and much more expensive flight also goes over the falls, around the countryside and over more of the river, where you may spot some game. Other aerial views of the falls can be experienced on more daring flights by helicopter. From above, travelers will see why the falls are known as “the smoke that thunders.”


Canoeing is a great way to get a handle on the upper Zambezi and is a tranquil way to game- and bird-watch above the falls. Inflatable two-man canoes are used, and a full-day canoe trail begins about 15 mi/25 km upstream and includes a picnic lunch on an island.

Run on the rapids below the Batoka Gorge, the Zambezi River is recognized as one of the top paddling rivers on the planet. They were first run in 1981, and now some 50,000 people go down each year. There are a number of options on the river; most popular is the full- or half-day trip, which includes transfers from accommodation, breakfast and lunch. River-boarding can be combined with white-water rafting and involves surfing the rapids on a body board. There are crocodiles in the river—not as alarming as it may sound, as they don’t live in the fast-flowing rapids themselves (where you are likely to swim) but in the quiet pools between the rapids (when you are in the raft).

Ranging from two to four hours, day and evening sundowner cruises on the Zambezi are worthwhile (be aware that some of these excursions are essentially booze cruises). The normal routine is to float around one or more of the islands and along the shore of the Zambezi National Park, and it’s possible to spot hippo, monkey, crocodile and elephant from the pontoon-style boats.


Elephant Hills Golf Course

This 18-hole, 72-par course at the Elephant Hills Resort was designed by esteemed South African golfer Gary Player. Given that it’s located in a bush landscape, golfers may well see warthog, impala and sable on the fairways. The pro shop hires out clubs and caddies (who know the course very well). There’s also a driving range. Elephant Hills Resort, off Parkway (2.5 mi/4 km from town), Victoria Falls. Phone 13-44793. http://www.elephanthillsresort.com.


Zambezi Horse Trails

Horse trails from two to six hours for both experienced and novice riders run along the top of the Batoka Gorge. There are excellent views of the swirling Zambezi below and a good opportunity to get close to game such as zebra, giraffe and antelope—on the longer rides elephant and buffalo. Since other animals do not have an inherent fear of horses—they are indeed another four-legged species—being on top of one is a great vantage point for game-viewing. http://www.zambezihorsetrails.com.


Crocodile Cage Diving Victoria Falls

There you can don a wet suit, sink in a glass-walled cage and see crocodiles up close in a cold-water tank. Elephants Walk Shopping & Artist Village, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-46819. http://www.croccagediving.com.


Elephant-back Safaris

This once-in-a-lifetime excursion departs Victoria Falls in the early morning and late afternoon as the elephants spend the middle of the day grazing in the bush. They are then brought in by the handlers, and an elephant presentation is given, detailing their lifestyle and history, Finally, guests can interact with the elephants before climbing a giant ramp to get on to them. The one- to two-hour ride usually goes to the top of the Batoka Gorge above the rapids. Children younger than 10 not permitted. The site is 5.6 mi/9 km from town, but you must be transferred by the operator, Wild Horizons. Phone 13-44571. http://www.wildhorizons.co.za/elephants.

Gorge Swing & Adventure Slides

There are a number of ropes and pulleys strung across the Batoka Gorge, offering exciting aerial activities. There’s a 394-ft/120-m abseil/rapp jump, a 230-ft/70-m gorge swing (different than a bungee jump, as the swing is outward), plus a flying fox and other “slides.” The site offers good views of the Victoria Falls Bridge and Victoria Falls Hotel. At the end of Livingstone Way (access to the site is just before the bridge and Zimbabwe-Zambia border post), Victoria Falls. Phone 13-44571. http://www.wildhorizons.co.za/highwire.

Lion Encounter

In the Masuwe River Concession, a 10-minute drive from town, you can walk with captive-bred lions—they are cubs less than 18 months old. This is a great opportunity to get close up and watch them play. Each lion is under the charge of a guide who tells you about lions and the area’s environment. A DVD of your walk is available. The three-hour excursion includes transfers from accommodations. Minimum age 15. Livingstone Way, Shop 8, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-43513. http://www.lionencounter.com.


Victoria Falls has a number of trinket shops selling everything from cheap T-shirts to antique African musical instruments. Carvings of wooden masks and animals are a long tradition around the area (as is the intense bargaining required to purchase them for a reasonable price). There are two fairly large supermarkets in town: Spar is behind Parkway, and the TM Supermarket is toward the industrial area behind the Landela Complex.


Elephant’s Walk Shopping & Artist Village

This shopping center has some great specialty shops where you’ll find Zimbabwean jewelry designers, tribal arts, basketware and pottery. The quality of items is the best you’ll find in Victoria Falls, and vendors can organize to ship the larger items to your home country. There are also a couple of cafes and a marimba band often plays to tourists. Look out for the giant elephant statue at the entrance. Adam Stander Road (off Livingstone Way), Victoria Falls. http://www.elephantswalk.com.

Falls Craft Village

There’s a line of curio shops here and an outdoor market where many craftspeople make and sell their wooden carvings, soapstone sculptures, baskets, crocheted items and batiks. Prices are mostly negotiable, especially in the outside section. The most notable shops include Jairos Jiri, which sells crafts made by the disabled and blind, and Sopers Curios, which rather astonishingly opened in 1911. Livingstone Way (behind the post office), Victoria Falls.


For quality eating, the hotels are the best bet, and most visitors eat at a range of hotel restaurants regardless of where they are actually staying. For cheap eats, the supermarkets have bakery counters; fast-food restaurants also are easily found throughout the city.

Makuwa-Kuwa Restaurant

Although pricey, this special location at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is the best place in town for fine dining on a lovely thatched terrace. Booking is essential to get a table on the edge of the deck for unparalleled views of the lodge’s flood-lit water hole—sunsets are simply magical, and elephants are regular visitors. Diners can retire to sofas in the Buffalo Bar for a nightcap. Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Squire Cummings Road, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-43211. .


Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Squire Cummings Road Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Phone: 13-43211

The Boma Restaurant

Victoria Falls’ most popular restaurant, the Boma offers live performances,
a gift shop and an outdoor terrace. The buffet dinner is expansive, serving up traditional and exotic game such as kudu (an African antelope) and warthog (a wild pig)—both cooked while you wait—and even
mopani worms (a type of caterpillar) in the salad bar. For the less adventurous, there are milder options such as dishes with chicken and a vegetarian focus. In the interactive nightly performances, dancers in traditional dress perform choreographed drum shows (tables are given drums to participate) and also sing a capella. Reservations are essential. Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Squire Cummings Road, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-43211. 


Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Squire Cummings Road Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Phone :13-43211

The Palm Restaurant

Pleasant candlelit terrace setting with bush views at the Ilala Lodge, a quality hotel in the middle of town. The menu offers light lunches of sandwiches and inventive salads, and more ambitious dishes for dinner, such as Moroccan beef kebabs or warthog fillet. Excellent service, a comprehensive wine list and there’s an additional poolside bar. Ilala Lodge Hotel, 411 Livingstone Way, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-44737.

Ilala Lodge Hotel
411 Livingstone Way Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Phone: 13-44737

Victoria Falls Rainforest Cafe

At the entrance and exit of the Victoria Falls National Park, this is a perfect stop before or after viewing the falls, and as the name suggests is located in a lovely patch of rainforest—though it’s out of the spray zone. Meals range from breakfasts to sandwiches and salads, pasta, burgers and gooey desserts, or you can just grab a milkshake or cappuccino. Service may be a little slow if there’s a tour group in, but you can’t beat the location. Livingstone Way, Victoria Falls. Phone 13-45003.

Livingstone Way Victoria Falls
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Victoria Falls International Airport is 13 mi/21 km out of town on the Bulawayo/Hwange road. It’s currently served by flights from Harare, Bulawayo and Johannesburg in South Africa. A $150-million airport expansion, which includes a new terminal building and a 2.5-mi-/4-km-long runway with a capacity to take larger planes, opened in 2015. Taxis meet the flights and all hotels arrange transfers.

Local buses to and from Bulawayo arrive and depart from the terminal off Pioneer Road to the south of town near the hospital. The better option for visitors is the more upmarket Pathfinder buses (http://www.pathfinderlx.com), which arrive and depart from both the Kingdom Hotel and the Elephant Hills Resort. The service goes to and from Bulawayo and then on to Harare.

One of the most pleasurable (though more time-consuming) ways of getting to Victoria Falls from Bulawayo is on the overnight train. It’s at least a 12-hour journey, but at dawn in the Victoria Falls direction, you can spot game from your sleeper car. The Victoria Falls Railway Station with its pond and palm trees was built in 1904 and still nods at bygone years. It’s located between the Kingdom and Victoria Falls hotels off Livingstone Way.

There is little reason to drive around Victoria Falls, as almost everything is walkable and all the activity companies arrange transfers. Taxis are available to get to and from the out-of-town hotels.

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