7 Best Sights in Zambia

Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Victoria Falls)

Fodor's choice

Literally translated as "the Smoke that Thunders," the Falls more than lives up to its reputation as one of the world's greatest natural wonders. Words can never do these incredible Falls justice, and it's a difficult attraction to fully appreciate in a single visit, as it's constantly changing. The Zimbabwean side offers famously panoramic views, while the Zambian side of the Falls features the Knife Edge bridge, which allows guests to stand virtually suspended over the Boiling Pot (the first bend of the river after the Falls), with the deafening water crashing everywhere around you. From around May through August the Falls are a multi-sensory experience, and there may be too much spray to see the bottom of the gorge. In high season the entire experience can be summed up in two words: power shower! Prepare to get soaked. If you stand with your back to the sun, you'll be surrounded by a symphony of rainbows. A network of paths leads to the main viewing points; some are not well protected, so watch your step and wear sensible shoes, especially at high water. You will have dramatic views of the full 1½ km (1 mile) of the ironstone face of the Falls, the Boiling Pot directly below, the railway bridge, and Batoka Gorge. During low water levels, it's possible to take a guided walk to Livingstone Island and swim in the Devil's Pool, a natural pond right on the lip of the abyss.

Batoka Gorge

Just below the Falls, the gorge forms an abyss between the countries with edges that drop away from the cliffs of both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Each successive sandstone gorge is numbered in sequence starting from the youngest (First Gorge to the Fifth Gorge), followed by Songwe Gorge and finally the official Batoka Gorge; it is common for all these gorges to be referred to collectively as The Gorge or Batoka Gorge. Batoka Gorge is more than 120 km (75 miles) long with vertical walls that are an average of 400 feet high (the Zambezi river water levels fluctuates up to 65 feet between the wet and dry season). On the Zambian side, the gorge is surrounded by the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which contains a tropical rain forest that thrives on the eternal rainfall from the Falls. Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe surrounds the other side of the gorge. Operators from both countries offer excursions to what is reputed to be the world's best one-day white-water rafting, with rapids rated between Class I and Class VI (amateurs can do only Class V and down commercially) that have been given evocative nicknames like "The Ugly Sisters" and "Oblivion." If you're "lucky" enough to experience what locals call a "long swim" (falling out of the raft at the start of a rapid and body surfing through), your definition of the word scary will surely be redefined. The walk in and out of the gorge is quite strenuous on the Zimbabwe side, but as long as you are reasonably fit and looking for adventure, you need no experience. On the Zambian side, travelers can walk down into the Boiling Pot (the first bend of the river after the Falls) in the First Gorge. It's an easy walk down and slightly more challenging walk out of the gorge (lots of steps), but even young children enjoy it—be sure to carry extra sun protection and water.

Kafue National Park

Kafue is Zambia's oldest and largest national park, covering a massive 2,240,000 hectares (about the size of Wales in the United Kingdom), which also makes it one of the largest parks in Africa and, for that matter, the world. Thanks to its size, variety of ecosystems, and the beautiful Kafue River, this park is absolutely teeming with game, from crowd-pleasers like lions, elephants, and leopards to one of Africa's largest wild dog populations—right through to rare species such as lechwe and yellow-backed duiker and more than 400 types of bird. The park is an easy few hours' drive from Livingstone and Lusaka. Despite all its highlights, it remains largely wild and unexplored, particularly the northern reaches. But this may be its number one draw. There are a handful of first-rate campsites and luxury lodges dotted in and around the edges of the park, almost all of which offer typically Zambian attention to detail in terms of service and providing the real bush experience.

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Livingstone Museum

The country's oldest and largest museum contains history, ethnography, natural history, archaeology sections, and materials ranging from newspaper clippings to photographs of Queen Elizabeth II dancing with Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia's first president) to historical information dating back to 1500. Among the priceless David Livingstone memorabilia is a model of the mangled arm bone used to identify his body and various journals and maps from the period when he explored the area and claimed the Falls for the English queen.

Mosi-oa-Tunya Rd., Livingstone, Zambia
0213-324--429
Sight Details
Rate Includes: USD$5

Lower Zambezi National Park

Lower Zambezi National Park may not be Zambia's biggest or best-known national park, but these are two of the main reasons it's so worth a visit. The whole park retains a unique feeling of untouched African wilderness, and you certainly wouldn't think you were just a few hours from the urban hub of Lusaka. When on game drives or guided bush walks through the park, you can go for miles without seeing another car, but the density of big game is astonishing. The vegetation and landscapes are spectacularly diverse, too, ranging from rugged, forested mountain escarpments to wide-open plains punctuated only by the occasional lonely baobab or palm tree. The park's handful of luxury and secluded camps are all situated along the lush banks of the mighty Zambezi River, which serves as the natural southern border to the park as well as between Zambia and Zimbabwe's Mana Pools on the other side. Lower Zambezi is a particularly special place for canoeing safaris and boat cruises, and is also a favorite with fishing aficionados. The quickest and easiest way to get there is to fly from Livingstone to Lusaka and then take a short chartered flight to Jeki Airstrip within the park. If you leave Livingstone in the late morning, you'll arrive at your accommodation in time for high tea. 

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

This park is a quick and easy option for viewing plains game. In fact, you are almost guaranteed to spy white rhinos. You can also visit the Old Drift graveyard, as the park marks the location of the original settlement of Livingstone. The park's guides are very knowledgeable, and while you're free to explore on your own, the roads do get seriously muddy in the rainy season, and a guide who knows where to drive becomes a near-necessity. It's best to find out about park entry details from your accommodations or a local tour operator, as park management can be less than helpful.

Sichanga Rd., Livingstone, Zambia
Sight Details
Rate Includes: US$10 per person per day and US$15 per vehicle per day

Mukuni Village

Fascinated by the history, customs, and traditions of the area? Local guides can escort you on an intimate visit inside a house and explain the customs of the village. This is not a stage set but a very real village, so your tour will be different depending on the time of day. It is customary to sign in the visitors' book and to pay a small fee to your guide. Many of the lodges and camps outside of town also offer a similar experience in conjunction with other local villages.