The waterfall – especially when the river’s water levels rise between January and June – is immense and impressive. Still, the Zimbabwean town that shares the falls’ name is a great destination to explore.
With many of its hotels strung out along the Upper Zambezi, a stone’s throw above the Falls, Victoria Falls town has developed close to ‘the smoke that thunders,’ as it’s locally known.
This makes it considerably easier for guests to access the waterfall on the Zimbabwean side than from the Zambian town of Livingstone. Furthermore, with its rainforest trails and numerous viewpoints, the tiny Victoria Falls National Park provides unrivaled opportunities to view the multiple falls that constitute this extraordinary natural spectacle.
Wide range of excellent lodgings, restaurants, and bars
Extremely friendly local people
Where to go in Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls in Zambia
Since Zimbabwe’s economic and political troubles started in the 2000s, Zambia has taken over as the most popular destination to visit Victoria Falls. The laidback town of Livingstone, which lies 11km (7mi) from the falls, has an excellent setup for tourists, from lodging that suits every budget to great restaurants and loads of adventure and cultural activities.
Zimbabwe may have more viewing points of Victoria Falls than Zambia, but the latter country offers the chance to get much closer to the spray. You can get tantalizingly close to the Eastern Cataract and right into the thick of the mist when you walk across the Knife-Edge Bridge.
Then there’s swimming in Devil’s Pool, a natural rock pool right on the edge of the waterfall, and the hike down to Boiling Pot at the bottom of the cascading falls, where you can swim under the spray.
In terms of wildlife, the Zambian side has Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, where game viewing is easy due to its compact size. While spotting elephants and zebra against beautiful backdrops of the Zambezi River, the real highlight of the park is the re-introduced White rhino which you can track on foot in a thrilling wildlife encounter.
Getting up close to the power of Victoria Falls is what a visit to Livingstone is all about. Inside the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park are pathways alongside the gorge edge that give you incredible panoramas of the Eastern Cataract, one of five waterfalls of Victoria Falls. Get within a few feet of the waterfall and get soaked on the Knife-Edge Bridge before taking to the skies.
You can either take a helicopter flip for heart-stopping aerial views of the falls or, for the more daring, hop on the back of a piloted microlight to soar like a bird above the mist.
If you travel during the full moon, don’t miss seeing the lunar rainbow in the falls at night. On the night before, the night of, and the night after the full moon each month, there’s a special entrance opening to see the lunar rainbow of Victoria Falls: refracted light from the moon displayed in the spray of the falls.
The most exciting view of the falls, and probably the most thrilling swim you’ll ever have, is in Devil’s Pool. This natural rock pool, perched on the edge of the waterfall, is about as close as you can get to Victoria Falls. To reach it, you take a boat to Livingstone Island and swim a short distance in the Zambezi before reaching the pool.
It’s not as hair-raising as it sounds – there is a natural ledge that stops you from going over the edge, but for safety, you can only do the swim when the river is running low, from around late August to early January.
Then there’s the view of the falls from below: hike down a steep trail for around 20 minutes to reach the Boiling Pot, a churning whirlpool, at the base of the waterfall (note that you can only do this hike in the low-water season of August to December). You can’t get much closer to Victoria Falls than swimming under the spray: paddle across the Boiling Pot to be showered by the world’s most immense sheet of cascading water.
Adventure activities are on the cards for most travelers to Livingstone, starting from the most daring – the 111m (364ft) bungee jump into Batoka Gorge off Victoria Falls Bridge, which connects Zimbabwe and Zambia. Regarded as one of the best bungee jumps in the world, you’ll be guaranteed spectacular views and a massive shot of adrenaline.
Slightly less terrifying is the bridge swing. Jump feet first into an 80m (262ft) freefall. Then there’s the Flying Fox, a jump across the chasm on a cable slide. For the same spectacular views but without the adrenaline injection, a great alternative is to traverse the walkways under the bridge while strapped into a safety harness.
Slide down the gorge without turning into a human pendulum when you go abseiling more than 50m (164ft) down a rope. An excellent way of spotting wildlife and birds and taking in the area’s beautiful scenery is on a horse ride along the Zambezi River. Head out for a few hours or take an overnight ride through teak forests, where you’ll camp on the river banks.
In terms of river activities, there’s extreme white-water rafting on the Zambezi’s huge rapids and jet boating. Less strenuous activities include drifting on the Livingstone Float, canoeing safaris, and sipping cocktails on relaxing river cruises at sunset.
Anglers should sign up for a fishing excursion around islands upstream from the falls, where the prize is the world’s most exciting freshwater fighting fish: the toothy Tigerfish.
A memorable and romantic experience not to be missed is the five-course dinner onboard a 1920s steam train, which traces a slow journey along the Zambezi River through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park at sunset. You’ll have the chance to spot wildlife while sipping on wine before the train stops for dinner and then turns back to Livingstone.
If you’re after spectacular views, you can take another steam train journey from Livingstone to the Victoria Falls Bridge, where the panoramas of the dramatic gorge are beyond photogenic.
Split into two sections, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is made up of Victoria Falls and the wildlife area, which is only 3km (2mi) from Livingstone. While small and lacking in big predators, the park offers a great introduction to Zambia’s wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, Burchell’s zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, and beautiful birds such as Livingstone’s turaco and Livingstone’s flycatcher.
Because of the park’s compact size, wildlife viewing is effortless. Book a guided game drive through your hotel, or take your own car to self-drive around the park in just a few hours. The star attractions of Mosi-oa-Tunya are the re-introduced (and well-protected) White rhinos, which you can track on foot, a unique way to see these endangered creatures up close.
To learn about Zambian history, culture, and rural life, visit the Mukuni Village, established in the 13th century and now home to around 7000 Leya people. Take a guided tour of the working village to meet the villagers in their huts, taste some traditional food and beer, see craftspeople at work, and shop for carvings and souvenirs in the market.
Practical Advice About the Region
The town of Livingstone is a short drive away from Victoria Falls. Two hotels are within walking distance of the falls. Some hotels offer a free shuttle service to the falls, or you can hire a private taxi to get you there. You don’t need to hire a guide to take you on a tour of the falls. The entrance fee to the park to see the falls is US$20, and the opening hours are from 6 AM to 6 PM.
If you want soft light, visit the falls at sunrise or sunset. If you’re seeing the falls during the high-water season from February to May, you’ll get very wet: bring waterproof gear or buy a poncho at the entrance gate, and cover up any electronics. Always stick to the paths, stay behind barriers, and wear non-slip shoes with a good grip for walking on slippery trails.
At some places on the paths, there are no barriers – be extremely careful about going too close to the edge on slippery rocks.
During the high-water season (February to May), when the Zambezi River is at its fullest, the mist and spray can obscure views on the Zimbabwean side of the falls, making Zambia a better choice for views. However, after the dry winter season, around October or November, the falls dry up on the Zambian side. If you’re visiting Victoria Falls this time of year, it’s a good idea to consider staying on the Zimbabwean side.
If you’re traveling with children, check the minimum age requirement before you book any activities. For example, children need to be at least 12 years old to track White rhinos, 15 for whitewater rafting, and 14 for bungee jumping and bridge swinging.
On the edge of town, Harry Mwaanga International Airport has flights from Lusaka, Johannesburg, and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. The latter serves Kruger National Park in South Africa, a very convenient route if you’re combining a safari in South Africa with a visit to Victoria Falls.
If you stay in Zambia, it makes sense to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls to get more panoramic views. The best way to do this is to obtain a KAZA Uni-Visa for US$50 on arrival in Zambia from one of the following places: the Victoria Falls border, Harry Mwaanga International Airport in Livingstone, Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka and the Kazungula border.
The visa has a validity of 30 days. It allows unlimited crossings between Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as day trips into Botswana, which is ideal if you’d like to visit Chobe National Park on a day trip and return to Livingstone that evening.
What Sort of Traveler Should go to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls?
With a remarkable array of activities on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, every kind of traveler will find experiences just up their street. Adventurers will be in their element with bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, gorge swinging, and abseiling. Nature lovers can get their fix on gorge hikes, game drives in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, horseback rides, and canoe safaris.
Solo travelers will have plenty of chances to meet other travelers in bars, restaurants, and on group activities, but will also find peace and quiet on hikes and horse rides through the bush. Families are well catered to. Many hotels and lodges have the option of booking family rooms, as well as offering kids’ activity programs and children’s menus. The activities in and around Livingstone are suitable for all ages, from toddlers to teenagers.
For many years, Zimbabwe was the country most tourists chose to base themselves in to visit Victoria Falls. Still, as a result of the country’s political strife and economic instability in the 2000s, most travelers started choosing Livingstone on the Zambian side instead. Zimbabwe has become much more stable in recent years, and tourism is again on the rise in the country, with more and more people choosing to stay on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls.
There’s good reason to visit the Zimbabwean side. The country is home to two-thirds of Victoria Falls, four of the five waterfalls (Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls, the Main Falls, and the Devil’s Cataract), and almost all of the viewing points (16 out of 19). It’s the only side of the border the water flows year-round.
Exploring the falls from Zimbabwe certainly won’t disappoint, no matter what time of year you go – the panoramas from the top of the gorge are simply astounding.
The town of Victoria Falls, situated a conveniently short walk from the falls themselves, has excellent tourist infrastructure, offering a wide range of lodging options, restaurants, bars, curio shops, markets, and an array of activities and adventures.
Zambezi National Park is only a 10-minute drive from town and makes for a great safari experience (especially if you don’t have time to visit other Zimbabwean parks on your trip), with gorgeous landscapes and herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, and sable set against a backdrop of picturesque riverine landscapes.
Highlights of the Region
Seeing Victoria Falls is undoubtedly the top highlight of any visit. Still, there are more ways than one to take in the powerful display of cascading water. First up should be a viewing experience on foot. Pay the entrance fee to Victoria Falls National Park and take your time to walk the cliffside trails that offer 16 viewpoints of the falls from different angles.
Then it’s time for a bird’s eye perspective. Take a ride in a helicopter flying high above the falls for truly spectacular photos of “the smoke that thunders.” This is particularly dramatic during the high-water season of February to May, when the mist and spray are propelled high into the air.
If you’re lucky to be visiting Victoria Falls during a full moon after the rainy season when the falls are in full flow, then don’t miss taking a trip to witness a lunar rainbow or a “moonbow” – the rare and unique sight of a nighttime rainbow reflected in the water.
In and around the town of Victoria Falls, there are more outdoor adventures than you can shake a GoPro stick at. One of the most popular activities is whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River – a thrilling ride that draws adventurers from around the world.
Then there are the activities that get you some views and adrenaline shots. Fly across the Batoka Gorge at 100kph (62mph) along a zip line suspended 120m (394ft) above the Zambezi, or jump on the Flying Fox to slide face-down on a cable high above the churning water far below.
Gorge swinging is not for the faint of heart: become a human pendulum when you jump off the edge of the gorge to swing on a giant cable suspended across the two sides of the gorge.
A less extreme high-wire activity suitable for the whole family (no minimum age limit) is the Victoria Falls Canopy Tour, which takes you on nine different zip lines, trails, and bridges through the forest of Batoka Gorge. Expect spectacular views of the river and the chance to spot beautiful birds such as the Purple crested turaco.
You’ve heard of shark cage diving but probably not crocodile cage diving: same idea, except you’re protected in a cage in a pool of crocodiles. Get your closest experience with these powerful reptiles as you remain underwater with diving gear.
Challenge another toothy predator on fishing excursions on the Zambezi to catch the famous Tigerfish, which is regarded as the best freshwater fighting fish in the world.
For those less adventurously inclined, activities also come in the more sedate variety. Think guided bike tours of the town and surrounding area, relaxing river cruises in the golden light of the late afternoon, spotting elephants, hippos, and birds, a tram ride across the bridge to Zambia, and sunset trips on an old steam train across Victoria Falls Bridge with drinks and snacks.
You can also visit a local village and help with some daily chores to see what rural life is like for Zimbabweans.
Despite its small size, Zambezi National Park packs an impressive punch. It’s home to scenic landscapes of riverine forest, mopane woodland, four of the Big Five (rhinos are absent), African wild dogs, hippos, cheetahs, crocodiles, giraffes, and diverse birdlife.
Spot more than 400 species, including the highlights of Pel’s fishing owl, African finfoot, Goliath heron, and migratory African skimmers. Go on self-guided game drives to spot wildlife easily on the 50km (31mi) long network of roads that trace the Zambezi River – the northern boundary of the park – and take along a packed lunch to eat at one of the picturesque picnic sites along the river.
There’s also the option of joining game drives on open-air safari vehicles, where you’ll learn about the animals and birdlife from a guide. For more of a wilderness immersion without the sound of a motor, you can also take walking safaris with a professional guide or explore the park on a horseback safari.
Shopping for art, curios, and sculptures is a highlight of a visit to Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is known for its artisans and sculptors, and you’ll find some special pieces to take home.
The best place to browse is the Elephant’s Walk Shopping and Artist Village, which has different galleries and boutiques stocked with sculptures made of materials such as soapstone, wire and quartz, and ironwood. The village is famous for its carvings and souvenirs, such as wooden walking sticks with an animal head carved on top, clothes and bags made from local fabrics, and beautiful jewelry.
All the prices here are fixed, so there’s no haggling. Nearby there’s an outdoor curio market with crafts and artworks where the prices are up for negotiation.
A small museum packed with fascinating artifacts from Zimbabwe’s different ethnic groups, the Jafuta Heritage Center is a must for anyone interested in the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Practical Advice About the Region
Built just a few years ago, Victoria Falls Airport is a short drive outside town and has direct flights from Johannesburg and Harare. Another way of reaching Victoria Falls is by train – either the budget-friendly Mosi-Oa-Tunya, from Bulawayo or the very luxurious Rovos Rail from Pretoria in South Africa.
The town of Victoria Falls has an excellent range of lodging options, including campsites, backpackers with dorm rooms, and all-inclusive luxury lodges. Some hotels are within walking distance from Victoria Falls, and others have a free shuttle bus that takes you to the Victoria Falls National Park entrance.
The park entrance fee is US$30 (US$40 for a night entry), which gets you in once. If you return to the falls later in the day, you’ll need to pay again. The opening hours are from 6 AM or 6.30 AM (depending on summer and winter seasons) to 6 PM and from 7 PM to 10 PM.
Getting up early and watching the sun rise over the falls is truly magical – and you’ll have the paths almost to yourself.
You don’t need a guide to see the falls, as it’s very easy to do a self-guided tour with well-marked paths and signs, but if you want to learn more about the history of the falls and the local flora and fauna, hiring a guide or booking a guided tour from your hotel is a good idea.
Seeing Victoria Falls during and after the rainy season (from February to May), when the Zambezi River is in full flow, means you’re guaranteed to get completely soaked by mist and spray. You’ll need to wear a plastic poncho and carefully cover your camera in a waterproof bag or casing. Be careful taking photos because waves of mist can suddenly hit you before you’ve had a chance to protect your camera.
Wearing comfortable non-slip shoes is important because the paths are incredibly slippery when wet. Always stick to the demarcated footpaths and stay behind barriers. At viewpoints where there are no barriers, be sure to stay far away from the edge.
It’s easy to visit Victoria Falls and try out all of the activities in the area, as the park is only a short drive from town.
If you’re planning on visiting Zambia, ensure you get the new KAZA Uni-Visa on your arrival in Zimbabwe (it’s available at Victoria Falls International Airport, the Kazungula border, Harare International Airport, as well as the Victoria Falls border).
The visa costs US$50, which is cheaper than buying two separate visas for Zimbabwe and Zambia. It’s valid for 30 days and allows you to cross between Zimbabwe and Zambia as many times as you like. It also allows you to cross into Botswana for the day as long as you return to Zambia or Zimbabwe the same day – perfect for making a day trip to visit Chobe National Park.
What Sort of Traveler Should go to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side)
There’s more to the Zambezi River than its mighty cascade down a 1.7km (1mi) wide gorge to form Victoria Falls. Africa’s fourth largest river draws adventure seekers from all over the planet for Africa’s most thrilling whitewater rafting on powerful Grade Five rapids.
However, whitewater rafting is not the only way to have fun on the Zambezi’s rapids. For more adventurous thrills, there’s river boarding, where you surf the rapids on a bodyboard and jet boating over the water at 100kph (62mph).
The river also offers more relaxing activities to match high-intensity adventures. The Zambezi courses its way through beautiful landscapes of national parks on either side of the border, supporting a variety of wildlife and bird species.
Paddle along the river on relaxing canoe safaris, which get you close to elephant and buffalo drinking on the banks, or do the Livingstone drift tour, where a guide paddles you down the river in an inflatable raft. The famous sunset river cruises are a must. Explore the river at a languid pace on a big boat and take in a glorious sunset with cocktails and snacks.
Highlights of the Region
whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River is said to be the best in Africa, and with nearly half of the river’s rapids classified as Grade Five, tackling the river is a wild, white-knuckle ride. Between the thrilling rapids, there are stretches of calm where you can soak in the dramatic scenery from the bottom of the gorge.
whitewater rafting can be done in Zambia and Zimbabwe on half-day or full-day excursions, but you can also sign up for overnight or multi-day trips, where you camp out on beautiful beaches in the wilderness. Riverboarding is another heart-pumping whitewater ride: don a wetsuit, helmet, shin guards, and flippers and jump on top of a bodyboard to cruise the rapids and navigate the rocks of the Zambezi face first.
It’s a close contender with whitewater rafting and bungee jumping for the most thrilling adventure you can have at Victoria Falls. If speed is your thing, book a jet boating ride in either Zambia or Zimbabwe on a super-powered jet-propelled boat, which shoots over the Zambezi and its rapids at 100kph (62mph).
Jet boats can cruise in shallow water, so you can explore parts of the river that are inaccessible to bigger boats. A thirty-minute ride includes a visit to the Boiling Pot at the base of the falls, a couple of rapids, and tricks such as 360-degree turns.
Paddling down the Zambezi and its many channels on a canoeing safari with a qualified guide is a beautiful way of birdwatching. Spot more than 400 species and wildlife, such as hippos, crocodiles, and antelopes, on shore. You’ll be able to get closer to the big game – such as elephants – than you would in a game drive vehicle, so it’s a wonderful way to experience the bush on half or full-day trips.
You can also do multi-day adventures, where your nights are spent camping under the stars on riverside beaches.
An even more sedate alternative to canoeing trips is the Livingstone Drift: float in an inflatable raft and get paddled down the river by a guide who will point out animals and birds while you sit back and sip on a beer.
Fishing excursions on the Zambezi are a must for keen anglers. The river is home to over 75 species of fish, the most famous of which is the Tigerfish. This giant predator – weighing up to 15 kg – is regarded as one of the best freshwater fighting fishes in the world, and it’s the most prized catch on the river.
Fishing trips can take anything from a few hours to a full day, and even if you don’t catch anything, you’ll have a great day out on the river exploring channels and pools and spotting birds and wildlife.
Practical Advice About the Region
Whitewater rafting is not a year-round activity. From March/April to July, when the Zambezi River is at its highest, you can’t go rafting at all. August to December is the best time of year for whitewater rafting (because the low water levels mean the most exciting rapids), with August and September being the optimal months.
You need to be pretty fit to do whitewater rafting as it’s quite a serious adventure, and the walk in and out of the gorge is strenuous (bring good walking shoes along for the hikes).
While you can do whitewater rafting in Zambia and Zimbabwe, a benefit of the Zambian side is that you don’t have to clamber out of the steep gorge at the end of your rafting adventure because there’s a cable car lift that takes you up the side.
The minimum age for riverboarding is 13, and for whitewater rafting, it’s 15. At the same time, the canoeing safaris on the Upper Zambezi are pretty easygoing, so children aged seven and above are allowed to join trips.
If you’re after Tigerfish, late May to December is the best time of year to try to catch these ferocious predators, while August to November is the ideal time for fishing generally because of the low water level of the Zambezi.
What Sort of Traveller Should go to the Zambezi River?
Trips on the Zambezi River are definitely for the adventurers: tackle challenging rapids on whitewater rafting trips and riverboarding adventures or shoot over the river at high speed in a jet boat.
Zambezi River trips are great for families too. While there’s an age limit of 15 for whitewater rafting and river boarding, children only need to be seven and above to go on the canoeing safaris, and river cruises are for all ages.
February is an excellent month for birdwatching, though it’s not ideal for wildlife viewing, and there’s a chance that the Zambezi National Park on the Zimbabwean side may close if it’s been raining heavily.
March is another warm, humid, rainy month in Victoria Falls, with frequent afternoon thundershowers and average daytime highs of 31°C/88°F.
Highlights of the Month
The Zambezi River is full of water from the summer rains, which means that Victoria Falls is pumping at full volume. Expect to see a dramatic spectacle with a soundtrack of roaring thunder and lots of mist and spray (which can obscure the view).
March is another month for birders. The migratory species are still in the national parks and the trees around the falls. Wildlife viewing is difficult because of the lush vegetation at this time of the year.
Whitewater rafting usually ends in March or April because of the high water level in the Zambezi River.
March is nearing the end of the “green season,” or low season, when hotels offer their lowest rates on rooms.
The rainy season ends in April, a much drier month than March. The temperature drops slightly but is still warm, with daytime temperatures in the high 20°C/68°F.
Highlights of the Month
In April, the Zambezi River is extremely full, so Victoria Falls is in full flow. It’s an excellent time to travel to the falls if you want to see the natural spectacle at its most dramatic. However, the spray sent up by the waterfalls can make it difficult to see the falls at foot level, so at this time of year, a helicopter ride will give you the best view. The views from the Zambian side are also better during this full-flow period.
April is the last month to spot migratory bird species before they move in the dry winter.
May marks the beginning of the dry winter season with almost no rainfall and a drop in temperatures (nighttime lows go down to 11°C/52°F). Pack warm clothes to wear at night and in the early mornings.
Highlights of the Month
May has terrific weather, with sunshine and blue skies. It’s a good time of year to travel to Victoria Falls to witness the astounding spectacle of a massive volume of water gushing down the gorge with a roar, although there’s less spray and mist than in March and April.
June is a dry, cool month in Victoria Falls, with nighttime temperatures dropping to below 10°C/50°F, although daytimes are mild and temperatures can go up to the mid 20°C/68°F. You’ll need to bring warm clothing for nighttime activities, early morning hikes, and game drives.
Highlights of the Month
June is one of the busiest months of the year for visiting Victoria Falls. The views of the falls are excellent – the falls are still mighty but don’t have as much spray as earlier in the year, as the water level in the Zambezi has decreased.
July is the coolest month of the year. Nighttime temperatures drop to 7°C/45°F, while daytime temperatures are in the mid 20°C/68°F. Pack warm clothes for nighttime and early morning game drives and activities.
Highlights of the Month
July is a popular month to visit Victoria Falls for the clear blue skies, sunshine, and excellent views of the falls. The river is not at its fullest, so the mist and spray have decreased from the earlier months of the year, and you’ll get perfect panoramas.
August is another dry month, but it’s slightly warmer than July, with daytime averages of 29°C/84°F and nighttime temperatures of 10°C/50°F.
Highlights of the Month
August is one of the peak months for tourism in Victoria Falls. It’s a great time to view the falls and the best month for whitewater rafting. The Devil’s Pool usually opens near the end of this month, and swimming in this natural infinity pool is a highlight for many travelers. Wildlife viewing in August is excellent as vegetation is dry and thin, and animals have to drink in the Zambezi River, making them easy to spot.
August is a busy month, so expect to share attractions and activities with many other people. It’s the peak season, so hotel rates are at their highest.
In November, the summer rains begin, bringing welcome relief from the intense heat of October, although it’s still very hot.
Highlights of the Month
The Zambezi River is at its lowest level of the year, and Victoria Falls can completely dry up on the Zambian side, although the waterfalls flow year-round in Zimbabwe. It’s not the best time to see the falls if you want to experience their full power.
November is one of the best months of the year for whitewater rafting: the rapids are more challenging because of the low water level in the river.
December is slightly cooler than November but still a hot month, with daytime temperatures averaging 31°C/88°F. It’s also the second wettest month of the year (after January), so you’ll get an afternoon thundershower on most days.
The river is low in December, so the falls are much less dramatic than earlier in the year. The waterfalls can also completely dry up on the Zambian side.
With the start of summer rains, the vegetation starts to get full and greener, which means December isn’t an ideal time for wildlife viewing. However, the birdlife at this time of year is superb, with birds in their full colourful plumage and many migratory species around.
December is the last month for excellent whitewater rafting with the perfect water level in the Zambezi River.
The best time to visit Chizarira National Park is during the middle and end of the dry season (July to October). The wildlife is more easily seen at this time, because the vegetation is thinner and animals gather around the waterholes.
To make the most of your Victoria Falls safari, it's best to travel during the months of February to May. Due to the summer rains, the thundering Victoria Falls will be flowing at their fullest.
Experience the rare and beautiful lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls only during the full moon. Lunar rainbows, also known as moonbows, are rainbows that take place at night when a rainbow is seen in the light of the moon.
Victoria Falls is a Unesco World Heritage site that’s a marvel by day; it’s also one of very few sites around the world with moonbows that make it eerily beautiful by night.
If you’re staying at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe during the full moon, you’ll be able to marvel at the lunar rainbow that can be seen only during this time. The lunar rainbow tour is conducted over three days during the full moon. A guide will accompany you through the rainforest and give you a brief history of the Falls and other points of interest.
Guides are also happy to help you with photographs on your visit to this most spectacular of waterfalls. Raincoats are provided when needed.
Visiting Victoria Falls, or ‘the smoke that thunders,’ is a bucket-list event that will stir your senses and leave you mesmerized.
Victoria Falls reaches its zenith in about May each year. Seeing this Unesco World Heritage Site – and the most expansive curtain of water in the world – is a truly awe-inspiring moment. Experience the Falls with all your senses – the sight, sound, smell, feel, and taste of the spray on your face.
A walking tour of the Falls is conducted in the morning and afternoon. En route, you may be taken past the iconic Big Tree to take photos. A qualified guide will accompany you through the rainforest, giving you a brief history of the Falls and telling you about points of interest, plants, birds, and other wildlife. Raincoats are provided when needed.
There are several great mid-range hotels and lodges in Zambia and Zimbabwe to pick from for an affordable trip, as well as a vast choice of all-inclusive packages covering flights, lodging, and some activities, which can offer excellent value.
Activity costs can add up quickly, especially if you’re traveling as a family, so a good option is to choose an activity package, which gets you a discounted rate on a range of activities bundled together.
Traveling during the low “green” season of November to April will mean discounted hotel rates and great prices on travel packages. While this isn’t the best time of year to visit Victoria Falls, there are some benefits (other than discounted prices). It’s the best time of year for birdwatching, November and December are great months for whitewater rafting, and the summer rains bring lush, green foliage to the national parks around the falls.
Both Zambia and Zimbabwe have great lodging options for budget travelers. Your choices include campsites on the banks of the Zambezi, friendly backpackers, and well-run guesthouses. For a bush experience, you can also camp in the Zambezi National Park (on the Zimbabwean side). The best way to save money on food is to prepare your own meals. Some of the backpackers offer communal kitchens.
While many of the activities on offer are on the pricier side (most start at around US$50), there’s plenty to do that doesn’t cost much. Try the Boiling Pot hike, hiking down into Batoka Gorge, and hiring a bicycle to explore Livingstone or Victoria Falls.
Zambia is generally cheaper than Zimbabwe: lodging and food costs are lower, and the entrance fee to see the falls is also more affordable. If your primary consideration for which side to stay on is cost related, it makes sense to stay in Zambia.
If you’d like to visit both Zimbabwe and Zambia, make sure that you ask for a KAZA Uni-Visa on arrival in either Zambia or Zimbabwe, otherwise you’ll have to pay for a separate visa to enter the other country, which is more expensive.
There are superb luxury lodges and boutique hotels in Zambia and Zimbabwe which offer stylish rooms and spacious, lavish suites. Expect a host of activities, elegant bars, fine gourmet dining with wine pairings, gyms, spas, swimming pools, 24-hour room service and butlers, and beautiful grounds. In some places, you’ll find wild animals grazing on the lawns.
Take your pick from hotels with rolling green lawns situated on the banks of the Zambezi, or, for more of a safari experience, stay in a lodge inside the Zambezi National Park or in a private concession on the Zimbabwean side, where you’re immersed in the bush but only a short drive away from the waterfalls.
Highlights of a luxury trip to Victoria Falls include watching wildlife graze on the hotel lawns from your balcony or terrace, tucking into an indulgent spread for High Tea (with a view of the spray of Falls in the distance), and candlelit private dinners at a table set up for you in the garden. Take a helicopter flight over the falls, sunset cruises on the Zambezi River with cocktails and snacks, walking safaris, and private guided game drives in the Zambezi National Park.
Victoria Falls is one of the most memorable destinations in Africa for the majestic waterfalls that have earned a place as one of the most breathtaking sights on the planet and for the incredible range of activities you can do in the area. Whether you’re an adventurous couple looking to get adrenaline kicks on your Victoria Falls Honeymoon or prefer more relaxing experiences, Victoria Falls is the perfect destination for a honeymoon.
There’s a good choice of luxury lodges and hotels in Zambia and Zimbabwe. If you’re looking for a Victoria Falls honeymoon safari experience, you can stay in an all-inclusive lodge inside the Zambezi National Park on the Zimbabwean side.
Book a suite for more privacy, and enjoy special romantic touches such as private meals on your terrace, intimate picnic lunches and lantern-lit dinners for two in the garden, in-room spa treatments, and a personal butler. Some hotels and lodges also offer Victoria Falls honeymoon packages with discounted rates and bonuses, such as bottles of sparkling wine.
Highlights for couples include flying above Victoria Falls in a helicopter, doing a tandem bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, ziplining through the treetops, or taking a white-knuckle ride on the enormous rapids.
Then there’s taking it easy on a canoeing safari to spot animals and more than 400 species of birds, having sundowner drinks on riverside decks, and taking in the beautiful wilderness on both sides of the river – cocktail in hand – on languid sunset cruises.
Spanning Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s most spectacular natural sights. There’s not much to beat the biggest sheet of falling water on Earth cascading into the mighty Zambezi River more than 100m (328ft) below. Known as Mosi-oa-Tunya – “the smoke that thunders” – Victoria Falls is so forceful that the spray sent up by the plunging water rises so high that it can be seen from 50km (31mi) away.
There’s more to Victoria Falls than ticking off this bucket list sight, though. It’s also Africa’s adrenaline capital. On both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides of the border, adventure seekers will find extreme thrills in whitewater rafting, river boarding, jet boating, bungee jumping, abseiling, ziplining, microlighting above the falls and gorge swinging.
The falls also offer more sedate experiences, such as riding an old steam train and drinking gin and tonics on sunset boat cruises. That’s not to mention the safari activities and animal experiences such as tracking White rhinos on foot and canoeing trips on the Upper Zambezi to spot elephants and birds.
One of the main questions that people ask when planning a trip to Victoria Falls is where to base themselves. The Zimbabwean and Zambian sides both have towns close to the falls that are geared up for tourism, with a huge choice of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, bars and activity operators.
Each side of the border has quite different views of the falls (with the majority of the falls on the Zimbabwean end), and while many of the same activities are on offer on both sides, some experiences, such as bungee jumping and ziplining through a treetop canopy can only be done on one or other side of the border.
It’s important to know that the waterfall dries up on the Zambian side at the end of the dry season (in October or November), so if you’re traveling during this time it makes sense to stay in Zimbabwe. But otherwise, our recommendation would be to choose to stay on one side and visit the other on an easy day trip.
Victoria Falls is a perfect destination for solo travelers, whether you choose to stay in either Zambia or Zimbabwe. Both Livingstone and Victoria Falls town are well-set up for tourism and are easy to travel to, book lodging and organise activities. There are plenty of opportunities to meet other travelers in the guesthouses, hotels and in bars and restaurants in town. Many activities in the area, such as white-water rafting, and sunset river cruises, are done in groups, so you’ll be able to join up with other people for adventurous fun.
There’s lots to do on your own, such as explore the falls and go for game drives in the national parks on each side of the border, but just about everything in the area can also be done with a guide.
Highlights for solo travelers include watching the sunrise over Victoria Falls, catching the lunar rainbow on full moon nights, flying above the falls in a helicopter or microlight and bungee jumping more than 100m (328ft) down into the Batoka Gorge.
Then there’s getting soaked on a whitewater rafting ride, tackling rapids head-first on a bodyboard, fishing for toothsome Tigerfish, spotting wildlife on a canoeing trip (or from the back of a horse), zip lining through the rainforest canopy, swinging across the gorge and sipping cocktails on a sunset cruise on the river.
Both Victoria Falls and Livingstone are safe, tourist-friendly towns and solo female travelers should encounter no problems, although it’s not advisable to walk on your own through the towns at night.
Kids of all ages will love visiting Victoria Falls. Seeing the world’s biggest waterfall and getting drenched by mist and spray ranks up there with the best travel experiences in the world. Apart from the thrill of exploring the waterfall, the activities on offer in the area couldn’t be more exciting, and many of them are suitable for young kids.
Wildlife experiences are great for kids, and there’s a lot to choose from. Go on self-guided game drives in Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and Mosi-oa-Tunya Park in Zambia for easy game spotting of elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe, track White rhinos on foot (for children above 14), head out on the Zambezi River for fishing trips (for children above four) or set off on overnight canoeing safaris to spot wildlife and birds (for children aged above seven).
There are also lots of activities for children of all ages. Highlights include rides on the steam train and Victoria Falls tram, river cruises, flying over the falls in a helicopter and practicing African drumming skills at the Boma Experience in Victoria Falls.
Livingstone and the town of Victoria Falls each have a host of lodges and hotels that cater to families with children of all ages with the option of family suites, children’s food menus and kids’ programmes filled with special activities.
Victoria Falls is a malaria area, so ask your doctor before traveling about medication for your children. Always take special care to prevent your kids getting bitten by mosquitoes. They’ll need to wear long sleeves and long trousers at night, in the late afternoon and early morning, use mosquito repellant and sleep under a mosquito net.
If you’re continuing your African safari to either Botswana or South Africa after your stay in Victoria Falls, then you’ll need to have the unabridged birth certificates for your children in order to cross the borders.
It doesn’t get much more unique than the biggest and most dramatic waterfall on the planet: Victoria Falls definitely deserves its mantle as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is enough of a bucket list sight to be a unique place to visit in itself, but the addition of the extraordinary diversity of outdoor activities on offer is what makes Victoria Falls truly unique.
The adventures are seemingly endless: go bungee jumping in one of the world’s most spectacular locations, fly like a bird in a tiny microlight plane, track down endangered White rhinos on foot, swing like a human pendulum across the steep gorge, abseil down a cliff, zipline through the treetops and go cage diving with crocodiles – and that’s just for starters.
On the mighty Zambezi River, you can experience some of the best whitewater rafting on the planet. Tackle rapids face-first on a bodyboard, shoot across the water on a jet boat, and swim in a natural infinity pool on the edge of Victoria Falls.
Go on a relaxing multi-day canoeing safari where you’ll be immersed in the wilderness, spotting elephants from just a few meters away and sleeping on riverside beaches under the stars.
There are many ways to explore the area around the falls, from cycling tours and horseback rides to game drives in the two national parks on either side of the border.
Another reason Victoria Falls is a unique destination is that there’s really something for every kind of traveler in just a small area on either side of the falls. In terms of budgets, there’s a huge range of lodging – everything from riverside campsites to high-end luxury hotels.
Families are well catered to: hotels are child-friendly, and there’s a host of activities for all ages, while solo travelers will find it easy to meet other people and have fun on group activities. Luxury lodges offer lots of special touches for romantic couples and honeymooners, and adventure-seekers will be in their element with the amount of adrenaline-inducing fun on offer.
Travelers who prefer serene activities will discover plenty of quiet pleasures at Victoria Falls. Enjoy high tea on manicured lawns, relaxing spa treatments, sundowner cocktails on sunset river cruises, gourmet dinner onboard an old steam train chugging its way through a safari park, and sipping wine while being paddled on a raft down the Zambezi.
While you explore the paths around Victoria Falls, you’ll be able to spot many birds (look out for Hornbills, Fork-tailed drongos, African paradise flycatchers, and Goliath herons) and some mammals in the lush forest, such as Chacma baboons, Vervet monkeys, Banded mongooses and if you’re lucky, warthog and elusive bushbuck. Hotels on either side of the falls also attract animals, including warthogs, zebras, and giraffes who graze on their manicured lawns.
Depending on where you stay, wildlife spotting can be done from the comfort of your balcony. For more wildlife and big game, there are two national parks, one in Zimbabwe and one in Zambia, where you can enjoy a variety of safari experiences.
On the Zimbabwean side of the falls, the Zambezi National Park has the Big Four (only rhinos are missing), as well as many more animals in beautiful mopane woodland and forest landscapes, including African wild dogs, giraffes, waterbuck, bushbuck, impala, and sable antelope, and lots of hippo and crocodiles in the river. It’s easy to drive yourself around the park, but you can also take walking safaris accompanied by a guide, which will get you close to animals on foot.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia, while the smallest in the country at only 23km2 (9 square miles), boasts an impressive range of species, including buffalo, elephant, Burchell’s zebra, giraffe, bushbuck, and sable antelope.
The star highlight of the park is tracking White rhinos (which were reintroduced from South Africa) on foot. Rhinos are absent from many parks, so this is a great chance to see them, and tracking these fascinating creatures is a memorable and thrilling experience.
Birding is a highlight of a trip to Victoria Falls. 470 species of birds have been recorded in both these parks and in the Victoria Falls area, including Pel’s fishing owl, African skimmers, Taita falcon, African finfoot, Verreaux’s eagle, African fish eagle, Miombo pied barbet, Collared palm thrush, Lanner falcon, Goliath heron, osprey, and Half-collared kingfisher.
The Zambezi River is home to more than 75 species of fish, including the famous Tigerfish. Fishing trips on the river allow anglers to try their hand at catching this toothy predator. Meanwhile, relaxing river cruises and canoeing trips (which can be multi-day adventures) in Zimbabwe and Zambia are a great way of seeing the area’s wildlife, including hippos and crocodiles, elephants drinking and bathing on the banks, antelopes, and lots of birds.
Only an hour’s drive from Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s flagship reserve and one of the top safari destinations in Africa. It’s home to 40 000 elephants, buffalo, rhinos, leopards, lions, one of the continent’s largest African wild dog populations, and antelope such as roan and sable. The park is easily accessible and can be explored in a sedan car – you don’t need to rent a 4×4.
Less than 100km (62mi) away from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, just over the border in northern Botswana, Chobe National Park has one of the most significant concentrations of wildlife in Africa and, with 50 000 pachyderms, hosts the largest elephant population in the world. There’s plenty more to see, from the rest of the Big Five to roan and sable antelope, cheetah, hyenas, wild dogs, and zebra.
Chobe and Hwange are popular safari destinations to combine with a trip to Victoria Falls, but if you’re short on time, you can also make day trips to both parks from either Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Livingstone in Zambia.
Apart from the fact that there are so many activities to do in the Victoria Falls area, an excellent reason to return is to experience the waterfalls and the outdoor adventures in changing seasons. Victoria Falls is very different month by month. The level of water in the Zambezi River changes with seasonal rains, which means that at times the waterfalls are thunderously dramatic, sending up so much spray that you will get completely soaked on the cliffside footpaths.
Other times the river is running so low that the falls dry up on the Zambian side. In the summer months, the foliage is lush and green, while in winter, the vegetation thins out and turns brown.
Different seasons are best for varying activities, and returning to Victoria Falls at different times of the year means you’ll be able to experience all of them, from the best whitewater rafting during the low-water period of August to December to wildlife viewing in the national parks on either side of the falls during the dry winter months of June to October.
Expect superb bird watching in the rainy summer season from November to April, when you can spot migratory birds and birds with their full colourful plumage.
Victoria Falls is also a great place to base yourself for trips to other safari destinations in Zimbabwe, such as Hwange National Park, and Chobe National Park in Botswana. On repeat visits to Victoria Falls you’ll have time to explore the wonderful wildlife just an hour’s drive away.