Wild and wonderful Zambia is blessed with the Victoria Falls and a network of national parks that are teeming with big game (Photo: Getty Images)

Wild and wonderful Zambia is blessed with the Victoria Falls and a network of national parks that are teeming with big game. Visitors flock to the town of Livingstone to see the thunderous Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but Zambia is off-the-beaten track in safari terms, meaning you can explore the forests and floodplains of the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa in splendid isolation. Other highlights include rafting on the Zambezi, shopping in the markets of Lusaka and spotting wild dogs in the Luangwa Valley.

The best places to visit in Zambia

Victoria Falls and Livingstone

Aerial view of famous Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

One of the world's seven natural wonders, Victoria Falls has to be seen to be believed (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your Zambia trip with one of the world’s great sights: Victoria Falls. Everything about this waterfall along the border with Zimbabwe is epic: the vast sheet of cascading water, stretching for 1700m; its pounding roar, which can be heard from 40km away; the thick spray that rises in columns, catching rainbows in its misty clouds. 

Local tribes were in such awe of the Falls that they named them Mosi-oa-Tunya – the smoke that thunders. To feel them at their full force, walk across Knife Edge Bridge, directly in front of the Main Falls, or take a dip in Devil’s Pool, where you can watch the water plummet over the edge.

Protea Hotel Livingstone enjoys a fantastic location – and a lovely pool – in Livingstone town, just 7.5km from the Falls and 2.5km from Livingstone Museum. The latter is worth visiting for its excellent exhibition on the explorer David Livingstone, the first European to set eyes on the Falls when he reached them in 1855 – he memorably wrote in his diaries that “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. Protea Hotel Livingstone is also a good base for a side-trip to Chobe National Park in nearby Botswana; it’s an hour west of the park’s gateway town of Kasane.

Lusaka

Common Eland in East and Southern Africa

The majestic eland is one of the animals you can see in Lusaka National Park (Photo: Getty Images)

The sprawling capital of Zambia, Lusaka is one of the fastest-growing cities on the continent. It has all the hustle and bustle you’d expect from a capital, especially around Lusaka City Market, while the Lusaka National Museum (LaNaMu) hosts interesting exhibits on Zambian history and ethnography.

One of the best reasons to visit the capital is for a city-break safari. Lusaka National Park, just 15 km south of the capital, is home to zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and eland, and offers the rare chance of exploring by bike. Protea Hotel Lusaka is located around 25 km from the national park, within the Arcades Shopping and Entertainment Complex, and has a splash pool for relaxing in at the end of the day, while the contemporary Ciêla, Lusaka, a Tribute Portfolio Resort and Spa enjoys a tranquil setting in forested surrounds around 40 km from Lusaka National Park, just north of the capital.

Lower Zambezi National Park

Lower Zambezi National Park

With its mopane forest and game-rich Zambezi River valley, the Lower Zambezi National Park is a wonderful place to explore (Photo: Getty Images)

The Lower Zambezi is one of the most beautiful parks in Zambia, the rugged russet slopes of the Zambezi Escarpment giving way to the south to floodplains, mopane forest and eventually the game-rich Zambezi River valley.

Wildlife congregates in huge numbers in and around the river – you can expect to see enormous herds of elephants quenching their thirst by the water’s edge, hippos snorting in the shallows, and crocodiles gliding through the channels. Canoe rides along the river are a brilliant way of quietly sneaking up close to the animals. 

The park also hosts good populations of lion and leopard, but one of the most remarkable sights here are the “island-hopping” buffalo, who make their way between the bush-covered islets that are dotted along the river. This is a popular park for birders, too, with over 350 species being recorded within its boundaries, including Verreaux’s eagle, trumpeter hornbill and the iridescent little African pitta.

South Luangwa National Park

Elephants in line in Zambia

With its rich array of wildlife, South Luangwa National Park is one of the standout parks of the entire continent (Photo: Getty Images)

South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier game-watching experience, and one of the finest parks in Africa full stop. Like the Lower Zambezi, life here – and the safari-goers who follow it in all its forms – revolves around the river, but the variety of habitats takes in plains, miombo forests, shallow lakes and marshes. Stalking this prey are lions, spotted hyenas and wild dogs, while South Luangwa is also a great place to spot leopards, thanks to the park allowing spot-lit night drives. A good base for exploring South Luangwa National Park – and for relaxing in a swimming pool afterwards – is Protea Hotel Chipata, which lies near the border with Malawi.

What to eat and drink in Zambia

Zambia's staple dish is nshima, a thick porridge of corn flour that tends to make an appearance at almost every meal. It's great for soaking up sauces.

For something a bit more adventurous, try a bowl of ifinkubala from a market stall. These caterpillars, commonly known as mopane worms, are a popular delicacy, dried and then fried in oil with tomatoes and onion

At the end of a hard day's work, most Zambians will reach for a munkoyo. This non-alcoholic drink is made from the roots of the munkoyo tree, dried and shredded and left to ferment overnight with a mix of maize meal. It's best with a little sugar added.

Top things to do in Zambia

A beautiful sunset at the Zambezi, near the Victoria Waterfalls

A beautiful sunset at the Zambezi, near the Victoria Waterfalls (Photo: Getty Images)

The Victoria Falls are Africa’s adventure capital, and you can fill your days buzzing through the spray on an microlight flight and tackling some of the best white water on the planet with a rafting trip down the Zambezi. Or for a gentler, more romantic option, take a tranquil sunset cruise, spotting hippos and crocodiles as the huge blood-red orb sinks slowly behind the horizon.

The 175km-long drive east from Lusaka to the Lower Zambezi National Park is part of the route of one of the world’s great road trips through East and Southern Africa. Alternatively, fold Zambia into an epic rail journey across the continent. 

South Luangwa National Park is the birthplace of the walking safari. The experience of exploring the African bush on foot, outside the comfort of a vehicle, is one you won’t forget in a very long time.

Hidden gems in Zambia

Beach in Gombe Stream National Park Tanzania

Beautiful Lake Tanganyika offers all manner of activities, with snorkelling and scuba diving especially popular (Photo: Getty Images)

The warm, crystal-clear waters of Lake Tanganyika – the longest freshwater lake in the world, which forms part of Zambia at the country’s far northeast corner – are home to over 350 species of fish. You can snorkel and scuba dive along the lake’s rocky coast and among a number of small wrecks, looking for the lake's famous cichlid fish, which come in a rainbow of different colours.

Go deeper

With 73 different tribes in Zambia, there are plenty of opportunities to experience a local festival. The most famous is Kuomboka, which celebrates the migration of the Lozi king from Lealui to Limulunga at the end of the rainy season (around Easter).

Published: February 01, 2023

Article Tags:  Zambia

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