NGT Guide: 9 Of The World’s Best Backpacking Destinations For 2016

With expert tips on how to make the most of your budget. | By Julian Smith  
Hikers Patagonia Argentina
Two hikers on the Fitz Roy trail in Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina. Photo: AZAM Jean-Paul/hemis.fr/Getty Images

Zimbabwe

Herd of African elephants at a waterhole in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Africa. Photo: NSP-RF/Alamy Stock Photo

Herd of African elephants at a waterhole in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Africa. Photo: NSP-RF/Alamy Stock Photo

As decades of political and economic strife come to an end, travellers are discovering Zimbabwe’s incredible diversity of scenery, culture, and wildlife. It’s an easy place to get around and many residents speak English. Ironically—and fortunately—the lack of tourism development in recent years has left Zimbabwe’s world-class parks mostly untouched. You won’t find convoys of safari trucks at places like Hwange National Park, the country’s largest game reserve and one of Africa’s ten biggest. It’s an elephant hot spot, with roughly 40,000 of the beasts in residence. Matobo National Park, named after the granite hills scattered across the landscape, is the place to spot the near-threatened white rhinos on walking safaris through the bush. Then, of course, there’s Victoria Falls, whose cloud of mist can be seen up to 20 kilometres away. Some come for the sheer spectacle of the world’s largest sheet of falling water, others for the plethora of adventure sports, like white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and rappelling.

Organised safaris and tours aren’t cheap, but even budget-minded ones practically guarantee plenty of dropped jaws. G Adventures’s small-group Kruger, Falls & Zimbabwe tour hits South Africa as well as Zimbabwe, and helps support a preschool for park rangers’ children.

How To Get There Harare International Airport is Zimbabwe’s main aviation gateway. Long-distance buses arrive from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa.

How To Get Around Air Zimbabwe flies to Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, close to Hwange and Matobo. Local buses range from luxury long-distance models to local kombis of questionable provenance.

Where To Stay Hwange Safari Lodge, located right outside the park, has two restaurants, a pool, and 100 air-conditioned rooms. Grab a cold Zambezi beer on the viewing deck of the aptly named Waterhole Bar and watch elephants and other wildlife congregate at the watering hole below. They can also arrange guided day or night-time game drives. Jacana Gardens is a tastefully appointed boutique guesthouse in a quiet corner of Harare. Each of the six rooms has patio doors that open onto verandas overlooking lush gardens.

What To Eat Or Drink Stop by the cosy Indaba Book Café in laid-back Bulawayo for a solid cup of joe, light fare, poetry readings, and live music on Thursday evenings.

When To Go The dry season from May to October is the best time to see wildlife; forest greenery is at a minimum and animals congregate at water holes in places like Hwange National Park.

Helpful Links www.zimbabwetourism.net

Currency U.S. dollar

Language English, Shona, Ndebele

Don’t Miss The Great Zimbabwe National Monument near Masvingo is the largest and oldest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara. Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, the complex of stone structures centres on a series of massive stone walls and towers built entirely without mortar.

Fun Fact/Cultural Tip Say thank-you by clapping twice—or if one hand is busy, clap the other on your chest.

Next page: Eastern Europe

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