Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is part of the UNESCO natural list. The falls (and river) serve as the border between the countries Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya which means “The smoke that thunders”. The name comes from the mist from the water falling which goes high up into the sky, particularly during wet season. It is also considered the capital of adventure in Southern Africa for the wide adrenaline offers in the area.
After living in Cape Town for a year I had to make my way to the falls and experience the majesty of it. I travelled with friends and found out what do in Victoria Falls in 48h, so let’s dive in!
How to get to Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls has two main towns near it. One is the town of Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe, the closest town to the falls. The other one is Livingstone, in Zambia, about 18 minutes’ drive from the falls.
Both have an international airport and you can fly to either airport and because the transfer between them is a short one, you should look for the best price. Check if you need visas for both countries first!
You can fly directly from Cape Town but most flights from Southern Africa arrive via Johannesburg.
Best area to stay during your trip to Victoria Falls
There are several areas and vibes for you to choose depending on what you want. Victoria Falls town is the hub of a small town, walking distance from the falls. You can find anything from hostels to high-end hotels around the city. There are restaurants, nightclubs and a small town offering in terms of variety. There are resorts outside of town offering a more tranquil setting.
Livingstone town is mainly left as a tourist spot unless you know someone or you have a specific reason to want to stay there. It is too far away to just go to the falls, you’d need to drive. Instead, Zambia has a different type of offer with hotels located next to the falls, without being in a town/village. They offer different levels of hospitality and can go as far away as more than an hour from the falls.
If you are looking for a small town vibe close to the falls, Victoria Falls town should be your first choice. If you are looking for more of a ‘resort in Africa’ experience and just want to check the falls once, then the resorts in Zambia will be to your liking.
Where to stay in Victoria Falls
There are several good accommodations on both sides of the falls, here are just some options to get you started.
- Avani Victoria Falls: the only hotel with a private entrance to the falls on the Zambian side. That means that you can save up to about 30EUR in costs. It is a big hotel and great for families and couples alike.
- Chundukwa: looking for something a little more secluded? This hotel has great value for price and offers a luxury experience a little higher up the falls.
- Shoestrings backpackers: The backpackers where I stayed during my trip. It has a great vibe with simple and clean rooms, food is delicious and locals and tourists seem to get together for a beer in the evening!
- Batonka hotel: It is an entry-level hotel style, this lodge offers a relaxing atmosphere and great service.
Victoria Falls in 48h: best things to do
First day in Victoria Falls
Arrive and check in at your accommodation. Start your Victoria Falls in 48h trip by walking to Lookout Café for lunch/snacks/drinks. If you are into adrenaline adventures, the gorge swing is a must do from this place.
Head back to town and stop at the falls. The falls can be visited from the Zambian side as well as the Zimbabwean side. They both have lookouts in front of the falls with views. About the 75% of the fall’s lookouts are in the Zimbabwean side.
During low water season (between the end of August and January) the Zambian side doesn’t have much water running down, due to turbines being used up the river (they are in the process of changing this!)
I recommend starting with the Zimbabwean side’s falls. The lookouts start off to the side of the falls and take you closer and closer to Zambia. I visited during low water season and the last 4 lookouts left us drenched in water, so during high water season ‘The smoke that thunders’ (Mosi-oa-tunya, the original name) will leave you very wet! From the last lookout you can see the amount of water on the Zambian side and make your decision whether to go there or not.
Go for dinner and a great hostel atmosphere at Shoestrings backpackers.
Second day in Victoria Falls
Go on a Chobe full day tour. The tour involves crossing the border to Botswana and spending the day discovering the landscape.
You will have included a boat safari and a 4×4 safari, as well as lunch and transfers from Victoria Falls.
If you are curious about the fauna and landscape of Chobe, read this detailed post about it here.
Third day in Victoria Falls
Start the day early and go to the Zambian side for the Livingstone tour. This tour needs to be booked in advance. The tour takes you to an island on the Zambezi, Livingstone Island, where David Livingstone first saw the Victoria Falls.
During low water season you can do the thrilling activity of swimming in the Devil’s pool. It looks way scarier than it was! You get to visit the island (arriving by boat), cross the Zambezi river to get to the pool and swim there for a short time. All tours include either breakfast or lunch on the island.
If you want the warmest water go for the 7am tour. If you want the warmest sun go for the 9am tour.
You have more days in Victoria Falls?
Not a problem! You will see the town is full of energy for such a small and remote place. You can choose from a variety of safaris to nearby parks or focus on adrenaline activities.
There are day tours departing daily to the national parks and you can also choose to go on a sunset cruise along the Zambezi.
Some of the available ones are white river rafting, microlight flight over the falls, helicopter ride over the falls, bungee jumping or zip lining. It is called the Adventure capital of southern Africa for a reason!
If you’re interested in a group of activities make sure you try to find an activity package to bring the cost down a little bit, your pocket will be happier for it.
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