Situated in what was once considered the “breadbasket of Africa”, Harare is still way up there on the top of the list of awesome places to visit in Africa. Why? Like many countries in Africa, Zimbabwe has its own special natural beauty that surpasses many other popular international holiday destinations which, despite its vulnerable economy and explosive urban development, remain untouched.
Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe, which means sprawling urban landscapes, a buzzing cosmopolitan population and oodles of interesting places where you can explore the cultural and historical facets of this fascinating country.
Harare was established in 1894 and it is now home to a substantial population of more than 2 million residents. It was previously known as Fort Salisbury and also goes by the name “Sunshine City” today.
Harare is located in the province of Mashonaland. You should be able to get by with English, but Shona is also commonly spoken.
Want to know more? Read on to find out about the best way you can see all that Zimbabwe has to showcase.
Eco-tourism in and around Harare
The Epworth Balancing Rocks that are situated to the south-east of the city attract tourists from far and wide. They are a naturally occurring set of rocks that balance on top of one another in what seems like a gravity-defying feat that boggles the mind of any curious traveller.
Epworth Balancing Rocks, Zimbabwe
For a spectacular view that is easy on the pocket and not difficult to access, watch the sunset from Domboshawa (a granite outcrop you can find 25 km north of the capital). You will also find a cave here that has rock art dating back more than 6000 years.
Harare is land-locked so it may not be the best place to go if you want a beach holiday. But water-lovers unite in the many large bodies of water (mostly dams) that are scattered around the city, all within less than an hours drive. Some of the options include Darwendale Dam, Arcadia Dam and Lake Chivero.
If you would like to see some wildlife indigenous to Zimbabwe, you need only take a 30km drive to Mukuvisi Woodlands where you will be able to see elephants and giraffe and many other species. And if you want to see a vast range of the diverse plant life in the country without having to travel great distances, visit the National Botanical Gardens.
The arts and culture scene
Zimbabwe’s artistic and cultural dimension is often overlooked when compared to the likes of what South Africa has to offer. However, Zimbabwe has a strong tradition of rock art and stone sculptures which can be seen lining some of the streets. If you want to learn more and see a wider variety of masterpieces, make a stop at Doon Estate and Chapungu Village which also have art galleries as well as a range of other hand-made crafts like pottery.
The National Heroes Acre is an area designated to honour the memory of the warfighters. On independence day, one of the national public holidays, the Heroes Acre is alive with activity which definitely has an atmosphere of its own special flavour, but it will be challenging to explore the area and the museums at leisure so it may be best to visit this area on another day.
Harare can keep both you and the kids entertained. One place you should definitely check out with the whole family is the Lion and Cheetah Park and Snake World. For even more adrenalin-filled family fun, visit the go-kart track in Newlands called Country Club Karts. There is a slower track suitable for kids and a faster one for adults and teenagers.
If you want to shop around for some traditional trinkets and crafts to take back with you, take a stroll around Avondale Fleamarket, Queen of Hearts and Mbare Market.
What you should know before visiting Zim
Zimbabwe has a subtropical climate, which means rainy weather between November and April with prevailing sunny-ness in the winter months of May to August. That leaves May-October as the best times to travel to Zimbabwe.
The currency in Zimbabwe is the Zimbabwean Dollar.
If you are coming from a region that is affected by yellow fever, you will not be allowed into the country and it essential that you are vaccinated before you travel. You should get injections for polio, typhoid, malaria and hepatitis A.
When you are in Zimbabwe, you should be careful about swimming in rivers or dams, and you should not drink the water.
English is the official language of Zimbabwe. Other commonly spoken languages are Chishona and Sindebele.
It is standard practice to give tips – usually, 10 or 15% is expected.
Food in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has it’s own unique traditional meals and flavour profiles that distinguish it from other African countries, and Harare is the place to be if you want to try Zimbabwean cuisine out for size.
One of the staples you will find in most Zimbabwean homes on a regular basis is sadza which is made from cornmeal or maize and eaten with a relish. Many families also eat meat if they can afford it.
One popular snack you will find in Zimbabwe is biltong, which is dried meat cut into bite-size pieces which may be made from game meat like kudu or springbok. For the more adventurous pallet, you may also find mopane worms (caterpillars) and flying ants at some of the local markets.
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe obviously affects the price of certain food items, especially those that are imported such as biscuits and processed food. There is usually an abundance of reasonably-priced fruit and vegetables.