The Victoria Falls, which straddles both Zimbabwe and Zambia, is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also happens to be an African destination that combines brilliantly with so many others in Southern Africa that you were likely already considering, namely Cape Town, Kruger or even Botswana.
The Falls, as we affectionately call the region, offers so much more than just the, albeit incredible, opportunity to see (and feel and hear) this marvel up close, but is a destination that is host to so much more.
It caters to adventure seekers, by way of adrenaline-packed activities like swimming in Devil's Pool on the edge of the falls, bungee jumping, zip-lining and microlighting. And equally so appealing to those seeking a calmer Victoria Falls safari experience of the region such as sunset cruises, walking tours, gorge edge lunches and elephant interactions.
The mighty Zambezi River, the lifeblood for many, divides the two countries and ultimately cascades down the mile-wide chasm into the winding gorges below. Pushing up spray to a height of well over 400 metres (1,300 ft) and crashing the 108m straight down, at a rate of 1,088,000 litres a second, forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Upstream, several award-winning lodges are perched on its banks, with warm smiles awaiting your arrival. Add to this a number of larger hotels and boutique guest houses, and one has a great selection of ideal bases from which to explore the area.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The mile-wide waterfalls are formed by the Zambezi River, which marks the border between the two countries. As a result, Zambia and Zimbabwe each share a side of the largest falling sheet of water in the world. So, where are the Victoria Falls exactly located? You’ll find this Natural Wonder in the east of Victoria Falls town and south of Livingstone. Here’s an overview of what each side of the Victoria Falls has to offer.
The Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls offers excellent viewing of the main cascades which flow all year round. The town of Victoria Falls is adjacent to the waterfalls. Explore this lively place from your hotel or boutique guesthouse, many of which are located within walking distance. Nearby and upstream of the Vic Falls, you’ll find luxury safari lodges such as Victoria Falls River Lodge with stunning views of the Zambezi.
The Zambian side of Victoria Falls offers incredible close-ups, dramatic angles and hair-raising walkways. You can also swim above the falls in Devil’s Pool, lunch on Livingstone Island and, during low water season from October to December, walk beneath the spray. If you want to be close to the waterfalls in Zambia, stay at Avani or Royal Livingstone resort-style hotels. Luxury safari lodges are upstream on the Zambezi River, a short drive (15-30 min) from the Natural Wonder.
The best time to visit Victoria Falls is during the higher water season from January to early May. With the Zambezi River in full flood pouring over a sheer cliff, it’s not just a sight to behold, but one that can be felt and heard too!
Victoria Falls makes a fantastic year-round destination weather-wise. Its location in the northern part of Southern Africa means that it experiences mild winters. Therefore it comes as no surprise that we include this Natural Wonder in our itineraries on a year-round basis. It all comes down to your personal interests.
Summer is from around October to April and it gets quite hot – above 30°C in the day with warm nights. Short afternoon thunderstorms take the edge off the heat and set the stage for magnificent sunsets. At this time of year, you can enjoy the swimming pool at your hotel and really feel that you are in Africa. The rainy season is from November to March.
Winter is roughly from May to September. The days are dry and sunny – around 20°C with the temperature falling at night to around 5ºC. The winter months are characterised by long sunny days, the temperatures drop at night, and you'll be grateful for a warm jersey, hat and scarf. Don't expect to use the hotel swimming pool unless you have a powerful ability to withstand the cold.
Wintertime also brings with it excellent game viewing in the Victoria Falls area. The lack of rain means that the animals are forced to congregate around known water sources and large herds of elephant and buffalo come down to the Zambezi to drink. Game viewing at riverside properties like Matetsi, Vic Falls River Lodge, Old Drift, Toka Leya, Thorntree, Sanctuary Sussi is excellent.
Your Victoria Falls holiday will cost between $135 - $1,800 per person per day. The main factors affecting total cost are your choice of hotel, lodge or guesthouse as well as your choice of activities, time of year, and length of your stay. Talk to one of our Travel Experts for a tailor-made itinerary that suits your budget.
Figuring out how to get to Victoria Falls can be confusing with all the options available. Do you fly to Livingstone Airport or Victoria Falls Airport? Should you fly from South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia? Should you drive? What about the luxurious Rovos Rail? Here are our recommendations for how to get to Victoria Falls.
The most convenient option is to fly from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls. Joburg offers daily 90-minute flights, out of O.R. Tambo International, to both Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone (Zambia) Airports.
Another popular route is to fly from Kruger National Park to Victoria Falls. The two-hour direct flight departs from Kruger Mpumalanga International, which serves all Kruger safari lodges. The morning departure means a same-day connection from your safari lodge arriving in Victoria Falls that very afternoon – amazing!
Cape Town also has direct flights to Victoria Falls and you’ve also got several regional flights to choose from including from Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Fortunately, it makes little difference which airport you arrive at nor which country you decide to base yourself in. We add a cross-border road transfer to your itinerary and UniVisas are easy to procure on arrival. These multi-entry visas cover most nationalities and they make it easy to cross back and forth between the two countries as often as you want.
Many travellers combine a Victoria Falls stay with time in Botswana's Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta. It’s a popular combination and an easy two-hour road transfer from either Zambia or Zimbabwe to Kasane, Botswana.
In and around Victoria Falls, there is so much to see and do that you’ll need a minimum two-night stay. This gives you time for the essentials – experience the Falls, enjoy a Zambezi River boat cruise and explore the area at leisure. Additional activities will require an extra half or even a full day.
Activities operate on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides of Victoria Falls. Some are so popular we recommend pre-booking to avoid disappointment. This especially applies to the highly sought-after Livingstone Island visit, which allows for a dip in the iconic Devil’s Pool.
Our favourite sightseeing and safari activities in Victoria Falls
- Tour of Victoria Falls – explore this Natural Wonder of the World from the rainforest in Zimbabwe and from Knife Edge in Zambia (Pro tip: Check the lunar calendar for a full-moon tour of the Falls!)
- Relax on a Zambezi River cruise – a gentle sunset or dinner boat cruise upstream of the Falls
- Experience a Victoria Falls safari – game drives, river safaris, walking safaris, horseback safaris, game viewing hides, birding tours
- See elephants and rhino up close on a walking safari
- Immerse yourself in local art, history and culture with museums, craft villages, township tours, conservation programmes and village dinners
Adventure activities in Victoria Falls
- Cool off in Devil’s Pool – the world’s most exhilarating infinity pool after your Livingstone Island visit (low-water season only)
- Get high on a scenic flight – helicopter or microlight – over the Falls
- Clear your head with the world’s best commercial white water rafting
- Go aerial with gorge swinging, ziplining, the flying fox or a canopy tour
The mighty curtain of water that forms the Victoria Falls is known by the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the "Smoke that Thunders". These ancient and magnificent Falls were "discovered" in 1855 by Scottish explorer, David Livingstone. He had been attempting to find a route to the East Coast of the African continent when he encountered this wonder and gave it a Western name, the Victoria Falls – named after British Monarch, Queen Victoria. He had an island in the middle of the river on the lip of the waterfall named after him, of course, known as Livingstone Island and where the famous Devil's Pool activity begins.
Livingstone's reports spread across borders, and the Falls began to attract Anglo traders. A rustic trading settlement was set up on what is now the riverbank and became the original Victoria Falls town called Old Drift.
The number of foreign visitors rose steadily, and people travelled from South Africa to view the Falls. Malaria took its toll on the settlement and, at the turn of the century, Old Drift was shifted to the present-day town of Livingstone in Zambia.
Livingstone's lack of contact with the outside world over four years whilst attempting to find the Nile's source raised concerns for his welfare. It prompted the New York Herald to send Henry Stanley to find him. Stanley achieved his goal on 10 November 1871, approaching the explorer in an African village with the immortal words "Doctor Livingstone, I presume".
The two struck up a friendship which only ended when Stanley returned to America in 1872, having failed to persuade the intrepid missionary to accompany him. Dr David Livingstone died on 1 May 1873 at age 60. He had travelled some 50 000 kilometres in Africa, making a considerable contribution to the least known portion of the planet and became one of Southern and Central Africa's legendary figures. That legendary status is felt to this day as many names of towns in Africa have been changed to indigenous names, but the exception is names connected with this revered explorer. These include Livingstone and the famous Victoria Falls, remaining to this day, as a sign of respect and in memory of the great man.
Be warned that visa regulations and costs regularly change in Zimbabwe and Zambia. What is released and possible today may not be tomorrow, which is why having a consultant at your fingertips is so handy when planning a trip to these far-flung destinations. Your Rhino Africa Travel Expert will discuss your specific requirements with you on an individual basis to ensure everything is up to date for your trip.
Your Victoria Falls experience is influenced by the annual rise and drop of the Zambezi River. High water levels produce the largest and most spectacular waterfalls on the planet. Low water levels offer exciting water-based activities and thrilling vantage points. Because a one-metre rise in river level results in a five-metre rise at Victoria Falls, understanding the water levels is important to help you decide when to visit.
The Zambezi River reaches high water levels at Victoria Falls from February to July and peaks in April. High water is when the Falls are at their most impressive from both the Zambian and the Zimbabwean sides. A mile-wide wall of water plummets 100 metres into a narrow gorge with a steady roar and swirling plumes of spray. The latter half of high water season coincides with the start of the safari season. Victoria Falls is surrounded by excellent game reserves and national parks including Hwange, Chobe, Mosi-oa-Tunya and Victoria Falls. Activities in Victoria Falls town run all year round regardless of water levels with the exception of white water rafting, which is occasionally halted during exceptionally high levels in April.
The Zambezi River drops to its low water level from August to January at Victoria Falls. The Zambian side of the Falls, being slightly higher, dries up almost entirely giving you access to Devil’s Pools and Livingstone Island above the waterfalls. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls remains in flow for a dramatic yet picturesque display of nature’s power. White water rafting, for which the Zambezi is world famous, is at its best in low water season and game viewing in the region is at its best until October. Best of all, with the multi-entry univisa, you can cross between Zimbabwe and Zambia to experience the spectacle of Victoria Falls from both countries.