Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is an exciting destination that draws travelers from around the globe. It is one of the biggest waterfalls in the world and has the largest curtain of falling water on the planet. During the wet season, more than 5 million cubic meters of water pour over the Falls every minute. It’s no surprise why it’s a favorite destination of our travelers and our team!
Many travelers wishing to visit this majestic waterfall want to learn more about the differences between experiencing it from the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides. In this blog post, we’ll explore the contrasting features of both sides, helping you make an informed decision for an unforgettable adventure.
The Zimbabwean side offers easier and broader access to Victoria Falls, as the majority of the Falls lie within Zimbabwe’s borders. Visitors staying in Victoria Falls town can conveniently reach the Falls by walking from the town of Victoria Falls, though AAC guests are treated to a private tour of the Falls which will include transportation from your accommodation.
Access to the Zambian side involves traveling to Livingstone, the gateway town. While the Falls on this side offer closer views of specific sections, reaching them generally requires a short transfer.
When it comes to panoramic views, the Zimbabwean side truly shines. You’ll be treated to awe-inspiring vistas of the entire waterfall system (seasonal). Iconic viewpoints such as the Main Falls, Devil’s Cataract, Rainbow Falls and Horseshoe Falls offer breathtaking panoramas, allowing you to appreciate the sheer scale and beauty of Victoria Falls.
The Zambian side offers a more intimate and up-close encounter with the Falls, though the views are less comprehensive. With viewpoints like the Knife-Edge Bridge and the Boiling Pot, you’ll find yourself within arm’s reach of the cascading water. Prepare to feel the mist on your face as you witness the raw power and force of Victoria Falls from this perspective. Victoria Falls is one of the few places that travelers can try to see a lunar rainbow. The best views of lunar rainbows are on the Zambia side along the Eastern Cataract. Be sure to work with your Journey Specialist to determine the right phase of the lunar cycle to visit if trying to see a lunar rainbow is on your wish list.
Zimbabwe offers a wide range of activities to enhance your Victoria Falls experience. Privately guided tours, walking trails, boat cruises and scenic helicopter flights provide different vantage points and opportunities to marvel at the Falls from above. Thrill-seekers can indulge in adrenaline-pumping adventures like bungee jumping and white-water rafting on the Zambezi River.
While the activities on the Zambian side may be fewer in number, many provide a unique and serene experience. Guided tours, nature walks, microlight flights and helicopter tours offer a chance to explore the Falls and their surroundings. One advantage of taking the longer helicopter flight on the Zambian side is that you often have the chance to fly into the gorge which is an amazing experience. You can also embark on river cruises and visit Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, known for its wildlife and picturesque landscapes. The town of Livingstone, Zambia’s former capital, is nice to visit and has an enjoyable museum where you can explore the region’s culture and history. One of the Falls’ most well-known attractions, the Devil’s Pool, can only be accessed from the Zambian side.
While you might be familiar with photos of happy travelers in the Devil’s Pool at the very edge of the Falls, many don’t realize the activity kicks off with a boat ride on the Zambezi out to Livingstone Island where you have a tour to see wonderful views of the Falls. After exploring, you’ll take a short, rocky walk to the pool where you can plunge in and swim to the Falls’ edge in the world’s most memorable infinity pool. After your adventure, you will enjoy a delicious meal (breakfast, lunch or high tea, depending on the time of your visit) before heading back to shore. Keep in mind a visit to the Devil’s Pool is only available in low-water season, typically from about August to mid-January.
If you’re traveling outside of those months (and perhaps looking for a slightly less adrenaline inducing experience), a visit to the Angel’s Pool is an option. Similar to the Devil’s Pool, Angel’s Pool is situated slightly back from the Falls, offering visitors a bit more comfort while still experiencing the epic view and thunderous roars of the Falls. Open during when water levels are higher, Angel’s Pool is a great option for when the water is too high to experience the Devil’s Pool. This means that you can experience at least one of the pools almost all year.
The Zimbabwean side tends to attract more visitors due to its larger infrastructure, wider range of accommodations (including intimate riverside tree house camps, exclusive safari lodges and even large hotels) and more extensive viewpoints. You will need to plan well in advance if you wish to visit during peak season (May – September) to secure your top accommodation choice. The vibrant town of Victoria Falls is bustling with a range of activities, restaurants and amenities on offer.
If you prefer a quieter and more intimate encounter with Victoria Falls, the Zambian side is a great choice. With fewer visitors, you can fully immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Falls. Livingstone offers a more relaxed atmosphere, allowing you to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding nature.
The time of year you visit Victoria Falls will significantly impact your experience. Weather and seasons are the same on both sides of the Falls. The mild, dry winter months generally range from May to mid-August, while you’ll find dry and hot summer weather between September and mid-November. The rainy season runs from around mid-November till around mid-March – typified by short showers or afternoon thunderstorms bringing welcome relief from the hot summer days.
Talk with your Journey Specialist about the best time to plan your visit. You might like to experience the Falls at their fullest flow (April/May) where mist from the waterfall can extend upwards of 1,200 feet into the air and be seen from 20 miles away. It’s best to view the Falls from the air during this season. Or you might prefer to see the Falls during a time that the water is in a lower state of flow (July/August) to enjoy the viewpoints to the maximum and possibly spot a ‘rainforest rainbow.’ The flow of the Falls is generally lowest from mid-October through December. It is still a fine time to visit, but the Falls are less impressive. Given that this natural wonder is the largest falling sheet of water in the world, many travelers opt to see it during higher water levels. Every season offers something special at the Falls.
Whitewater rafting conditions are highly seasonal and entirely dependent on rainfall which varies from year to year. Typically, low water season on the river runs from approximately Aug – late Dec and allows rafters to run a series of 19 rapids for a big day of adrenaline. Travelers visiting from Jan – Mar or May – July can still enjoy rafting during high water seasons, however they will only run rapids 11 – 23 for safety purposes. The intensity of the day is dependent on water levels, with lower levels usually equating to higher thrill levels.
Choosing between visiting Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean or Zambian side ultimately depends on your preferences for views, activities and atmosphere. The Zimbabwean side offers panoramic vistas, a wide array of activities and a bustling town nearby, while the Zambian side provides a more up-close encounter, tranquility and a chance to connect with nature. For an all-encompassing experience, we recommend exploring both sides, as each offers a unique perspective of this awe-inspiring natural wonder. Whichever side you choose, Victoria Falls will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on your travel memories.
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Photos courtesy AAC Marketing Director Beth McCabe, AAC Livingstone Club member Kate W., Imvelo, The Royal Livingstone Hotel, The Victoria Falls Hotel and Matetsi