Last Updated March 2018
Victoria Falls is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means ‘the Smoke that Thunders’ in the local languages of Lozi or Kololo.
The first time I visited Victoria Falls, I heard the roar of the water (the ‘thunder’) crashing down into the gorge below and was covered in a fine mist (the ‘smoke’) before I even caught a glimpse of the falls themselves. I’d even see the mist rising into the sky as I flew into the airport. It is, for sure, one of the most spectacular places to visit on earth.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Victoria Falls
Whilst most people would be content with visiting Victoria Falls once, or maybe even twice, I’ve been to Victoria Falls seven times. I’ve visited five times by day, twice by night and at four different times of the year.
As the falls change dramatically with the seasons, each time has been a very different and profound experience and they never fail to blow me away.
- April – Mid-November: This is the dry season. Around April/May, the falls are in full flow. The water levels then start to drop throughout the season. By November the falls are just a trickle on the Zambian side so you won’t see much water at all, so if you want to see the water, you’ll either have to go to the Zimbabawean side or take a trip to the Devil’s Pool.
- Mid-November – March: This is the rainy season, when the river begins to fill back up again. By March the falls are bursting, so it’s hard to see them up close.
Check out the difference:
Victoria Falls in May
The first time I went was in May when the falls were full to bursting. The rainy season, which runs from November to April, causes the river to swell, so visiting towards the end or just after this time, you will see Victoria Falls in all her magnificent glory. The roaring of thunder hits you, long before you see any water. Even as you enter the park, a fine mist gently coats your skin and clothes. As you get closer, the spray gets stronger until you are completely soaked. A fleece or rain coat are good to take to keep you warm!
There are a couple of downsides to visiting at this time of year though. The spray is so strong it’s difficult to get really close, especially to take photographs – a waterproof camera helps! Then there’s rafting, sometimes the trips stop between March to May when the water level is too high. So if rafting is high on your priority list, go later in the year!
Victoria Falls in July
This is a great time to visit Victoria Falls. It’s still pretty full, and you will still get wet, but you can get some good pictures of the falls and the rainbows they create.
The water is also low enough, so all the rapids are open for rafting but the river isn’t completely wild yet! There’s usually no rainfall at all between May and August and night time can be really cold, so take warm clothing, especially if you are camping and likely to be spending lots of time outdoors.
Victoria Falls in September
By September the weather is getting hotter and the falls, on the Zambian side at least, are almost dried up. In fact you can walk the full length of the trail without getting wet at all – a massive contrast to other times in the year.
Victoria Falls in November
By November, the water has pretty much dried up.
Whilst you don’t feel, see or hear the full force of the water, one thing you do get, is a chance to really appreciate the full magnitude of the gorge! Still pretty cool right?
However, the falls will still be flowing on the Zimbabwe side and you can get the the KAZA visa (see below) which allows you entry into Zimbabwe too, so you can pop over the border and get the best of both worlds.
And, during the dry season, you can take a trip to the Devil’s Pool, a little spot at the top of the falls where you can swim during low water (August to January usually). A ledge creates a barrier at the top of the falls, so that you can sit and peer over the edge and not plummet to your death… This isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can face it, it’s the ultimate infinity pool and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
This is also the best time for white water rafting – especially if you like your rivers pretty wild! A real adrenaline rush!
It all depends on your preference and what activities you want to do, but any time of year is amazing and you won’t be disappointed I’m sure! My favourite time is between July and October.
Zambia or Zimbabwe?
Victoria Falls sits right on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, so which side are they best viewed from?
- During the dry season, the falls are best viewed from the Zimbabwe side, but then Zambia has the Devil’s Pool, which one of the best things to do at that time of year!
- Zimbabwe tends to have the more ‘complete’ view of the falls, but in Zambia you can get right up close and the views are amazing there too.
- Vic Falls town is a closer to the falls than Livingstone, but it’s only a short taxi ride away anyway.
- Both places have nearby airports.
Many people say they are better from the Zimbabwe side, but I love Livingstone in Zambia as a place to stay, but I have never stayed in Vic Falls town, so it’s hard to compare. I have heard that Vic Falls is smaller and more touristy with more hotels and restaurants, based on that, my vote would still go to Livingstone.
Basically, both sides have their merits! So I would maybe try and see them from both sides if you can and maybe also stay on both sides! As mentioned above, you can get the KAZA visa which allows you to move back and forth between the two, so you don’t have to choose!
Victoria Falls Lunar Rainbow or Moonbow
When the water level is high and the moon is full the falls open at night and are home to a Lunar Rainbow or Moonbow. Whatever you want to call it, seeing a rainbow at night is pretty surreal and magical.
The best time for viewing is between April – July and is said to be best from the Zambian side. You can see the dates here.
Where to Stay in Livingstone
Livingstone has somewhere to suit every budget, from backpacker lodges to super high end lodges! The high end places tend to be down by the river and the budget to mid-range places tend to be nearer to town.
- The Royal Livingstone: A ten minute drive from town, this is probably the most famous hotel around, popular with movie stars and presidents! If you can’t afford to stay, you can always visit for a spot of afternoon tea or a cocktail.
- Tongabezi Lodge: This lodge on the Zambezi is top of the range, known for it’s beauty and tranquility. It’s around a twenty minute drive out of town.
- The River Club: Another gorgeous place to stay on the Zambezi.
- The Islands of Siankaba: This beautiful lodge an hour outside of Livingstone is often voted the top place to stay in the area – the ultimate getaway.
- Chundukwa River Lodge: Thirty minutes drive outside of Livingstone on the banks of the Zambezi, this is a wonderfully romantic destination.
- Avani Victoria Falls: Formerly the Zambezi Sun and right next door to The Royal Livingstone, giraffe and zebra can often be found wandering the grounds.
- Munga Eco Lodge: One of the newer lodges, in between town and the Falls but with great reviews.
- Victoria Falls Waterfront: Located near to Maramba River Lodge, outside of the town centre on the Zambezi River, this is a good option if you’re looking for riverside romance but without the huge price tag.
- Tabonina Guesthouse: Small guest house with a great reputation for friendly staff and cleanliness.
- ZigZag: Nice but basic guest house and a good place for brunch.
- Olga’s Guest House: Their restaurant serves the best pizza in town! (10% discount if you book through your volunteer agency or a church).
- Ngolide Lodge: In the town centre, this lodge has a great reputation.
- Chanters Lodge: A highly recommended lodge near to the town centre.
- Green Tree Lodge: In town but set quite far back off the main road.
- Maramba River Lodge: This lodge is around 10 minutes drive from Livingstone towards the falls, is in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and overlooks the Maramba River, so you’ll most likely see animals from here, gets great reviews.
- Chrismar Hotel: An affordable lodge with a nice pool on the edge of Victoria Falls Game Park, just a few minutes drive from Victoria Falls.
- Fawlty Towers: In a very central location, Fawlty Towers is a very popular place to stay!
- Jollyboys Backpackers: Pretty lively with cold beers and nice food. They have private rooms, dorms and space to camp.
- Livingstone Backpackers: Self-catering and braai/bbq facilities. Camping is also available.
- Zinga Backpackers: Centrally located, great staff.
How to Get to Victoria Falls
There are airports on both the Zambian and Zimbabwe side and both towns are well connected by bus.
A taxi to Victoria Falls from Livingstone town costs around $10 or some hotels/guesthouses will provide a free shuttle bus. Do not attempt to walk to the falls from Livingstone as the road is not safe – it’s busy, there are animals about and people have been robbed along this road.
From the Vic Falls in Zimbabwe, you can easily walk to the falls from town, as it’s a lot closer on that side.
Zambia & Zimbabwe Visas
Most nationalities can get visas on arrival, however, it’s always best to check on the relevant government websites for Zambia and Zimbabwe to ensure that your passport is on the list! if it’s not, then you will need to apply for your visas in advance.
Some passport holders do not need visas at all.
If you are arriving at either Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka, Zambia), Harry Mwaanga International Airport (Livingstone, Zambia), Harare International Airport (Zimbabwe), Victoria Falls International Airport (Zimbabwe), Kazungula Border (with Botswana) or the Victoria Falls Border (between Zambia/Zimbabwe) you can purchase the KAZA UniVisa* which costs $50 and is valid for 30 days. This allows you to move freely between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Just be aware that if you leave Zambia or Zimbabwe (for instance to go on an overnight safari to Botswana), this visa becomes null and void, so you will need to buy another visa for re-entry. The ONLY exception to this, is if you take a day trip to Botswana.
*Update: They are now saying that the KAZA UniVisa is available at ALL ports of entry into Zambia and Zimbabwe. Even if this is true, I wouldn’t bank on them having them in stock, but by all means ask! They once ran out of these visas (for months) so no-one could buy them and I believe this happens frequently! So bring extra dollars just in case. TIA.
Single or Double Entry Visas
If you are arriving overland from anywhere else (ie. coming from Malawi) and cannot get a KAZA Univisa or you don’t need one, here are your options:
- Single Entry Visa to either Zambia ($50) Zimbabwe ($30*): This will just allow you into the one country, so you will not be able to leave and come back for free unless you go on a day trip to Botswana.
- Double Entry Visa to either Zambia ($80) or Zimbabwe ($45*): This allows you to leave the country once (whichever one you bought the visa for) and return once. So if you buy a Zambian visa, go to Zimbabwe for the day or camp overnight in Botswana and then go back to Zambia, that’s it. No more free entries after that.
- Single Entry Visa ($50/$30) + a KAZA UniVisa ($50): You should be able to buy the KAZA UniVisa either at the Kazungula Border when returning from Botswana or at the Victoria Falls border. Just be aware that once you buy the KAZA UniVisa, you have to stay within Zambia and Zimbabwe, so if you are planning on doing this, go to Botswana first, otherwise you void the KAZA UniVisa and end up having to pay again! If you can get the KAZA UniVisa, you may as well, as it’s the same price as single entry but gives you more freedom.
- Transit Visa ($50): Zambia also has a transit visa option, but it costs the same as a single entry visa so I’m not sure why you would bother?
- Day Tripper ($20): If you want to visit Zambia for a day from either Botswana or Zimbabwe, you can get a day tripper visa which might work out a little cheaper. Only available at the Kazungula and Victoria Falls borders.
*Please Note: For Zimbabwe, some people pay different fees for visas. For instance, British and Irish passport holders pay $55 for a single entry and $70 for double entry. You can see the current prices and information here.
Multiple Entry Visas
These are only available in advance from the relevant consulate and are not usually necessary unless you are go
This is only intended as a guide as the rules can change at short notice so please keep an eye on the relevant government websites.
Visiting Victoria Falls – Essential Info
As of May 2017, the cost of entry is $20pp in Zambia and $30pp in Zimbabwe. A guide is usually an extra $20, however you don’t really need a guide and it is fine to explore on your own.
If you want to bungee jump (or do the other extreme activities), you do not have to pay to enter the national park, simply head to the ZimZam bridge.
- From here you can pass over the border into Zimbabwe – see above regarding visas.
- Beware the baboons. Baboons run wild and whilst they won’t usually come near you, or hurt you, they are opportunists and they can bite. So if you are swinging your bag, they may think there’s food in it and run off with it (I’ve seen it happen)! Once they realise there’s not, they’ll drop it – or throw it over a cliff. Bye bye camera! So keep your bags close to you, up off the floor. And to be safe… don’t bring any food with you.
- If you’re visiting the lunar rainbow, take a torch, it’s very dark on the paths.
- Wear steady shoes as it can get slippy.
- If you’re visiting during high water, perhaps bring a rain coat and make sure you have a way of water proofing your camera, either with a waterproof bag or a plastic bag, as you will get soaked!
Want to come and experience the magic of Victoria Falls for yourself? Then come on the next Rock My Zambia, Botswana, Malawi Adventure!
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