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Swaziland

SWAZILAND TRAVEL GUIDE

Eswatini, officially the Kingdom of Eswatini and also known as Swaziland, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Eswatini, one of the last absolute monarchies (Umbuso weSwatini) in the world, is one of the smallest countries in Africa and has a well-earned reputation for friendliness in Southern Africa. It also contains several large game parks and reserves, which are sponsored by the government and are popular tourist destinations.

 

Deep purple mountain peaks dressed in a cloak of fine grey mist look down on rolling Savannah and the deep valley of Ezulwini, mighty rivers crash and explode their way down gorges and waterfalls flash silver in a tiny landlocked country in southern Africa.

 

Pretty as a picture and as exotic as any fantasy, Swaziland is Africa epitomised. This is where you can meet people that are warm, friendly and hospitable enough to make complete strangers feel at home, you can watch nimble fingers weave magic out of ordinary threads and see a hunk of wood transform into a smooth, shiny bowl.

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  • Capital: Mbabane; Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital

  • Government: Commonwealth monarchy

  • Currency: Lilangeni (SZL), plural Emalangeni

  • Area: 17,363 km²

  • Population: 1,136 million (2018)

  • Language: English & siSwati (official)

  • Religion: Zionist 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Traditional beliefs 15%

  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz (type M plug)

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Best Time To Go

SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

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Swaziland

BEST TIME FOR

SNOW SPORT IN SWAZILAND

HIKING & CYCLING IN SWAZILAND

You can enjoy outdoor activities in Swaziland throughout the year, depending on the altitude of where you are. The dry season from June to August makes it easier to spot wildlife.

BEACH OPTIONS IN SWAZILAND

SURFING IN SWAZILAND

KITESURF IN SWAZILAND

BEST TIME FOR

BEST TIME TO VISIT SWAZILAND

Swaziland has a subtropical climate with wet, hot summers (approximately 75% of annual rainfall occurs from October to March) and cold dry winters (April-September).

 

  • December to April - Full rivers and lush vegetation. Incwala festival takes place in Lobamba.
  • February & March - Buganu season – enjoy home-brewed marula beer in rural Swaziland.
  • May to September - Wonderful wildlife viewing in the lowveld. Don't miss the Umhlanga festival.

 

The best time to visit Swaziland is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. This is when the weather is mild and pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and wildlife viewing. The rainy season, from November to April, can make travel more difficult due to heavy rainfall and potential flooding.

SWAZILAND WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Swaziland has a subtropical climate with wet, hot summers (approximately 75% of annual rainfall occurs from October to March) and cold dry winters (April-September). Swaziland lies at the transition lines of major climatic zones, being influenced by air masses from different origins, such as equatorial convergence zone (summer rains), subtropical eastern continental moist maritime (onshore flow with occasional cyclones), dry continental tropical and marine west Mediterranean (winter rains, with rare snow). The country’s agro-ecological zones result in differentiated climatic conditions across its diverse topography and ecosystems, ranging from sub-humid and temperate in the highvelds to semi-arid and warm in the lowvelds.

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SWAZILAND TRAVEL COSTS

If you plan on visiting loads of National Parks in South Africa and Swaziland you might benefit from getting a Wild Card which provides access to 80+ Parks and Reserves around Southern Africa valid for one year. Internationals may only purchase an International All Parks Cluster unless in possession of a valid South African residency/work permit.

 

A sample budget for visiting Swaziland would depend on the individual's travel preferences and the duration of their stay. However, here is a rough estimate for a budget trip to Swaziland:

  • Accommodation: $15-20 per night for a budget-friendly guesthouse or hostel.
  • Food and drink: $10-15 per day for local meals and drinks.
  • Transportation: $10-20 per day for local buses, taxis, and car rental.
  • Activities: Prices vary, but some popular activities like hiking, wildlife safari and cultural tours can cost around $20-50 per person.

So, a budget of around $50-80 per day should cover your basic expenses. However, if you want to stay in more upscale accommodation, eat at nicer restaurants, or participate in more expensive activities, you will need to increase your budget accordingly.

It's worth noting that the official currency in Swaziland is the Lilangeni, but the South African Rand is also widely accepted.

Cost & Spending
Travel Tips

TRAVEL TIPS FOR SWAZILAND

SWAZILAND TRAVEL TIPS

  • Getting around is best done in your own vehicle, although if you travel light there is a good network of mini-bus shared taxis covering Swaziland. They run almost everywhere, with frequent stops en-route. They leave when full; no reservations are necessary.
  • For car rental it usually works out cheaper to rent a vehicle in South Africa and drive it over the Swazi border (you’ll need a permission letter from the rental company to cross the border).

Regions & Highlights

REGIONS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SWAZILAND

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SWAZILAND

  • Mkhaya Game Reserve - Watch wildlife, including rare black rhinos, at this excellent reserve.
  • Malolotja Nature Reserve - Walk or hike in this enchanting wilderness area.
  • Great Usutu River (Lusutfu River) - Shoot over white-water rapids on a day-long adventure.
  • Ezulwini Valley - Browse the valley's craft shops.
  • Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary - Explore on foot, horseback or by bike and relax in the comfortable lodges.
  • Sibebe Rock - Climb this massive granite dome just outside the capital and soaking up the lovely views.
  • Hlane Royal National Park - Come face-to-face with a pride of lions or watch white rhinos congregate at the accessible watering hole.

 

MBABANE

Swaziland’s capital and second-largest city, Mbabane is a relaxed and functional place perched in the cool highveld. There’s a handful of good restaurants and places to stay, but for the traveller the nearby Ezulwini and Malkerns Valleys have most of the attractions and, on the whole, a better choice of accommodation.

 

About 8km northeast of Mbabane is Sibebe Rock, a massive granite dome hulking over the surrounding countryside. It's the world's second-largest monolith, after Australia's Uluru, but is considerably less visited. Much of the rock is completely sheer, and dangerous if you should fall, but climbing it is a good adrenaline charge if you’re reasonably fit and relish looking down steep rock faces. Community guides operate guided hikes – ask at the visitor centre.

 

See the below map for more details and points of interest - or download KML / GPX

What To See & Do
Travel Map

CENTRAL SWAZILAND

The country's tourist hub, central Swaziland is a heady mix of culture, nature and epicurean indulgences, and has plenty to keep you occupied for a few days. There are wildlife reserves to explore, museums to visit, great restaurants to sample and quality handicrafts to bring home.

 

Swaziland's tourism centre, the Ezulwini Valley, begins just outside Mbabane but feels a world away from the hullabaloo of the capital. With an excellent selection of places to stay and wonderful craft shopping, it's a convenient base for many visitors.

 

  • The tranquil, thickly forested Mantenga Cultural Village & Nature Reserve offers a guided tour of the Swazi Cultural Village, a ‘living’ cultural village with authentic beehive huts and cultural displays, plus a sibhaca dance (performed daily at 11.30am and 3.15pm) and a visit to the impressive Mantenga Falls - all included in the entrance fee . The reserve is also great for hiking; day hikers pay only E50. Although it's not a big wildlife park, it offers a chance to see vervet monkeys, baboons, warthogs, nyalas and duikers.
  • Lobamba is an area that has played host to Swaziland’s monarchy for over two centuries. It’s home to some of the most notable buildings in the country. Despite its importance, Lobamba feels surprisingly quiet – except during the spectacular Incwala and Umhlanga ceremonies, when the nation gathers on the surrounding plains for several days of intense revelry.

 

MALOLOTJA NATURE RESERVE

One of Swaziland’s premier natural attractions, the beautiful Malolotja Nature Reserve is a true wilderness area that’s rugged and, for the most part, unspoilt. The reserve is laced by streams and cut by three rivers, including the Komati, which flows east through a gorge in a series of falls and rapids until it meets the lowveld. No prizes for guessing that this spectacular area is a fantastic playground for nature-lovers and ornithologists, with more than 280 species of bird. Don’t expect to see plenty of large mammals, though. It’s the scenery that’s the pull here, rather than the wildlife.

 

Malolotja offers some of the most inspirational hiking trails in Swaziland, so pack your sturdy shoes. Walking options range from short walks to multiday hikes. Well-known and much enjoyed walks include the 11.5km Malolotja Falls Trail, with superb views of the Malolotja Valley, and the 8km Komati River Trail.

 

NORTHEASTERN SWAZILAND

Within an easy drive of the Mozambique border, this remote corner is the country's top wildlife-watching region: you'll find a duo of excellent wildlife parks – Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve – as well as lesser-known Mlawula Rature Reserve that also begs exploration. If it's action you're after, the superb rapids of the Great Usutu River (Lusutfu River) provide an incredible playground.

 

The country’s largest protected area, well-organised Hlane Royal National Park is home to elephants, lions, leopards, white rhinos and many antelope species, and offers wonderfully low-key wildlife and bird-life watching. There's plenty to keep you occupied, including bush walking, wildlife drives, mountain biking and cultural tours.

 

The low-key Mlawula Nature Reserve, where the lowveld plains meet the Lubombo Mountains, boasts antelope species and a few spotted hyenas, among others, plus rewarding birdwatching. Keep your expectations in check, though; wildlife is more elusive here than anywhere else in the country and visitor infrastructure is fairly limited. The park's real highlight is its network of walking trails amid beautifully scenic landscapes.

 

The crowning glory of Swaziland's parks, the top-notch and stunning Mkhaya Game Reserve is famous for its black and white rhino populations. Its other animals include roan and sable antelope, giraffes, tsessebe, buffaloes and elephants, along with a rich diversity of birds. If you’re lucky, you might spot the elusive narina trogon and other rare bird species. Note that children under 10 are not allowed in the park.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN SWAZILAND

Swaziland
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN SWAZILAND

WHAT TO EAT IN SWAZILAND

When visiting Swaziland, traditional foods you should try include:

  • Sima: a porridge made from ground corn, usually served as a side dish
  • Umncweba: A dish made from pumpkin leaves and beans
  • Inyama: meat, usually beef or goat, which is grilled or stewed
  • Sishwala: a thick porridge made from ground corn and beans
  • Ujeqe: a dish of roasted or fried termites, often served as a snack or appetizer

You can also find international cuisine like pizza and pasta in some restaurants in the cities like Mbabane and Manzini.

 

Also, it is worth trying some traditional drinks such as:

  • Umqombothi: Traditional beer made from sorghum or maize
  • Umkhwetha: a traditional spirit made from fermenting maize or sorghum

Note that in some traditional Swazi events, you may be offered food or drink in a communal bowl or pot, it is considered rude to refuse it.

LGBTQ IN SWAZILAND

Swaziland

WHERE TO STAY IN SWAZILAND

For your first visit to Swaziland (now officially known as Eswatini), choosing the right base is essential to exploring the country's stunning landscapes, rich culture, and wildlife experiences. Here's a breakdown of top areas and accommodations:


Where To Stay In Ezulwini Valley:

The Ezulwini Valley is Swaziland's premier tourist area, known for its beautiful scenery, cultural attractions, and proximity to wildlife reserves, offering a convenient and central location for exploring the country.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at Mantenga Lodge for affordable rooms and a tranquil setting near Ezulwini's cultural sites and craft markets.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Royal Swazi Spa Hotel provides comfortable accommodations with modern amenities and easy access to Ezulwini's attractions and activities.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of the Royal Villas Swaziland, featuring upscale rooms, a spa, and championship golf courses.

Best Value Tip: Look for accommodation packages that include meals or activities to maximize your value and experience in Ezulwini.


Where To Stay In Mbabane:

Mbabane is the capital city of Swaziland, offering a mix of urban amenities, cultural experiences, and access to nearby nature reserves, making it a convenient base for exploring both city life and the surrounding wilderness.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at The Place Guest House for affordable rooms and a central location near Mbabane's markets and cultural attractions.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Mountain Inn provides comfortable accommodations with scenic views and easy access to Mbabane's shopping and dining areas.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of the Hilton Garden Inn Mbabane, featuring upscale rooms, a fitness center, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Best Value Tip: Visit Mbabane during the weekdays for better rates and fewer crowds, while still enjoying access to the city's amenities and attractions.


Where To Stay In Hlane Royal National Park:

Hlane Royal National Park is Swaziland's largest protected area, known for its diverse wildlife, including lions, elephants, and rhinos, offering a unique safari experience and immersion in nature.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at Hlane Camp for affordable rondavel huts and a rustic bush experience in the heart of the national park.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Hlane Game Lodge provides comfortable accommodations with ensuite rooms and guided safari activities for a memorable wildlife experience.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of Hlane's Ndlovu Camp, featuring upscale chalets, a swimming pool, and guided game drives.

Best Value Tip: Book accommodation packages that include meals and guided activities for a comprehensive safari experience and better value for your stay in Hlane.


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