Eswatini, previously Swaziland, is a culturally varied and majestic monarchy located between northeastern South Africa and southern Mozambique.
On April 19, 2019, King Mswati III adopted the new name Eswatini, which translates as “Swaziland.” This country is a hidden gem for many travelers, but it is sometimes neglected due to its proximity to South Africa on the west and Mozambique on the right.
The Kingdom of Eswatini is one of Africa’s smallest countries, with a population of slightly more than 1,357,161 million people. While Eswatini is not a large country in terms of land area, the variety of activities, lodgings, and culture make it well worth a visit.
The Royal National Park of Hlane
No other Eswatini game reserve comes close to Hlane’s abundance of bucket-list items and mind-boggling biodiversity.
After all, this is the only place in the country where you may see a lion (just repatriated), an elephant, and a rhino all on the same day – three of the country’s Big Five.
Note: The safari experience is well cultivated here, with rustic campsites coexisting with more modern facilities.
There is also a large network of well-maintained game paths that provide excellent visibility between the thorn forests and savannahs.
Eswatini’s capital, in all but name, is the small town of Lobamba in the highlands.
Although it shares the title with Mbabane, it is here that tourists will find the full of the state machinery: the beautiful Lozitha Palace, which is home to the Queen Mother; the Eswatini Parliament; and the honorific memorials to the country’s freedom hero, King Sobhuza II.
If you’re still looking for something to do, go to the intriguing National Museum of Eswatini, where the collections disclose stories from the British colonial past, and one colorful head of the Hindu god Krishna speaks of trading tales with the subcontinent across the Arabian Sea.
Visit Malolotja Nature Reserve
The Malolotja Nature Reserve, which straddles Eswatini’s northwest border with South Africa, is one of the country’s most beautiful game reserves.
The Malolotja Nature Reserve is an amazing spot for safari lovers and both hikers and scenery lovers. Here is why:
- It’s not just about the safari because of the vast expanses of mountains and steep river gorges; the scenery is much more stunning than the safari itself.
- Malolotja is a fantastic destination for individuals who prefer hiking or mountain biking because it boasts many beautiful trails and paths to discover.
Ezulwini Valley: A Tourist Attraction
Ezulwini Valley, often known as the ‘Valley of Heaven,’ is one of Eswatini’s most beautiful scenic areas, and it is only a short drive from the country’s capital, Mbabane, making it a favorite tourist destination.
Because this area has been heavily developed for tourism, there are many hotels and restaurants in and around Ezulwini, which is around 30 kilometers in length.
In this location, the trek around Sheba’s Breast and Execution Rock offers the best views of the valley and its surroundings.
The Execution Rock
Execution Rock is a must-see if you’re passing through the Ezulwini Valley, and it’s worth seeing for both its beautiful beauty and its horrific past.
Criminals were executed by being pushed from the top of the prominent peak, where they would subsequently plummet to their deaths, giving rise to the rock’s moniker.
You’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Ezulwini Valley and its surroundings from the peak of Execution Rock; nevertheless, don’t venture too far.
Mbuluzi Game Reserve
The Mbuluzi Game Reserve, which is privately owned, is a tranquil haven on the banks of the croc-infested Mlawula River.
The most popular activities here are:
- Self-guided wildlife safaris, where you can view giraffe, zebra, kudu, jackal, wildebeest, and nyala during the day and hyenas, genets, servals, and honey badgers at night.
- Birding is also a lot of fun, with over 300 different species to choose from, including the majestic Narina trogon.
- Hiking the well-marked network of nature paths, mountain biking along jeep tracks or fishing in the two rivers are all options for visitors.
There are numerous lodging alternatives. There are also riverfront campsites, safari tents, and a range of family options.
Despite the absence of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino), guests enjoy free access to Mlawula Game Reserve and Hlane Royal National Park, including white rhinos and elephants.
Phophonyane Falls and Malolotja Nature Reserves
Malolotja Nature Reserve in northwest Eswatini is the country’s largest protected area, covering 18,000 hectares.
The reserve’s name translates as “river with multiple rapids and waterfalls,” as the Malolotja River flows through it, creating a sequence of waterfalls, including the country’s highest cascade, the Malolotja Falls.
TIP: Wildflowers enhance the stunning sceneries, ranging from marshes and meadows to dense riverine woodlands, in the spring and summer.
Tourists can go on multi-day wilderness journeys thanks to the reserve’s extensive network of hiking paths and backpacking camps.
The wildlife is well-known for its reptiles and birds, including nesting colonies of endangered species like the blue crane and the bald ibis.
Rock hyraxes, eland, and zebra are among the animals that inhabit there. The Treetop Canopy Tour, which ziplines across the forest, is amazing to explore the reserve.
The Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge and Nature Reserve are about a 40-minute drive northeast of here.
The reserve’s dense forests, rivers, waterfalls, and scenic hiking trails protect a great diversity of habitats in a small area.
Staying here will provide you with a peaceful escape into the stunning Swazi countryside. Guests can stay in safari tents, beehive huts, or self-catering cottages.
Reserve of Mantenga
Mantenga Environment Reserve provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with Swazi culture and the environment.
The Mantenga Cultural Village, a reproduction of Swazi life in the 1850s, is located on this small 725-hectare reserve.
Visitors can take guided tours to learn about Swazi culture and customs, as well as weave mountain grass and grind grains and watch stunning performances of traditional songs and dance.
The majestic Mantenga Falls, Eswatini’s most famous waterfall with the highest volume of water, is the reserve’s showpiece.
The reserve also protects baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies, porcupines, rock hyraxes, servals, leopards, and a variety of antelope species, as well as a plethora of birds.
The reserve is accessible by foot, automobile, or mountain bike.
NOTE: Day visitors are welcome, while overnight travelers can stay at Mantenga Lodge on the reserve.
Make a Stopover at Piggs Peak
Piggs Peak, which is widely accessible, is the historical epicenter of Eswatini’s gold rush.
Its location in the hills to the north drew a variety of miners and prospectors who came to dig in the town’s shafts.
Unfortunately, the mineral wealth never materialized, and Piggs Peak’s gold faces were closed less than 70 years after they opened.
Today, the area is noted for its excellent trekking, intriguing specialty shops, and pleasant homestays.
TIP: It’s an ideal stopover for visitors on their route to South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
Visit Big Bend
Big Bend, one of the largest urban areas along the Maputo River’s meanders (the town literally occupies a big bend in the river), has long served as a hub for Eswatini’s significant sugarcane growing economy.
The community is charming, with a few stores and inns, but the position is crucial.
The grasslands and agricultural area give way to the stony ascents of the Lubombo Mountains in the distance.
Small eco-lodges dot the surrounding hills, walking trails descend into the deep-cut gorges and canyons to the east, and the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve’s magnificent meadows are also on the menu.
Manzini “The hub”
This thriving industrial area in central Eswatini was once called after explorer Arthur Bremer, one of the first colonial leaders to establish this cool, temperate location as an official commercial center.
Today, the city has kept its mercantile character and is indisputably the country’s most important economic engine.
TIP: Business hotels, trade shows, and the Matsapha International Airport are all nearby.
It’s little surprise that inhabitants refer to the dynamic region as “The Hub”.
Nsangwini Cave Refuge
This community-led initiative in the Nkomati Valley, southeast of Piggs Peak, is Eswatini’s most prominent example of San rock art.
A local guide will take you down the short, rocky road to the Nsanqwini Cave Shelter, explaining the significance of the ancient images and animals painted on the granite overhang.
Sibebe Rock: World’s Largest Granite Dome
Sibebe, the world’s largest granite dome, is located about 8 kilometers south of Mbabane.
Steep routes snake their way up the exposed rock face until they reach the peak, a wonderland of cliffs and massive boulders.
The views, as well as the wildflowers and rural homesteads, are breathtaking.
Access is available through several locations, including a community-based project in Pine Valley.
NOTE: Don’t do it in a deluge or during an electrical storm.
Complex Swazi Candles
This artisan area, a one-stop shop for individuals shopping for souvenirs, can be found on the road to Malkerns from Mbabane or Manzini and is around 20 minutes from either location.
Aside from the candle factory, where visitors can watch artists at work, there are several kiosks and businesses that sell a variety of items such as baskets, sculptures, mohair textiles, and batiks, among others.
In addition, there is a fantastic café on the site to enjoy.
Ceremony in Umhlanga
In late August/early September, the most colorful cultural festival at Eswatini is an eight-day holy chastity celebration held in the royal kraal, Ludzidzini.
Thousands of girls march to collect reeds for the queen mother, then spend two days dancing, singing, and performing in front of the monarch.
River rafting on the Great Usutu
This adrenaline-pumping journey along Eswatini’s major river is the most popular of the country’s many adventure sports.
Spend an entire or portion of the day exploring the wild gorges, navigating rapids, waterfalls, and the occasional crocodile.
The activity was created by Swazi Trails, which established Eswatini as:
- an adventure destination
- It offers various methods to scare oneself silly in the middle of nature’s grandeur.
House on Fire and Mandela’s
This lovely family property on the way to Malkerns has blossomed into a sizable tourist complex, replete with a bed and breakfast, restaurant, internet café, and craft center
Most notably, House on Fire is a one-of-a-kind performing arts venue focused on a Shakespearian Globe-style theatre that hosts Bushfire, a major festival of southern African music and arts, each May.
NOTE: Tourists visiting Eswatini for less than 60 days do not need a visa. The majority of visitors arrive via South Africa.
Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, is well-known for its distinct culture and year-round cultural activities. As Africa’s only surviving absolute monarchy,
Eswatini has many events and rituals that focus on commemorating the royal family, such as the traditional Incwala, where the king blesses the people to eat the first harvests of the year.
If you don’t have a certain time to visit this lovely country, consider going during one of the festivities for a memorable trip.