Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa dwarfed by, and often overlooked in favour of its large neighbours, South Africa and Mozambique. But, despite its diminutive size, Eswatini offers a wealth of diverse attractions and experiences that make it an intriguing destination for travellers. From its rich cultural heritage to its stunning natural landscapes and its thrilling safaris, Eswatini has something for everyone. As it’s less than 17500 sq km (6750 sq miles) it’s very easy to travel around the whole country and take in all the variety on offer. It’s also a very safe, welcoming and friendly destination where visitors are all greeted with a warm and genuine smile. Take a look now at our top 10 places to visit in Eswatini to ensure an unforgettable adventure!
Start your journey in Eswatini by visiting the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This protected area is home to a vast array of wildlife, including zebras, wildebeests, and antelopes. With no predators, the park offers a relaxed introduction to safaris ‘on your own terms’ and is easy to explore independently on foot, by bike, or on horseback. Enjoy the breath-taking scenery as you encounter a variety of magnificent creatures up close.
For an even more immersive wildlife experience, head to Hlane Royal National Park. This park is renowned for its large populations of elephants and rhinos, plus lions, and other majestic safari animals. Embark on a thrilling game drive or guided walking safari to witness these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.
Located in the centre of Eswatini, the Ezulwini Valley is the picturesque heart of Eswatini’s tourism, known for its stunning setting and vibrant culture. Explore a traditional Swazi village, visit the craft markets, immerse yourself in the local way of life, or even grab a quick round of golf! If you are there at the right time, don’t miss the opportunity to witness traditional ceremonies and dances, which showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage.
To delve deeper into Eswatini’s cultural traditions, a visit to Mantenga Cultural Village is a must. Here, in a re-created but now fully inhabited living and breathing 19th century traditional Swazi village you can learn about the Swazi people’s customs, arts, and crafts. Plus there is a great opportunity to experience, and join in with, traditional music and dance performances.
For art and craft lovers, a visit to the Ngwenya Glass Factory is a must. Watch skilled craftsmen transform recycled glass into stunning creations, including vases, bowls, and sculptures. Take a tour to learn about the glass-making process and the remarkable eco-credentials, and buy unique souvenirs to bring back home.
Nature enthusiasts will be captivated by the beauty of the Malolotja Nature Reserve. This vast wilderness area boasts dramatic mountain landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and diverse flora and fauna. Embark on hiking trails, go birdwatching, or take on the thrilling tree-top canopy tour – a series of exciting zip-wires that zig-zag across a picturesque gorge.
Challenge yourself by conquering Sibebe Rock, the world’s second-largest monolith after Australia’s Ulhuru (Ayer’s Rock). A hike to the summit rewards you with mind-blowing panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. This iconic landmark also holds cultural significance for the Swazi people.
Witness the creativity of local craftsmen at the Swazi Candles workshop. Marvel at the intricate designs and vibrant colours of the handmade candles, which are shaped into various animals and symbols. With more of Eswatini’s famed artisans found in the same complex, you’ll be spoiled for choice of what to take home as a reminder of your time in Eswatini.
Shewula Nature Reserve in the Lubombo Mountains is home to the Shewula Mountain Camp. This community-run camp offers an immersive experience amidst amazing landscapes, promoting responsible travel and cultural exchange. Guests can enjoy traditional Swazi hospitality, guided nature walks, and authentic encounters with the local community, leaving a positive impact on both nature and people.
End your Eswatini adventure with a visit to Mkhaya Game Reserve, a haven for rare and endangered species. This private reserve offers exceptional opportunities to spot black and white rhinos, elephants, buffalo, and various antelope species. It is often cited as one of the best places in the world for rhino experiences. Take an unforgettab le safari and witness the conservation efforts in place to protect these remarkable animals.
Eswatini’s charm lies in its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and diverse wildlife. Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural immersion, or a peaceful retreat, Eswatini offers an array of experiences to suit every traveller’s interests. From wildlife safaris to cultural villages and nature reserves, Eswatini promises an unforgettable journey filled with beauty, authenticity, and warm Swazi hospitality. Small really is beautiful!
First published in Travel Essence Magazine September 2023