Despite its recent political troubles, Zimbabwe remains one of Africa’s safest, friendliest and most affordable travel destinations. It also possesses some stunning highlights, ranging from the iconic Victoria Falls and mysterious ruined city of Great Zimbabwe to world-class safari destinations such as Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks. Our Zimbabwe expert Philip Briggs recently spent six weeks revisiting this fabulous country, and these are some of the best good-value lodges, camps and hotels where he stayed on his travels.


Farmhouse Lodge, Matobo National Park

Farmhouse Lodge

Situated on a scenic 400-hectare private reserve bordering Matobo National Park, this delightful family friendly lodge accommodates guests in a dozen Cape Dutch–style thatched cottages. There is also a magnificent campsite with a viewing tower and spectacular views over the Matopos Hills. The Farmhouse is a great base for tracking rhinos and visiting ancient rock-art sites in the nearby national park.

Almost as big an attraction is the extensive network of self-guided trails through the pristine African bush of their private reserve. Suitable for walking, running or cycling, these color-coded trails lead past some of the massive granite outcrops typical of Matopos, and you should see plenty of wildlife, including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and other antelope.


Bulawayo Club, Bulawayo

Bulawayo Club

Set in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, the Bulawayo Club combines a couldn’t-be-more-central location with a fascinating time-warped character reflecting its origins as a male-only bastion of the European settler community. Established in 1895, the club has occupied the same three-story premises since the 1930s, when the foundation stone was laid by the future King George VI.

Although club membership is now dominated by indigenous Zimbabweans and includes women, the striking Edwardian architecture and outmoded decor are firmly rooted in another more chauvinistic era; one where ashtrays in the toilet cubicles, rubbish bins made from hollowed-out elephants’ feet, and trophy antelope heads gazing down from the walls were all the rage. Despite these quirky and outdated touches, the accommodations and restaurant both represent great value, and it’s a perfect base for exploring the jacaranda-lined streets of central Bulawayo.

Bulawayo Club Tours

PheZulu Guest Lodge, Victoria Falls

PheZulu Guest Lodge

Our favorite hideaway in the leafy suburbs of Victoria Falls town, PheZulu combines the funky decor and intimate vibe of a boutique hotel with the easygoing, sociable atmosphere of an upmarket backpackers. The comfortable rooms here come with king-size beds, walk-in mosquito nets and private balconies. There’s a swimming pool in the beautifully manicured garden, where lush tropical trees shade the free-form flower beds, and a chilled bar and terrace restaurant hung with evocative Tami Walker prints.

The breakfast is about the best we had anywhere in Zimbabwe (delicious fresh croissants and scones) and the kitchen also serves tasty and generously proportioned dinners. Despite the suburban location, don’t be too surprised if, as we did, you wake up to find fresh elephant dung has been deposited overnight on the pavement outside the lodge.

PheZulu Guest Lodge Tours

Hwange Safari Lodge, Hwange National Park

Hwange Safari Lodge

Like the proverbial book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover, Hwange Safari Lodge has a rather shabby exterior that makes a poor first impression. Built in 1971, this monolithic 99-room edifice is the biggest and oldest lodge servicing Hwange, Zimbabwe’s largest national park, and one of the few that’s priced within reach of budget-conscious visitors.

Despite the timeworn facade, the rooms, which were renovated over 2022 and 2023, are very spacious and feel unexpectedly modern, coming as they do with air-con, TV, huge walk-in mosquito nets, subtle African decor and full-length windows overlooking the large acacia-studded grounds and swimming pool. The most outstanding feature of Hwange Safari Lodge is the prolific wildlife that’s attracted to the twin waterholes in front of it. On a busy evening, this might include literally hundreds of elephants and possibly lions or leopards, all within photographic range.

Hwange Safari Lodge Tours

Cutty Sark Hotel, Kariba

Cutty Sark Hotel

Set in large, well-wooded gardens running down to Lake Kariba, Cutty Sark is a comfortable, family friendly establishment that’s been given a new lease of life under the hands-on management of Mark and Jackie Lawrence. It overlooks a part of the lake where hippos are resident, while elephant and baboon are regular visitors, particularly when the marula trees are in fruit.

Most of the accommodations here are self-catering, and the units are very well equipped, with open-plan kitchens that include a fridge, freezer, gas oven and pretty much every cooking utensil under the sun. Alternatively, you can eat at the terrace bistro, which specializes in spicy Mozambican-style grilled chicken, and overlooks the swimming pool. The property also houses Kariba’s top supermarket, which is run by Crispy Fresh, the main supplier of produce to most lodges near Kariba since the 1990s.


Troutbeck Resort, Nyanga National Park

Troutbeck Resort

Founded by Major Herbert MacIlwaine in 1947, Troutbeck Resort feels more like a transplant from the Scottish Highlands than it does a typical African lodge. This isn’t too surprising, given that it stands at a crisp and chilly altitude of 2,200m/7,200ft in grassy green grounds surrounded by the pine-swathed slopes of Zimbabwe’s beautiful Eastern Highlands.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Troutbeck is a great place for rambling, hiking and horseback riding, and it is also home to a highly rated 18-hole golf course. Indoors, while the rooms are agreeably modern in feel, the bar and restaurant ooze a wood-paneled period character illuminated by a log fire that has reputedly burnt non-stop since the hotel opened more than 75 years ago.

Troutbeck Resort Tours

Great Zimbabwe Hotel (Standing Tents), Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe Hotel, Standing Tents

Locations don’t get much more convenient than the Great Zimbabwe Hotel, literally five minutes’ walk from the Unesco World Heritage Site for which it is named. This is the abandoned city of Great Zimbabwe, which was constructed from stone entirely without mortar in medieval times, and surely ranks as the most impressive ruin in subequatorial Africa, making it an essential inclusion on any tour of the country.

For budget travelers, a great base for doing this is the standing tents at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel, which are very competitively priced and equally convenient. You can also admire the giant palms and jacarandas in the leafy grounds, eat in the hotel’s homely thatched restaurant, chill around the swimming pool, or watch the antics of the resident troop of vervet monkeys.

Great Zimbabwe Hotel Tours

Chipale Tented Camp, Gonarezhou National Park

Chipale Tented Camp

Opened in July 2023, this latest addition to Gonarezhou National Park’s excellent network of budget-friendly campsites and self-catering camps has a lovely location on a baobab-lined bend in the Runde River. It also stands close to the Chilojo Cliffs, a 14km-/9mi-long, 200m-/650ft-high escarpment of golden sandstone that ranks as one of the most spectacular natural landmarks anywhere in Zimbabwe. Accommodations are in comfortable standing tents that are raised on wooden decks and come with full self-catering amenities.

Gonarezhou NP Tours

By Philip Briggs
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

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