Travel Guide

Touring Swaziland

To give Swaziland the justice it deserves, you really need more than the one or two nights that visitors in transit find themselves with as they are whisked through to their next destination. Swaziland has so much to offer and tourists can benefit greatly from the fact that, with it being so small, every major attraction can be found within just two hours of Mbabane, the Ezulwini Valley or Manzini. Whilst you can tick off plenty of the ‘must-see’ attractions in a couple of days, a longer time is really needed to give both these magical experiences, and Swaziland, justice.

Below are a number of suggestions for your itinerary. The beauty of Swaziland’s size is that you can change direction or revise your plans on a whim (advance bookings notwithstanding). Wherever you are in the kingdom, you’re never far from where you want to go.

As suggested above, the itineraries listed are no more than 2.5hrs away from each by car. Bear this in mind when planning your trip, and whilst it’s important to relax in Swaziland and really take in your surrounds, make the most of your days and pack in a couple of attractions when possible. Try to plan your days well, using the mornings to get started on a days trek, ensuring the majority of your strenuous walking is done in the morning before you’re caught by the midday heat. The majority of wildlife is seen at either dawn or dusk, so making sure you get an overnight stay in reserves you visit is important to give you the best chance of seeing something special. 

Explore the capital and surrounding area: (1–3 days)

Hire a car or book a tour from a central location within Mbabane. Using this as your base, explore Pine Valley and climb Sibebe Rock. Head down to the Ezulwini Valley for craft markets, Mantenga Falls and the Cultural Village and perhaps spend some time in Mlilwane, Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area. A beautiful, secluded sanctuary situated in Swaziland’s ‘Valley of Heaven’, the Ezulwini Valley. Finally visit the glass factory and ancient mine at Ngwenya for a sense of Swaziland culture.

Royal heartland (1–3 days) 

Base yourself in Ezulwini Valley. Visit craft markets, the spa and Mantenga Falls and Cultural Village. Continue to Lobamba for the National Museum and Sobhuza Memorial Park, then Malkerns, for Malandela’s (House on Fire, Gone Rural) and the Swazi Candles complex. Visit Mlilwane for a braai, horse-riding and a game walk. 

Circular ramble (1–3 days)

This scenic route takes you through some of Swaziland’s most rural communities. From Mbabane head north to Piggs Peak, taking in the scenery at Malolotja and stopping for lunch Maguga Dam. Head east after Piggs Peak, passing back down into the Nkomati Valley heading for Manzini. Continue through Manzini and overnight in Malkerns, taking in the craft centres and perhaps a performance at House on Fire. Then return to Mbabane along the ‘Tea Road’ loop, for another scenic slice of rural life and an excellent view of the sacred Mdzimba Mountains and royal parade grounds below.  

Ezulwini to Malolotja Natre Reserve (2–3 days)

Make the most of a single night stay in Ezulwini to visit the craft markets, Mantenga Cultural village and the National Museum at Lobamba. From there, head up to Malolotja, visiting the glass factory and mine in Ngwenya, and make an over night stop before taking a day hike into Malolotja Nature reserve. On route to the reserve you can horse ride in Hawane or hold back in Malolotja for a canopy trail.

Scenic Grand Valley (2–3 days)

Starting from Manzini, head south along the Scenic Grand Valley taking in the views and scenery. With an overnight stop in Mahamba staying in community chalets, start your next day with a hike to the gorge as well as visiting the historic mission. Ending your tour with an overnight stay at Foresters Arms, enjoy horse riding, fishing and forest trails. 

A bit of luxury (2–3 days)

Splash out an enjoy a bit of pampering at some of Swaziland’s top hotels. Spend one night in the Ezulwini Valley, at the Royal Swazi Spa complex or Royal Villas. Visit top local restaurants, including the Calabash, Malandela’s or – for a classy take on traditional Swazi fare – Edladleni. Next, an optional visit to the botanical gardens at the Reilly's Rock Hilltop Lodge with a possible stopover as an option. Then to Summerfield, beyond Malkerns, for opulent surroundings in botanical gardens and an excellent restaurant. Both areas are good bases for sightseeing and handicrafts; from Summerfield it is a short excursion to Rosecraft for mohair weaving, with a sculpture trail in the hills. 

Rhinos and Rafting! (2–3 days)

For that true Safari expience, spend two nights at Mkhaya Game Reserve, tracking rhinos and elephants in the bush (or, for a cheaper alternative, Hlane). Then transfer to Sidvokodvo for a half- or full-day’s white water rafting on the Usutu river. Follow your water adventure up with caving or quad biking, both of which can be incorporated through Swazi Trails. Expect to get very wet and dirty! 

Take the reins! (2–3 days)

Take a view of Swaziland from a bit higher up in the saddler of a horse! Visit Hawane Resort for riding in the highveld or Nyanza stables (near Malkerns) for riding in the middleveld. Full-day trails and accommodation available at both. Then move to Mlilwane for the Chubeka trail, riding among wild game and overnighting in a cave below Execution Rock. Rides are available for all ability levels. 

Best of the west (4–5 days)

A full exploration of Swaziland’s scenic western highveld. Starting from Mbabane, head north to Malolotja Nature Reserve and stay in the cabins or campsite. Ideally spend two nights, allowing for one full day hike, plus smaller walks and a canopy trail. Mountain bikes and horse riding are available at nearby Hawane Resort. Continue north to Maguga Dam for a restaurant meal and views of Nkomati Valley. Optional overnighting at Maguga allows for a sundowner cruise on the lake. Continue north to Piggs Peak, stopping to view Nsangwini rock art. Spend two nights at Phophonyane Falls, enjoying the restaurant, waterfall, pools, trails and abundant birdlife. Phophonyane can arrange optional local excursions, including hiking or mountain biking. Peak craft centre (including Coral Stephens’s mohair weaving) is a short drive away.

Hiking adventure (5–7 days)

The best of Swaziland’s hiking, for those who want to stretch their legs on the trail. Start with at least two days at Malolotja, including at least one full day hike – or overnight hike, with your own camping gear – following the Malolotja River down to the Nkomati River. Continue north and west, via Piggs Peak and Tshaneni, to Mlawula Nature Reserve. Overnight at Siphiso campsite and hike a selection of day trails, including up into the Lubombos. Return southwest, via Manzini and Luyengo, to Ngwempisi Gorge. Hike day trails from Kopho Lodge. Finally finish off with a more gentle walk around the game rich plains of Mlilwane, or a more strenuous hike up its infamous Execution Rock.

True Safaris (4–6 days)

A tour of the lowveld’s main game reserves, starting in the northeast. Stock up with supplies at Simunye then head to Mlawula and/or Mbuluzi: the former is wilder; the latter has better accommodation and facilities, and easier-to-see game. Then continue to Hlane, for game viewing around Ndlovu Camp, guided rhino walks and drives into the lion enclosure. Head south to Mkhaya, for one or more nights at Stone Camp and excellent black rhino tracking, plus white rhino, elephant and other game. Then south again to Nisela safaris, for giraffe and other wildlife in the shadow of the Lebombos. Allow at least one night to get the best from each park you visit.

The Bird Experience(4–5 days)

Starting at Malolotja, explore the short trails for highveld specials, including blue swallow (summer only), and hike to Malolotja Falls for forest birds and the southern bald ibis breeding colony. Continue to Phophonyane Falls for middleveld and forest specials, including narina trogon. Head east from Piggs Peak on the northern circuit to spend a night at Mlawula or Mbuluzi, looking for raptors and local specials, including the African finfoot. Then head up to Mabuda Farm, near Siteki for forest birds and Lubombo specials, including twinspots. Return via the Ezulwini Valley where, if time allows, Mlilwane and Mantenga have plentiful birds around the visitor camps, while the hillier sections offer a chance of black and crowned eagle. Birding is best in the rainy season, from October to March. 

Linger in the lowveld (7 days plus)

A full immersion in the hottest corner of the country. Spend a few nights between Mkhaya, Hlane, Mlawula and Mbuluzi, for wildlife, hiking and bush nights around the campfire. Continue to Shewula mountain camp fortraditional Swazi hospitality, rural village life and the most stunning views in the country – right down to the Indian Ocean. Recharge batteries and supplies at Simunye Country Club, with swimming pool and an excellent restaurant, then head up to Siteki, where Mabuda Farm offers mountain breezes, homespun hospitality and excellent Lubombo trails. 

Full northern circuit (10 days plus)

Northwest highlights (Malolotja, Maguga, Nsangwini, Piggs Peak etc), followed by Northeast highlights (Hlane, Mlawula, Mbuluzi, Shewula etc). Return via Malkerns, Mlilwane,Lobamba and Ezulwini Valley for a day or two of crafts, culture and other activities.