Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland officially the Kingdom of Eswatini and also known as Swaziland, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to its northeast and South Africa to its north, west, and south.
Despite being the smallest landlocked country in the Southern hemisphere, and the second smallest country in continental Africa, Eswatini more than makes up for its lack of size with a hugely diverse range of attractions and activities.
As one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa, culture and heritage are deeply engrained in all aspects of Swazi life, ensuring an unforgettable experience for all who visit. As well as the rich culture, the overwhelming friendliness of the people makes all visitors feel truly welcome and very safe. Add to that stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, forests and plains; plus wildlife reserves across the country that are home to The Big Five; and a fascinating mix of modern and traditional festivals, ceremonies and events, and you have all that’s best about Africa in one small but perfectly formed and welcoming country.
Hlane Royal National Park
The Hlane (“Wilderness”) Game Sanctuary is home to the largest herds of game in the country and is one of the few places in Swaziland where visitors have a chance of seeing lion, elephant, and rhino. Birders will also be happy at this 22,000-hectare reserve, with a diverse collection of species, including the highest density of breeding white-backed vultures on the continent. Visitors must take a guided game drive to see the lions, which reside in a separate enclosure, but self-guided drives are permitted in other areas of the park.
Activities: Wildlife watching, guided mountain biking, cultural tours, birding walks, hiking
In the beautiful Ezulwini valley (the Valley of Heaven), Lobamba is Swaziland’s spiritual and cultural heart. This laid-back town is home to Swaziland’s monarchy, as well as its most important buildings. Here, visitors will find the Lobamba Royal Village with the Royal Kraal, the Parliament Building, the National Museum, and other government buildings. In the large Embo State Palace, the king holds audiences, and the magnificent State House, built in 1978, is used mainly for ceremonial and other state occasions, though neither of these buildings is open to the public. However, visitors can tour the Parliament Building.
Also in Lobamba, the Somhlolo Stadium is the venue of major cultural and sporting events, state celebrations, concerts, dance performances, and speeches by the king.
Activities: Cultural tours
Swazi Market, Mbabane
Mbabane, Swaziland’s cool-climate capital, is home to the Swazi Market, a must-see attraction for souvenir-starved tourists. It lies at the south end of Allister Miller Street, the town’s main shopping street. The stalls here brim with fresh produce, pottery, hand-made baskets, masks, traditional fabrics, soapstone carvings, and beaded jewelry. Particularly interesting is the traditional medicine center, with an impressive array of healing lotions and potions.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Swaziland’s first conservation areas and its most popular game reserve. It was established by Ted and Elizabeth Reilly, who turned their farm at Mlilwane into a game reserve with the support of King Sobhuza II. The non-profit Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary has now grown to 4,560 hectares of wilderness surrounded by the Nyonyane (“Place of the Little Bird”) Mountains.
Originally animals and plants were introduced to the reserve from far away, but today the Mlilwane Sanctuary is home to more than 400 species of birds and many animals, including zebras, vervet monkeys, crocodiles, warthogs, caracals, hippos, and antelopes.
Activities: game drives, nature walks, mountain biking, horseback rides, a village cultural experience, and swimming
Malolotja Nature Reserve
In northwest Swaziland, the 18,000-hectare Malolotja Nature Reserve is the largest protected area in the country. The name means “river with many rapids and waterfalls” for the reserve is sliced by the Malolotja River, which forms a series of waterfalls, including the country’s highest cascades, the Malolotja Falls. Habitats range from wetlands and grasslands to thick riverine forest, and wildflowers brighten the beautiful landscapes in spring and summer.
Activities: hiking trails, reptiles and birds, Treetop Canopy Tour zipline
In the picturesque Ezulwini Valley, Mantenga Nature Reserve offers a fun taste of Swazi nature and culture. This compact 725-hectare reserve is home to the Mantenga Cultural Village, a recreation of Swazi life in the 1850s. Here, visitors can take guided tours to learn about Swazi culture and customs, participate in activities such as plaiting mountain grass and grinding grains, and watch impressive performances of traditional song and dance.
A highlight of the reserve is the stunning Mantenga Falls, Swaziland’s most famous falls with the biggest volume of water. The reserve also protects wildlife such as baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies, porcupines, rock hyraxes, servals, leopards, and various species of antelope, as well as an abundance of birds.
Activities: mountain bike, game drives, hiking, cultural village
Experiencing Swaziland’s rich culture and friendly people are highlights of a visit here. Travelers are welcome to watch some of the celebrations of the two main festivals. Umhlanga, the animated Reed Dance ceremony, is Swaziland’s most famous festival. It takes place during the last week of August or first week of September when young women from around the country come here to participate in a joyful song and dance performance.
In December and January, Incwala is an impressive kingship ritual lasting about three weeks. At the beginning of the celebrations, representatives of the Bemanti people bring water from all the main rivers of Swaziland, gathered at the new moon. Young men then build a royal kraal at Lobamba from branches of the lusekwane tree and other plants. The climax is reached on the “great day,” when the king, clad in his finest robes, symbolically tastes the first fruits of the harvest followed by cheerful song and dance.
Activities: Cultural tours
The Ngwenya Glass Complex
The Ngwenya Glass Complex, located near the Ngwenya border post, comprises of the famous Ngwenya Glass factory and selection of other artisan outlets.
The glass blowing factory is where the magic happens. Skilled glass blowers create a variety of glass products from tableware to animal figures all using 100% recycled glass, primarily soft drinks bottles form around Eswatini. You can visit the factory and discover up close how it’s made with their factory tour in which guests can walk the perimeter of the factory up high looking down at the workforce creating products below.
As well has their very own shop in which you can browse the glass products and purchase souvenirs, the complex also houses some of Eswatini’ s most well-known art and craft producers too including Baobab Batik, Gone Rural, Quazi Design, Tintsaba, Tsandza Weaving, Eswatini Kitchen and Black Mamba Chilli.
Activities: Shopping, guided tour