May not be the widest or tallest waterfall in the world, but it is without doubt the most impressive. Not only can you see it, you can hear it (from about a mile away), feel it, smell it, and taste it. Locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders.”
WHERE IS VICTORIA FALLS?
The waterfall straddles the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. You can access it from either country.Zimbabwe has historically been the more popular entry-point, but its political turmoil and hyperinflation in the 2000s made Zambia preferable.
Today, although Zimbabwe’s longtime and autocratic president, Robert Mugabe, remains in place, the nation’s currency has stabilized, and the safari industry is resurgent.
Tip: At the Zimbabwe airport, make sure you obtain the Uni Visa (currently $50 for nationals from many countries), which serves as a multicountry pass to enter Zambia and Botswana.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
There are national park entrances on both sides of the falls, easily accessible from the towns of Livingstone, in Zambia, and Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe.
If you’ve booked through a safari operator, your guide will simply drive you to the entrance. The per-person fee is $20 on the Zambia side and $30 on the Zimbabwe side.
WHICH SIDE IS BETTER?
Put very briefly: To see the falls, go to Zimbabwe; to feel the falls, go to Zambia. But we recommend seeing it from both sides, and here’s why:
The Zambia side at high flow (February to June) is an exhilaratingly visceral experience. Visitors walking on this side of the narrow gorge can feel the spray.
The Zimbabwe side tends to offer the more picturesque views because the vantages are farther, offering perspective. If you go in the height of the dry season, say, in November, the water volume is at a low point and the falls can feel a little underwhelming.
CAN I DO BOTH SIDES IN A DAY?
Yes! In fact, it’s possible to do both sides in a couple of hours. Make sure you have a multiple-country visa in your passport. You can also just stand on the bridge between the two countries and gaze at the world’s most famous cataract.
I’VE SEEN PHOTOS OF PEOPLE STANDING AT THE EDGE OF THE FALLS. HOW DO I DO THAT, AND IS IT DANGEROUS?
Devil’s Pool is an experience you can have only on the Zambia side and only during the dry season (late August to late December). It involves a boat ride on the Zambezi River to Livingstone Island, from which you can swim in this natural pool at the falls’ edge. Breathe easy: An unseen lip prevents you from going over. Run by a reputable tour operator, Devil’s Pool isn’t a dangerous activity if you follow directions. Avoid unofficial natural pools; people have gone over the edge.