Zimbabwe is back on the tourist map these days – not that Victoria Falls ever completely fell off it – and hotels and restaurants on the Zim side of the “Smoke that Thunders” are seeing high occupancy rates again. And while there are hotel options for all budgets in this bustling and very safe* town, the luxury digs are the way to go.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
The award-winning Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is our personal favorite. An impressive thatch-and-timber affair, the four-star hotel is perched on a hill overlooking a waterhole and a semi arid landscape of baobab, teak and mopani trees. Accommodation is spread out on two floors of sprawling buildings that branch out from either side of the centerpiece main lodge, which is done up in traditional African safari lodge style and where all amenities, including a great little swimming pool, are located. From the main lodge the views look directly onto the unfenced Zambezi National Park and the waterhole, providing opportunities to see animals while you sip a cold Castle in the fabulous bar or dine at the second floor restaurant. Rooms all come with balconies, and décor is cheerful, with bright African colors on comfy mosquito net-draped beds, soaring thatched-roof ceilings, and earth-tone walls. The lodge is about a five-minute drive from town and the falls, but a free shuttle service runs for guests. Also note the included breakfast buffet is stellar, and features a DIY bloody mary bar!
Victoria Falls Safari Club
On the same grounds as the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is the even more posh Victoria Falls Safari Club. The five-star hotel has just 20 rooms, providing a very intimate accommodation experience. And even though it shares the views with the larger Safari Lodge, the Safari Club still feels worlds apart thanks to a location that is around a bend. The rooms and suites are unique, ultra-modern affairs, unlike anything else you’ll see in town. We love the open floor plan and sliding glass walls that open onto a private balcony fronting the bush. The king-size, ultra comfy, mosquito net-draped beds are strategically placed in front of these windows, so you can wake up to views of animals heading to the waterhole to drink. The house-brande red and white wines, presented au gratis in rooms, is another nice luxury touch, as is the electronic safe that can charge your laptop while you are out, and the complimentary mini-bar snacks and free sundowner drinks in the club lobby. This is a great choice if you’re on your honeymoon or don’t want to be around families, as children under 10 are not allowed. Although the hotel shares a restaurant and swimming pool with the Safari Lodge, it has its own bar and lounge area – a great spot to watch the sunset and mingle with other guests. There is also a TV in the lounge (in keeping with safari tradition, rooms do not have televisions).
Victoria Falls Hotel
More than a decade of political strife has done nothing to alter the world-class views of the falls seen from the Victoria Falls Hotel, which at one time was the most luxurious property in town. During its early 20th century heyday, this was where everyone who was anyone stayed. Today it’s slightly frayed around the edges, feeling more nostalgically glam than outright posh, but its hard to be too disappointed as any shabbiness is diluted by the ghosts of its history-laden glory days. Constructed in 1904, the Victoria Falls Hotel remains a stylish emblem from another time, and stepping inside feels a bit like traveling back to the hotel’s heyday as a stylish outpost for the British empire’s most elite citizens. To really get a feel for the history of the place, spend some time perusing the sepia-toned photographs lining the hallways. Less appealing are the old animal trophies, also found in public places, which are so ancient the fur is falling off and they give an air of shabbiness that could easily be removed if they were. Still, it’s a grand spot to spend the night, and as we mentioned earlier, it’s pretty near impossible to beat the views of the falls.
Elephant Hills Resort
Named for the trail it sits on, where elephants routinely meander pass on their way to water, Elephant Hills is a solid luxury choice if you want variety when it comes to dining, consistently good service and don’t mind a large property. Owned by the African Sun brand, the 276 rooms and 13 suites are comfortable, but do feel a little dated – too much leather. Beyond the rooms there is an 18-hole Gary Player-designed golf course – beware: meandering warthogs and elephants on the fairways often interrupt play; which makes for a really unique round of golf! If golf isn’t your thing you can play either tennis or squash or take a dip in the pool. There’s also an onsite gym and spa. And with four restaurants and three bars on site, plus 24-hour room service, you won’t get bored with your eating choices. Look for the hotel 4 kilometers north of town on a small hill overlooking the Zambezi.
* We left our car door open accidentally without issue while parked on the street here, although we did get robbed by monkeys back in our hotel room, but that’s a different story
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