Great Zimbabwe

A ruined medieval city so sophisticated that for decades there were attempts to deny it could have been constructed by ancestors of the region’s Shona people, Great Zimbabwe is arguably southern Africa’s finest archeological site.

One of the largest stone-built cities of its kind, Great Zimbabwe is important enough to have gained status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and give its name to the modern nation state.

Believed to have been inhabited from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries, the people who lived here were powerful enough to trade goods as far as China, and build structures the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again for centuries.

Considered a royal palace complex for the Shona’s kings, Great Zimbabwe comprises three distinct parts: a hilltop acropolis, the Eastern Enclosure, and the Valley Complex. Stand among the huge granite boulders incorporated into the dry-stone walls of the acropolis, and you’ll understand just why this site was chosen. From here, the walls of the Great Enclosure appear minute, but drop back down to the valley floor and approach them on foot, and you’ll find they rise to a height of 36 feet in places.

The onsite museum does a great job of detailing just why such walls were built. It also displays models of the soapstone ‘Zimbabwe birds’ which now appear on the national flag. Symbolic depictions of bataleur eagles, they are thought to bring good luck in Shona culture, and perhaps contributed to the survival of this fascinating city into the modern era.

Top Zimbabwe Travel Destinations

Harere / Hwange National Park / Lake Kariba / Mana Pools National Park / Matobo National Park / Victoria Falls

The Big Five

African Elephant / Cape Buffalo / Leopard / Lion / Rhino

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