With its Mediterranean-style architecture, waterside setting and wide avenues lined with jacaranda and flame trees, Maputo is easily one of Africa's most attractive capitals. It's also the most developed place in Mozambique by far, with a wide selection of hotels and restaurants, well-stocked supermarkets, shady sidewalk cafes and a lively cultural scene.
The Southern Coast
For more than 500 years, visitors have been marvelling at the beauty of the southern Mozambican coastline. For the early Portuguese explorers, its white sands and sheltered bays served as a gateway to the fabled goldfields of the interior, and as convenient staging points on the long sea journey to the Orient.
In the annals of ancient Africa, central Mozambique – Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambézia provinces – had a much higher profile than it does today. It was here, at the old port of Sofala, that 15th-century traders from as far away as India and Indonesia gathered in search of vast caches of gold.
Vilankulo is the finishing (or starting) point of Mozambique’s southern tourism circuit, and an institution on the southern Africa backpacking and overlanding scenes. It’s also the gateway for visiting the nearby Bazaruto Archipelago, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel of turquoise sea.
With its serene waterside setting, tree-lined avenues, faded colonial-style architecture and mixture of Arabic, Indian and African influences, Inhambane is one of Mozambique’s most charming towns and well worth a visit. It has a history that reaches back at least 10 centuries, making it one of the oldest settlements along the coast.
Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique)
Crescent-shaped Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique) measures only 3km in length and barely 500m in width at its widest section. Yet it has played a larger-than-life role in East African coastal life over the centuries, and today is one of the region’s most fascinating destinations – part slowly reawakening ghost town, part lively fishing community.
Chimoio is the capital of Manica province and Mozambique’s fifth-largest town. While its tourist attractions are modest, it’s a pleasant place with an agreeable climate and worth a stop if you’re in the area. It’s also the jumping-off point for exploring the Chimanimani Mountains to the southwest.
Thanks to its sheltered azure waters, white sands, easy access and fine diving, the beach at Tofo has long been legendary on the southern Africa holiday circuit. The beach runs in a long arc, at the centre of which is a small town with a perpetual party atmosphere. Many people come to Tofo expecting to spend a few days, and instead stay several weeks or more.
Dry, dusty Tete doesn’t have much in the way of tourist attractions and its reputation as one of the hottest places in Mozambique often discourages visitors. Yet the arid, brown landscape, dotted with baobab trees and cut by the wide swathe of the Zambezi River, gives it a unique charm and an atmosphere quite unlike that of Mozambique’s other provincial capitals.
Niassa’s capital is pretty, low-key Lichinga (formerly Vila Cabral), which sits at about 1300m altitude, with an invigorating, cool climate and quiet, jacaranda-lined streets. It’s worth a day or two in its own right and is also the best jumping-off point for exploring the Lake Niassa.
Ponta D'ouro & Ponta Malongane
The sleepy colonial-era town of Ponta d’Ouro has boomed in popularity in recent years and is the first Mozambique stop on many southern Africa overland itineraries. Its best asset is its excellent beach – long, wide and surf-pounded. Offshore waters host abundant sea life, including dolphins and whale sharks and – from July to October – whales.