All roads lead to Lusaka, the geographic, commercial and metaphorical heart of the country. However, Zambia's capital and largest urban zone, with its mishmash of dusty tree-lined streets, bustling African markets, Soviet-looking high-rise blocks and modern commerce, doesn't easily justify exploration by the casual visitor.
Western Zambia is at the bottom of some travellers’ itineraries and at the top of others’: if you’re after easy access, lots of other tourists and well-known attractions then you should look elsewhere.
Livingstone & Around
Though spectacular at any time of year, the falls has a wet and dry season and each brings a distinct experience. When the river is higher and the falls fuller it’s the Wet, and when the river is lower and the falls aren’t smothered in spray it’s the Dry.
Not on the radar for most visitors unless they happen to be mining consultants, the Copperbelt Province is the industrial heartland of Zambia and the main population centre outside of Lusaka. The region is home to the unique attraction of Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world.
Those with a spirit of adventure and who love wild, open spaces will be at home in Zambia’s untamed north. True, it can be difficult to get around as the distances are vast and the tracks often rough once you leave the main road, but this is all part of the experience.
Eastern Zambia contains a couple of the country’s wilderness gems. It’s a sparsely populated region with one long highway, the Great East Road, meandering out to the border with Malawi and onto Lilongwe.
Ndola, the capital of the Copperbelt Province, is a prosperous little city that provides relief from the pace and pollution of its larger cousin, Lusaka. In comparison it is clean and well tended with no real evidence of its industrial base, although genuine visitor attractions are thin on the ground.
South Luangwa National Park
For scenery, variety and density of animals, accessibility and choice of accommodation, South Luangwa is the best park in Zambia and one of the most majestic in Africa.
Zambia's second-largest city and the centre of the country's mining industry, Kitwe seems far larger than quiet Ndola. Business travellers (read mining consultants) stop here for the good selection of accommodation and eating places.
This region is a real highlight of Zambia with some wonderful natural attractions. There are national parks, with the Lower Zambezi in particular highly regarded for both its wildlife (especially elephants) and its scenic landscape. The area is also home to the remote Lochinvar National Park, a World Heritage Wetland Site with pristine wetlands well worth a visit.
Kasama is the capital of the Northern Province and the cultural centre of the Bemba people. With its wide, leafy streets and handsome, old, tin-roofed colonial houses, it is the most appealing of the northern towns. There’s a laid-back, friendly vibe here, a number of good guesthouses, decent shops and good bus connections.
Deep in the northern Zambian wilderness sits Shiwa Ng’andu, a grand country estate and labour of love of eccentric British aristocrat Sir Stewart Gore-Brown. The estate’s crowning glory is Shiwa Ng’andu manor house, which is a glorious brick mansion.
Chingola is essentially a huge mine with a settlement wrapped around it. On the Solwezi Rd it is possible to see the enormous, open-pit mine; the giant dumper trucks mean it is crucial to obey the red lights here. It is the closest town to Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage and has a decent range of accommodation.
Sioma Ngwezi National Park
This undeveloped, very remote and rarely visited 500 sq km national park is one to watch for future developments given its proximity to Livingstone and with plans for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Park (KAZA) slowly moving forward. It’s in the southwestern corner of Zambia, bordering Angola and the Caprivi Strip in Namibia; it’s also only 50km from Botswana.
Kafue National Park
This stunning park is about 200km west of Lusaka and is a real highlight of Zambia. Covering more than 22,500 sq km (nearly the size of Belgium), it’s the largest park in the country and one of the biggest in the world (ZAWA has only one scout for every 400 sq km).
Resting at the foot of mighty Lake Tanganyika, Mpulungu is a crossroads between Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. As Zambia’s only international port, it’s the terminal for the ferry across the lake to Tanzania. It’s also a busy commercial fishing port and several fisheries are based here, some of them exporting tropical fish to aquariums around the world.