Africa, Zambia

Victoria Falls: The Smoke That Thunders

Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, lies on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it should be on the top of any “must-see” list in southeastern Africa!

Smoke from Victoria Falls on the main road in Livingstone

Victoria Falls’ original name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.” One trip and you’ll see why! There is so much “smoke” (aka water condensation clouds) above the falls that it’s possible to see the smoke from the main road in Livingstone, Zambia! The popular Zambian beer, Mosi, gets its name from the falls. Victoria Falls is also the name of the closest town to the falls in Zimbabwe, which can make things a bit confusing! Livingstone is the closest town on the Zambian side of the border.


The Zambezi River (Zambia’s longest river) drops dramatically over the falls—while Victoria Falls isn’t the longest or the widest waterfall in the world, its combined length and width make it the world’s largest waterfall.


Visiting Victoria Falls from the Zambian side brings you very close to the falls themselves. You will get absolutely soaked, so be prepared! You can rent rain ponchos at the falls, and I also recommend bringing a plastic dry bag for your camera. There are several sites at Victoria Falls that you absolutely can’t miss:


Knife Bridge

The path along the falls takes you to the narrow Knife Bridge—this is where you will get the most wet. Once past the bridge, you can get a great view of the gorge bridge, and maybe see a rainbow or two!

Gorge Bridge

The Zambezi River zigzags back and forth and cuts through several gorges after it drops over the falls. The Gorge Bridge is situated over the river immediately after the falls. It is the only bridge over the gorges, and the official middle-point of the Zambia/Zimbabwe border.


Boiling Pot

The Boiling Pot is where the Zambezi River swirls quickly through the gorge, creating an effect like boiling water. There are great views of the gorge bridge from down here! It is a 15 minute walk down to the water, and a 25 minute walk back up. Bring plenty of water with you (as it’s very steep), and I’d also definitely recommend walking with a stick to scare away the baboons. They are everywhere. I’d also advise seeing the Boiling Pot before you see the falls, while you’re still dry!


Photographer’s Trail

This trail walks along the upper part of the gorge and has great views of the bridge and Knife Bridge in the distance. You can also just barely see the Boiling Pot from above. I’d again recommend doing this first, before you get wet at the falls!

Devil’s Pool

If you’re a real daredevil, you can swim at the very top of the falls in the naturally created Devil’s Pool. It’s only possible to swim during the tail end of the dry season (usually from October to January), and only with a guide.


I think the best way to see Victoria Falls is from a microlight! You can also bungee jump from the gorge bridge.


The Basics: Prices are 7 kwacha (~USD$0.70) for locals, or USD$18 (180 kwacha) for foreigners. Beware of baboons, as they will steal all your stuff and are scary little shits. Taxis are always available at the entrance of the falls to take you back into Livingstone. You can rent rain ponchos, umbrellas, and wet shoes (crocs) for 2 kwacha (~$0.20) each before you get to the wet part of the falls. To get the best pictures, avoid walking along the falls at midday (when there won’t be the best lighting).

And now to the age-old question: should you see Victoria Falls from Zambia or Zimbabwe?


I personally think the Zambian side is better, as you get to walk very close up to the falls. The Boiling Pot is also really cool, and you can only do Devil’s Pool from the Zambian side. That being said, I have heard that the Zimbabwean side is better in dry season (from May to October), when there’s less water and the falls are less dramatic. You can also get a better overall view of the falls in their entirety from the Zimbabwean side.


If you’re in Zambia or Zimbabwe on a double- or multi-entry visa (or don’t mind the hassle of getting another single-entry visa on the day at the border), the answer is simple—do both!


Seeing Victoria Falls was an incredible experience. And while seeing the falls was amazing, getting soaked by the water and hearing the roar of the falls made my visit so much better. If you are anywhere in southern Africa, this is one place that you absolutely must visit!

Have you ever been to Victoria Falls or another famous waterfall? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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