If you’re based in eSwatini’s capital city of Mbabane, there are many leisurely day trips available. Here’s Culture Trip’s pick of the best.
The great thing about eSwatini’s diminutive size is that it’s so easy to get between the country’s different attractions from its capital city of Mbabane. Whether you’re interested in stunning scenery, wildlife, local culture or adventure, there’s something available for everyone.
Visit a traditional homestead at Mantenga Cultural Village
Find out about eSwatini’s fascinating cultural heritage and the details of the locals’ daily lives at Mantenga’s Swazi Cultural Village, which is located inside the Mantenga nature reserve. Here, a guide will show you around the “living museum” which displays a reconstruction of a traditional 1850s Swati home and explain what each of the 16 huts are used for – they’re happy to answer questions about Swati heritage so it’s a great place to learn about the intricacies of Swati culture, including how their polygamous households function. The cultural village also puts on spectacular traditional dance performances at 11.15am and 3.15pm daily, which last around 45 minutes.
eSwatini is proud of its beautiful national parks (there are 17 protected areas in the country) and plethora of diverse wildlife, including the “Big Five”. Hlane Royal National Park, eSwatini’s largest protected area, is also where you might have the chance to see lions (the symbol of eSwatini) as well as elephants, white rhinos, leopards, giraffes, zebras, hippos, antelopes and spotted hyenas. Guided game drives and guided birding walks are available but the park, with its many game-viewing roads, is also great for self-drive safaris.
This small country is known for its talented artists and craftsmen, many of whom now export their products across the world. One place you can see these artisans at work – and pick up some souvenirs – is the Swazi Candles Complex in Malkerns; the Swazi Candles workshop which is surrounded by a group of outlets. Inside the workshop you can watch the artists making colourful candles in the shape of African animals. At the other outlets, you’ll find locally made chilis and preserves, batiks, wood carvings, bags and clothing as well as a cafe to stop for coffee and cake.
Those interested in history and archaeology shouldn’t miss the Nsangwini Rock Art Centre, where ancient rock paintings have been preserved. The community-run project is home to the country’s best preserved rock art, which is approximately 4,000 years old. These paintings are believed to have been created by eSwatini’s first inhabitants, the San people. The paintings can be found on rock faces alongside a steep trail (be careful of loose rocks!) and depict people, animals, hunts and dances. They are unique to eSwatini in their depiction of blue Wildebeest which aren’t found in any other primitive rock paintings.
Its beautiful scenery and fascinating flora, fauna and birdlife make eSwatini a great place to explore on foot. The country’s many nature reserves have several hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty levels for visitors to follow at their own pace. Bring a picnic for a leisurely lunch and a pair of binoculars to observe the local wildlife or do some bird watching while you’re exploring.
Join responsible tourism company All Out Africa on a half-day walking tour of Lobamba; one of eSwatini’s most renowned villages and the cultural and political heart of the country. After learning more about the country’s history at the National Museum (Umsamo Wesive), you’ll visit the King’s royal residence with an experienced local guide to answer any questions you might have. From there, your guide will take you to some Swati homes, small businesses and even a local art gallery. You’ll end the trip by enjoying a traditional braai(BBQ) before heading home.