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The tiny Kingdom of Swaziland is a sovereign state lying within South Africa and bordered to the east by Mozambique. Ruled by a monarchy through royal succession, the current King Mswati III is head of state. The country is just over 17000km² in size with a diverse terrain of flat bushveld, sub-tropical forests and mountainous regions.
The average age in Swaziland is a very young 21 and their citizens pride themselves in their attire; brightly coloured material adorned with beadwork, feathers and skins.
The roads between the main towns are tarred with a few gravelled sections. Lesser roads may require a 4x4 vehicle.
Annual temperatures average around 17° peaking at 28° in mid-summer.
Swaziland’s currency is the Lilangeni (plural is Emalangeni), its value the same as that of the South African Rand and both currencies are in circulation.
The friendly, welcoming Swazi people fiercely protect their culture and sacred ceremonies which have changed little over the years. These rich traditions, along with the country’s scenic splendour and multitude of wildlife, attracts visitors from all over the world.
Things to do
Although the country itself is small (equivalent size of Wales in the UK) and the road network fairly good, many of the attractions are spread throughout Swaziland.
Swaziland has 17 wildlife protected areas and the Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve in the east offers safari tours of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino).
The Swazi people are experts in weaving, considering that their traditional domed huts consist purely of grass rope weave. If you’re in Mbabane or Manzini, visit the busy Swazi Craft Markets and purchase a woven basket to carry your curios.
The Royal Swazi Spa in Mbabane has both a casino and wellness centre.
Visit the Mantenga Cultural Village & Nature Reserve south of Mbabane for a living cultural experience and the chance to see the Mantenga Falls. Watch the Sibhaca dance, a frenetic dance of rhythmic high kicking in time to the beating of drums.
An annual ceremony, uMhlango (the reed dance) is held in August at the royal kraal where the king selects a new bride. Attended by thousands of international visitors, it is rated one of the world’s best festivals.
Swazi Candles in the Malkerns Valley is located in a fabulous centre where craftsmen create wooden carvings, tapestries and many other products. The candles originating from here are internationally renowned. The centre has a restaurant on the premises and a section of the market is under trees.
Visit the oldest mine in the world, known as Lion Cavern, in the west and near to the Ngwenya border post. Mining of red oxides (believed to be for body painting) occurred between 41000 and 36000 BCE.
Tour the nearby Ngwenya Glass factory and purchase some of their beautiful creations made entirely from recycled glass.
See the spectacular Phophonyane Falls near Piggs Peak in the picturesque north-western part of the country.
Lake Jozini on the southern Swaziland border is home to the fearsome Tiger Fish, attempting to land this species is regarded as serious game fishing.
Many of the resorts offer quad biking, river rafting, adventure caving, and horse riding and guided hiking.
Swaziland is universally recognized as a birding paradise with roughly 500 species recorded, matching the Kruger National Park.
Visit a Sangoma (traditional healer) to have them throw the bones and predict your future!
Where to Eat
Malandela’s Farmhouse Restaurant & Country Pub in Malkerns has great views from the outdoor grassed area. Enjoy a craft beer before tucking into their excellent fare. The Mozambican prawn special on Thursday evenings are popular.
The Calabash Restaurant in Lobamba is owned by a German couple offering a mish-mash of European dishes, however, they are all delicious and well-prepared. Peaceful ambience.
Friar Tuck's at the Mountain Inn is an inviting family restaurant offering a multitude of appetizing dishes. Buffet or à la carte options available.
Green Chilli in Mbabane is an Indian restaurant offering authentic, spicy and flavourful Indian dishes.
The bewildering array of light meals, grills, pizzas and sushi on the menu at Ramblas Restaurant in Mbabane leaves you spoilt for choice. Simple but enjoyable food in a pleasant environment.
Bella Vista Restaurant at Ezulwini offers excellent Portuguese-style dishes. The restaurant is well laid out and the staff are friendly. Arrive hungry if you plan to order the gigantic seafood platter.
Try the locally produced Sibebe or Halala 30 beer with your meal.
House on Fire in Malkerns showcases various live performances including the 3-day Bush Festival in May.
Pop in to the So Fresh Lounge in Manzini for a cocktail and to meet the locals. Late night venue with regular themed events.
Solani’s in Mbabane is a super-slick club attracting top DJs from as far afield as Johannesburg. The club has a dance floor and live acts.
A popular local hangout is the KaLohheya pub in Ezulwini and if it’s not lively enough for you, walk over to Quartermain’s Pub & Restaurant.
Where to Stay
Beautifully appointed lodges, guest houses, hotels and self-catering cottages is what awaits you during your stay in Swaziland. Some of the lodgings offer Wi-Fi, others swimming pools and tours, some even offer limited conveniences for absolute peace and quiet.
Air The country's main airport is King Mswati III International Airport in Lubombo, all international flights are via OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. The older and smaller Matsapha Airport is located in Manzini.
Car Rental A few car hire companies operate from the King Mswati III airport, however, you could rent a vehicle online for collection at any of the major towns in South Africa and self-drive into Swaziland.
Taxis There are no official taxis in Swaziland but some local tour operators offer shuttle services.
Did you know?
Swaziland is mostly rural and when travelling by car, keep an eye out for the occasional cow (jokingly referred to as a Swaziland traffic light) wandering onto the road!
All visitors to Swaziland must present their passports upon arrival. A visa is generally not required but check with your travel agent before departing.
The 5 South African border posts are open at particular times which vary, and are not open 24 hours.
The town of Piggs Peak is pronounced as ‘Spiggy Speegy’ by the locals.
Swaziland has 2 capitals, Mbabane is the official capital while Lobamba is the traditional, spiritual and legislative capital.
Locals believe that the health and wellbeing of the Swazi King, known as NGwenyama (The Lion) holds a direct correlation with the country’s prosperity.
You will delight your Swazi hosts by learning to say Hello (Sah-woo-bor-nah) and Go Well (Humm-bah Kah-shh-leh) in siSwati.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.