Natural History Museum
Zimbabwe’s largest and best museum makes for an essential visit. Set over three floors, it offers a great overview of the country’s natural, anthropological and geological history. Its highlight is its taxidermy display, which includes a monster elephant, originating 160km south from here. There’s also an impressive collection of gemstones, showcasing the country’s astounding wealth of natural resources. At its centre is a collection of live snakes, including black mambas and cobras.
Just 22km from Bulawayo, the Unesco World Heritage–listed Khami Ruins may not have the grandeur of Great Zimbabwe, but it’s an impressive archaeological site nonetheless. The second largest stone monument built in Zimbabwe, Khami was developed between 1450 and 1650 as the capital of the Torwa dynasty, and abandoned in the 19th century with the arrival of Ndebele. It’s spread over a 2km site in a peaceful natural setting overlooking the Khami Dam.
Bulawayo Railway Museum
Whether you’re a train enthusiast or not, Bulawayo’s Railway Museum rarely disappoints. During a tour of the place, you’ll get a fascinating insight into the colonial history of the country through Bulawayo’s extensive railway network. There are some wonderful Rhodesian Railways steam engines and carriages to clamber aboard, including the Jack Tar (1889), the first train to cross the Victoria Falls Bridge. The tour takes around 1½ hours, visiting several 19th-century steam engines, diesel and electric trains, and the carriage that carried Cecil Rhodes’ body to his burial site in Matobo. There’s also a hand-pump trolley you can give a whirl outside. The main building is the former Shamva train station relocated here in 1972. There are some interesting books for sale, and visitors receive a collectable memento.
National Art Gallery
Set in a beautiful 100-year-old, colonial, double-terrace Edwardian building, the National Art Gallery shows temporary and permanent exhibitions of contemporary Zimbabwean sculpture and paintings. A visit here wouldn’t be complete without dropping by the studios of the artists in residence, who you can meet at work and buy from directly.
There’s a quality gallery shop and a lovely cafe too.
Matobo National Park
Called “Matopos” for short, the Matobo National Park is an expanse of granite hills and rock formations, an area of spiritual significance and natural grandeur. Come here for extraordinary landscapes, intriguing rock art, geological wonders, as well as sightings of rhino and raptors. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is said to hold the greatest concentration of leopards in Zimbabwe.
Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage
Chipangali is where injured wild animals can be cared for, and prepared for release if possible. The orphanage has a long history and was patroned by Diana, Princess of Wales from 1983 until her death. They have a range of animals ranging from leopards to bushbabies who now call Chipangali home.