Great Zimbabwe

Situated in the South East, 25 kms outside of Masvingo (Formerly Fort Victoria)

Great Zimbabwe is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an ancient city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo  It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. The exact identity of the Great Zimbabwe builders is at present unknown, and various hypotheses have been proposed as to who these masons may have been.

Local traditions recorded in the 18th and 19th centuries assert that the stoneworks were constructed by the early Lemba, however, the most popular modern archaeological theory is that the edifices were erected by the ancestral Shona. The stone city spans an area of 722 hectares (1,780 acres) which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. 

Great Zimbabwe is believed to have served as a royal palace for the local monarch. As such, it would have been used as the seat of political power. Among the edifice’s most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high. They were constructed of dry stone with no mortar being used. Eventually, the city was abandoned and fell into ruin.

The earliest known written mention of the Great Zimbabwe ruins was in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, captain of the Portuguese garrison of Sofala who recorded it as Symbaoe.

The first European visit may have been made by the Portuguese traveller António Fernandes in 1513-1515, who crossed twice and reported in detail the region of present-day Zimbabwe (including the Shona kingdoms) and also fortified centres in stone without mortar. However, passing en route a few kilometres north and about 56 km (35 mi) south of the site, he did not make a reference to the Great Zimbabwe riddle.

The first confirmed visits by Europeans were in the late 19th century, with investigations of the site starting in 1871. Later, studies of the monument were controversial in the archaeological world.

Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government, and the modern independent state was named after it.

The word great distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, now known as “zimbabwes”, spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld. 

There are 200 such sites in southern Africa, such as Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and Manyikeni in Mozambique, with monumental, mortarless walls; Great Zimbabwe is the largest of these.

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Entrance Fees:

ResidentsNon Residents
Children US$3US$8

Dogs not permitted

Open all year round 9am – 5pm

Fees correct at time of publishing

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At A Glance


Accommodation & Facilities

There are various facilities available in and around Great Zimbabwe Ancient City in the Masvingo area. These include:

  • Hotels
  • Self-Catering Lodges
  • Camping sites
  • Picnic sites
  • Boat hire


Lodge of the Ancient City

Norma Jean’s

Great Zimbabwe Hotel

Picnic Site

The picnic sites have ablution and fire places. The sites are mainly for day use. Popoteke Picnic Site is located approximately 10 km from the Kyle entrance gate and situated in the northern portion of the Park.

The Popoteke gorge site adjoins a special conservation area; a refuge rich in estuarine for spawning fish.

The woodland type is predominantly Miombo with brachystegia spiciformis and julbernada globiflora as constituent species. The gorge offers a spectacular



Transfers and Road

Tour operators will organise transport between destinations. Specific transfers can also be arranged or you can do self-drive.

Road Travel (Distances):

Masvingo – Beitbridge 283 kms (177 miles)

Masvingo – Bulawayo 280 kms (174 miles)

Masvingo – Gweru 164 kms (102.5 miles)

Masvingo – Harare 293 kms (183.13 miles)

Masvingo – Hwange 616 kms (385 miles)

Masvingo – Victoria Falls 727 kms (453 miles)

Bulawayo –  Gweru 164 kms (102 miles)

Bulawayo – Harare 440 kms (274 miles)

Bulawayo – Kariba 803 kms (502 miles)

Bulawayo – Matopas 45 kms (28.10 miles)

Bulawayo – Mutare 578 kms   (359 miles)

Bulawayo – Nyanga  686 kms (429 miles)

Bulawayo – Victoria Falls 438 kms (274 miles)

Harare – Gweru 277 kms (172 miles)

Harare – Mutare 254 kms (158 miles)

Harare – Victoria Falls 878 kms (548.75 miles)

Hwange – Victoria Falls 102 kms (63.75 miles)



Attractions - Lake Kyle Park

Lake Kyle Recreational Park was established in 1960 upon completion of the dam. It extends over 16 900 hectares and lies mainly on the lake’s northern shore, while there is a small recreational park on the southern shore. Of the total area, approximately 9300 hectares is occupied by the lake (when full) and 7600 by the park.

The lake and park combined make for a wonderful environment and an excellent recreational facility. Being in easy reach of the Great Zimbabwe Ancient City the area is well worth a visit. The views, the rock formations, the fishing, birdlife and animals (see below) and the picnicking / BBQing facilities all make for a very pleasant and relaxing experience.

The Park area is bounded on the north by the Beza Range which rises to a height of 1485m. Between this range and Lake Mutirikwi, is an undulating plain averaging 1070m above sea level. The plain terminates in an area of broken hills dividing Lake Mutirikwi into to two main areas: east and west. Four main estuaries are a feature of the lakeshore in the central section of the area.  On the south of the lake the area is dominated by hills of solid granite rock.

Many visitors to Lake Mutiriwki and Park also include stays in the Eastern Highlands and / or Gonarezhou National Park.




Lake Mutirikwe, also known as Lake Kyle was formed by the construction of Kyle Dam between 1958 & 1960. Much of the land used for the lake was previously farmland owned by the legendary pioneer of the Lowveld Tom Murray MacDougall, a man of great vision who was instrumental in the building of the dam. The farm and the dam were named after the Kyle District in Scotland from where Murray MacDougall originated.

Much of the lake is very well situated within magnificent natural granite formations which proved to be ideal not only as a reservoir to provide irrigation to the sugar cane plantations of the Lowveld but also as an amazing recreational facility catering for fishermen, campers, picnickers and sailors.  The Kyle Dam wall is a double curvature concrete arch 309 metres in length and 63 metres high. The Mutiriwki Lake covers an area of approximately 90 sq km² (when full) with a total capacity of 1,378 million cubic metres, a catchment area of 3900 km sq and a surface area of 9105 hectares.


Location Pin


In nearby Kyle Recreational Park there is a good variety of wildlife.

Animals: Some commonly cited animals include; buffalo, common duiker, eland, impala, kudu, reedbuck, warthog, waterbuck, white rhinoceros, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, squirrel, black-backed jackal, leopard, honey badger, rockdassie, hippopotamus, ostrich, crocodile and porcupine. Some of the rarer species include; antbear, bushbuck, bush pig, klipspringer, sable and steenbuck.

Birds: There are various commonly sighted Herons, Egrets and Storks with Ducks and other waterbirds which will be readily seen. In and around the park and local area a wide variety of other birds can be sighted such as the African Cuckoo Hawk, Brown-backed and Green-backed Honeybirds, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, African Golden Oriole, Rufous-bellied Tit, Miombo Rock-thrush, Boulder Chat, Red-faced Crombec, Green-capped Eremomela, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Southern Hyliota, Collared Flycatcher, Grey Tit-flycatcher, Wood Pipit, Miombo Blue-eared Starling and Miombo Double-collared Sunbird amongst others.It is worth checking the unusual forest birds that occur at Great Zimbabwe with African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, Red-capped Robin-chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Batis and Swee Waxbill


  • Game viewing – visitors use their own vehicles for transport.
  • Fishing – visitors bring their own fishing gear and boats.
  • Guided walks
  • Hiking
  • Guided horse rides
  • Arboretum walk – unguided walk from Tourist Office to the camp sites
  • Scenic view – Uchicho; view of the lake and mountains
  • Boating


Sign Post

Fishing and Vegetation

Fishing in the lake has been a very popular pasttime for decades but facilities have declined due to prevailing social circumstances.

Anglers will need to bring all their own equipment.

The lake has approx 21 species of fish which includes: Banded bream, Greenhead bream, Sabi/ red breasted bream,  Mozambique bream,  Black bream,  Largemouth bass,  Nembwe, Limpopo sardine, Three spot minnow, Spotted minnow, Hamilton barb, Straight fin barb, Beira barb, Southern kneria, Spotted catlet, Mottled eel, Eastern bottlenose, Smallmouth yellow fish, Red spotted mudsucker, Red-eye mudsucker, Catfish or barbell


The vegetation varies from small patches of evergreen riverine species, through thicket woodland, open woodland, grassland and rocky hills to a barren zone along the lake shore which is subject to periodic inundation and which supports only a sparse cover of annual herbs and grasses.

The vegetation changes from predominance of miombo woodland with brachstegia spiciformis and jubernada globiflora to thickets dominated by peltophorum africanum, terminalia sericea, comberetum and acacia karoo.

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