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Visiting Eswatini: Why This Tiny Country Blew My Mind


by Rubina Stonge



Welcome to the enchanting kingdom of Eswatini, a small but captivating country nestled in the southern region of Africa. Formerly known as Swaziland, Eswatini is a hidden gem that will leave you spellbound with its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Despite its diminutive size, this landlocked nation is brimming with treasures waiting to be explored.


With its diverse range of attractions, Eswatini offers a unique travel experience that caters to every kind of adventurer. Whether you are seeking a thrilling outdoor adventure, a deep dive into the rich cultural heritage, or simply a peaceful escape into nature, Eswatini has it all.


One of the reasons why Eswatini stands out is its untouched natural beauty. From rolling grasslands and lush mountains to vast savannahs and thundering waterfalls, the country is a paradise for nature lovers. The Malolotja Nature Reserve is a prime example of Eswatini’s incredible biodiversity, where hikers and wildlife enthusiasts can explore the breathtaking scenery and spot rare species such as the endangered black rhino.


Another aspect that sets Eswatini apart is its vibrant cultural heritage. The Swazi people are known for their warm and welcoming nature, and visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the local customs and traditions. The annual reed dance ceremony, where young Swazi women perform traditional dances, is a fascinating cultural event that showcases the proud heritage of the nation.


No trip to Eswatini is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. From traditional dishes like umngqusho (samp and beans) and seswaa to modern fusion cuisine, the country offers a tantalizing array of flavors that will delight your taste buds. Be sure to visit a local market to sample fresh fruits, vegetables, and handmade crafts.


For those seeking adventure, Eswatini offers a plethora of thrilling activities. Embark on an exhilarating hike to Sibebe Rock, the world’s second-largest monolith, or take a canopy tour through the stunning Malolotja Nature Reserve. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, go on a safari in Hlane Royal National Park, home to a diverse range of animal species.


The people of Eswatini are renowned for their friendliness and warmth, creating an inviting atmosphere for visitors. Whether you’re exploring the rural areas or strolling through the bustling markets, you will always be greeted with a smile and receive a warm welcome. Engage with locals and learn about their way of life, traditions, and stories.


Eswatini is also rich in history, with a number of fascinating landmarks to explore. The historical sites of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, including ancient rock formations and the prehistoric Lion Cavern, offer a glimpse into the country’s past. Visit the well-preserved Mantenga Cultural Village to learn about the ancestral traditions and customs of the Swazi people.


Lastly, no trip to Eswatini would be complete without bringing home a piece of this enchanting country. Explore the local markets and shops to find unique handicrafts, traditional textiles, vibrant artwork, and beautifully hand-carved wooden sculptures to commemorate your visit.


With its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, Eswatini is a destination that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a cultural enthusiast, this tiny kingdom will exceed your expectations and leave you yearning for more.


So pack your bags, embark on an extraordinary journey, and prepare to be amazed by the wonders of Eswatini.


Getting to Know Eswatini

Before delving into the wonders of Eswatini, it’s important to understand the practicalities of getting there. Located in the southern region of Africa, Eswatini is easily accessible by air or land. The country is bordered by South Africa to the west and Mozambique to the east, offering multiple entry points for travelers.


If you prefer flying, the most convenient option is to arrive at King Mswati III International Airport, located in the capital city of Kwaluseni. The airport is serviced by international and regional airlines, making it easy to connect to Eswatini from major cities such as Johannesburg and Maputo.


Alternatively, you can opt to travel by road. Eswatini is well-connected to neighboring countries through a network of highways, including the N2 and N4 roads. If you’re coming from South Africa, it’s a scenic drive from cities like Johannesburg and Durban, with border crossings at major entry points like Mahamba and Oshoek.


Once you’re in Eswatini, exploring the country is relatively easy. The road infrastructure is well-maintained, and there are several options for transportation, including self-drive, private transfers, and guided tours. Car rental services are available at the airport and in major towns, allowing you to navigate the country at your own pace.


As you venture into Eswatini, you’ll quickly discover that the country is a cultural melting pot, with influences from the Swazi people, British colonial history, and the surrounding African nations. The official languages are Swazi and English, making communication with locals straightforward.


Eswatini has a warm and temperate climate, with mild winters and hot summers. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from May to September, when the weather is pleasant for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing. However, if you’re interested in experiencing the vibrant cultural festivals, such as Incwala and Umhlanga, plan your visit during the corresponding months of December and August, respectively.


It’s important to note that Eswatini is a landlocked country, and access to the coastline is limited. However, the country more than makes up for it with its diverse range of attractions and experiences. From exploring the magnificent national parks to immersing yourself in the vibrant cultural heritage, Eswatini offers an authentic African adventure that is sure to leave a lasting impression.


So go ahead and embark on your journey to Eswatini, a captivating destination that promises to enchant and inspire you with its natural beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality.


Exploring the Natural Beauty

Prepare to be mesmerized by the breathtaking natural beauty that Eswatini has to offer. Despite its small size, this enchanting country boasts an array of stunning landscapes, from lush valleys to towering mountains.


Start your exploration at the Malolotja Nature Reserve, a pristine wilderness area that showcases the incredible biodiversity of Eswatini. Hike along the well-maintained trails and marvel at the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, as the reserve is home to a variety of species, including baboons, antelopes, and a plethora of bird species.


For a taste of adventure, head to Sibebe Rock, the world’s second-largest monolith. A challenging but rewarding hike to the top will reward you with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. As you navigate the rugged terrain, take in the unique flora and fauna that thrive in this rocky landscape.


Eswatini is also blessed with an abundance of waterfalls that will leave you in awe. One such gem is the Phophonyane Falls, tucked away in a lush forest. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings as you listen to the soothing sound of cascading water. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a dip in the refreshing natural pools.


For wildlife enthusiasts, Hlane Royal National Park offers an unparalleled safari experience. Embark on a game drive and encounter magnificent creatures up close, including elephants, lions, giraffes, and rhinos. The park is committed to conservation efforts, making it the perfect place to witness the beauty of African wildlife in their natural habitat.


Eswatini is also an ideal destination for birdwatchers. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the Ezulwini Valley, is a bird lover’s paradise. With over 250 species of birds, including the vibrant purple-crested turaco and the elusive Narina trogon, this sanctuary provides ample opportunities for bird spotting.


As you explore the natural wonders of Eswatini, don’t forget to visit the Ezulwini Valley, known as the “Valley of Heaven.” This picturesque valley is dotted with fertile farmlands, tranquil rivers, and rolling hills, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


Whether you’re an avid hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or simply a nature lover, Eswatini’s natural beauty will leave you awe-inspired. Soak in the tranquility of the landscapes, connect with the wildlife, and find solace in the untouched beauty of this extraordinary country.


Immersing in the Rich Culture

One of the most rewarding aspects of visiting Eswatini is the opportunity to immerse yourself in its rich and vibrant culture. The Swazi people, with their strong sense of community and rich cultural traditions, will warmly welcome you into their world.


Begin your cultural exploration at a traditional Swazi homestead, where you can experience the daily lives of the locals. Take part in traditional activities such as grinding maize, weaving baskets, or brewing traditional beer. Engaging with the locals will give you a deep insight into their customs and way of life.


Music and dance are integral parts of Swazi culture, and you can witness this firsthand at the Umhlanga Reed Dance ceremony. Taking place in late August or early September, this cultural festival brings together thousands of young Swazi women who perform ancient dances to pay homage to the Queen Mother and celebrate their womanhood. It’s a colorful and vibrant event that showcases the pride and unity of the Swazi people.


Another important cultural event in Eswatini is the Incwala ceremony, held in December. This ritual is a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest and serves as a time of reflection, renewal, and cleansing for the nation. Witnessing the Incwala ceremony provides a glimpse into the spiritual and ancestral beliefs that are deeply rooted in Swazi culture.


Eswatini is also home to a number of cultural villages, such as the Mantenga Cultural Village, where visitors can experience the traditional way of life. Explore the beehive huts, watch traditional dances and songs, and learn about the customs and rituals that have been passed down through generations.


Art and crafts are an integral part of Swazi culture, with intricate woodcarvings, colorful textiles, and beautiful beadwork being highly regarded. Visit the Swazi Candles Craft Market to witness skilled artisans creating unique handcrafted candles, or browse through the vibrant markets in Ezulwini and Mbabane to find beautiful traditional crafts to take home as souvenirs.


Food is another integral part of culture, and sampling the local cuisine is a must. Try traditional dishes such as umncweba (dried and cured meat), sidvudvu (pumpkin leaves), and the famous Siswati-style barbecue known as a braai. And don’t forget to indulge in the delightful local beverage called mageu, a fermented corn drink.


Interacting with the Swazi people and immersing yourself in their rich cultural heritage will provide you with a deeper appreciation for the traditions and values that shape this remarkable country. Embrace the warmth and hospitality of the Swazi people as you embark on a cultural journey filled with fascinating customs, captivating performances, and a celebration of the vibrant heritage of Eswatini.


Sampling the Local Cuisine

When visiting Eswatini, be prepared for a culinary adventure that will delight your taste buds. The country’s cuisine is a reflection of its rich cultural heritage and offers a diverse range of flavors and dishes to tantalize your palate.


Start your culinary exploration with staple dishes such as umngqusho and seswaa. Umngqusho is a popular dish made from samp (cracked corn kernels) and beans. It’s a comforting and hearty meal that is often enjoyed with vegetables and meat. Seswaa, on the other hand, is a traditional Botswana dish that has made its way into Swazi cuisine. It consists of slow-cooked, tenderized meat, usually beef or goat, which is shredded and served with a flavorful sauce.


For those with a love for spice, Swazi cuisine offers fiery delights. Try the Swazi-style curry, called incwancwa, which is a rich and aromatic dish made with a blend of spices, vegetables, and meat. Indulge in traditional sambane, a hot and spicy relish made from chilies and tomatoes, which adds a flavorful kick to any meal.


When it comes to traditional drinks, don’t miss the opportunity to try mageu. This refreshing and mildly fermented drink is made from corn and has a slightly sweet and tangy taste. It’s a popular local beverage that provides a cooling respite on hot days.


Exploring the local markets is a must for food enthusiasts. Visit the Manzini Market or the Malkerns Market to sample a wide variety of fresh fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, and pawpaws. You’ll also find vendors selling traditional snacks like amagwinya (fried bread) and roasted nuts.


Eswatini is also known for its excellent dairy products. Be sure to try the local cheeses and yogurts, which are made with locally sourced milk. You’ll find a variety of flavors and styles, from creamy and mild cheeses to tangy and probiotic-rich yogurts.


For a unique culinary experience, dine at local restaurants that serve fusion cuisine, blending Swazi flavors with international influences. These establishments offer a fusion of traditional and modern dishes, often using local ingredients to create innovative and exciting tastes.


Of course, no culinary adventure in Eswatini would be complete without indulging in a traditional braai (barbecue). Enjoy succulent grilled meats, seasoned to perfection and served with sides like pap (maize porridge) and chakalaka (a spicy vegetable relish).


Whether you’re a foodie looking for unique flavors or simply want to explore the local cuisine, Eswatini has something to satisfy every palate. The combination of traditional dishes, spicy flavors, and fresh ingredients will leave you craving more of the delicious flavors that this remarkable country has to offer.


Engaging in Adventure Activities

Eswatini is a playground for adventure enthusiasts, offering a wide range of thrilling activities that will get your adrenaline pumping. From hiking to zip-lining, there is something for every adventure seeker in this captivating country.


For those who love the great outdoors, Eswatini is a hiker’s paradise. Lace up your boots and embark on a trek through the striking landscapes of the Malolotja Nature Reserve. Explore the well-marked trails that wind through mountains, valleys, and forests, offering breathtaking panoramic views at every turn. Be on the lookout for unique flora and fauna, as you may come across rare species such as the elusive black rhino.


If you’re looking for an exhilarating and unique experience, try zip-lining through the stunning landscapes of Eswatini. The Malolotja Canopy Tour takes you on an aerial adventure where you can glide through the treetops, soak in the breathtaking views, and feel the rush of adrenaline as you soar through the air.


For water enthusiasts, Eswatini offers exciting experiences. Take a rafting trip down the Great Usutu River, navigating thrilling rapids and enjoying the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Or, try your hand at canoeing or kayaking on one of the country’s scenic rivers and lakes.


If you prefer two wheels, Eswatini has excellent cycling opportunities. Whether you’re a mountain bike enthusiast or prefer leisurely rides through the countryside, there are numerous trails and routes to explore. Join a guided cycling tour to discover hidden gems and picturesque landscapes while enjoying an active adventure.


Eswatini is also a fantastic destination for wildlife lovers. Hlane Royal National Park offers exhilarating game drives where you can encounter the Big Five – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos. The park also offers guided walks, giving you the opportunity to explore the wilderness on foot and experience an up-close encounter with the incredible wildlife.


For a unique and thrilling experience, go horseback riding through the scenic landscapes of Eswatini. Trot along the trails, traverse through valleys, and spot wildlife from the saddle. This is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in nature while enjoying a different perspective of the country’s stunning beauty.


As you engage in these adventure activities, it’s important to prioritize safety and follow the guidance of experienced guides and instructors. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just looking to try something new, Eswatini will provide you with unforgettable adventures that will leave you with lifelong memories.


Interacting with the Friendly Locals

One of the most remarkable aspects of visiting Eswatini is the warm and welcoming nature of its people. The Swazi locals are known for their friendly demeanor and genuine hospitality, making your time in the country even more memorable.


When you interact with the locals, you’ll quickly realize that they are proud of their culture and heritage. Don’t hesitate to strike up conversations and engage in friendly exchanges. Swazi people are always eager to share their stories, traditions, and way of life with visitors.


One of the best ways to connect with the locals is by taking part in community-based tourism initiatives. These initiatives provide opportunities to visit rural communities, meet the residents, and learn about their daily lives. Engage in activities such as traditional dances, craft-making, or assisting with agricultural tasks. This firsthand experience will deepen your understanding of the Swazi culture and forge meaningful connections.


When exploring local markets and shops, engage with the vendors and artisans. They are often happy to share the stories behind their creations and offer insights into traditional craftsmanship. Ask questions, show interest, and appreciate the skill and effort that goes into their work. This interaction not only enriches your experience but also supports local businesses and promotes sustainable tourism.


If you have the opportunity, join a traditional cooking class or dining experience hosted by a local family. This allows you to learn about Swazi cuisine, participate in the cooking process, and enjoy a meal in an authentic setting. Not only will you savor delicious flavors, but you’ll also gain deeper insights into local culinary traditions and customs.


When traveling through rural areas or visiting cultural villages, treat the locals with respect and curiosity. Observe their customs and traditions, and ask for permission before taking photographs or entering sacred sites. A genuine interest in their way of life will be appreciated and reciprocated with warm smiles and open conversations.


It’s also important to note that greetings are significant in Swazi culture. Take the time to greet locals with a friendly “Sawubona” (hello) and engage in polite conversations. Although English is spoken in many areas, learning a few basic Swazi phrases such as “Yebo” (yes), “Hamba kahle” (goodbye), or “Ngiyabonga” (thank you) can go a long way in fostering connections and showing respect.


Interacting with the friendly locals of Eswatini will not only enhance your travel experience but also leave a lasting impression of the warmth and hospitality that embody the country. Embrace the opportunity to connect with the Swazi people, learn from their traditions, and forge genuine connections that will stay with you long after your visit.


Visiting Historical Landmarks

Eswatini is a country steeped in history, and a visit to this remarkable nation presents the opportunity to explore a range of historical landmarks that offer insights into its rich past. From ancient rock formations to well-preserved cultural villages, these landmarks provide a glimpse into the diverse heritage of Eswatini.


One of the notable historical sites in Eswatini is the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is not only a haven for wildlife but also holds ancient secrets within its boundaries. Explore the prehistoric Lion Cavern, famed for its archaeological significance, where evidence of early human occupation and ancient artifacts have been discovered. The Lion Cavern is a testament to the country’s rich historical roots and provides a fascinating glimpse into its past.


To delve even further into the ancestral traditions and customs of the Swazi people, visit the Mantenga Cultural Village. This living museum offers an immersive experience where you can witness traditional practices, observe traditional dances, and learn about the rituals and beliefs that have been passed down through generations. Engage with knowledgeable guides who will share the stories and significance behind each aspect of Swazi culture.


Eswatini is also home to beautifully-preserved rock art sites that provide insights into the ancient beliefs and artistic expressions of the early inhabitants. The Nsangwini Rock Shelter is one such site, adorned with rock paintings depicting the lives and activities of the San Bushmen who once called this area home. Explore the caves and marvel at the intricate artwork that has endured for centuries.


No exploration of the historical landmarks of Eswatini would be complete without a trip to the Ezulwini Valley. Known as the “Valley of Heaven,” this picturesque region is home to several historical sites. Visit the Execution Rock, a site of historical significance where criminals were brought for punishment in the past. The rock offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and serves as a reminder of the country’s legal system and its evolution over time.


If you’re a history enthusiast, be sure to visit the King Sobhuza II Memorial Park in Lobamba. This memorial pays tribute to one of Eswatini’s most influential leaders and provides a deeper understanding of the nation’s struggle for independence and its journey towards self-governance.


As you explore these historical landmarks, take the time to appreciate the stories they hold and the significance they carry for the Swazi people. Listen to the guides, immerse yourself in the surroundings, and imagine the rich tapestry of events that have shaped this incredible country over the centuries.


Visiting historical landmarks in Eswatini provides a deeper appreciation for the nation’s cultural heritage and offers a glimpse into the lives of those who came before. These sites are not just remnants of the past; they are windows into the identity and resilience of the Swazi people, creating a profound connection between the present and the fascinating history that lies beneath.


Shopping for Unique Souvenirs

Bringing home a piece of Eswatini is a wonderful way to cherish the memories of your visit. The country offers a wide range of unique and handcrafted souvenirs that reflect its rich cultural heritage and showcase the skill of local artisans. From traditional crafts to vibrant artwork, there is something for everyone to take home as a special memento.


One of the best places to shop for souvenirs is the Ezulwini Craft Market. This bustling market is a treasure trove of Swazi craftsmanship, offering an array of goods such as intricately woven baskets, colorful traditional textiles, and beautifully carved wooden sculptures. Explore the stalls and interact with the artisans, who are often more than happy to share the stories behind their creations.


Eswatini is renowned for its vibrant and intricate beaded jewelry. From necklaces and bracelets to earrings and key chains, these pieces are uniquely crafted using colorful beads and can be found in markets and craft stores across the country. Each beadwork design carries symbolic meaning and reflects the Swazi culture, making them not only beautiful but also meaningful keepsakes.


If you’re looking for home decor items, consider purchasing handwoven mats and baskets. These items are made from natural materials such as grass and reeds, and they showcase the traditional weaving techniques of the Swazi people. You can find an assortment of sizes and styles, from small decorative items to larger floor mats.


Eswatini is also known for its vibrant and expressive artwork. Explore art galleries and studios to discover paintings, sculptures, and pottery created by local artists. Their artwork often reflects Swazi traditions, landscapes, and wildlife, providing you with a unique piece of Eswatini’s artistic heritage.


For a taste of Swazi fashion, look for traditional textiles known as “Lidzabhunga,” which are uniquely dyed and woven by local artisans. These fabrics are used to create vibrant and stylish garments, including dresses, skirts, and head wraps. Wearing a piece of Lidzabhunga allows you to carry a part of Eswatini’s cultural identity with you.


When shopping for souvenirs, remember to support fair trade practices and choose products that have been responsibly sourced. By doing so, you contribute to the sustainability of local communities and ensure that artisans receive fair compensation for their skills and craftsmanship.


Shopping for unique souvenirs in Eswatini is not just about acquiring physical items; it’s about connecting with the country’s rich cultural heritage and supporting local artisans. Each piece you bring back home represents a piece of this enchanting country and carries the spirit of the Swazi people, allowing you to relive the magic of your Eswatini experience for years to come.



A journey to Eswatini is a voyage of discovery, where the beauty of nature, richness of culture, and warmth of its people leave an indelible mark on your soul. This enchanting kingdom nestled in southern Africa offers a myriad of experiences that will captivate and inspire you.


From exploring the untouched natural beauty of the Malolotja Nature Reserve and embarking on thrilling adventure activities, to immersing yourself in the vibrant culture and sampling the mouthwatering local cuisine, Eswatini has something for every traveler. The country’s historical landmarks provide glimpses into its fascinating past, while the friendly locals ensure that you feel welcome and at home.


As you traverse through the scenic landscapes and engage with the Swazi people, you’ll uncover the stories behind ancient rock formations, witness the traditions passed down through generations, and be amazed by the resilience and pride of the nation. Whether you’re interacting with locals at a community-based tourism initiative, shopping for unique souvenirs that reflect the rich cultural heritage, or simply exchanging warm smiles and greetings, the spirit of Eswatini will leave an impact that lingers long after your departure.


The allure of Eswatini lies not only in its stunning natural wonders, but also in the genuine warmth and hospitality of its people. The Swazi locals are eager to share their traditions, values, and stories, inviting you to become a part of their world. Through cultural experiences, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the country’s heritage and form connections that transcend borders and language barriers.


So, whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural immersion, or simply a peaceful escape into nature, Eswatini guarantees an extraordinary journey filled with lifelong memories. This tiny kingdom, with its awe-inspiring landscapes, rich history, and friendly locals, will leave you with a sense of wonder and an appreciation for the magic that resides within its borders.


Pack your bags, open your heart, and embark on a transformational adventure to Eswatini. A country that will ignite your senses, broaden your horizons, and leave an imprint on your soul. Eswatini awaits you with open arms, ready to immerse you in a world of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and unforgettable moments that will stay with you forever.