Encircled by the giant geography of South Africa, the small kingdom of Eswatini has given itself a new name, but still has the same amazing attractions!
Named Swaziland by the British colonial powers, this tiny nation has now expressed its right to self-determination and, as it is known in the local language, will now be called Eswatini… and rightly so.
And be under no illusion, this country may be small, but it is astoundingly beautiful.
So here’s my list of the top 10 things to do in Eswatini…
Oh and if you’re looking for a great tour in this country, check out these fantastic options!
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My trip to Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) was kindly sponsored by African Budget Safaris, but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
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#1 Safari to the Max
Coming in at number 1 on my list of the best things to do in Eswatini is safari up to the max!
That’s because this small country, boasts at least 4 national parks that are delightfully uncrowded with tourists, but chock full of wildlife.
And top of many people’s list is to spot a rhino, which have been thankfully protected in large numbers by this country’s strong anti-poaching stance.
In fact, it’s probably one of the best places in the world to see rhinos and that’s quite a claim!
And the best place to do this in Eswatini is Mkhaya Game Reserve, so definitely put this place on your list to have a great chance of spotting both the black and white variety.
#2 Experience Rhino Trekking
But if you want to go one level up and not just see rhinos close up from the safety of your vehicle, but actually get out of your 4×4 and walk up close to them, then I’m happy to inform you rhino trekking is definitely one of the best Eswatini attractions.
And honestly, I can say from personal experience, this is every bit as amazing and terrifying as it sounds!
Definitely one of the highlights of my trip to this country with African Budget Safaris (who are complete pros at helping arrange your Eswatini experiences FYI) we got so near to the rhinos in Hlane Royal National Park, I could hardly believe it.
But I have to say our professional, local guide definitely made us feel at ease the whole time and our safety, as well as that of the rhino, was certainly paramount in his mind.
A truly unforgettable experience.
#3 Camp Under the Stars
And in both the national parks I’ve already mentioned, as well as others throughout this country, you get the chance to camp out under those amazing southern Africa skies.
Without question one of the best things you can do in Eswatini, sleeping under more stars than you can believe exist, while antelope and zebra graze around you, is one of those quintessential African experiences you can’t miss here.
#4 Discover a Cultural Tour
With a unique and very strong traditional culture, no visit to Eswatini would be complete without learning a bit about how local people live out their cultural beliefs.
While many cultural practices here are controversial, such as the rule of the absolute monarchy and the ubiquitous polygamy, to discover more about how this operates and to speak to local people about their beliefs is definitely one of the things to do in Eswatini you should not miss.
There are many village tours available throughout the country and I’m delighted to say that the one I got to experience with African Budget Safaris was very authentic and free from the often fabricated displays of indigenous culture so common during African village tours.
To see people’s houses, witness a school sports afternoon and learn directly from a young local person what living in Eswatini is really like, was a surprisingly interesting and genuine excursion.
#5 Brave Some Whitewater Rafting
But back to the adventure, another of the can’t-miss things to do in Eswatini is brace yourself for some white-water rafting.
The hot spot for this is the Great Usutu River, which is in the east of the country in the area of the Mkhaya Game Reserve.
Here, the river passes through a gorge where perfect sets of rapids can be enjoyed even during the dry, winter season.
Full and half day rafting trips are on offer and if you’re really brave, abseiling, cliff-jumping and caving tours are too!
#6 Head out on a Hike
The gorgeous landscape of Eswatini is undoubtedly one of this country’s defining features.
Often referred to as the Switzerland of Africa (although why we still have to view Africa’s amazingness through the lens of Europe I don’t know), however you want to describe it, the mountainous, green terrain of this country is jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
And getting amongst it for a hike is certainly one of the best things to do in Eswatini, with the Malolotja Nature Reserve or Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary providing 2 of the best spots.
#7 Get Your Heart Racing With Mountain Biking
Also available to enjoy in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is some mountain biking, with the beautiful landscape of this reserve offering the perfect opportunity to get your heart rate up and the views of this country into your mental camera.
The good thing about this park is that there are no predators, so you can enjoy cycling past kudu, zebra, warthogs, wildebeest and many other delightful animals, without the fear of any danger.
Well-marked trails make mountain biking easy to do here as a self-guided adventure, or you can take a guide too if you want to learn more about what you’re seeing.
#8 Saddle Up for Some Horse Riding
Another great thing to do in Eswatini’s Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is enjoy some horse riding.
Bookable via the Main Camp, where you can also stay in some delightful traditional “beehive” structures, hour-long guided horse rides that are suitable for beginners, will allow you to take in the impressive Nyonyane Mountain and its ominously named (find out how it got its name!) Execution Rock.
#9 Go Souvenir Shopping
With such a strong traditional culture, the handicrafts and souvenirs you can find in Eswatini are delightful and stopping to pick up some gifts for those at home, or for yourself in my case (!), is definitely one of the best things to do in Swaziland.
Shopping for souvenirs is also easy here, with many handicraft markets set up across the country, making it simple to purchase some unique items and support women’s cooperatives and local artisans at the same time.
The Malkerns Valley area of the country is one of the best places to find them, so head here with a full wallet and an empty backpack!
#10 Snapping the View
And last, but not least, one of the best things to do in Eswatini you can’t miss – even if you just drive through this country – is snapping the gorgeous landscape.
The green hills, amount of trees and lack of obtrusive infrastructure here, really demonstrate what a stunning rural country this is and strongly impart of a sense of Africa as still untouched and raw.
One of the best places to take it all in is from Sibebe Rock, just outside the capital Mbabane, which is actually the second biggest monolith in the world after Uluru in Australia!
Climbing this huge natural structure can be dangerous however, so I’d highly recommend taking a guided tour, which can offer a good non-technical, albeit hard, climbing option.
Mini Travel Guide to Eswatini
When to Visit?
The drier winter months between April and September are definitely the best time to visit Eswatini.
Looking for an Eswatini Tour or Car Rental?
African Budget Safaris are a family company, operating out of South Africa, who are complete pros at ensuring you get the best trip in their incredible home continent.
With years of experience, I’ve personally met the lovely couple who own the company, and can definitely attest to their passion for sharing Africa with the world!
You can also visit Eswatini as part of an amazing adventure with Absolute Africa who I highly recommend for their excellent prices, great customer service, wonderful itineraries and amazing overall experience.
And you can now get an exclusive discount on your Absolute Africa safari when you email them at [email protected] and quote the code BWSP.
For other Eswatini tour choices, including those with a more comfortable travel style check out these top options.
4 Packing Essentials for Eswatini
#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to Swaziland with lots of top tips and recommended places to stay.
#2 Sunhat – eSwatini gets seriously warm, even in winter, and protecting yourself from those UV rays is crucial during any outdoor activities. I love this design from Hello Sunshine.
#3 South African Power Adapters – Eswatini follows South Africa in terms of their power outlets, which are unique the world over, so make sure you come prepared with the right adapter.
#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing the wildlife and landscape of this amazing country.
#5 Insect Repellent and Anti-Malarials – I recommend a 30% DEET spray to reduce the risk of malaria when travelling in Eswatini.
Travel Insurance for Eswatini
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money in Eswatini
When it comes to paying for things in this country, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markup and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Eswantini… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get yours here.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
And that’s it, my list of the 10 best things to do in Eswatini.
Even spending a few days in this small country will give you a great feel for its uniqueness and the chance to visit a few of its spectacular national parks and reserves, which really do exemplify the best of its beautiful landscape.