15 Tours to Great Zimbabwe Ruins, ordered shortest to longest trip. Prices are from R8450 $587 £446 €498 A$774 C$750 NZ$854 to R71740 $4987 £3786 €4229 A$6571 C$6365 NZ$7251 per person. Use our Tour Search → to filter by price, duration, start point, travel style and more.
Great Zimbabwe is a fascinating and historically contentious ancient city, and served as the kingdom's capital during the late iron age, roughly from the 12th or 13th century to the 15th century. It's origins are disputed, but most attribute Great Zimbabwe's construction to the ancestors of today's Shona people. The ruins are a source of great pride for Zimbabweans, and the country was named after this ancient city when it achieved independence in 1980.
While you are allowed to amble through the ruins on your own, there are guides who can take you around. They are knowledgeable and friendly. If you're interested in hearing all the history and folklore of the area, this is the way to go.
Perched on top of the hill, with sweeping views across the valley, this is the oldest section. Two paths lead up to it, one steeper and more difficult than the other - choose according to your fitness levels and agility. If you're up to it, go up one way and down the other to get different views of these incredible structures.
The hill complex is divided into a western and eastern enclosure. It is thought that the western part was the chief's residence. The eastern was where rituals were performed and it is here where the iconic Zimbabwe Bird soapstone statues were found, on top of stone pillars. While these birds were removed by treasure hunters in the 19th century, they are slowly being returned to Zimbabwe.
There are a number of balconies and platforms which would have provided the chief - and provide us, now - panoramic views across 'his' lands.
To the south, below the hill, lies the Great Enclosure, the most well preserved and spectacular part of the ruins. With high walls and an outer wall extending almost 300m, it's impressive.
The Conical Tower is within the walls, and it is thought that this was the seat of power from about the 14th century. Dwellings made of bricks constructed from granite powder and clay are found here. The intricate patterns and building skills of these ancient people has to be seen to be believed.
Down in the valley, where the 'everyday citizens' are thought to have lived, are a number of ruined households, separated by dry stone walls. If you have the time, it's worth an amble through the area.
Situated within the complex is a small museum. Pay it a visit to learn more of the history and see some of the ancient artefacts that have been unearthed during archaeological digs.
A little way from the ruins is a reconstucted replica of a Shona village where one can see traditional dancing and dwellings.
Numerous crafters sell their wares here too, so it's a good spot to find gifts to take home to remind you of this magnificent area.
Find out more with our Great Zimbabwe Ruins budget travel guide page.