Which Side of Victoria Falls Should you Visit? 4 Things to Consider

Posted by on March 17th, 2023

View of Victoria Falls from a Zimbabwe viewpoint.

Victoria Falls is an excellent addition to any Southern Africa itinerary, offering great contrast to both safari adventures and explorations into the history and culture of Cape Town. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a captivating mix of scenery, nature, wildlife, culture, history, and even adventure. Whatever your draw to the famous falls may be, the most common question I am asked when planning trips to Victoria Falls is “which side do you recommend?” The falls sit on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, with about 75% of the waterfall falling into Zimbabwe. As a result, there is an ongoing debate about which side of the mighty falls is best for viewing. Is there a “right” answer? In my experience, it is entirely subjective. For me, the answer is simply, both.

This past November, I had the pleasure of spending a few days on each side of Victoria Falls. Although I have been to the area before, this trip between Zambia and Zimbabwe allowed me to make a direct comparison and gave me new insight into the longstanding debate. The “right” answer is not going to be the same for everyone. When planning a visit Victoria Falls, there are four main factors to consider: seasonality, activities, accommodations, and time.

Travel to Victoria Falls: Key Factors to Planning a Great Trip

An overhead view of the width of Victoria Falls.

1. Seasonality

The water flow does change throughout the year over the falls. Between February and June, the water is abundant on both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of the falls. The spray can be so intense that it is difficult to see the falls at times, and near impossible to see the depth of the Batonka Gorge below. Walkways can also be slippery, and extra caution must be taken at the different viewpoints.

Between June and September, the water flow begins to drop, but the falls are still very full on both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides. This creates more visibility and is a sweet spot for seeing the falls in all of their glory from all angles, without getting quite as wet as you will earlier in the year. The same is true for January and February, when the water levels are coming back.

A side-view of Victoria Falls taken from the Zambia side in November, when this section of the waterfall is nearly dried up.
Victoria Falls from Zambia in November
A front-side view of Victoria Falls taken from Zimbabwe during the low-water period (November).
Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe in November

From September into December, the falls are at their lowest water levels. It is important to note during this period the Zambia side completely dries up. This is when the Zimbabwe side steals the show, offering good views of the waterfall even given the reduced flow. However, at this time of year, the Zambia side instead provides a new and interesting perspective, allowing visitors views into the vast depth and natural formation of the Batonka Gorge below.

Overall, it is worth seeing Victoria Falls from both sides at any time of the year to take in a full picture of its natural beauty. The Zimbabwe side delivers a head-on perspective from 16 viewpoints and angles. In contrast, the Zambia side reveals a side profile and showcases the real width and depth of the gorge.  Of course, it is not necessary to overnight on each side of the falls to view the waterfall from both sides. The decision on where to stay can be best determined by considering the remaining factors below.

2. Activities

In both Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingstone, Zambia, there are a range of activities to choose from that will enhance your visit to the waterfall itself. Take a Zambezi sunset cruise, a helicopter flight over the falls, or experience a wildlife encounter with one of the local conservation projects. For more adventurous travelers, there are also opportunities to go white-water rafting (seasonal).

From Livingstone, Zambia, visitors can access Livingstone Island and immerse themselves in the natural landscape at the top of the falls themselves. Between June and December (depending on water levels), guests can also opt to swim at the edge of the falls in the daring Devil’s Pool.

On the Zimbabwe side, in the town of Victoria Falls, guests can dine overlooking the gorge at the Lookout Café or spend some time between activities shopping for local crafts or enjoying a treat at a café in the Elephant’s Walk shopping area.

3. Accommodations

In Zambia, accommodations are further from the falls and spread out along the river. More often, accommodations here are all-inclusive river lodges with other activities on offer such as game drives, village visits, or nature walks.  

In Zimbabwe, there is more choice between the all-inclusive river lodge-style properties located further from town, or a hotel-style property located near the falls. This provides guests with a range of options that appeal to different budgets and experiences.

4. Time

Touring both sides of Victoria Falls can be done in one day from either side of the border. Guests staying in Livingstone or at a river lodge near the falls will have the best experience with a minimum of 3 nights. For those tight on time, a 2-night stay is better enjoyed at one of the hotels in the town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. This provides just the right amount of time for a tour of the falls and a Zambezi sunset cruise, with just a bit of extra time to explore some shops and restaurants.

Other Pros and Cons to Consider

Zambia: Pros

  • Less crowded and touristy
  • A compelling side-view perspective of the falls offering a greater sense of its depth and insight into the vast size of the gorge into which the water flows
  • No entry visa
  • Access to Livingstone Island which allows you to feel as though you are at the top of the falls
  • Opportunity to swim in Devil’s Pool (seasonal)
  • Reliable direct flight from Southern Kruger

Zambia: Cons

  • The water nearly completely dries up between September and January
  • Hotels are more spread out, further from the falls themselves, and options are more limited for budget clients
  • Limited shops and restaurants outside of accommodations

Zimbabwe: Pros

  • Water flows all year (but is at its lowest point between September and December)
  • More viewpoints available of the falls overall
  • More accommodation options to suit any traveler or budget
  • A lively downtown area with shops and restaurants

Zimbabwe: Cons

  • More touristy and can be noisy – you are in the heart of the action
  • Visa required for entry ($30 USD per person for American guests and $75 USD per person for Canadian guests)
  • Less frequent/reliable direct flights from Kruger

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