Livingstone, named after legendary Scottish explorer David Livingstone, owes its existence primarily to the Victoria Falls and was once the bustling capital of Zambia. The town was established as a crossing point on the Zambezi River in 1905, and in 1935, the capital was moved to Lusaka. But Livingstone has retained its “tourist capital” status.
For many years, Livingstone was eclipsed by the busier Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls, on the other side of the Zambezi River. But in recent years, the town has undergone a remarkable transformation and is now home to fantastic activities and great places to stay.
There’s lots to do here. From adventure activities like bungee jumping and white-water rafting to helicopter and microlight flights, there’s something for every adventure level. There’s also plenty to do if those heart-stopping activities aren’t your cup of tea.
Pro Tip: The area I’m referring to as “Livingstone” covers the town, the Zambian side of the falls, and the Zambezi River upstream.
Hidden Gem: Livingstone Is An Underrated Place You Should Visit With Amazing Things to See & Do
1. See The Victoria Falls
First, head to Victoria Falls. During high-water season, this is an exhilarating and soaking stroll. Bring, borrow, or rent a raincoat or you’ll find yourself getting drenched as you duck in and out of the mist-soaked rainforest at 13 different viewpoints, braving the spray to admire the views.
In low-water season, head down to the Boiling Pot, a massive whirlpool at the base of the falls. Looking up from here, you’ll get an entirely different perspective of the falls and the famous Victoria Falls Bridge.
2. Victoria Falls Bridge
Next, head to the Victoria Falls Bridge. Connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe, the bridge was the dream of Cecil Rhodes, whose vision was to connect the Cape to Cairo by rail. Construction began in 1903 and was completed in 1905. Shearwater runs a historic bridge tour where you walk the catwalk under the bridge — an area normally closed to the public — getting unique views of the falls, the Zambezi River, and the Batoka Gorge.
3. Bridge Adrenaline Activities
Bungee jump or swing off the bridge and experience 364 feet of freefall and 4 seconds of pure adrenaline! This is undoubtedly the most scenic bungee jump in the world and is sure to be the greatest bungee jump you’ll ever experience.
Bungee jumping and bridge swinging a little too scary? Try the Bridge Slide. Of all the bridge activities, this is the tamest. You can do it on your own or in tandem. It’s a fun, mildly adventurous activity with great views.
4. White-Water Rafting
Spend a day rafting with Bundu Adventures. The rapids below the falls are classified as Grade V and are some of the best for white-water rafting in the world. Downstream from the falls, the Zambezi River has miles of deep, zigzagging, torturous channels. The incredible volume of water guarantees an exhilarating day of white water. Some calm stretches allow for peaceful moments of quiet appreciation and fantastic gorge views. Good fitness levels are essential.
5. Sunset Cruise
Decompress from all that excitement with a sunset cruise, an essential part of the Victoria Falls experience. Head out on The African Queen to catch glimpses of hippos, crocs, and a myriad of birds and wildlife as you head upstream while enjoying cocktails and canapes.
6. The Devil’s Pool
One of the most unique attractions on the Zambian side of the falls is Devil’s Pool — arguably the most extreme infinity pool in the world. A natural rock pool situated right on the very lip of the falls, the Devil’s Pool is only accessible from Zambia. To get there, you’ll be picked up by a speed boat and taken out to Livingstone Island. After a quick tour of the island, you’ll have the chance to take a dip and peer over the edge and into the misty abyss below.
7. Fly Over The Falls
Taking to the air in a microlight is one of the most breathtaking ways to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world. If a microlight sounds too adventurous, then opt for a helicopter flight — a definite bucket-list activity. If possible, opt for the slightly longer flight. This includes a dramatic flight down into the Batoka Gorge where you’ll find yourself flying just above the water, shadowing the rapids.
If you’d prefer to ease yourself gracefully into the “adrenaline business,” sign up for a guided canoeing safari on the Zambezi, upstream from the falls. Paddling between the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambian side and the Zambezi Game Park on the Zimbabwean side, you’ll glimpse at a great selection of wildlife.
9. Wildlife And Walking With Rhinos
Visit the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. While the park may be one of the smallest in the country, it’s home to giraffes, zebras, buffalo, most of Zambia’s different antelope species, and plenty of elephants. One of the best reasons to visit is that it’s home to Zambia’s only white rhino; book a guided tour for an almost guaranteed chance of an up-close sighting.
10. See A Lunar Rainbow
Victoria Falls is one of the few places on Earth where a lunar rainbow occurs and can be witnessed with relative ease. During a full moon, the light refracting through the spray creates an ethereal lunar rainbow, something surprisingly few people who visit the falls know about. The best viewpoints for the Vic Falls lunar rainbow are in Zambia, along the eastern cataract, and at the entrance gates kept open late the night before, the night of, and the night after a full moon.
11. Bicycle Tour
For something a little more active, Local Cowboy Bicycle Tours takes you through some areas you might not otherwise visit, including Livingstone town, local villages, local markets, and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
If you’re interested in history, visit the Livingstone Museum, the largest and oldest museum in Zambia. There’s some interesting displays, including a collection of David Livingstone memorabilia. If trains are your interest, head to the Railway Museum with its display of old steam locomotives and railway paraphernalia. Housed on the grounds of the Railway Museum is the tiny Jewish Museum for some history of early Jewish settlers who first arrived in the 1890s.
13. Dinner On A Steam Train
Board the Royal Livingstone Express for a trip back in time to the luxury and grandeur of the bygone era of steam trains. Nibble canapes and sip cocktails in the restored and renovated lounge car as the train makes its way to the Victoria Falls Bridge, where you’ll alight to view the falls. Boarding the train again, you’ll move to the dining car to enjoy a five-course dinner.
14. Arts, Crafts, And Culture
Stay at Jolly Boys Backpackers for the opportunity to explore the cultural side of Livingstone. Sign up for one of their many activities, including an African Culture & Cooking Tour and free weekly Livingstone Town Walking Tours. Visit Maramba Cultural Village, home to the Zambian National Dance Troupe, or check out Livingstone’s art scene by heading to Wayiwayi Art Studio and Gallery or the National Art Gallery. If you’re looking for souvenirs, visit Mukuni Park and Curio Market located right on the main street of town; remember that bargaining is expected!
Where To Stay
Mukwa River Lodge offers luxury accommodations with beautiful décor and fantastic meals on the banks of the Zambezi, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) upstream from the falls. Built to blend in with the natural surroundings, the rooms have gorgeous views out over the river.
Don’t pass Livingstone by. The town can be easily added before or after a safari trip in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, or even northeastern Namibia. Get a taste of the real Zambia when visiting Victoria Falls.