Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins travel guide: Everything you need to know

Great Zimbabwe Monument Ruins travel guide faqs

Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins travel guide: Everything you need to know

Last updated March 2024

Written by Beth


What’s so important about Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

UNESCO has called it “the greatest stone monument in Africa south of the Sahara”, second in size only to the Pyramids in Egypt. It was originally built between 1200 and 1500 AD, long before foreigners penetrated the African continent.

These ancient city ruins have intrigued both locals and visitors for centuries. The local name for the area was “Dzimba dza mabwe” (roughly “Houses of Stone”), or in short, “Zimbabwe”.

When Rhodesia became independent, under African rule, in 1980, the new nation was named after this ancient city, and the country itself was called Zimbabwe.

Read more about its important history here, and keep reading below for practical details and FAQs on visiting Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins.
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Where is Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

The ruins and monument at Great Zimbabwe are located 25 km south-east of the town of Masvingo (roughly pronounced “Ma-shing-o”), south of Lake Mutirikwi, in south-eastern Zimbabwe.

How do I get to Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

International visitors need to fly into Zimbabwe’s main airports of Harare, Bulawayo or Victoria Falls. From there, travel either by road (the most recommended option) or air to Great Zimbabwe Monument. See below for further details.


By car, Great Zimbabwe is roughly a 4-hour drive from Bulawayo and Harare respectively, and around an 8-hour drive from Victoria Falls. For this reason, we recommend staying a few days in the Great Zimbabwe area, combining your visit with a safari, spotting wildlife and going boating in the nearby Kyle Recreational Park.

Self-drive: If driving to Great Zimbabwe from Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Bulawayo or Harare, you need to drive through the town of Masvingo. The main roads to Masvingo are tarred and fairly busy especially between Beitbridge, Masvingo and Harare, because this is a main international freight route.

TOP TIP: Don’t pull off the road in remote areas between Harare and Masvingo.

Masvingo town centre is small, with palm-lined, wide streets lined and shabby nut genteel buildings. Upon arrival in Masvingo, follow the signs to Great Zimbabwe, and turn left off the A4 Beitbridge road. Here, the road is narrower but still in good condition.

From Masvingo, there is a good dirt road to the Monument which is passable for most vehicles. Enter Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins at the ticket office to pay the entry fee and then drive round to the large car park and picnic area where you can then walk around the site.Great Zimbabwe Guide Accommodation-1-3

The road from Masvingo to Great Zimbabwe Monument.

Private shuttle: The easiest option is to ask your hotel or lodge in Great Zimbabwe to help book your transport; they will usually be able to book a private shuttle. There’s no scheduled reliable public transport from Masvingo to Great Zimbabwe, but many of the lodges have their own intercity shuttle facilities that take you directly to the monument. You can also see a list of private shuttle services on our page Intercity coach & bus travel in Zimbabwe if you’d like to book one directly.

Informal transport: Alternatively, if you’re happy using cheap, unscheduled public transport, backpackers can catch a minibus or bus to Masvingo from Harare Road Port or Mbare Terminals, or from Bulawayo/Mutare. There is no website for the minibuses as there are scores of private ones, but there is a website for Zupco bus company giving times and fares. When you arrive in Masvingo, you will then need to catch a minibus from outside the Pick ‘n’ Pay supermarket on Leopord Takawira Avenue to Great Zimbabwe (this will take about 20 mins). The minibus will drop you off at a crossroad near Great Zimbabwe Ruins for around US $1.50. You’ll need to walk past Great Zimbabwe Hotel to the Ruins (about 2 km). When travelling back from the ruins to Masvingo, independent travellers could have lunch at Great Zimbabwe Hotel and ask them to book a taxi for a group of you to Masvingo, which will cost around US $12.


The flight to Masvingo Airport from other airports in Zimbabwe will take less than an hour, however only charter flights are available. You’ll then need a road transfer from the airport to the Monument.

Flight shto Great Zimbabwe: The only flights to Masvingo Airport are on a charter basis. Contact one of the charter airlines such as HAC, Executive Air and Mack Air, listed on our Internal flights in Zimbabwe page for a quote.

Do I need to book ahead to visit Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

No, you don’t need to book ahead. There aren’t usually many tourists, and it is a large site over 7 square kilometres (nearly 3 square miles) that can accommodate many people.Great Zimbabwe Africa Ruin Canva 3

Can I get food at Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

There is a modest restaurant/café on-site, past the entrance, where you can try a traditional sadza (maize meal dish) and perhaps have some hot chips and sodas. Another option is that you request a packed lunch pre-made by your hotel, or bring your own.

There’s a large and shady picnic area at the entrance, so I prefer to bring my own refreshments to enjoy under the trees.

You could also drive or walk to a nearby hotel for lunch: for example, Great Zimbabwe Hotel is within walking distance, about 1 km from the ruins, and serves food all day.

Are there toilets and other facilities at Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

There are toilet facilities at the main gate and the museum/restaurant of Great Zimbabwe, but not inside the ruin area itself.

There’s no supermarket or cash machine at Great Zimbabwe Monument and Ruins. Cash machines can be found in the town of Masvingo, 25 km away.

What is the entrance fee for Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

The entrance fee is US $5 for Zimbabwe residents and US $15 for non-residents. Children pay $3 for residents and $8 for non-residents (last checked March 2024; also see the NMMZ website services/products section for current prices). The fee includes entrance to the on-site museum. You do not need to pay to use the toilets.

Where can I stay in Masvingo and Great Zimbabwe?

Most of the tourist-friendly hotels are found closer to Great Zimbabwe Monument and the nearby Kyle Recreational Park / Lake Mutirikwi rather than the town of Masvingo itself.

See my dedicated post all about accommodation here: Where to stay in Masvingo and Great Zimbabwe Monument.

Can children visit Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

Yes, it is mostly child-friendly, especially as it is a large natural area enjoyed on foot.

Babies will need to be carried in a sling or carrier, or in a very hardy pushchair. The paths are sandy but bumpy. The lower parts of the ruins (Valley area and Great Enclosure) are relatively flat to walk around.

The Hill Complex or Acropolis section of the monument is less suitable for younger children who aren’t used to hiking, as the path is single file and steep in places.

Younger children can stay in the lower parts of the monument and run around the large walls and ruins there (perhaps while some members of the group climb up the hill). The picnic area at the entrance is also a fun place for children to enjoy a snack.

Older children can soak up the educational history of this iron-age experience.

Remember that between 11 am and 2pm the sun can get extremely hot, so avoid visiting at this time. The best time to arrive is around 9am (opening time is usually 8am). Always pack water, wear sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats.

What’s the best time to visit Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

TOP TIP: It can get hot in Great Zimbabwe so avoid visiting between 11 am and 2 pm. The best time of day to visit is around 9am. Make sure you have a wide-brimmed hat, water and sunscreen, and perhaps even an umbrella to use as shade. Opening time is usually 8am and closing time is 5pm.

The best time of year to visit Great Zimbabwe is between April and September when there is little rain.

There are scores of aloes around this area of Zimbabwe, so it is wonderful to time your visit when the aloes are flowering (May to August). If there was one month I’d pick as the best, it would be in May, when the vegetation and grasses are still a little green and the temperatures aren’t too high.

Rain usually only falls in Zimbabwe between November and March, in the summer. The hottest months are September and October. Zimbabwe is at a high altitude, which means the heat doesn’t usually feel as oppressive as in coastal countries, but the African sun is powerful no matter which month you visit. In June and July (winter), it gets frosty at night but stays mild, beautiful and warm during the day. Read more about Zimbabwe’s climate and weather here.

What else is there to do near Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

In the nearby Kyle Recreational Park, you can track wild rhino and other wildlife, see the dam wall, and go boating or fishing.

You can also visit the incongruously Italian Chapel of St Francis of Assisi, located just outside the Masvingo Army Barracks on the Mutare Road.

Can I do a guided tour of Great Zimbabwe from Harare or Bulawayo?

Yes, you can. This and That Safaris and Black Rhino Safaris have guided tours and day trips of Great Zimbabwe Ruins from Bulawayo or Harare (contact them to ask about other locations), which can include transport.

Many of the lodges in the Great Zimbabwe area can also book guided tours of the ruins for you, but you need to specify whether you would like a government guide or a private guide. A government guide is easy to book on arrival at the monument yourself.

Here at Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog, we do not run our own tours of Great Zimbabwe Monument: we’re an online guidebook rather than a tour guide 🙂

Large groups could contact the NMMZ reservations telephone number: +263242774208/752876 or email address [email protected].

Do I need a guide to show me around Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

A guide isn’t necessary, as there are signs and booklets, so it’s personal preference whether to hire a guide or not. If you’re part of a tour group with a private company, a private guide will no doubt add colour, insight and humour to your visit to Great Zimbabwe Monument.

When you pay your entrance fee at the gate, you can hire a government guide to show you around the site, but when I did this in 2013 the guide wasn’t very personable, and didn’t give me any extra information to what was in the booklet. Perhaps this was because there weren’t enough visitors to give government guides the experience they need … perhaps that particular guide was just having a bad day.Great Zimbabwe Ruins Monument (1 of 1)-17

It’s easy to follow the signs and walk around Great Zimbabwe without a guide. There are information booklets available at the curio shop and directional signs around the monument.

I’ve put together a Google map and information about walking around the different areas of Great Zimbabwe Monument and Ruins: be sure to give it a read.

If you don’t have much time and you’re a fast walker, you could see the whole site in couple of hours, but it’s best to dedicate about 4 hours to walk around it, to have some food and soak up the historical and sometimes haunting atmosphere.

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How do I contact Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins?

Great Zimbabwe Monument is managed by the Zimbabwe Government department called National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) – visit their website and click on the ‘Contact us’ for their head office address, email and telephone number. At the time of writing, the NMMZ reservations telephone number was +263242774208/752876 or email address [email protected].


Peter Garlake Great Zimbabwe Book AntiquityPeter Garlake was considered one of the key students of Great Zimbabwe, and he wrote an important book in 1973 which contains many interesting facts and pictures of Great Zimbabwe Monument and Ruins. It is available on Amazon here: Great Zimbabwe: New Aspects of Antiquity (affiliate link).

Here at Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog, we do not run our own tours of Great Zimbabwe Monument: we’re an online guidebook rather than a tour guide 🙂

Travel advice about Great Zimbabwe, Kyle, Mutirikwi & Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe Monument Ruins travel guide faqs

Walking around Great Zimbabwe Monument Ruins Guide Map

History Great Zimbabwe Monument Ruins

Where to stay Great Zimbabwe Masvingo accommodation

Read more about Great Zimbabwe Monument & Ruins

#ironage #africanhistory #blackhistory #blacktravel #archaeology

Check out my Zimbabwe travel quick reference guide for more articles about the country.

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Planning a Zimbabwe holiday?

If you’re planning your Zimbabwe holiday (hooray!), I can recommend Go2Africa, Africa’s Leading Safari Company (and one of our affiliates). Go2Africa has been tailor-making safari holidays for thousands of clients from across the globe since 1998. You can research African destinations, accommodation, and more. Even better, you can directly contact their safari specialists who can help you get the African experience that’s perfect for you.

Please do visit the Go2Africa website, or check out their Zimbabwe tours here.

Follow Beth (Travel Editor/Writer):

Beth is the founder and chief writer of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog. Practical Zimbabwe travel advice since 2010.

11 Responses

  1. Chogurweyi M.

    Hy I am Chogurweyi M of Rushinga primary School and need Great Zimbabwe’s email and contact addresses.

    thank you in advance.

    Chogurweyi M.(School Committe Member for Trips).

  2. Alex

    Hi, I was also wondering about the opening hours. Is it open on a Saturday? Are the hours also 8am to 5pm? Thanks so much.

  3. Francis Chagonda

    Educational Tour
    I write on behalf of Rock Foundation Schools, our school intends visiting the Great Zimbabwe Ruins on the 8th of August 2017. The total of the learners and educators is 53.
    Can we be afforded a slot on this day of our lord.

    Thank You
    Francis Chagonda
    Trip Organizer

  4. Borja

    Dear Beth,

    Is there any way to contact Great Zimbabwe campground & lodges hotel? I would need either a phone number or an email address to contact them.

    Thank you very much.

  5. Usvala

    I can’t find anywhere the opening hrs. Everywhere it is said that GZ is terribly hot but is it open in the cool morning hrs (like Palmyra, Taj Mahal, Petra and other similar sights)?

    • GreatZimbabweGuide

      Hi, it is usually open 8am to 5pm and yes, it is cooler in the mornings. In June and July it is not as hot during the day there.