Bordered on three sides by South Africa and by Mozambique to the east, this landlocked kingdom, granted final independence from Britain in 1967, makes a fantastic trip for those travelling in South Africa. Visas are readily available at all the borders, cost free, and the country has a huge diversity of geography and flora and fauna for such a small nation.
Ruled over by King Mswati III, Swaziland is world famous for it's traditional ceremonies. Umhlanga, held in August/September and Incwala, held in December/ January. The exact timing of these ceremonies are defined by the phases of the moon. Umhlanga, also known as the 'reed dance' is where young, childless and unmarried girls dance to pay respect for the Queen Mother. Incwala is held on the fourth day after the full moon nearest the longest day, 21 December and lasts one month. It is based around the honouring of the king and a celebration of the new harvest. Both events are spectacularly colourful scenes of music and dance.
Although a tiny country; around 17,300 sq. km, it has more than 20 protected areas. The more well-known of these being Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in the Malkerns valley; Hlane Royal National Park and Lubombo Conservancy, the largest, which sits along the border with Mozambique and stretches down to the border with KwaZulu-Natal. It is comprised of a number of reserves including Shewula, Mbuluzi, Mlawula and Hlane.
For backpackers, there are some great choices for hostels in Swaziland. They are spread around the country, some of them quite remote and give access to the different regions and lifestyles of Swaziland. Predictably, most of the Swazi hostels are located in the central area around Malkerns and Ezulwini valleys. There are several in this area, all of very good quality, but wi-fi access is not great here, if available at all and that goes for Swaziland as a whole. Most of these hostels are self-catering, but the ones in Malkerns valley do provide meals. There are opportunities for hiking, biking, rafting, etc. These can be organized easiest from the Ezulwini hostels. These hostels are long-running and well managed and are used to taking tourists on various excursions, so excellent info and advice can be got here.
Access to the remoter parts of Swaziland is not difficult as local transport links are good. There is hostel dorm accommodation in Shewula by the Mozambique border with access to Shewula, Mbuluzi and Mlawula nature reserves. Food is available here, too. In the north-west of the country, there is hostel accommodation at Hawane Resort, but of poor quality, and more further north near Mnyokane which has a wonderful rural atmosphere with great views and some interesting hikes.
Even more remote, there is hostel accommodation just being completed in the Hhohho region, in Hhelehhele. This area gives a great insight into real Swazi rural life and, despite its remoteness, can be accessed by public transport from Piggs Peak.
Nearly all the hostels in Swaziland are clean, efficient and comfortable and the Ezulwini and Malkerns hostels are a great way to meet other travellers depending on the time of year, as most of the tourism is focused in this area.
There is a terrific diversity of landscapes here from dry lowland bush to high mountains peppered by canyons and rivers. It makes an excellent trip in itself, although most travellers spend a few days during a South Africa tour and the excellent accommodation through all ranges and especially for the budget traveller make this a not-to-be-missed destination.
Hi, I'm Londonroad,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Swaziland hostels. Welcome.