Africa’s hidden gem: Swaziland

You may have never heard of Swaziland, but it's rich culture and natural beauty has proven to us that this country is a must in the travel bucket list.

Swaziland is a small country with a lot to give. Landlocked by South Africa it is home to the Swazi people and it is one of the last total monarchies in the world. The king, despite being Christian, has 14 wives and this polygamy is mimicked by its people in all scales. The swazi culture is still alive in many ways, as dances and rituals are conducted at all royal and cultural ceremonies. Swaziland is famous for the growth of marijuana, all of the current kings predecessors smoked it. Even though it is illegal, the use of it is widespread and socially ingrained.

The cultural attire is still used by a notable part if the population, all being handmade and sold at the local craft markets in each town. Head to Swazi candles and if you ask nicely you can have a one-on-one lesson in sculpting a wax candle of your favourite big five member!

Ngwenya Glass is an incredible place. Take a flight of stairs up to a metal grate walkway following the perimeter of the warehouse, giving you a fantastic arial view. Beneath you, artisans work long, hot hours, crafting some of the finest glass you will see. 

With a very high literacy rates, the people are open minded, warm hearted and educated, knowing around 4 languages each, all keen to learn about us as much as we are to learn from them. Every encounter with Swazi people is engaging and interesting from the start.

A minibus from Johannesburg airport will take you across the border and all the way to any of the backpackers in Ezulwini, the countries tourism hub and a perfect place to begin to understand the way of life here.

Transport is very affordable, the public taxis can get you to most places close by for under $1 and a trip from the west to the east of the country is about $4. A Canadian couple opened our eyes to how useful a car was as we visited Mantegna falls and traditional village with them. So we totally recommend hiring a car in Johannesburg and taking it with you to Swaziland.

Safari is a word associated with fancy holidays definitely blowing the budget, but we manages to prove this incorrect. By buying fruit and veg in the markets and doing our own cooking, we managed 4 safaris in 3 days for around $50 a day, seeing Rhinos, hippos, elephants, lions and many more!

Check out our Safaris for budget backpacking for more info.

Whilst this blog may be your first encounter with Swaziland, we hope we have been able to describe enough to take you there! From its beautiful landscapes to its rich culture and the wonderful people living it, this country will touch you.