Located along the southeast coast of Africa and bordering South Africa, Mozambique is a place saved for the adventurous souls out there. It is no lie that traveling to Mozambique is challenging. Apart from its status as one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world, the lack of information on the Internet makes this unconventional holiday destination seem intimidating. But don’t worry; if you’re ready for this journey off the beaten path, this article is just what you need to help you jump-start your trip.
Before you go...
Unless you’re planning to rent a car for your trip, public transportation will be your safest bet for getting around Mozambique. Chapas (a general term used for public transportation that isn’t a bus or truck) are the most popular form of local transport. Unlike taxis, chapas can easily be hailed from anywhere. However, do note that chapa drivers are notorious for their risky driving, so it is recommended to stick with a bus whenever possible.
Longer routes between towns typically use a camiao (truck). The only passenger train available in Mozambique travels between Nampula and Cuamba (east to west). If you are traveling that path, be sure to book it in advance. Taking you through the African wilderness, this train ride is one of southern Africa’s greatest journeys. But if you are visiting other parts of Mozambique, don’t rely on a train to get you there.
As the capital and largest city in the country, Maputo is easily the most developed place in Mozambique and will most likely be the hub of your trip. Because of its location by the coast and its economical reliance on the harbor, Maputo has been nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’. And who wouldn’t want to visit this gem buried within the vast unexplored lands of Africa?
The heart of the city is complete with not only a wide range hotels and restaurants catering to tourists, but also a vibrant cultural scene. Even though Maputo is more expensive than other parts of Mozambique, it is affordable compared to other destinations in the world, making it an ideal place for budget-travelers.
1. Marvel at one of the world’s most beautiful rail stations, Maputo Central Railway Station
Recognized as one of the most striking rail stations in the world, Maputo Central Railway Station is a must-visit when in Mozambique. Its décor is complete with marble pillars, wrought iron works, and a large central dome, all of which contribute to its magnificence as one of the city’s most renowned landmarks.
If you want to learn more about Mozambique’s unique culture, don’t just stay outside. Take a step into the station. A small exhibition featuring local and visiting artists is displayed on one side inside the station. And at the other end of the station stands a museum about Mozambique’s historical railways.
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2. Admire the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
This Roman Catholic cathedral was completed in 1944, using only concrete and cement in its structure. Who knew such minimalism and use of new materials would result in this stunning architectural structure? Ironically, the decision to build the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception with this simplicity was actually due to financial problems Mozambique was suffering at that time.
As impressive as its exterior architectural foundation is, you should also take a tour of its interior. With a bright and airy space, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the epitome of the city’s increasing growth and modernity.
3. Whale-watch off the coast of Mozambique at Inhaca Island
Just off the coast of Mozambique, approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Maputo, is Inhaca Island. Known for its impressive flora and fauna, this subtropical island is a popular destination for eco-tourists. Even if you are not an ecology expert, enjoy the array of geographical landscapes, from cultivated fields to grassy plains and extensive coral reefs.
Whale-watching is one of the most common activities for tourists on Inhaca Island. Spanning the months of July to November, migrating humpback whales make their way to the shores of Inhaca. As many as 40 whales can be spotted in one day, and watching these endangered species thrive in their natural habitat is something you will not want to miss.
Pestana Inhaca Lodge: Inhaca Island
Website: Pestana Inhaca Lodge
4. Find the protected elephant population at Maputo Special Reserve
No more than a couple of hours away from the capital city is Maputo Special Reserve, a spectacular but isolated piece of land lying by the Indian Ocean coast. Once home to approximately 350 wild elephants, this reserve formerly focused on saving the elephant population. It is estimated that there are only around 180 left today, with many lost to the war and the practice of poaching.
Depending on your luck, you may be able to catch a sighting of an elephant or two. But don’t go in expecting to find one. Small herds of antelopes, hippos, and other animals can also be found at Maputo Special Reserve. Even if you don’t see any animals, the remarkable landscapes that you will see on the African safari should make up for it.
Maputo Special Reserve
Address: Matutuíne District, Mozambique
Access: 4-hour drive (96 miles / 155 kilometers) from Maputo city
Known for its rich underwater life, Tofo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mozambique. Home to beach resorts and diving retreats, this small town is a quiet getaway from the city, an ideal destination if you are seeking peace. There is no better place to watch the waves of the Indian Ocean crash gently onto shore than at the picture-perfect 8-kilometer (5-mile) stretch of sandy beach in Tofo.
5. Dive into the underwater world of Mozambique
Much of Tofo’s tourism is built around the fact that it is one of the best destinations in the world for scuba diving, known for its abundant marine life. Whale sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles are among some of the sea creatures that have been spotted off the coast of Tofo.
If you are interested, visit Tofo Scuba, Mozambique’s longest operating dive center. Offering 11 courses for different levels of divers (beginner to advanced) at 19 dive sites spread all around the island, you are sure to find one that appeals to you. Even if you are not keen on diving, they also offer daily ‘Ocean Safaris’ to give non-divers an opportunity to see the famous whale sharks.
Address: Praia do Tofo, Inhambane, Mozambique
Duration: At least 2 hours
Price: From 3100 MZN (49.90 USD)
Website: Tofo Scuba
6. Explore the land along the beach via a quad bike adventure or horseback ride
You can have just as much fun on land as in the sea in Tofo. Quad biking and horseback riding are the two popular ways for tourists to explore the vast beaches.
For quad biking, tours are available from Tofo Beach to Barra Point, giving you stunning views of the Indian Ocean coastline. If you are feeling more daring, you can also rent one and explore the small nearby villages by yourself. Discover small secluded beaches that aren’t directly accessible from Tofo. You might just find a little secret hideout from the rest of the world.
Horseback riding along the beach is another great way to enjoy the beautiful beach of Tofo. Feel the ocean breeze in your hair as you canter along the fine line between the land and the ocean. To maximize your experience, join a riding tour that begins in the evening, which will allow you to see the sunset falling across the horizon.
Quad Bike Tour: Casa Anjila
Address: Tofo, Inhambane, Mozambique
Duration: 2 hours
Website: Quad Bike Tour: Casa Anjila
Horse Riding: Cavalheiros Do Toro
Duration: 1.5 hours
Price: 1000 MZN (16.10 USD)
Ponta do Ouro
Directly translating to ‘tip of gold’ in English, Ponta do Ouro is located in the south end of Mozambique, only 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away from the South African border. This little town is nothing short of gold. With sunrises that light up the sky in vivid colors and its difficult accessibility, Ponta do Ouro is a special gem buried in the corner of Mozambique.
Tip: because there are no tarmacked roads around the town, Ponta do Ouro is only accessible via a 4x4 vehicle. In other words, the sole way to get there is by driving.
7. Bring out your inner child and swim with dolphins
Unlike some dolphin encounters in the world, Ponta do Ouro is recognized for its awareness concerning the conservation of dolphins. Aiming to protect the dolphin species while providing personalized tours for all visitors, you can’t visit Ponta do Ouro without spending some time with dolphins.
Check out The Dolphin Center while you are there. They offer a range of excursions ranging in duration and costs. If you are visiting in whale season, you may be lucky enough to see a couple of whales from the boat too during your tour. While they do accept walk-in visitors, it is recommended that you book in advance.
The Dolphin Center
Opening Hours: 8:30 am - 4 pm (Monday to Saturday), 8:30 am - 1 pm (Sunday)
Duration: At least 2 hours
Price: From 1050 MZN (16.90 USD)
Website: The Dolphin Center
8. Drink some of Mozambique’s unique alcohol
Take a sip of Mozambique’s local alcohol. As with any other country, Mozambique has beers and cocktails that are unique to its country and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Known for being cheap and good, 2M and Laurentina are two of Mozambique’s famous beers. If you aren’t a fan of beer, try a delicious cocktail by the name of R&R instead. Combining a local rum called Tipo Tinto, fizzy Sparletta Raspberry, and lots of ice, R&R is the most popular cocktail choice and can be found in almost any restaurant in the country.
Even though Beira is the second-largest city in the country after Maputo, it is a less-popular tourist destination due to its poor economy. But don’t let that cause you to second guess a trip to Beira. There are always perks of visiting a city without crowds of tourists. Home to one of Mozambique’s most significant ports, Beira is crucial to the country’s economy, acting as a gateway for both central Mozambique, and the neighboring nations of Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi.
9. Discover the historical sights of a city torn by war
During the 16-year Mozambican Civil War, Beira saw some of the worst damages compared to other cities in the country. As a result, it is home to many historical sites that reflect the effects of the war.
One of the few old buildings that survived the war, Beira Cathedral is one of the main attractions in the city. In the midst of Beira’s inability to recover back to its original glory, this cathedral stands out as a distinct feature. Built in the early 20th century with stones from the old San Caetano Fort, in Sofala, this small but beautiful structure will be worth a quick visit.
On the other end of the spectrum is Grande Hotel Beira, loosely defined as an ‘anti-attraction’. Unlike Beira Cathedral, this former luxury hotel did not survive the war. What was once the pride of Africa is now home to thousands of squatters who were displaced during the war. Honor the better times and pay your respects to the horrors of war at the commemoration site of Grande Hotel Beira.
Grande Hotel Beira
10. Experience the authentic African wilderness at Gorongosa National Park
What is a trip to Africa without experiencing its wilderness? Because of its biodiversity, Gorongosa National Park is considered one of the most unique parks in the world by scientists. Apart from various wild animals (such as lions, elephants, crocodiles, birds), this renowned national park also features diverse landscapes. From the gorgeous peak of Mount Gorongosa to the deep valleys of The Great Rift, you will not find anywhere as ecologically diverse as Gorongosa National Park.
Catering to individual preferences, various tours and safaris are available for visitors of the park. Guided game drives, boat safaris, waterfalls, hikes, and sunset tours are among some of the activities you can choose from at Gorongosa. It is a perfect destination for everyone, especially those in need of a family-friendly adventure.
Gorongosa National Park
Address: EN 1, Gorongosa, Sofala, Mozambique
Opening Hours: 6 am - 6 pm (April to July), 5:30 am - 6 pm (August to September), 5 am - 6:30 pm (October to December)
Price: 20 USD (adults), 10 USD (kids between 10 and 17 years old), free (kids under 10 years old) *Prices listed above are daily conservation fees *Additional charges apply for specific activities; see website below for more details
Website: Gorongosa National Park
A port city that lies along Pemba Bay, Pemba has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, especially among upper-middle class Mozambicans and South Africans. As a result, hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment activities have developed over the years to satisfy its visitors.
Often praised for its distinctive Portuguese colonial architecture and for its importance as a water sport destination, Pemba is suitable for both the history-lover and the adventurer. It is also home to the closest airport for those intending to visit the Quirimbas Islands or Quirimbas National Park.
11. Sail around the bay in a dhow, a traditional African-Arabian boat
As far as coastal towns in Mozambique go, Pemba has fairly modern standards in many aspects. But if you’re looking for a more traditional experience, a dhow is your solution.
In Pemba, visitors are presented with an opportunity to ride in a traditional sailing vessel used specifically in the Indian Ocean region of the world. There is no better way to discover the beautiful beaches and nearby islands of Pemba than by cruising around the bay. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience of being in a dhow, as well as the stunning landscape of Pemba Bay.
1-Day Pemba Bay Dhow Trip: Mozambique Accommodation
Duration: 1 day
Price: From 20.40 USD
Website: 1-Day Pemba Bay Dhow Trip
8-Day Island Hopping Mozambique Dhow Safari: Ibo Island Lodge
Duration: 8 days
Price: From 2,195 USD (adults) and 1,395 USD (kids under 11 years old)
12. Participate in various water sports at one of the world's largest natural bays
Take a dive in Pemba Bay, the 3rd-largest natural bay in the world. With a coral reef that lies close to the shore, Pemba is an ideal spot for water activities. From scuba diving to fishing, there is something for everyone. Its abundance of fish species (e.g. kingfish, great barracuda, and more) guarantees that you will have a fulfilling experience no matter which water activity you choose to do.
However, do note that the currents in Pemba Bay can be fairly strong, and hence the area is only recommended for experienced divers. And if you happen to be diving during whale season (usually July to October), you may even be able to witness a whale mating ritual occur before your eyes.
Price: 52 USD per dive; courses start from 130 USD *Price decreases the more dives you do *Additional charge for equipment rental
Website: Dive Pemba
Located in southern Mozambique, Xai-Xai is a small bustling city that has become a popular tourist attraction. Although it was developed under Portuguese rule as a port, and an agricultural and administrative center, it never reached the economic significance of other large cities. Today, tourism plays a significant role in boosting the town’s economy.
13. Relax along the beautiful seaside of Praia do Xai-Xai
Xai-Xai is the kind of destination to visit if all you want is a relaxing holiday. In other words, if you dream of spending hours by the beach and doing no sightseeing. Approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away from downtown Xai-Xai, Praia do Xai-Xai provides an ideal atmosphere to lounge around by the beach or swim in the lagoon.
Unlike other coastal towns in Mozambique, intense water sports (i.e. scuba diving) are not available here. However, you can fish and snorkel among the beautiful coral reefs that run parallel to the shore. If none of that interests you, lying on the soft fine sands of Praia do Xai-Xai is perfectly pleasurable as well.
Dating back to the 15th century, Inhambane is a historic town known for its rusting colonial architecture. It was once the hub for Arab traders who would sail down the coast of Africa for business. However, in recent years, it has been popular among tourists due to several notables sites in the surrounding area. The easiest way to get to Inhambane is to drive from Maputo, Beira, or Zimbabwe. Flights are also available from Maputo or Johannesburg (South Africa) into Inhambane Airport.
14. Learn about the city's history through its famous landmarks
Today, Inhambane is home to several landmarks, including a cathedral, museum, and market, that define its historical significance. Located in the old quarter is a cathedral that goes by the same name of that in Maputo (see #2), the Cathedral of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Built almost 2 centuries ago, this ancient cathedral provides you with great panoramic views of the city if you climb up the ladder on top of the cathedral’s spire.
To learn more about Mozambique’s history, stop by the Inhambane Museum. Filled with interesting artifacts, agricultural tools, and photographs from the past, you are sure to find out something new about this culturally-rich nation. If you’re more interested in the modern culture, be sure to visit the Inhamane Central Market (Mercado Central). It features a colorful array of spices and fresh produce that will give you a sense of the local cuisine.
Inhambane Historical Landmarks
15. Uncover the infinite marine life of Bazaruto National Park
Known for its lush tropical climate, Bazaruto National Park is an archipelago of 6 islands along the Mozambican coast. Its islands provide some of the most scenic views you can find in the country. What makes the park particularly impressive is that it was built to protect the dying population of dugongs in the West Indian Ocean. Along with dugongs, Bazaruto is home to a rich marine life, which is especially appealing to visitors who intend to snorkel or dive.
If you have sufficient time, feel free to visit all six islands. But if you don’t, Bazaruto Island is the one you wouldn’t want to skip. As the largest and most popular island in the park, Bazaruto Island offers a range of activities and surreal landscapes that you will never forget.
Bazaruto National Park
Venture into unfamiliar territory
Don’t let the fact that there is little information on Mozambique’s tourism online stop you from visiting this unimaginable country. In fact, maybe that should be the exact reason you visit. With less influence telling you what to do and where to go, you have the freedom to truly explore the country in whatever way you desire. The activities above are nothing more than suggestions and recommendations. So get out there and be courageous. And don’t be afraid to make new discoveries while you’re there!
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