Great Zimbabwe Ruins
The Great Zimbabwe ruins, the heart of Zimbabwe’s history, are located roughly 25km from the Mazvingo main town, approximately 300km (4-hour drive) from the cities of Bulawayo and Harare, and an 8-hour drive from Victoria Falls.
If you enjoy hiking, educational walks, or simply learning more about history and ancient architecture, a visit to this beautiful site is a must! Even if hiking is not your scene, most of the ruins can still be enjoyed without the intensity of climbing, and one can take a slow stroll to navigate and view them. Surrounded by panoramic sights of hills and forest, the gigantic granite stone structures, walls, and passageways are quite remarkable, even for those who have walked the ruins countless times. Get your hat and walking shoes on for this adventure, and make sure to keep a bottle or two of water and sunblock handy, as it does get hot in the African sun.
There are three main structures of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, covering around 1,779 acres of land: the Hill Ruins, the smaller Valley Ruins, and the Great Enclosure. The Hill Ruins are said to be the oldest ruins in the area, where you’ll find coarse granite blocks forming separate areas that are entered via slim, partly enclosed, passages. This structure is commonly called a 'royal city'; the enclosure to the west is thought to have been the home of sequential chiefs, and the enclosure to the east is where you’ll see six soapstone pillars with bird carvings perched on top. The hike up to the king’s fortress is well worth the time and energy, and the view from the top is unforgettable.
Below the Hill Ruins is the most famous of all the buildings, the Great Enclosure named “Imbahuru”, which means “the house of the great woman”, or “great house”. The surrounding wall that encases the enclosure stands 32 feet high in certain places and runs 800 feet along. It is said that over 1 million gravel blocks were used in its construction. Inside this outer wall is another smaller wall which creates a narrow passageway of 180 feet in length. No one knows the true purpose of the Great Enclosure, but some understand it to have been a royal palace, or a living quarters for the many wives of the king. Inside the enclosure is a great conical tower, 18 feet in diameter and standing 30 feet in the air.
The Great Zimbabwe Ruins also consists of an area of small Valley Ruins, named for its location in a valley between the two larger structures. These ruins seem to be an arrangement of living quarters scattered around. Some people assume that this was built in order to accommodate more of the population as it increased in number, since the walls of these ruins appear to be much younger than the others.
The museum in nearby, for those who are interested in the educational side, and there is a village replica inside, where you can learn about how the people lived in those times, as well as see more of the famous Zimbabwe birds, hand carved out of soapstone.