Relaxing but nondescript, Mbabane is a great place to recharge and unwind against the picturesque setting in the Diangeni Hills. The capital of Swaziland is short on traditional tourist attractions, but its location makes it a good jumping-off point for further exploration of the country.
Most travelers visit Mbabane only to stock up on supplies before heading further into the country, but every visitor should take the time to see Sibebe Rock. The huge granite dome is mostly sheer, but reasonably fit travelers with an adventuresome streak can usually traverse the rock. Looking down off the steep faces is a great adrenaline rush, and the view from the top is unbeatable.
The city is also home to three of the University of Swaziland’s campuses and the Waterford-Kamhlaba United World College. The international school’s campus is one of the most beautiful sights in the capital, and students from around the region come there to study.
There are a small number of restaurants in the city, and visitors can get a good meal for just a small amount of money. Cuisines represented include French, German, Italian, Indian and Chinese, but tourists should indulge in at least one Swazi-style feast while in the city. Depending on the season, visitors can sample traditional dishes like siphuphe semabhontjisi, a thick porridge composed of mashed beans, emasi emabele, a dish of ground sorghum and sour milk, sishwala, a thick porridge of vegetables and meat, or umbidvo wetintsanga, a mix of nuts and cooked pumpkin tops.
For souvenirs, visitors can shop at a handful of stores located in the city center. There is usually a large selection of locally-made clothing and handicrafts, and some galleries highlight works of art by contemporary Swazi artists.
There really is no bad time to visit the city. Mbabane’s altitude gives it a more mild climate than other cities in the humid subtropical region, and snow is rare. In January, the average temperature is 22 degrees Celsius, and in July the average temperature is 15 degrees Celsius.
One of the best times to visit Mbabane and Swaziland in general is during Incwala , the Festival of the First Fruits. From mid-December through January, locals celebrate the traditional religious festival by uniting together and seeking blessings from the ancestors.
About 110 kilometers from the capital lies the Hlane Royal National Park. It is the country’s largest national park and home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, zebras, lions and other mammals. The area also boasts an abundance of bird life, and visitors can take guided treks to experience the country’s flora and fauna first hand.
An hour’s drive from the capital takes visitors to another outstanding national park, the Mkhaya Game Reserve. Established in 1979, the reserve is dedicated to saving some of Swaziland’s most precious but endangered creatures, including white and black rhinos, sable antelopes, elephants and tsessebes. The only way to reach the reserve is in a 4×4 vehicle, and local guides are available to lead treks through the park.
Mbabane Geographical Location
Mbabane is located on the Mbabane River towards the northwest of Swaziland.
The population of Mbabane is approximately 98,000 and is the largest city in Swaziland.
English and SiSwati are the official languages of Swaziland. SiSwati is much more common as a primary language than English.
Mbabane Predominant Religion
- 40% Zionist
- 30% Other
- 20% Roman Catholic
- 10% Muslim
Anglican, Baha’i, Methodist, Mormon, and Jewish comprise the “other” religions within Swaziland.
The Lilangeni is the official currency of Swaziland.
It is usually warm throughout the year in Mbabane without becoming hot. The rainy season is between December and February but rainfall does occur regularly throughout the year.
Mbabane Main Attractions
- The Swazi Market
- Sibebe Rock
- Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Other Attraction in Mbabane
- Ngwenya Glass
- White Water Rafting
- Swazi Candles