Northwestern Province, Zambia: 15 things to do and places to see
Your ultimate guide to site seeing in the northwestern part of Zambia: waterfalls, rapids, rivers, plains and more. Everything you need to know about how to get around and the "must see" places that you don't want to miss!
The Northwestern province, home of the Lunda territory, is extensive in land and rich in nature. With its remote distance from many of the major cities in Zambia, it has not been as explored which made it hard for us to find information about places to go and things to do. After navigating it recently, I can say it is most definitely worth a trip to experience many hidden gems and I hope that this list and information helps you out as you go exploring!
Three reasons it is not as commonly visited by tourists are its remote location, the state of the roads, a need for more tourism investment and development. Although it is difficult to access sites the more remote you go, it is an opportune time to see such places as it gives one with nature, unexplored experience.
The source of the Zambezi river is the spotlight destination of tourism in Northwestern province. We went to see this and along the way reveled in the beauty of much more nature. Traveling from the Copperbelt province, the main town of the Northwestern province and last large town for a long time traveling is Solwezi. It is worth stopping in Solwezi and seeing a few of their natural wonders before continuing on to more waterfalls and the Zambezi source farther north.
Recommended time of year to go
April - August
It is important to go after the rainy season has finished due to the state of the roads, but the rainfall begins earlier in Mwinilunga than most other places in Zambia. This time of year is also good to see some water at the source of the Zambezi, as other times it dries up.
Recommended amount of time
A long weekend would be too short to do both Solwezi and Mwinilunga towns so I would recommend breaking it up into 3-4 days for each town and surrounding destinations or planning at least a week to do it all. These are also all great day and overnight trips for anyone living in Northwestern province.
15 places to go in Northwestern Province:
Mutanda falls (rapids)
The lunga river
The source of the Zambezi river
Zambezi forest reserve
Kalene hill and pineapple farms
Muzhila (Mujila) waterfall
5 bonus places: Sakeji School and Nchila wildlife reserve are also highly recommended to add to this list! They are both nearby the Zambezi Rapids. There are a few more places much farther southwest which would be better combined with a trip to Western Province but are technically still in Northwestern Province such as Chavuma falls, Chhinyingi Bridge and Kamompo House. Liuwa Plain National Park, Sioma National Park and waterfall, Brotse floodplain, Mongu town are places to explore when looking ahead at Western province.
Let’s explore Northwestern Province with this list of 15 places to go!
The caves are fascinating because just 5km from Solwezi town and all of a sudden, everything becomes peaceful. The road is smooth and short; it was easily accessible for a small car in 2020 but as of 2022 the road has much more difficult parts. The entrance fee is standard national monument price of K8 ($15 non residents) and K5 to drive your car in. There is a river with rapids and hiking as well as rock formations with carvings that date back to prehistoric times.
Mutanda falls, or also known as rapids, are a lovely place to visit. Georgie’s restaurant and lodge is the most popular place to go to experience the beauty but I would highly recommend Mutanda lodge. We experienced both which was a great way to do it. Mutanda lodge is a little closer to Solwezi and the main road with a quiet atmosphere. The rapids are better here for swimming and the access point is right next to the bar and restaurant. They also have impala on the property!
Georgie’s tends to be a busier location and the rapids are also swimmable here but not in a private and relaxing way.
Trident Garden Estate is definitely worth a visit if you have the opportunity! It is a private estate with a dam for kayaking, golf course with golf carts, restaurant, bar, pool and gym. The restaurant atmosphere is relaxing with a beautiful view over the golf course and dam. You do need to know someone who lives there to get in, security is very strict so there is no way around this. Everything runs on a membership card so if you are looking to do any activities and eat/drink from the restaurant, you'll have to use the card with the member. Everyone was welcoming and enjoyed seeing new faces.
130km beyond Kalumbila, and 15km off the main road is a breathtaking waterfall. Nyambwezu waterfall has mossy steep rock surfaces, tropical plants and vines all around with sheets of water falling down in a gorgeous way. As you descend the air cools down and the canopy of trees and mist of the waterfall are rejuvenating. A perfect picnic spot, good for swimming and even camping!
Although this is a national monument, it is not kept up as well as the national monument waterfalls in Luapula, Northern and other provinces. The road is not graded and has some difficult parts to get through that require a high clearance vehicle. Due to the state of the road, the 15km could take more than 30 minutes each way. Once you arrive, there are no buildings and the clearing is hardly noticeable. There is space for a few vehicles to park and camp but no official camping sites or demarcations. In March 2022 the river flooded and the walking bridge was washed away. There is a short and low log bridge that is shaky but sturdy enough to walk across. From there, it is a short and steep hike down to the bottom of the falls.
The Lunga river
Upon entering the humble town of Mwinilunga, you will cross a bridge of the river where the town derives its name. The Lunga river flows through the town of Mwinilunga and can be seen from many different places around. It is definitely worth taking some time to sit by the river or book a place to stay with a view. Lunga river view lodge is a good option for accommodation in Mwinilunga.
On the way to the Zambezi source, you will drive through expansive plains. The Chitunta plains have been recognised as an important bird area (IBA) for a number of bird species such as the Grimwood's Longdlaw, Rosy breasted, Fulleborn's Longclaws, Angola Lark, Blue Quail, Black-rumped Buttonquail and Great Snipe. At least eleven species of Cisticolas are found here. The site is also known for hosting Ficochrysops pinheyi, a Zambian endemic butterfly and Onychogomphus kitchingmani, an endemic dragonfly. The sign here recommends seeking the help of local people to explore the area and notes that a local conservation group is available.
The source of the Zambezi river
Mwinilunga is known as the location of the source of the Zambezi, and it is important to note that it is about 50km north of the town. This is an iconic place to visit in Zambia being of such importance for the country. It is amazing to see such a small spring of water knowing that as it flows all throughout Zambia it will become the magnificent mosi-oa-tunya, Victoria falls, the world wonder. Not only is it so significant and special, it is also a beautiful area to walk around and the grounds have been well maintained with a simple tour of a small but significant spring.
The water is known to be medicinal and herbal with a somewhat distinct taste as it comes out freshly chilled. The filtration through the roots makes it full of minerals and much more fresh at its source than anywhere else along the river. It is traditionally said to be an aphrodisiac, and the location of the source is where families and tribes have performed ceremonies and education for many centuries. About 2km beyond, Komwadi is the first river that feeds into the Zambezi source. The river continues to be fed by other streams and rivers as it flows strongly from the northwestern corner to the border of Zimbabwe, with many popular tourist attractions along the way, the most notable being Lower Zambezi.
Zambezi forest reserve
As you visit the source, soak in the beautiful forest in which the source of the Zambezi lives. This is a protected forest area with trees so tall to form a refreshingly cool canopy.
As the source begins in the upper northwestern corner of Zambia, the river then flows into the DRC, up to Angola and then back down into Zambia. This short anticlockwise circle of water with other artibuaries entering, creates incredible rapids about 40km north of the source, as well as a location of a power station. Therefore, the Zambezi rapids are found about 90km beyond Mwinilunga. This is most definitely worth a day trip and bring your swimming costume, picnic and cool box!
The Zambezi rapids are not pinned on google maps because there is no service in this area. In order to access them, you continue past the source and then turn off the main road to the left towards an army post. Pass the small army post and it will eventually lead to a nursing school. At the roundabout of the nursing school, go right and continue on the road until you finally see a small torn sign for Zambezi power station. Ask along the way, everyone is very helpful and knows how to point explorers to the rapids.
The rapids are extensive. Many different levels and rocks to hike around and numerous spots to swim. Even in July the water felt cold but refreshing so definitely recommend bringing a swimsuit to sit or slide or swim. There are fantastic sliding rocks that the kids were loving! It was busy on a Sunday long weekend with many youth groups who came for a day and overnight camping at the Zambezi rapids, but most other days you will be the only group to make the venture all this way.
Kalene hill and pineapple farms
As you drive from the Zambezi source to its rapids, reveal in the fields of pineapples with a beautiful view of Kalene hill. Make sure to stop and buy some pineapples here because the farther away you go, the more expensive and less fresh they become. Kalene hill has a high elevation and can be hiked to see a gorgeous panoramic view over this area.
A large, multi drop waterfall which is probably the most accessible of all natural wonders in Northwestern province. This is also an ideal waterfall to swim in with a beautiful pool at the bottom and extensive tree coverage. Nyangombe waterfall is located at the Nyangombe Christian training centre which is pinned on google maps, and the exact location of the falls can be asked for upon entrance. Turn off the main road at the sign for the Christian training centre, about 10km from mwinilunga (towards solwezi). This is not a national monument.
Kakobo canyon rapids
Much beyond the Nyangomoe waterfall, lies the Kakobo canyon rapids. It is a rocky and bumpy drive all the way to this location and therefore a 4x4 heavy duty car is needed and definitely would not advise going in the rainy season. There are a few turns to make at forks in the road so best to take someone who knows how to get there because there is no pin on google maps and service is spotty or no existent. Upon arrival, there are a few small thatched roof coverings which are there for camping and fishing trips by the Nyangombe Christian training centre.
This iconic rock is another point that is not on google maps and requires specific directions or going with someone who is familiar with it. Nyaunda rock is a tall, beautiful multi colored rock with steep sides. There is traditional significance to this rock and although it is not a popular tourist destination currently, it is definitely somewhere to add to your “must see” list. It is about 60km from the main road on tough terrain.
This medium sized lake serves as a lovely day trip from Mwinilunga. The pin location is correct on google maps but the road is again a tough terrain so make sure to plan adequate time and vehicles to access this remote location. Bring your picnic!
Muzhila (Mujila) waterfall
Not far from Lake Chibesa is a lovely, small waterfall and agricultural centre. The pin on google maps is also correct here and is good combined with a day trip to Lake Chibesa.