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Ezulwini Valley

Ezulwini Valley,, Swaziland

Ezulwini Valley is a valley of northwest Eswatini. Also known as "The Valley of Heaven", the valley lasts for about 30 kilometres, and is bounded to the east by the Mdzimba hills. In the Ezulwini Valley between breath-taking mountains and rolling plains, the Royal Swazi Sun Casino is your first stop to discover the history, tradition, culture and friendliness of the Swazi people, while enjoying excellent dining and entertainment options.

Ezulwini Valley is Eswatini’s (Swaziland’s) main tourist area offering a wealth of attractions. Ezulwini means ‘place of heaven’, and the panoramic valley that bears this name certainly offers its share of hedonistic delights. This is where tourism in Swaziland began, and today its attractions include hotels, restaurants, hot springs, casinos, craft markets, art galleries, riding stables, a nature reserve, a golf course and a cultural village. Most visitors pass this way, and those who spend just one night in the kingdom will probably spend it here. Ezulwini Valley lies directly south east of Mbabane, extending from the bottom of the Malagwane Hill to Lobamba, and runs parallel with the MR3 highway from Mbabane to Manzini. It is flanked to the west by the craggy Luphohlo/Lugogo mountains and to the east by the sacred Mdzimba mountains. Its development as a tourist centre dates back to the 1960s, when the Royal Swazi Spa Hotel opened beside some natural hot springs known as the Cuddle Puddle, bringing with it southern Africa’s first casino. By 1983, Ezulwini had become the country’s Golden Mile, with a proliferation of hotels, casinos, golf courses, restaurants and other tourist honey pots.

Times have changed, however, and the Valley – once famed for its colourful nightlife – is now better known for its fine family-friendly hotels, and natural and cultural attractions. And while its lights may be bright by Swati standards, the developments are still dwarfed by their picturesque backdrop. Today visitors can still stay at top-end hotels, or choose from plentiful guesthouses, chalets and backpacker hostels. Eating out options range from the renowned Calabash Restaurant, to international cuisine at the Gables shopping centre, with no shortage of cafés and takeaways for the budget conscious.

The Ezulwini Valley offers a wealth of options for that quintessential Swazi gift. At the Ezulwini Craft Market – Eswatini’s largest, with some 126 different stalls – you will find everything from wooden carvings, plates and beadwork to jewellery, textiles and traditional garments. The Mantenga Craft and Lifestyle Centre nearby offers similar fare, plus an opportunity to nip round the back and watch the artisans in action. For lovers of contemporary art, the Yebo Art Gallery and Design Studio hosts regular exhibitions. Gables provides standard ‘mall shops’.

There is a casino to enjoy at the Happy Valley Hotel, while the larger hotels stage regular live performances, from cabaret nights to fashion shows, and House on Fire at Malandela’s is only 15 minutes’ drive away. Those in search of more active pursuits will find swimming pools and tennis courts at the larger hotels. The jewel in the valley’s sporting crown, however, is undoubtedly the 18-hole, championship-standard golf course at the Royal Swazi, one of the most impressive and scenic in southern Africa. (2022: although the Royal Swazi Spa hotel is currently closed down, the golf course remains open)

Other activities include in the Ezulwini Valley horse riding at Hoofbeat Safaris, with outrides of different lengths across the valley, and quad biking at The Devil’s Cauldron, the site of an old tin mine behind the Royal Swazi. The more limber can also get beneath the surface of Eswatini, literally, with adventure caving – a guided activity that explores a unique cave system underneath the Malagwane Hill. These last two activities, and many more, are the brainchildren of Swazi Trails. They and All Out Africa, are the country’s top adventure tour operators, offering cultural and wildlife excursions as well as adventure activities.

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