Stretching for 300km down the eastern side of Zimbabwe, bordering Mozambique, are the Eastern Highlands – the combined name for three ranges of hills and mountains – the rolling countryside and tea plantations of the Nyanga range; the granite peaks of the Chimanimani Mountains; and the green meadows and the coffee plantations of the Bvumba range.
These areas are sparsely populated, making it a peaceful place to visit. It enjoys a cool, wet climate providing relief from the higher temperatures of the lower lands. Hidden within the rolling landscape are great little places to stay, beautiful scenic drives, fantastic walking trails and magnificent sights. Distances here are small, but differences in landscapes are great.
To the north of the Eastern Highlands, the hills are covered in rolling heath-land. This reminded the first European settlers of Scotland, so they created lakes, planted forests of fir trees, and introduced trout to the streams. Now known as the Nyanga National Park, much of this area was the private estate of Cecil Rhodes. The Nyanga range is home to Mount Nyangani, the highest mountain in Zimbabwe (2595m). It is a good area for walking, with plenty of mountain trails, varying from gentle strolls to challenging hiking routes. Some lead to deep gorges and tumbling waterfalls (including Mtarazi Falls, which at 725m is one of Africa’s highest), others lead up mountains or to spectacular vistas. There are even serene lakes where you can relax with a picnic or hire a boat.
South of Nyanga National Park, the botanical gardens at La Rochelle are en route to Mutare, the region’s centre, just off the spectacular Christmas Pass. South of the town are the luxuriant cloud-forests of the Vumba Mountains, which have views into Mozambique. Here the Bvumba Botanical Gardens are a very special attraction, commanding ethereal views over rolling mists (Bvumba means mist in the Manyika language), and the start for gentle walks into the surrounding valleys. This Bvumba area is also known for its boutique soft cheeses and fine coffee, so the delicious food found here is no surprise.
Continuing south, the scenically diverse Chimanimani Mountains are a destination for dedicated hikers. The granite spikes can be climbed and the fresh streams and pools are ideal for cooling off after a hard day’s hiking exploring the rivers and valleys. The area is also home to many species of flower, making it popular with botanists.