Great Zimbabwe is 28km from Masvingo, the only sizeable town in the region. If you find yourself in Masvingo, you'll probably just be passing through. If you have an idle hour or two check out the Church of St Francis of Assisi.
Constructed by Italian prisoners of war during the 2nd World War, 71 didn't make it and their bodies lie interred in the walls. It's located opposite the military barracks. Just ask for directions.
Just past the Publicity Association, the Masvingo Craft Village has an extensive range of carvings and sculpture. There are roadside crafts out of town on the Beit Bridge road where you'll be able to bargain for a better price. Capota School for the Blind has a world-famous choir and cane crafts are also sold.
The historic site is made up of three complexes. Visit the on-site museum or do some research first or the stones will not give up their tale. The Acropolis on the hill was the Royal enclosure. It was probably built first and there is evidence that it was occupied for three hundred years. Spirit mediums and oracles occupied the ritual enclosure and gold and metal craftsmen supplied the kingdom with jewellery and spears.
The Valley Enclosures yielded the famous Zimbabwe soapstone birds but it is the conical tower of the Great Enclosure that visitors will recognise from the postcard images. No mortar has held these stones together over the centuries.
Speculation has it that this was the royal harem which would make the largest ancient stone structure in sub-Saharan Africa all the more impressive. It is the conical tower of the Great Enclosure that visitors will recognise from the postcard images. The stone towers and walled enclosures are relics of a powerful medieval African kingdom.
The Karanga came from the north across the Zambezi and found life easy here amongst the fertile soil and rocky hills. The story goes that the thirteenth century king nicknamed 'the Stone Man' was the 'mambo' responsible for the building of the walls.
It was to him that the people paid tribute in stone to add to the defensive walls. Upon his death, a spirit medium carved the image of the bird that has become a national symbol of modern day Zimbabwe. The original seven can be seen at the museum on site.