When it first opened in 1904, the Victoria Falls Hotel was an outpost of British civilization in the middle of nowhere. In the decades since, a number of hotels and lodges have sprung up near the falls,as has a small tourist-trap city hawking souvenir paraphernalia galore. But this hotel will always be the elegant grand dame, a lovely and refurbished survivor of the colonial era following the falls’ “discovery” by Dr. Livingstone. His presence, and that of his sometime co-explorer, Henry Stanley, is still tangible throughout the hotel. The invisibility of the falls from any area of the hotel only augments their aura of mystery and magic. As you walk past the hotel’s green terraces and through gardens lush with bougainvillea and frangipani, you are drawn out of this shelter of human scale toward the raw power and roar of the nearby cataracts. As a hotel guest, you have the unmitigated luxury of visiting the falls repeatedly and at different times of the day; a dawn visit is a must. So is a trip to Livingstone Island, where Dr. Livingstone first set up camp; it is just one-half mile but an entire country away (you’ll cross the border into Zambia en route).
A canoe brings you to this World Heritage Site, a big chunk of island that splits the falls in two: No permanent structure can be built on the island, nor is there electricity; still, you’ll be much better off than Livingstone, with your own cook, waiter, and guide to orchestrate a three-course lunch with Champagne, a view, and sound effects you won’t soon forget.