Backpacking in Swaziland: Swazi Lunch, Malkerns Valley and The Palace

Backpacking in Swaziland: Swazi Lunch, Malkerns Valley and The Palace

Some people haven’t even heard of Swaziland. Others didn’t know it was a country. Some people even visit the east part of South Africa and give Swaziland a miss. But for some reason, I decided it was worth the trip. And that it was.


A country of rural joys, curious locals, hardworking women and surprises. It feels distanced from the rest of the world. It seems to be out there. No phones or internet for 4 days (though I reckon they have them – just not where I stayed). The boy in the photo above was selling barbecued sweetcorn to the tourists in our red van. I kind of like the real ness of an image like that.


The red van. This was our transport for the tour round the Malkerns Valley near Mahlanya in Swaziland. Public transport didn’t seem to be an option, and Shaun from the hostel took everyone around in this. 


In our red van. There were 3 Israelis, 2 English, 1 Welsh and 1 Northern Irish (me) in our van. I’ve covered a few of the places we went already but here I’ll talk about the drive through the rural wonderland, the Palace and lunch.


That’s the National Football Stadium. From the window of our red van. It’s in the middle of the countryside and would have to be the oddest place I have ever seen a National Football Stadium. Amazing! Apparently U2 and some other big rock artists played there once in the valleys!


We had a few rural stops throughout the tour. Got to see some unusual monkeys and the like. Well it would be outrageous not to see wild animals while in Africa.


One of many rural roads through the valleys of Swaziland.


This photo was taken at Mantenga Cultural Village – the hut on the right was some kind of typical Swazi dwelling place.


This famous hill, here viewed from Mantenga was a mountain peak used for assassinations. It had a nickname of something like “dead man’s peak” but I couldn’t find it on a google search.
On the tour in a wee village between Mantanga, Ezulwini and Mahlanya.


Swaziland flags. Souvenirs a plenty in Swaziland.



Swaziland is the place for handicrafts, we visited a few production centres while we were there (Candle Factory and Gone Rural). I did buy a few souvenirs, not was travelling light.


A random tree photo from rural Swaziland.


This was a park with a playground.


Swanky art – this was a souvenir shop!


More handicrafts. Mostly rhinos.


The Swaziland flag flies at the country’s Palace and Parliament. In the middle of the countryside! At Lobamba.


Parliament Avenue – with gates round it. An odd location for the legislative capital. The rural area known as Lobamba is the country’s joint capital. The capital city itself is acutally Mbabane (which I only passed by on a bus).


Palace entrance. The Embo State Palace.


The Palace. Easily the oddest place for a palace I have ever seen. The parliament is here and the Queen Mother lives here. Totally in the middle of nowhere. Swaziland is a kingdom, having gained independence from the UK in the late 1960s. However a lot of its laws are in tangent with those of South Africa. And indeed the Swaziland currency of the Emalangeni is set on a par with the South African Rand.


We stopped in the village of Thembelihle. A trio of places served as our lunchtime venue. A butchery, an off licence and a restaurant. All by the roadside in a village you’d just imagine Swaziland to be like.


The bottle store was an off licence. In the rural charm of Thembelihle.


Our table for lunch – these two girls were from Israel. The beer on the left was mine – the local brew – Sibebe. I must say I loved it!


Swazi lunch is dried barbecued chicken with spicy sausage and maize. No cutlery is provided – you eat with your hands here.


Except we were all foreign and on a tour so they gave us each a knife to cut the sausages with.


Dwelling places on the edge of Thembelihle.


A funky wee hut in rural Swaziland. A few more random Swaziland photos now, some may be repeats but these kind of cover my entire experience of the rural parts of the country.
Arrival in Swaziland at Lavumisa. With the Northern Ireland flag of course.
View from the bus between Lavumisa and Manzini.
A roadside stop just south of Manzini.
Downtown Manzini. The only “city” in Swaziland I stopped in.
Swazi Post sign.
Swazi Bank sign in Manzini.
A wet misty day – view from the hostel – Swaziland Backpackers in Mahlanya.
The Lunar Lounge. Hostel Bar. One of the most chilled out places to have a beer on the planet.
Enjoying my Sibebe – the local beer – outstanding.
The view from the balcony at night – before bedtime.
As busy as the bar got!
With the bar maid from the local bar, Sundowners – next door to the backpackers hostel.
View out the front of Sundowners.
A Swaziland slug!
Daytime view from the hostel – amazing countryside at Mahlanya.
The road the hostel is on – at Mahlanya I believe – yet all these place names seemed to blur into one. Sometimes we were told we were staying in Malkerns, other times it was Ezulwini, and even Manzini.
Without doubt this was the view of the place we stayed in. I’m pretty sure it’s Mahlanya.
A final picture above there is of Mbabane – the capital city – which I only passed by on the bus. Swaziland is definitely a great place to travel to. A real surprise and a really different culture. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Where – The Kingdom of Swaziland.
Capital City – Mbabane
Parliament and Legislative Capital – Lobamba
Place Names I Visited – Lavumisa, Manzini, Malkerns Valley, Ezulwini, Mahlanya, Mantenga, Thembelihle, Lobamba
Sightseeing –
Lavumisa – Border control, bus drive north
Manzini – City centre stop, bus drive east
Malkerns Valley – House on Fire, Gone Rural, Markets
Ezulwini – Ezulwini Market
Lobamba – Parliament, Palace, Football Stadium
Mahlanya – Hostel and Local Bar
Thembelihle – Local shops, restaurant
Mantenga – Cultural Village (Sibhaca Dance), Waterfall, Markets
Population of Swaziland – 1.185 million
Mottos – “we are a mystery” and “we hide ourselves away” (I’d go along with them both!)
Strange Currencies – Emalangeni
Where I Stayed – Swaziland Backpackers (no website)
Nationalities Met – Swazi, South African, Israeli, Swedish, Welsh, English, Australian
Transport Used – Baz Bus, Red Van
Beers Tried – Sibebe (local), Castle (from South Africa)
Bars Visited – Lunar Lounge (at hostel), Sundowners (beside hostel), Thembelihle Restaurant
Key Song –
My Videos –

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