Do you want to see one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, a place as famous as Serengeti and Kilimanjaro? Look no further since what you’re looking for is in Botswana.
Being one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa, in addition to the sublime beauty of the natural surroundings, is a good combination. So, if you want to find out where to stay in Botswana, make sure to read this short but very informative guide.
Why You Should Visit Botswana in 2023
Botswana is one of the success stories of Africa. This small country with a population of a little over two and a half million people is one of Africa’s oldest democracies and one of the most stable and safe countries on the continent.
Their success is a story worth telling over and over again.
Since announcing its independence as a republic in 1966, it has had one of the longest streaks for uninterrupted democratic elections and the lowest coefficient of corruption amongst its closest and furthest neighbors.
With an economy based on mining and tourism, it rose from being one of the poorest countries in the 1960s to a stable and prosperous middle-class country.
That being said, let’s talk about what you’re here for, the country’s tourism. The country has some very special things to offer indeed, and the first and most important thing is the fact that one of the seven natural wonders in Africa is located precisely in Botswana — the unique and spectacularly beautiful Okavango Delta.
Together with the Serengeti in Tanzania and a couple of other reserves and national parks in Kenya, it’s the richest and most versatile (in terms of flora and fauna) area in the world.
Because of that, Botswana attracts millions of tourists every year, all of them wanting to witness this unbelievable marvel of nature but also to see the majestic “Big Five” — elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and the African buffalo.
Aside from the Okavango Delta, there’s a natural reserve or a natural park near every major city in the country.
Those who are looking for a safari have come to the right place and, in all honesty, regardless of how famous the alternatives are, shouldn’t look any further than Botswana.
Finally, this small country in the south of Africa is one of the safest places on the continent. Don’t hesitate to bring your family here. Botswana will welcome them with outstretched arms.
The 3 Best Parts of Botswana
Botswana may be a relatively big country, but around 70% of it is covered in rock and sand, belonging to the mighty and very barren Kalahari desert. Simply put, it’s one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, with a relatively small population and a low number of cities.
However, the three areas presented in our guide are more than suited for potential tourists. Maun and the capital Gaobrorone are usually the go-tos, but Francistown is a pretty decent option too.
To recap, Botswana’s best areas include:
- Maun: Also known as the “tourist capital” of Botswana, this small city is located very close to one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the Okavango Delta, making it an obvious choice for first-time visitors to the country.
- Gaborone: The official capital of Botswana, and its administrative, economic, and cultural center, the most populated city in the country is mostly suitable for city-dwellers and visitors who travel with their families.
- Francistown: Finally, the second largest city in the country, and a former pioneer city during the gold rush, it’s the best location in Botswana for shopping.
The Best Areas & Hotels in Botswana
Botswana is crowded with tourists between May and December, mostly from its neighbors — particularly South Africa — as well as adventure travelers from all around the world.
That means that it has slowly developed a serious and capable tourism industry, with great infrastructure and plenty of accommodation options. The most tourist-friendly city in Botswana is Maun, the so-called “tourist” capital of the country.
Most visitors come here anyway, and the city is packed with accommodations in all price ranges. Gaborone is the capital, and that has its own advantages, like having the only really luxurious five-star hotels.
Finally, Francistown is not a tourist hub, but it’s a decent alternative to the other two cities. It mostly offers very cheap and not very special three-star apartments and hotels.
There are few better places to be in Africa between May and October than in the small town of Maun in northern Botswana.
There’s a simple reason for that: Maun is the so-called “tourist capital” of Botswana, and it’s located very close to the Okavango Delta, one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, like the Nile River and the Serengeti National Reserve in Tanzania and Kenya.
Between May and October — to go back to our first assertion — the Okavango Delta gets flooded, and the former deserts become wetlands and marshes brimming with life.
The Okavango Delta is basically an inland delta formed around the mighty Okavango River. A central part of the huge Kalahari desert, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the richest places in terms of plant life and animals in the world.
That makes Maun the best option for first-time visitors to Botswana.
It’s also home to all the so-called “Big Five” — the elephant, the rhinoceros, the buffalo, the leopard, and, of course, the lion. It also boasts giraffes, gazelles, cheetahs, hippopotamuses, and much, much more, including more than 400 types of birds.
Maun, on the other hand, is overshadowed by the Okavango Delta, and it’s mostly famous because of its proximity to one of the wonders.
During the flooding months, it’s packed with tourists, so make sure to book your accommodations upfront. After all, it’s a small town (even though it’s the fifth largest in Botswana) with a population of around 30,000 people.
Today, because of the immense influx of tourists, it’s fairly developed, with great infrastructure, numerous hotels and restaurants, and even a shopping center.
The accommodation options, for example, are both decent and relatively fairly priced. But, much like West Yellowstone in Montana, it’s famous and well-known because of the surrounding nature.
Things to Do
- The most important thing you can do in Maun is visit the Okavango Delta and especially the Moremi Game Reserve located in the eastern part of the delta. Covering an area of around 5,000 square kilometers, here you’ll find the most interesting aspects of Africa’s flora and fauna.
- One of the best ways to see and truly experience the Okavango Delta is not by foot but from up high. Only from the sky can you truly see why it’s considered one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. Luckily for you, there are plenty of tours available in Maun. We recommend Mack Air if you want to fly in a plane or Helicopter Horizons if you want to see the Delta from a helicopter.
- The city itself, as we already said, is not very attractive and interesting, but there are some places worth visiting. The Nhabe Museum in Maun is one of those undeservedly forgotten institutions. It gives an interesting and unique picture of the culture and the nature of the Okavango Delta, including the crafts of the local people, their art, and plenty of photographs, too.
- One last thing: we mentioned that Maun is getting more developed every year, and as of recently, it also has a fairly decent shopping center. The aptly named Delta Palms Shopping Centre, located in the center of the city, is a great option for every type of shopper, no matter if it’s souvenirs or simple groceries you’re looking for.
Where to Eat
- Marc’s Eatery is a traditional African restaurant that offers traditional and homemade dishes. It’s inspired by different aspects of French cuisine, thus presenting an interesting international fusion. Everything in this restaurant is handmade, and the food is simple yet very sophisticated.
- Tandurei Indian Restaurant is an interesting Indian restaurant that’s famous for its relatively low prices and large portions. Suitable for every meal of the day, especially for lunch or dinner, it definitely offers the best curry in Maun, as well as a lot of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
- Dusty Donkey Café is the best option in Maun if you’re looking for the perfect breakfast or brunch place. It’s a great place to start the day and have a cup of strong and savory coffee in combination with a breakfast burrito and some eggs. The prices, too, are quite affordable.
Maun Budget Hotels
- Sedia Riverside Hotel is a gorgeous but very cheap two-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool. Particularly suitable for couples, especially on a romantic trip, it boasts beautiful rooms, a restaurant and bar on the premises, and tasty breakfast in the morning.
- Maun Nest Hotel is another decent two-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, located two and a half miles from the important Nhabe Museum. There’s free parking on the premises and a nice bar, while the rooms have air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
Maun Mid-Range Hotels
- Maun Lodge is a three-star hotel located right next to the Thamalakane River, offering an excellent view of the natural surroundings. The hotel offers an on-site restaurant, a bar, and a fitness center and provides free transportation from and to the airport for every visitor.
- Signature Boutique Guesthouse is a three-star complex of apartments with an outdoor swimming pool and rooms equipped with all the amenities. Aside from the great location and close proximity to the airport (around 5 miles), the accommodation provides a bar and tasty breakfast in the morning.
Maun Luxury Hotels
- The Waterfront, Maun is an authentic but slightly more expensive four-star lodge, located in a stunning natural setting, slightly further away from the center of Maun. Particularly suitable for couples, it also offers a romantic terrace and a beautiful garden.
- The Maun Studios is the second four-star accommodation in Maun. It’s definitely one of the best places to stay in the tourist capital of Botswana, completely surrounded by incredible birdlife. There’s also a nice outdoor swimming pool and an incredible breakfast to prepare you for the day.
It’s always a good idea to stay in the capital, no matter where you’re going. Located in the southern parts of Botswana — around 550 miles from Maun — it’s the administrative and economic center of the country and its largest city with a population of more than 200,000 people.
Fairly developed, with nice infrastructure, plenty of hotels, restaurants, and a lot of cultural institutions worth visiting, it’s definitely your best choice if you’re looking for an urban experience in Botswana or a family-friendly town to spend a relaxed vacation in.
To start with, Gaborone is located between two hills — Kgale Hill and Oodi Hill — and near the junction of the Notwane River and the Segoditshane River.
Kgale Hill Public Park is one of the most beautiful urban parks in Africa and a big magnet for both tourists and locals. It’s a great place to have a picnic or a stroll and provides the best view of the city.
Gaborone is also packed with nice restaurants, offering food from all sides of the world; the variety in terms of accommodations is also wide, including a couple of truly luxurious five-star hotels.
We’ve saved the best for last — what makes Gaborone attractive to tourists is the close proximity to the Mokolodi Nature Reserve (a little more than 10 miles). It’s a relatively small, private non-profit reserve populated by rare indigenous birds, reptiles, and game.
There are hippopotamuses, nile crocodiles, hyenas, giraffes, and leopards, but also a lot of unique and dangerous reptiles, like the black mamba, the Mozambique spitting cobra, the puff adder, and the snouted cobra.
Suffice it to say that you won’t have visited Botswana if you don’t go to one of its reserves, even when staying in a town like Gaborone.
Things to Do
- If Kgale Hill Public Park was not enough for you, and you’re still in the mood for some relaxed strolling or picnicking, visit the Gaborone Dam on the Notwane River. It’s another popular spot in Gaborone for both locals and tourists, as you can admire the calm and tranquil water of the river, enjoy the surroundings, and take some fantastic pictures of the sunset.
- Gaborone is not only the economic, political, and administrative center of Botswana but also its culture and arts capital. Lovers of history and art can visit the Botswana National Museum (also known as the National Museum and Art Gallery), a multidisciplinary institution that also houses the National Botanical Garden.
- If you want to see the fantastic flora and fauna of Botswana but can’t or don’t feel like going outside the city, don’t worry — Gaborone has the right treat for you — the Gaborone Game Reserve is located practically inside the city. Conveniently located and relatively small (only five square kilometers), it boasts a wide variety of birds and animals like wildebeest, ostriches, and warthogs.
- There’s no better place for shopping in Botswana than in the capital of the country. There are plenty of shops in the city that sell authentic craft products that are perfect souvenirs. But if you want something more concrete, we recommend Botswanacraft, as it’s the most famous souvenir shop in the city. For a real shopping center experience, go to the Riverwalk Mall.
Where to Eat
- Sanitas Restaurant is a versatile place, functioning both as a European restaurant and a classical cafe. If you’re not sure if you are hungry enough to have lunch and prefer a cup of coffee but still keep your options open, this is the place for you. Their menu is also vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.
- Bull & Bush Pub is the perfect place if you want to eat a bloody steak, well-made ribs, or a tasty burger. A classical steakhouse and a barbeque with a cozy atmosphere and nice and professional staff, Bull & Bush is mostly famous for its ribeye steak with vegetables and cold beer.
- Rodizio Brazilian Restaurant is a nice option if you’re in the mood for something different and unusual. A Brazilian restaurant and barbeque in the heart of Botswana truly sparks curiosity, and if you’re partial to the cuisine, you’re in for a nice dinner. The restaurant offers all the traditional and authentic specialties of Brazil, served on a cozy balcony.
Gaborone Budget Hotels
- Gaborone Hotel is a very cheap two-star hotel located in the southern parts of the capital of Botswana. There’s a bar on the premises offering a wide variety of drinks, as well as a pretty decent restaurant. Aside from that, the hotel provides a free airport shuttle to every visitor.
- Rosenia Boutique Hotel is a great but cheap three-star hotel in the center of Gaborone. It has a pretty garden and offers free Wi-Fi and parking to every visitor. It also has a restaurant and bar on the premises, as well as a great English breakfast in the morning.
Gaborone Mid-Range Hotels
- Yarona Hotel is a gorgeous three-star hotel with an amazing swimming pool and a beautiful garden surrounding the premises. It’s a perfect choice for visitors who prefer peace and quiet.
- The Capital Guest House is an amazing-looking but not very expensive four-star hotel located around half a mile from Gaborone’s city center. It offers the usual: a nice garden with a swimming pool in the middle and a room equipped with all the amenities, including satellite TV.
Gaborone Luxury Hotels
- Peermont Walmont at the Grand Palm, Gaborone is a five-star hotel and probably the most expensive and most luxurious accommodation in Gaborone that you can find. Located to the southwest of the city center, it has a huge outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center on the premises, as well as an upscale restaurant and bar.
- Manong Game Lodge is a gorgeous five-star hotel located in the utmost center of Gaborone. In close proximity to some of the city’s best restaurants, shops, and cafes, the hotel also has a swimming pool and a spa and wellness center. It also provides free airport transport.
Finally, we have reached the third and final area on our list, the second largest city in Botswana, called Francistown.
There are a couple of things you should know about this charming little town located near the border of Zimbabwe: it has a population of around 100,000 people, it’s the only city in Botswana with an English name (there are a few villages, but not towns), and it’s definitely the best option in the country for shopping.
It also offers the cheapest available accommodations in Botswana, so it’s a great choice for budget travelers.
Aside from that, it’s not really exciting: the countryside is not as striking as near Maun, and the city is not as important (culturally, administratively, and economically) as Gaborone.
But it’s still a potential option for every potential visitor to Botswana. After all, you’re in Africa, so the environment will be no less enchanting.
With that in mind, Francistown also has one more thing going for it: it’s precisely in the middle, between Gaborone and Maun — and that may be convenient for some tourists.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Francistown, however, there’s quite the story. In the past, it was a typical pioneer town, created during the gold rush that drove the world mad in the 19th century.
That’s why Francistown is surrounded by myriads of deserted mines. The rich history of both the area and the city — spanning way before the gold rush — is embodied in the only museum in the city, the Supa Ngwao Museum.
We said that Francistown is a great place for shopping, and there’s a precise reason for that. The number of shopping malls and centers is unexpectedly high for a city of this size.
Here’s a list of some of them, given in no particular order:
Things to Do
- Don’t think that you can escape the natural splendors of Botswana, even in cities like Francistown. The city may be overshadowed by Maun and even by Gaborone, but it still has something to offer on its own. We are talking, of course, about Tachila Nature Reserve to the south of the city, a place that boasts many natural species.
- Interestingly enough, Francistown is well known for its numerous places of worship and beautiful religious buildings. Most of them are Christian, and depending on your interests, you can visit some of them. There’s the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a couple more others.
- Finally, if you are a fan of sports, there’s one place you should definitely visit. Obed Itani Chilume Stadium (also known as Francistown Sports Complex) is a multifunctional arena. Here you can watch an interesting tennis match or the home matches of the local football team, TAFIC F.C. The stadium can hold up to 26,000 people, making it the largest establishment of its kind in the country.
Where to Eat
- Roots of Africa is lasting proof that in every part of the world and practically in every city — no matter the continent — somebody wants to grab a slice of pizza. It is a traditional Italian restaurant that not only serves pizza, but also pasta and plenty of kinds of meat, and has a full bar.
- Nando’s Francistown Galo is a very cheap and tasty European-styled grill and fast food. It’s a great option for everybody who wants to grab a quick burger or some other meat dish. Located near the center of the city, Nando’s is mostly famous for the chicken liver.
- Thorn Tree is a great place that offers the best coffee in Francistown. Located in the utmost center of the city, it’s a nice option if you’re not sure what to eat. The place has a versatile menu, with a lot of options for vegans and vegetarians as well.
Francistown Budget Hotels
- Lee Bed & Breakfast is an extremely cheap three-star bed and breakfast. It doesn’t offer much, aside from the free private parking and free Wi-Fi, as well as rooms with flat screen TVs, private bathroom, and a small fridge.
- Casa MaSa Inn is another very cheap accommodation option located on the outskirts of Francistown, to the east of the city center. Again, it doesn’t offer much, aside from the free parking and Wi-Fi, but there’s also a nice full English breakfast in the morning and a terrace on the premises.
Francistown Mid-Range Hotels
- THE ENCLAVE HOTEL is a beautiful three-star hotel with a garden, terrace, restaurant, and a bar on the premises. It’s probably the best mid-range option on the site, so make sure to book way up front. There’s also breakfast available in the morning, and some of the rooms have balconies.
- Woodlands Stop Over and Lodge is an amazing, but not very expensive lodge located in the northern countryside of Francistown. The hotel has it all: an outdoor swimming pool, a beautiful garden, barbeque facilities on the premises, and gorgeous wooden-furnished rooms.
Francistown Luxury Hotels
- Ngangane Lodge & Reserve is definitely the only place that’s close to a luxury lodge or hotel in Francistown. Located to the south of the city, near Tachila Nature Reserve, it’s great as a safari base. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool and a bar on the premises of the hotel.
So, Where Should You Stay in Botswana?
|🏆 Best for First Timers||Maun|
|👪 Best for Families||Gaborone|
|🛍️ Best for Shopping||Francistown|
Now, as the waters slowly recede from the Okavango Delta, and the Kalahari desert starts, once again, to claim her domain, we must leave Botswana — at least for this season. But, before we wrap up the guide, let’s do a quick recap of the three best areas in this beautiful African country.
Maun, located very close to the Okavango Delta, is every tourist’s dream. It’s the most suitable place for first-time visitors to Botswana, given the multitude of activities and attractions, as well as the natural beauty.
Gaborone is the largest, most developed, and most interesting city in Botswana, with a lot of museums, accommodation options, and restaurants, making it the best for tourists traveling with their families.
Finally, the former gold-rush stronghold, Francistown is the least popular, but it’s still decent, given its great restaurants, cheap accommodation, and plenty of shopping options.
So, with so much to see and do and plenty of amazing areas in which to stay, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Botswana has to offer. Happy travels!