Mozambique is a country with perhaps the most stunning and most unique beaches I’ve ever seen. It is a country with a diverse history of influences from cultures all around the world. It is also a country that has seen its more than fair share of violence, revolution, and the likes. When I think of Mozambique, I think of it as being one of the most unique and stunning places to visit in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mozambique is also a a huge country with so many different things to see, made difficult by questionable infrastructure. I spent a month traveling Mozambique and this is how I would structure a travel itinerary for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or 4 weeks. Depending on how much time you have, you will have to choose which places you go to as it is impossible to see everything in under three weeks. Don’t worry, this post will break down all the options!
If you’re interested in going to Mozambique, make sure to read my comprehensive Mozambique Travel Guide to an idea of what to expect!
Where I went in Mozambique
I went to Mozambique right after my epic month long trip to Madagascar. To me, it was a similar vibe in its rusticness and stunning natural beauty. As I had a month to travel the country, I made sure to see as much as I could. I could have easily traveled for another month, but I can only be so lucky!
In total, this itinerary is for anyone that has 14-28 days. Of course this itinerary can be shortened or lengthened depending on your schedule. I visited the following areas on this itinerary
- Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Archipelago
- Ilha de Mozambique
- Quirimbas Archipelago
If these places ring a bell and sound like the places you want to visit, this is the perfect itinerary for you! Also, Mozambique is the perfect place to visit after a trip the Rainbow Nation of South Africa. You can cross the land and go to Ponta D’ouro or alternatively, can fly from Johannesburg to Inhambane. I am not a big fan of the very south of the country (Ponta D’oura) as there are much nicer beaches in the country and it is very similar to what you can find on the wild coast of South Africa.
Another popular route is coming from Malawi. You can take a bus or collective van from Blantyre to Cuamba, Mozambique, and continue on to places like Ilha de Mozambique.
Last thing to note, when I visited Mozambique, the Gorongosa National Park outside of Beira had been closed due to civil conflicts. It has since re-opened in 2018 and is welcoming visitors!
- The Ultimate Mozambique Travel Guide
- Guide To Traveling Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
- Ilha De Mozambique: Mozambique’s Colonial Capital
- Quirimbas Archipelago Travel Guide
This itinerary starts in Maputo, the nation’s vibrant capital city, and ends in the Quirimbas Archipelago, which are to me are some of the most beautiful set of islands I’ve seen.
Mozambique is a huge country, spanning 2,500 km. I traversed most of it on my trip. I used a combination of air, buses, group taxis (called chappas), and hitch-hiking (yes you read that)
I started my trip in Maputo as this is the capital and where many of the international flights fly into. After spending a night or two (at most) in Maputo, I went to Tofo, a divers paradise famous for its wild beaches and megafauna. After this, I took a chappa from Tofo to Vilanculos, a coastal town that serves as the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago. These islands are some of the most stunning and dramatic in the world with countless sandbanks that appear and disappearing with the dies. Bazaruto Island is famous for its huge sand dunes that drop into the turquoise ocean.
From Vilanculos, I took a flight to Nampula (layover in Maputo), where I continued onto Ilha De Mozambique, the former colonial capital of the country. You could do this leg by land as well but the central part of Mozambique is undeveloped and there are no set bus routes. It will take a two days to get from Vilanculos to Nampula at best.
After Ilha De Mozambique, I took another chappa and subsequently hitch-hiked by way to Pemba. This is the gateway town to the Quirimbas Archipelago, another chain of islands famous for its intense azure waters and white sandy beaches.
Day 1-2: Maputo
Maputo is Mozambique’s chaotic capital city. Like most capitals in Africa, there is not a whole lot of “sights” to see. You’ll find your standard downtown financial area surrounded by extreme poverty and townships. I didn’t think Maputo was a pretty city at all. The traffic is crazy, the buildings are not in great shape, and streets are filled with trash.
If there is a “must see” sight in Maputo, it would probably be the Maputo Railway station. It stands out with its pretty colonial facade and actually resembles a traditional European rail station. It is even used as the venue to host Mozambique’s Fashion Week.
Ultimately, the only reason to stay in Maputo is to eat your heart out at the seafood market. I could spend days and days here. The lively Fish Market is in a large white building en route to Costa do Sol. Peruse the many creatures that inhabit the nearby waters, or go all the way and choose what you’d like from the main hall and get it grilled at one of the small adjoining restaurants. Cooking prices average about Mtc160 per kilo.
Peri Peri sauce
One of the best things about Mozambique is its cuisine. Unlike its inland neighbors whose cuisines I’m less than enthusiastic with, Mozambique has some of the tastiest and most flavorful foods I’ve ever had. The main reason is because of the local peri peri sauce. How do I explain peri peri sauce besides saying that it absolutely rocks my world?
Made with local birds eye chilis, onions, peppers, garlic, lemon and more, this sauce is a must try for spicy food lovers. It brings out the flavor in anything it touches, and is especially popular on chicken and seafood. Nandos, which holds a special place in my heart, is a South Africa grilled chicken restaurant that specializes in using peri peri sauce on their meats. As delicious as Nandos is, the home-made sauces in Mozambique changed my world and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
Day 2-7: Tofo
From Maputo, it is time to escape the chaos and time to explore what makes Mozambique amazing. The itinerary is just a straight shot north and Tofo is the first stop on the itinerary
Maputo to Tofo by bus
From Maputo, I recommend taking the Etrago VIP bus from Maputo to Inhambane. There are no direct buses to Tofo unfortunately. From Inhambane, it is a short 30 minute drive by tuk tuk or taxi or chappa (local group vans) to the beachside paradise of Tofo. The bus takes roughly 7 hours in total and leaves at 5am and 10am daily. On Fridays and Sundays, it departs at 5am and 13hr.
You can arrange to buy tickets before hand which is never a bad idea or just show up to the bus station 1 hour before it departs.
Tofo is a divers paradise. Still relatively undiscovered by world standards, Tofo’s long stretch of sandy beaches, forests of idyllic palm trees, and clear waters.
The main thing to do in Tofo is go diving. Between the months of May and Sep, you can regularly see manta rays, whale sharks, and even humpback whales. Loads of South Africans come here to get their diving in as it is a close flight from Johannesburg. There are many dive shops in the area and the diving here is quite affordable, especially compared to towns further north.
The go to backpackers lodge in the area is Fatima’s (also the place to stay in Maputo). However, you can have “luxury” for very cheap here. For under $100 a night, you can find yourself staying at very nice resort like the Baia Sonambula or the Casa Algodal.
Buy and eat the seafood in Mozambique
Also, there are locals always walking around selling freshly caught seafood. This is a good opportunity to test your bartering skills and get an amazing deal on the best seafood you’ll ever have. The tiger prawns here are out of this world and I got a kilo of them for about $8 USD. Then I took it back to the guesthouse and asked the chef if he could grill it with some peri peri. Perhaps some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life.
Day 7-11: Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Archipelago
The next stop on the itinerary is Vilanculos and the incredibly stunning Bazaruto Archipelago. Located 4 hours north of Tofo, Mozambique just gets better the further north you go.
Tofo / Inhambane to Vilanculos
From Tofo and Inhambane, there are few options to go to Vilanculos. The cheapest option will be to take the group vans from Maxixe to Vilanculos. Maxixe is a short ferry ride away from Inhambane with boats leaving regularly through the day.
Alternatively, there are regular flights from Inhambane to Vilanculos. This flight is only 1 hr and costs around $100 USD. The benefit to this is you will get views of the Bazaruto Archipelago which may be worth it in its own right.
Vilanculos itself is a sleepy beachside town that has now become world famous for kitesurfing. The consistent winds and shallow waters make it ideal for kiting. The town itself is not as charming as Tofo but there are plenty of cheap guesthouses and restaurants nearby. Ultimately, unless you are a kitesurfer, I wouldn’t spend much time in Vilanculos as there are better destinations ahead.
Like Tofo, there is also diving to be done here. While I never had the time to dive here, I’ve heard good things about the diving here. However, the big pelagics are not here like Tofo. Odyssea Divers and Dive Bazaruto look to be the two shops in town.
Overnight camping safari with Sailaway Safaris
Part of an overland tour I did with Nomad, this was the highlight of our 2 week trip through Swaziland and Mozambique. We did a 2 day, 1 night dhow safari through sailaway.co.za departing from Vilanculos, which serves as the gateway town to Bazaruto. As this was already organized and we had already paid for it, I didn’t bother asking around for better rates. Sailaway also seems to be the only outfit in town doing these sailing safaris.
As of 2019, the price for the 2 day 1 night safari is $220 a person. This includes your campsite, and all food. They also have accommodated options now for a slightly more expensive price.
The tour takes you to Margaruque Island and Bazaruto Island which are some of the most picturesque places you’ll ever come across. The Bazaruto archipelago is unique in its seemingly endless and swirling sandbanks that appear and disappear every day with the tide. The best views of the archipelago is from the top of the dunes on Bazaruto island or by drones.
There are a few other islands in the archipelago but they are not visited as they belong to private resorts. If you really want the full experience, you’ll have to pay some serious cash and stay at one of the neighboring resorts like the Anantara Bazaruto Island or the andBeyond Benguerra hotels that cost well over $1,000 a night.
Make sure to read my Vilanculos and Bazaruto Archipelago post to read a more detailed recount of my trip!
Day 11-15: Ilha De Mozambique
The next part of the trip goes to the far north of Mozambique with the first stop being Ilha De Mozambique, the former colonial capital. There are not many resources for this part of the country. It seems that 90% of travel bloggers visit the southern highlights and completely neglect the north. In my opinion, the north is actually my favorite part and what I think is the most stunning.
From Vilanculos, there is no easy and structured way to get here by land. Even if you could somehow find land based transport, it will take you at least 20-25 hours of non stop driving which means it will be at least 2-3 days of hitch-hiking, chappas, and whatever else you can find. The central part of Mozambique is very undeveloped and not good for traveling by land. So how do you get there?
From Vilanculos to Nampula
The easiest way to make this transfer is to fly. Vilanculos to Maputo to Nampula. This will take 4-5 hours and will cost $200-250 for a one way flight on LAM airlines. This is by far the easiest, and most comfortable method.
Alternatively, if you want to save some money, you can take the bus from Vilanculos to Beira with Lineas Terrestras de Mocambique. This bus actually runs from Maputo to Beira regularly, but it will also make stops in Vilanculos. From Beira, take a direct flight to Nampula which should be half the price of the flight from Vilanculos.
From Nampula to Ilha De Mozambique
As Nampula is nothing more than a commercial city, you’ll want to get out immediately for Ilha De Mozambique. There are chappas that regularly leave to Ilha once full, and the ride is 2-3 hours. Alternatively, I’ve had success hitch-hiking and people are quite keen to pick up travelers here. I don’t speak a lick of Portuguese but hand gestures will get you by.
Exploring Ilha De Mozambique
Ilha de Mozambique is a place that feels like it’s lost in time. Walk down the cobblestone streets and you’ll see remnants of a past life but in modern times. The island is only 3.5km in length and no more than a half km in width and connected to the mainland by bridge. The haunting part that the Lonely Planet mentions, I immediately noticed upon arriving.
Colonial buildings left behind during the island’s haydays still stand. While the paint is slowly being chipped off, one can still walk through the narrow streets and feel like nothing has changed from centuries past.
The whole island is surrounded by stunning turquoise water and the Fortaleza de San Sebastio is the best place to soak in the views. There is some delicious seafood with peri peri to be had here but don’t expect the same cheap prices as down south. The north is considerably more expensive, surprisingly as it is far less developed and attracts far less tourists.
Also, charter a dhow boat to take you to nearby beaches and islands to give you a feel of how beautiful the surrounding area is.
Day 16-22: Quirimbas Archipelago
And of course, I saved the best for last. At the far north of the country lies another archipelago that is perhaps even more stunning the Bazaruto. The beaches are blindingly white and the impossibly turquoise waters are crystal clear. It is paradise found.
From Ilha De Mozambique, you’ll need to a catch a chappa to Pemba. Chappas will pick people up before sunrise between 4-5am. You can find them literally just walking down any of the main streets and you just call them when they’re near.
From Pemba, there are three ways to get to the Quirimbas: chappa + ferry, private car + ferry, or private airplane. The latter option is obviously the most expensive but the aerial views of the archipelago that you get is more than worth it (as if a 45 minute flight was not already more worth it than a 5 hour car ride).
For most people, Ibo Island is where you’ll stay as a gateway to exploring the islands. Ibo itself is like a mini version of Ilha De Mozambique and there is not a whole lot here. Nevertheless, just walking through the town and admiring the remoteness and architecture is a treat.
Ibo Island Lodge is the nicest resort here and also the place to be to have sunset drinks. The sun sets directly in front of the resort and paired with a 2M Mozambique beer is bliss. Ibo Island Lodge is also where the only dive shop on the island is. If you are a diver, the Quirimbas is definitely a place you’ll want to dive. While there are no large pelagics like Tofo, the coral and fish life here is absolutely fantastic.
Exploring the Quirimbas
Like the Bazaruto, the most beautiful islands belong to private resorts and you will pay up for them. Vamizi and Medjumbe Island resorts are two of the most stunning settings you’ll find in the world.
If you don’t have $1,000 a night to spare, don’t worry, it is easy to get a dhow to take you to the nearby islands. I was staying at the Miti Miwiri and met a few other people where we ended up getting a boat together. We did an overnight safari to explore Rolas and Matemo island. This was the highlight of the trip and I really wish I could have stayed another night on Matemo Island.
The beaches here are on par with that of the Maldives, which is mind boggling in its own right. But the Quirimbas are far more rustic and untouched by mass tourism that you feel like you’ve departed from modern civilization for a few days.
Make sure to read my trip report for the Quirimbas for a much more detailed recount with many pictures!
Day by Day breakdown
Here is a day by day breakdown of the itinerary. As you can see, it is over three weeks long. If you do not have this much time, I would focus on either the southern part of the country, or the northern part.
Day 1: Land in Maputo, explore the town and have dinner at the seafood market
Day 2: Leave Maputo for Tofo
Day 3: Tofo
Day 4: Tofo
Day 5: Tofo
Day 6: Tofo
Day 7: Tofo to Vilanculos
Day 8: Vilanculos
Day 9: Sailaway Dhow Safari
Day 10: Sailaway Dhow Safari
Day 11: Vilanculos to Maputo to Nampula by flight, chappa to Ilha de Mozambique (Begin northern itinerary)
Day 12: Ilha De Mozambique
Day 13: Ilha De Mozambique
Day 14: Ilha De Mozambique
Day 15: Ilha De Mozambique to Pemba
Day 16: Pemba to Ibo Island
Day 17: Ibo Island
Day 18: Ibo Island
Day 19: Quirimbas Archipelago Dhow Safari
Day 20: Quirimbas Archipelago Dhow Safari
Day 21: Quirimbas Island tour
Day 22/23: Fly home
Combining Mozambique with South Africa
As Mozambique borders South Africa, it is a perfect next step for those visiting South Africa. You’ll want at least a few weeks to see all of these countries. For South Africa, make sure to read my travel itinerary for the country that breaks down how I would spend one week, two weeks, or three weeks in the country. After you’ve become set with that itinerary, then combine that with this itinerary.
Of course, most people don’t have weeks on end to explore Southern Africa. So if you have two to three weeks, I would recommend doing the two week itinerary of South Africa and combining that with one of the beaches in Mozambique. For example:
- 4 nights in Cape Town
- 2 nights in wine country
- 3 nights safari
- 1 nights in Johannesburg
- 5 nights in Mozambique (Tofo, Bazaruto, or the Quirimbas)
I would also recommend flying from Johannesburg instead of crossing the land border. It is much quicker and more comfortable than traversing Mozambique’s south. There are direct flights from Johannesburg to Inhambane (Tofo), Vilanculos (Bazaruto Archipelago), and Pemba (Quirimbas).
There are so many combinations but you will not go wrong with any of them!
- Guide To Traveling Vilanculos and the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
- The Ultimate Mozambique Travel Guide
- Visiting Ilha De Mozambique – A Hauntingly Beautiful Colonial Past
- The Perfect One Week, Two Week, and Three Week Travel Itinerary For South Africa
- Guide To The Best Places to Surf in Africa
- Ultimate Guide To Traveling The Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique
- Hlane National Park, Swaziland
- South Africa – 5 Reasons You Need To Make It Your Next Holiday Spot
- The Best Of Johnny Africa – Top Moments Traveling Through Africa
- The Perfect One Day Itinerary For Cape Town’s Wine Region
- Why South Africa Is The Perfect Destination To Learn English
- The Perfect South Africa Honeymoon Itinerary And Guide