Maputo - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Maputo


The sprawling capital of Mozambique was, under Portuguese influence in the 18th century, one of the most beautiful and fashionable cities on the African continent, with a sophisticated multi-national atmosphere, elegant buildings and wide, shaded avenues.

Following the cynical process of decolonisation inflicted on Mozambique by her colonial masters, the 17-year civil war that raged during the 1970s and 80s had a devastating affect on Maputo, reducing the proud city to a state of grubby disrepair, with thousands of immigrants taking over from where the wealthy socialites left off. The city has worked hard to recreate some of its former grandeur, with the five-star Polana Hotel once again abuzz with the gossip of the rich and famous, and restaurants serving up their famous peri-peri prawns. Today the city is a lively mix of people, with lots of markets and street vendors, a vibey café culture, buzzing nightclubs and live music venues, and a relaxed pace of life.

Maputo, or Lourenzo Marques as it was known before independence, became the capital of Mozambique in 1898 and the city became established as a major trade and industry centre, boasting the country's most important harbour. Today the economy of the city still relies heavily on the sea, and its port has significant potential for international trading, being the closest deepwater port in southern Africa to Asian markets. Most visitors to Maputo will pass through the harbour on the way to Inhaca Island situated just off the coast, a popular spot for diving and snorkelling.

Maputo is also the gateway to many splendid beaches and resorts to the north and south of the city, as well as the Maputo Elephant Reserve, which has growing numbers of game and beautiful coastal areas. Ponta de Ouro is the southernmost resort on the Mozambique coast, famed for its white sand beaches and as one of the best diving locations with rich coral reefs and a variety of marine life. To the north of Maputo are the beautiful inland lakes at Bilene and the famous beaches of Xai-Xai, popular tourist destinations that offer fishing, water sports and plenty of relaxation in beautiful surrounds.

Information & Facts


Maputo is wet, humid and hot during the summer months from October to April with temperatures averaging 88ºF (31ºC). The cooler, drier months between April and September are the best time to travel to Maputo, with warm and sunny days and cool nights.

Portuguese is the official language, and there are 13 main national languages spoken. English is taught in secondary schools, but is only spoken in the southern tourist regions.

The official currency is the New Metical (MZN), which is divided into 100 centavos. In the southern parts of the country, South African Rand, US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are also accepted to pay for accommodation. Credit cards are accepted in some upmarket hotels in Maputo, but facilities throughout the rest of the country are limited; it is advisable to carry cash or travellers cheques. ATMs are limited and tend to be unreliable, but local banks have branches in most cities.

The Central Market spills out of the shabby yet beautiful building in which it is housed, and is a hub of activity where all kinds of goods can be bought, from handicrafts, basketware and carvings, to fruit and vegetables, a variety of seafood and many household items needed for everyday use. Vendors are ready to haggle, and you can often negotiate yourself big discounts, though knowing a little Portuguese will be a real help in this respect. The market is a haven for pickpockets and thieves, though, and visitors should ensure that all valuables are concealed from view.

Designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1910, the railway station is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world, with marble pillars, wrought iron work and a large central dome. The grand building is one of Maputo's most impressive structures and is well worth a visit, even if not arriving or departing by train.

The Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens, located in downtown Maputo, offers a welcome shady retreat on steamy tropical days - and cannot help but hark back to the Mozambican capital's more grandiose past. The gardens were designed in 1885 by Thomas Honney - who in his career also designed gardens for the King of Greece and the Sultan of Turkey - and are exquisitely laid out, if at times a little overgrown. A fantastic place to go on a picnic, or just to escape the midday heat, the Tunduru Gardens also feature a tennis court and a statue of Mozambique's first president Samora Machel.

Maputo's Museum of the Revolution relates the fascinating history of the revolution in Mozambique, detailing the violent struggle against Portuguese colonialism. Mozambique gained independence in 1975, and various maps, photographs and displays of weapons chronicle the fight. All captions and text are in Portuguese.

The grand dame of Maputo, Hotel Polana boasts one of the city's most desirable addresses, overlooking the bay. The historic hotel is a majestic building, evoking the style and sophistication of colonial times with its gardens, Victorian lift and five-star luxury. A sunset drink in one of its cocktail bars is a must for passing visitors not tempted to splash out on an extravagant stay.

Ponta d'Ouro is a popular destination for divers and surfers, just south of Maputo along a sandy road. 'Surf's up' in Ponta d'Ouro, which is home to some of the most perfect waves in the world, and swimming with dolphins is not to be missed, either - it can be a deeply rewarding, even life-changing experience.

There are shebeen(local pub) tours, which entail exploring the rustic drinking-houses along a stretch of rough road. Tipo Tinto Rum is a locally produced and tastes slightly of vanilla: it goes well with pineapple or raspberry juice, which is available from the local market. The locals sell carvings in all shapes and sizes, mostly in hard wood. Although the shells on offer are beautiful, they might have been probably stolen off a reef and should therefore be avoided.

Ponta d'Ouro is easily accessible from South Africa, making it a wonderful addition to any tourist tour of southern Africa.

Just 124 miles (200km) north of Maputo, the small town of Xai Xai is a popular excursion for those seeking a relaxing day on the beach. Xai Xai has a scattering of shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation, but the real draw is the superb scuba diving and snorkelling on offer, including at Wenela Tidal Pool, just one mile (2km) south. The sandy white beaches with their calm waters are a fantastic place to swim, and there are fresh water lakes nearby for kayaking, paddle skiing and windsurfing.

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