Those backpacking and driving themselves around Zambia need time but have great flexibility, and part of the adventure of such a trip is having no itinerary. However, most visitors have a much shorter time available.
If you're flying in, then getting your itinerary right and arranging it carefully in advance is important. For most visitors to Zambia, the four main areas of attraction are the Luangwa Valley, Kafue National Park, the Lower Zambezi Valley and Livingstone. All are parks worth visiting for a week (less than three nights in a park is really too short), and there's often a slight saving if you spend at least a week exclusively with one operator. For most people, a visit to Livingstone takes two to three nights.
When designing a trip, bear in mind that:
• Keen walkers would usually include the Luangwa, and include some of the smaller 'walking bushcamps' in their trip.
• For the variety offered by water-based activities, it's good to visit Kafue or the Lower Zambezi.
• If you want to visit North Luangwa, then first spend a few days in the South Park before perhaps three to five nights in North Luangwa.
• Shiwa Ng'andu works really well for three or four nights, ideally as part of the trip that passes through South Luangwa (as the closest place for flights in Mfuwe).
• Kasanka, Bangweulu and Shiwa work well together, usually in that sequence.
Some combinations that work well are, for short trips:
• 7 nights South Luangwa, or Lower Zambezi, or Kafue.
• 2–3 nights Livingstone plus 5–6 nights Kafue
For slightly longer trips, consider:
• 5–6 nights South Luangwa plus 4 nights North Luangwa
• 5–6 nights South Luangwa plus 3–4 nights Shiwa Ng'andu
• 5–6 nights Kafue plus 4 nights Lower Zambezi
• 5–6 nights Kafue or Lower Zambezi or South Luangwa, plus 2–3 nights Livingstone
If you've got about two weeks, then the obvious option is to devote a week to each of two of the main three parks. Alternatively, for something a bit more offbeat, look at:
• 8 nights South Luangwa or Kafue or Lower Zambezi, plus 3 nights Lechwe Lodge, plus 3 nights Livingstone
• For a broader view of more offbeat areas, consider 3 nights Kasanka, 3 nights Bangweulu, 4 nights Shiwa Ng'andu, 4 nights South Luangwa
• Keen birdwatchers would be very tempted by 6 nights Kafue, plus 4 nights Nchila Reserve, plus 3–4 nights Lochinvar
If you're an experienced old africa hand, driving in your own self-contained vehicle in the dry season, then the choices are much wider. All such trips are long; they're effectively mini-expeditions. The country is your oyster, but a few obvious routes occur:Western circuit
Livingstone – Upper Zambezi – Mongu – Liuwa Plain – Mongu – Lukulu – West Lunga – Nchila Reserve – Kafue (from northern tip right through to southern tip) – Livingstone. This whole route would take at least three weeks.Eastern circuit
Lusaka – Kasanka – Lake Waka Waka – Bangweulu – Mutinondo Wilderness – Shiwa Ng'andu – transit through North Luangwa – Luambe – South Luangwa – Lusaka. Similarly, it would take about three weeks to do justice to this.