During my recent trip to Zimbabwe I was thrilled to visit the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. The ancient city was far larger than I had thought and we spent quite a bit of time walking around looking at everything. (Also, the "ancient path" up to the hill complex is steep and I am clearly unfit!) We were also completely alone for the majority of our time at the site which was really enjoyable! After leaving Harare late morning, we reached the ruins at around 4pm and stayed about 2 hours until the sun had gone down. The ruins are really remarkable, and standing beside the formidable stone walls fills you with awe. For a brief rundown on Great Zimbabwe, here's a bit of info from Wikipedia.
From Wikipedia: Great Zimbabwe is an ancient city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country's Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. The most widely-accepted modern archaeological theory is that the edifices were erected by the ancestral Shona. The stone city spans an area of 7.22 square kilometres (1,780 acres) which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Great Zimbabwe is believed to have served as a royal palace for the local monarch. As such, it would have been used as the seat of political power. Among the edifice's most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high. They were constructed without mortar (dry stone). Eventually, the city was abandoned and fell into ruin.
The word great distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, now known as "zimbabwes", spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld. There are 200 such sites in southern Africa, such as Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and Manyikeni in Mozambique, with monumental, mortarless walls; Great Zimbabwe is the largest of these.
The ruins at Great Zimbabwe are some of the oldest and largest structures located in Southern Africa, and are the second oldest after nearby Mapungubwe in South Africa. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 11 m (36 ft) extending approximately 250 m (820 ft), making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.