Resting on the banks of the Lilongwe River, the sprawling, bustling city of Lilongwe serves as the capital of Malawi. It is the largest city in Malawi and is the economic and transport hub of the country.
Although the capital city of Malawi lies in the shallow valley of the Lilongwe River, it is situated on an altitude of 1.050 meters. Although Lilongwe doesn´t hold major places of interest for most travelers, it is quite central to the country and surely an interesting place to spend a night, so most visits to Malawi will pass through here at least once.
Lilongwe consists of two contrasting parts, the modern Capital City at one side and at the other side the local streets and markets of the Old Town. To the south of Lilongwe, the Old Town is almost indistinguishable from other small African towns. Here you will find a real mix of commercial, residential, and industrial buildings. The numerous shops, markets, cafes, and restaurants found here sell nearly everything imaginable.
Planned and built mainly in the late 60s and 70s, Lilongwe’s new town, to the north, the Capital City or City Centre, is the most modern and developed area of Malawi’s capital. Broad avenues bordered by flowerbeds lead along high, shiny white buildings – mainly banks, hotels, embassies, and offices. Close to the City Centre, Capital Hill holds more than a dozen office blocks, mainly containing government ministries.
Explore Malawi offers tailor-made private guided safaris in Malawi (and Zambia) including transport, meals, accommodations, and activities. You will be supported by an experienced and knowledgeable driver/guide.
Lake Malawi and its surroundings are quite beautiful – the combination of rugged mountain terrain and clear blue water makes it a beautiful spot. The lake is shared between Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique, with Malawi making use of the western section.
It’s one of the deepest world-wide freshwater lakes with huge proportions which make it more like an inland sea. Sailing safaris and canoeing adventures are just some of the ways to explore the lake’s secrets. There are interesting little sandy bays and stunning beaches along the rocky shores, also forested slopes and lagoons as well as the Cape Maclear peninsula and 12 islands.
This is a superb environment for water sports and many visitors enjoy brilliant snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, water skiing and kayaking. There are no currents or tides to contend with, just warm fresh water that is really clear and balmy weather to enjoy at the best times of the year. Needless to say, delicious freshly caught and cooked fish is a menu highlight for every visitor.
This is a Rift Valley Lake, and the main feature in the Lake Malawi National Park. The shore is dotted with villages but there are also long stretches that are uninhabited. There is a ferry transport around and along the lake, but cruising is also possible up the Shire River at the southern end which eventually leads into the Zambezi River.
Majete Wildlife Reserve is a unique conservation and tourist destination for all visitors.
The amazing success story of recovery and restoration and the continued protection of endangered species have led Majete to become one of the most popular reserves in Malawi for wildlife and safaris. Majete lies in the Lower Shire Valley in the Southwest of Malawi and displays fantastic landscapes and nearly 5,000 animals of 16 species have been reintroduced including black rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, sable antelope, and buffalo. The restocking of the park has led to Majete becoming a ‘Big Five’ reserve, and Malawi’s premier wildlife destination.
Birdlife is also outstanding in Majete with more than 300 species. These include several raptors, four vulture species, and a large population of bateleur eagles. From July to November, the park witnesses a plethora of migratory birds, including skimmers in the riverine areas, and the diminutive, yet beautiful rock pratincole.
Although being relatively small (580 km2), Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi’s game parks, with its beautiful riverine setting and teeming wildlife offering thrilling safaris.
It is located north of Blantyre and wildlife viewing is enhanced because the River Shire flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris as well as the usual safaris by 4×4 or even on foot.
Wildlife includes quite large numbers of elephants, and the river attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Lion and cheetah have been recently reintroduced into Liwonde. Antelope include kudu, sable, and bushbuck. Leopards, hyaena and black rhino are also occasionally spotted. Birdlife is exceptionally varied. The river attracts fish eagles and weaver birds build their nests in the thin woodland. Pel’s fishing owl is often seen at dusk along the river’s edge.
As well as the safaris and its beautiful scenery, Liwonde offers a wonderful cultural experience through visits to one of the local villages just outside the park boundary.
Accommodation is first-class, with Mvuu Lodge and Kuthengo Camp both offering luxury experiences by the Shire River. To reach those lodges, visitors can approach by road and then be ferried across the river, they can drive through the park from its southern gate, or they can use a pre-arranged boat from Liwonde town. There is also an airstrip near the lodges served by charter flights. New is Chimwala Bush Camp in the southern part of the park at the base of Chinguni Hill.
Mulanje has Malawi’s highest peak and its bare rock flanks tower to 3,000m, dwarfing all that surrounds it. Mulanje is actually a ‘massif’ of granite covering a massive 650m2 km.
Erosion by rivers running along lines of weakness on the rock has resulted in deep clefts striking back into the heart of the mountain. The landscape is a beautiful one of basins/plateaux, rivers, gorges, waterfalls and no less than 20 peaks above 2,500m.
Mulanje is known locally as the ‘island in the sky’ because it rises almost sheer from the plains below. Unlike some of the world’s peaks that are somewhat ‘hidden’ in surrounding ranges, there is a genuine sense of wonder and awe as you draw closer to Mulanje and see it looming over all that surrounds it.
The height of Mulanje is such that it creates its own climate, and it has a great variety of vegetation reflecting its massive range of altitude. Best known and most impressive of the forest trees is the cedar which takes its name from these mountains.
Mulanje lies to the east of Blantyre and is easily accessible from south Malawi’s capital. Visitors can drive round the foot of the massif in a day but even more attractive is to walk, trek, hike, and camp on the mountain. There is a large network of paths and trails and choices between quite gentle walking and serious climbing. Visitors can spend a couple of hours taking a walk to some river pools and waterfalls, or spend many days exploring the whole massif.
Just a half hour journey from Mulanje some lovely accommodation is offered at the Thyolo Tea Estates, courtesy of Huntingdon House and Chawani Bungalow.
Nyika Plateau National Park is part of a plateau, at an altitude of around 2,500m, which is dotted with stunning mountain outcrops.
This area is noted for the endemic herbs, heathers and interesting plant-life found in its rolling, montane grasslands. Across the extensive moorlands, you will find delphiniums, lobelias, gladioli, everlasting flowers, ‘red hot pokers’ and as many as 200 species of orchid.
Large herds of roan, reedbuck, zebra, and eland occur here, together with leopard, serval, and spotted hyena. That said, Nyika is not primarily a destination for game; rather it is about the feeling of wilderness – the mountains, rolling hills, small streams and waterfalls. There are endemic chameleons, frogs and toads, several unique local birds, and a variety of butterflies that attract enthusiasts from afar.
Nyika can be a relaxing start to a trip around Malawi or a cool, refreshing haven after a hot safari. Most visitors spend a couple of nights here and combine it with some time on Lake Malawi.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is one of the two large wildlife areas offering safaris in this region. Its vast 1800 km2 of rugged terrain is crossed by several rivers which tumble down the edge of the Rift Valley escarpment as they make their ways to Lake Malawi.
Most of the reserve is miombo woodland with large patches of tall grasses and occasional areas of rainforest. Birdlife is prolific with giant kingfishers and palm nut vultures among the 130 recorded species. This is a wonderful example of true, rugged, untouched wilderness. One of the largest elephant translocations in human history took place during 2016/17 with 500 elephants being brought in to Nkhotakota.
As well as the fast-developing game viewing safaris, there are opportunities to go walking and hiking in Nkhotakota. Visitors can also paddle canoes on a boat safari down the Bua River as it cuts through the dense bush or have a go at fishing from the banks of this mighty river.
Recent years have seen the opening of brand new, professionally run accommodation in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve: Bua River Lodge, Tongole Wilderness Lodge and Kachenga Bush Camp. Just outside the Reserve on its eastern boundary is the Rafiki Safari Camp offering luxury safari tents.
The Zomba Plateau covers around 130km² and touches the clouds at 2087m high. A handsome slice of natural beauty, expect some of the best views in Malawi and untamed wilderness that is unquestionably explorable.
Vegetation on the Plateau is a muddle of Brachystegia woodland and indigenous riverine and montane forest set alongside invading pine and cedar. The top of Zomba is a streaked by streams that burst over cliffs into waterfalls and picturesque lakes. Discover cliff-top plunges of up to 1,200m as the massif falls away into the Upper Shire Valley on its northwest side – the accompanying vistas are nothing short of breath-taking. Giant butterflies call it home too. Birding is wonderful with a number of raptors to spot, including the augur buzzard and the long-crested eagle.