34 Best Places To Visit In Malawi

Malawi

Malawi, known as the “Warm Heart of Africa”, offers a unique African adventure. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in vibrant culture and traditions, climb high peaks like Mount Mulanje, and relax on beautiful beaches like Cape Maclear. The locals are friendly and welcoming, greeting strangers with “moni” (hello in Chichewa).

The country is full of national parks and nature reserves, especially in the Central Region. Despite its predominantly Muslim population, Malawi offers a variety of restaurants and eateries, though pork is rarely served.

The National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi

Malawi is home to two significant botanic gardens, with a history dating back to 1895. The National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens, established in 1966, aim to conserve, educate, and research Malawi’s plant biodiversity.

The National Herbarium houses over 90,000 plant specimens, including a carpological collection, serving as a vital resource for scientific research and education. These institutions also offer visitors the chance to explore Malawi’s wildlife, birds, and plants.

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi
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Malawi is home to two significant botanic gardens, with a history dating back to 1895. The National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens, established in 1966, aim to conserve, educate, and research Malawi’s plant biodiversity.

The National Herbarium houses over 90,000 plant specimens, including a carpological collection, serving as a vital resource for scientific research and education. These institutions also offer visitors the chance to explore Malawi’s wildlife, birds, and plants.

La Caverna Art Gallery

Visit La Caverna Art Gallery in Mandala House, Blantyre, Malawi, to see beautiful local art and even buy some. If art isn’t your thing, check out the Blantyre Crafts Market for handmade crafts by local artists.

Enjoy a meal at La Caverna’s caf√©, open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:15 pm, and visit the library. Blantyre, a hilly city founded by Scottish missionaries, is known for its friendly people and history of Ivory trading.

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve
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Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve, Malawi’s smallest national park, covers 135 km2 and features diverse habitats like Mopane woodland and riverine areas. Though once home to black rhinos, poaching has reduced their numbers.

Today, visitors can see buffalo, impala, and vervet monkeys. The best time to visit is from May to September, during the cool, dry season. The park is located 5 km from Zomba town and offers boat safaris on the Shire River.

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park
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Liwonde National Park, near Lilongwe, Malawi, is home to diverse wildlife, including the critically endangered black rhino and rich birdlife like Pel’s fishing owls. Visit Njobvu Cultural Village for traditional mud-brick huts, food, and dances. The park features various ecosystems and habitats, including lions, leopards, elephants, and rare mammals.

Liwonde offers stunning landscapes, a heart-of-Africa wilderness feel, and abundant wildflowers during the wet season. It’s Malawi’s premier game-viewing destination, with lodges offering great wildlife views.

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve source wikipedia
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Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, near Lake Malawi, spans 700 square miles and is home to over 130 bird species and mammals like the endangered sable antelope. Best for birders, visit during the rainy season (May-October), though it’s busier and pricier.

Enjoy walks, hikes, and boat safaris along the Bua River. Nkhotakota is a 3-hour drive from Lilongwe and 30 km from Lake Malawi, accessible via the M5 and a 12-km dirt road to Bua Gate.

Lilongwe Wildlife Center

Lilongwe Wildlife Center
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Visit Lilongwe Wildlife Center, established in 2007, in Malawi. It’s part of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and houses diverse animals, including endangered species.

The center is 1.2 miles from downtown Lilongwe, near restaurants like KFC and Pizza Hut. It’s free, has a playground, and shows native Malawian animals like zebras, rescued by the Born Free Foundation. The center is an award-winning conservation and education hub, working with the Department of National Parks & Wildlife.

Karonga

Karonga
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Visit Karonga, northern Malawi, for unique cultural and natural history. Explore institutions like the Cultural and Museum Centre Karonga and Radio Dinosaur. Enjoy Lake Malawi activities like kayaking and swimming.

Visit the town’s museum for prehistoric human and dinosaur exhibits. Fly to Lilongwe International Airport and take a coach to Mzuzu, the nearest town to Karonga. The best time to visit is from April to November, with warm temperatures and little rainfall.

Zomba

Zomba
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Visit Zomba, a southern African city in Malawi, known for colonial architecture and the Zomba Plateau with forest trails, waterfalls, and wildlife like baboons. Explore the University of Malawi campus and enjoy nightlife at Havanna and Vibes.

The best time to visit is from April to November, with the highest temperatures in October and lowest in July. Travel is most expensive in August, with some deals in October.

Mzuzu

Mzuzu source wikipedia
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Mzuzu is a small, accessible city in northern Malawi, primarily inhabited by Tumbuka people. Enjoy local cuisine like botolo fish and shop at traditional stores like the Green Shop. Mzuzu University was founded in 1994.

The climate varies, with a rainy winter and hot summer. The wet season has over 30% chance of rain, while the dry season lasts from April to November with few rainy days.

Mulanje

Mulanje
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Mulanje Mountain, or ‘island in the sky,’ in southern Malawi, has a highest peak of nearly 3000 meters, offering stunning views. It’s great for hiking, trekking, or climbing, with various trails, camping equipment, and guides.

The area has endemic plants and animals like the squeaker frog. However, growing population and land use patterns threaten the forest reserve. The mountain has huts for multi-day hikes or strenuous scrambles, and you can hire porters.

Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve

Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve
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Visit Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve in Malawi, established in 1927, covering 56,317 acres. It’s a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with Mount Mulanje, central Africa’s highest peak, and a major water source.

Accessible from Blantyre, it offers various hiking trails, guided tours, and campsites. The Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust protects the forest, prevents resource exploitation, and preserves the water catchment.

Lilongwe

Lilongwe
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Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, has the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre for injured and rescued wildlife, a 21st-century Chinese-built Parliament building, museums, and historic sites.

La Galleria Africa art center showcases local artists’ paintings, sculptures, and crafts. Get around using taxis or minibuses. Visit the Parliament Building, relocated from Zomba in 1994 and built by Chinese immigrants.

Blantyre

Blantyre
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Visit Blantyre, a city in the Shire Highlands of Malawi, known for colonial architecture and nearby reserves and parks. Explore the Museum of Malawi and the Colonial Mandala House with the Society of Malawi Library.

Blantyre, the capital of Malawi’s southern region, has a temperate climate and a rainy season from December to March. Stay at hotels like Sunbird Hotel and Resorts or Kumbali Country Lodge, and enjoy breakfast at Farmer’s Daughter Cafe.

The city has good infrastructure, and it’s safe to walk or drive. Use minibuses or bicycles for transportation, but beware of overpriced tuk-tuks.

Lake Malawi National Park

Lake Malawi National Park
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Lake Malawi National Park in southern Malawi features granite islands, sandy beaches, eco-lodges, and fishing villages. Enjoy kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and eco-tourism projects. The park’s management plan prioritizes community partnerships and co-management.

At Likoma, swim, paddleboard, or kayak around the islands. Hike to a viewing point or explore more challenging trails with a guide. The park is home to diverse wildlife, including fish, mammals, and birds.

Kasungu National Park

Kasungu National Park
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Visit Kasungu National Park, 175 km north of Lilongwe, Malawi, along the Zambian border, to see wildlife like elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and various antelope species.

Despite poaching threats, the park is home to the Big Five and diverse species in its open woodland, bush, and grasslands. Stay at a well-priced lodge near Lifupa Dam, where elephants gather in the dry season.

The Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) collaborates with partners to protect the park and implement livelihood projects to prevent wildlife exploitation.

Shire River

Shire River
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The Shire River, Malawi’s largest river, flows 402 km from Lake Malawi into the Zambezi River in Mozambique. Its upper reaches include shallow Lake Malombe.

The Lower Shire Valley once had a thriving weaving industry, now revived by the Malawi Wildlife Trust. The region supports hydropower, agriculture, fisheries, transport, and tourism.

Visit Liwonde National Park, home to black rhinos and other wildlife, and take a boat ride on the “Mangunda” to explore the Shire River.

Nyika National Park

Nyika National Park
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Visit Nyika National Park in northern Malawi for diverse flora, fauna, and over 400 bird species. The park’s montane forest patches and grasslands create an East African landscape, home to lions, elephants, zebras, and many antelope and leopard species. Explore the park on a mountain bike with a guide for around $45 per day.

Zomba Plateau

Zomba Plateau source wikipedia
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Zomba Plateau, in southern Malawi’s Shire Highlands, spans 130 square kilometers and reaches 2,087 meters. It’s made of granitic syenite, formed after molten rock intrusion.

The cooler, higher-altitude plateau offers various hiking routes, including a 2-hour trek to Mulumbe Peak. The Department of Forestry manages most of the plateau, which has native flora like Mexican pines and Mulanje Cedar, and strawberry and blackberry crops.

Chongoni

Chongoni source wikipedia
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Chongoni, Malawi, is a cultural hub with historical sites and monuments. Visit nearby Chentcherere and Namzeze Rock Art Sites, but hire a guide as they’re not well-marked.

Chongoni has Central Africa’s largest rock art concentration, created by Chewa agriculturalists and Batwa hunter-gatherers around 1,000 years ago.

The Chongoni Rock Art Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has 127 rock art sites, three of which are open to the public.

Lake Chilwa

Lake Chilwa
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Lake Chilwa, Malawi’s second-largest lake, is near the Mozambique border and has an island called Chisi. The shallow, inland lake’s size varies with runoff and is cultivated with rice during the dry season.

It’s important for commercial fishing, producing 20% of Malawi’s fish needs. About 60,000 people live in 35 villages, with mobile stilted fishing villages during the dry season.

Lake Chilwa is 30 km from the main road and not often visited by tourists, but a boat trip to see local fishermen is recommended. The surrounding area has 1.5 million people and faces malnutrition and unpredictable weather.

Likoma Island

Likoma Island
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Likoma Island, in Lake Malawi, covers 18 square kilometers and is home to diverse wildlife and amphibian species. Accessible by ferry, it’s near Mango Drift village and beach, and features St Peter Cathedral.

The island has historical significance, with Scottish missionaries leaving buildings and monuments. A weekly ferry service and private aircraft connect Likoma Island to mainland Malawi and other districts.

Livingstonia

Livingstonia
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Livingstonia, a small town in Rumphi district, Northern Region, is 430 km north of Lilongwe and connected to Chitimba on Lake Malawi’s shore.

Founded in 1894 by Scottish missionaries to combat malaria, it’s named after David Livingstone. Malawi has a good road system, but driving can be dangerous. Livingstonia offers stunning views of Lake Malawi, Tanzania, and Manchewe Falls, a 400-foot waterfall nearby.

Majete Wildlife Reserve

Majete Wildlife Reserve
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Majete Wildlife Reserve, established in 1955, protects diverse wildlife and plants from poaching. It has restored over 5,000 animals and is Malawi’s premier wildlife destination, with a thriving elephant population.

Enjoy game drives, boat trips, and hiking, including Majete Hill. The reserve spans over 70,000 hectares in the Lower Shire Valley, 70 km from Blantyre, and offers interaction with local communities.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
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Visit Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in northern Malawi for diverse wildlife and nature. This national game reserve is home to rare antelope species, many mammals, and the largest elephant population in northern Malawi.

The reserve is a transboundary link with the Luangwa-Zambezi Valley and offers opportunities for research contributing to wildlife conservation.

The wetland habitat is perfect for various birds, fish, and plants. Enjoy safaris and observe abundant wildlife, including hippos in the large lake.

Nkhata Bay

Nkhata Bay
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Visit Nkhata Bay in northern Malawi for a relaxing nature vacation. The picturesque town is surrounded by steep forested hills and Lake Malawi’s deepest part.

Accessible by boat, minibus, or regular buses from Lilongwe and Blantyre, it offers affordable restaurants, lodges, a post office, bus station, grocery stores, a bank, internet cafes, and a tropical savanna climate with warm weather, dry and wet seasons, and 806 mm average annual rainfall.

Wildlife Sanctuary

The Wildlife Sanctuary in Malawi cares for orphaned and injured animals, promotes peaceful coexistence with wildlife, and conducts research for conservation.

Liwonde National Park, home to over 500 elephants and rare species, is a must-visit. Kuti Wilderness Reserve, the smallest nature reserve, offers biking and sightings of zebras and velvet monkeys.

Majete National Park protects nyala, a spiral-horned antelope, and provides self-drive or guided walking safaris with basic to comfortable accommodations.

King African Rifles Monument

King African Rifles Monument
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Visit the King African Rifles Monument in Zomba, Malawi, a red-brick monument honoring Malawian soldiers who fought in World War I. Located on a small hill, it offers a tranquil atmosphere for reflection.

The monument is free to visit and has nearby parking. It commemorates the King’s African Rifles army, raised from Britain’s East African possessions during World Wars I and II, primarily from the local population.

Chitimba

Chitimba
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Chitimba, Malawi, offers a large freshwater lake with golden beaches and colorful fish. Known as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa,’ it’s a friendly place with opportunities for safaris to see the Big Five. The wildlife-filled national park, managed by African Parks since 2015, protects lions, leopards, and rhinos in fenced enclosures.

Chitimba, located 75 miles from the Malawi/Tanzania border and 90 miles from Mzuzu, features a campsite with rooms, a restaurant, a bar, and local products for sale.

Mangochi

Mangochi
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Mangochi, a district in Malawi’s Southern Region, spans 6,273 square kilometers and has a population of 610,239. It’s home to the capital city and attractions like the Lake Malawi Museum, supermarkets, grocery shops, and the Sun ‘n Sand Resort Restaurant.

The Lake Malawi Museum showcases historical, cultural, and environmental aspects, including a model of the Guendolin gunboat and a marine steam engine.

The southern lakeshore has hotels with adjoining camping grounds, offering various activities and amenities, including Lake Spas at Sunbird Nkopola Lodge and Makokola Retreat.

Mangochi Forest Reserve is an ecological extension of Liwonde National Park, supporting leopards, elephants, and rare bird and butterfly species.

Elephant Marsh

Visit Elephant Marsh in southern Malawi, a vital catchment area for humans and wildlife. Located on the lower Shire River floodplain, it supplies water to local communities and livestock.

This natural oasis is popular for birdwatching, with diverse birdlife, crocodiles, hippos, and otters. The Elephant Marsh Heritage Center features a children’s club and a museum.

The marsh spans 400 to 1200 square kilometers, with tall palm trees and baobabs, and its rich alluvial soils support crops like maize and rice, promoting conservation agriculture and benefiting the local economy.

Nkhoma Mountain

Hike Nkhoma Mountain, a 5814-foot peak with an 11-kilometer path offering scenic views. Join the Nkhoma Mountain conservation initiative to plant trees.

Access the mountain via M3 or S146 roads from Zomba, leading to Chiradzulu town at the eastern end. Enjoy boat rides along the Shire River during the dry season to see wildlife.

Visit the Katundu workshop to see local artisans upcycle wine bottles into glass chandeliers. Explore nearby Soche hill, south of Blantyre, with a marked trail to the summit and parking near the school.

Viphya Plateau

Viphya Plateau
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Viphya Plateau, a nature reserve in northern Malawi, spans nearly 3,000 square kilometers and features diverse wildlife, birds, and rare Malawian plants and trees.

Hike the 3-day trail from Kawandama Mountain to Kande Beach resort. The plateau, at 2,600 meters, is surrounded by lush tropical forests and offers cool temperatures. During the wet season, spot numerous bird species, red duiker, yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, bushbucks, and bush pigs.

The region includes five national parks, with Mzuzu as the largest settlement and industrial center, offering limited accommodation near the Tanzanian border.

Kumbali Cultural Village

Visit Kumbali Cultural Village near Lilongwe, Malawi, for an authentic African experience. Stay in one of the 12 natural-material huts, sleeping up to four people.

Children under 12 get half-price tours. Packages include hotel pick-up and drop-off. Learn about traditional Malawian art, culture, and food, and participate in recreational activities.

Explore the Permaculture Centre for sustainable food production lessons. Enjoy local art in galleries with brick walls, glass windows, and rustic accents. Shop for handcrafted products like paintings, sculptures, and jewelry.

Visit the historic Kamuzu Mausoleum, Parliament Building, and Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, which cares for injured wildlife and educates about animal welfare.

Takeaway

Malawi is an underrated African destination with diverse attractions, including stunning landscapes like Viphya and Zomba plateaus, and Lake Malawi’s clear waters.

The best time to visit is April/May to October/November. Cultural and historical experiences are available at Kumbali Village and Lilongwe’s landmarks.

Safaris in Liwonde or Majete parks and adventure activities like hiking and water sports are also popular. Malawi’s welcoming people, tasty cuisine, and unique crafts make it a memorable trip, with 34 top places to explore.

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