7 Best Places to Visit in Malawi
Malawi is a truly spectacular destination for those seeking a quintessential African vacation. Host to incredible national parks, beautiful lodgings and sought-after wildlife, there is a never-ending supply of Malawi tourist attractions. When visiting Malawi, many head straight for the lake and, given the wealth of activities and range of accommodation available there, we’d certainly recommend spending a good part of your holiday on its welcoming shores.
However, when planning where to go in Malawi, don’t limit yourself to Lake Malawi as there are plenty of other magical locations worth leaving your hammock for. Of the top places to visit in Malawi, we recommend Liwonde National Park with its elephants, hippos and crocodiles, and the rolling grasslands of the little-visited Nyika Plateau among many more. Where will you go first?
1. Lake Malawi: Lazy Beach Life, Snorkelling & Kayaking
Taking up a full fifth of the country, Lake Malawi has lovely sand beaches and calm clear water filled with so many colourful fish that it often feels like you’re swimming in a giant aquarium. Snorkelling, diving, sailing or kayaking top the list of activities for one of the top vacations in Malawi. But life on the lakeshore moves at such a leisurely pace that many visitors simply enjoy a ‘laze and gaze’ holiday – staring at the water’s shimmering surface over the pages of a novel.
Considered one of the best places in Malawi, there are many ways to experience the magic of the lake. Stay close to a local fishing village in a beach lodge in Cape Maclear or on Likoma Island; alternatively, opt for somewhere completely private and exclusive such as tiny Mumbo Island or Nkwichi Lodge on the lake’s remote Mozambican shore.
2. Liwonde National Park: Malawi's Best Game Viewing
When deciphering where to go in Malawi for the best game viewing experience, look no further than Liwonde National Park. You have a good chance of seeing large herds of elephant, different species of antelope and an incredible variety of birds. That said, a safari in Liwonde is less about checklists and more about a well-rounded wildlife experience, offering one of the best vacations in Malawi.
Stay at Mvuu Lodge and go on early morning bush walks with friendly and knowledgeable guides, enjoy boat safaris on the croc-and-hippo-dotted Shire River, and in the evenings, watch wildlife at the water’s edge from the comfort of your viewing deck. Bliss!
3. Majete Wildlife Reserve: Big 5 Country
Only 70 km south-west of Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital, this 70 000-hectare conservation area sits in the Lower Shire Valley and has recently added lions to its already impressive list of large mammals. The little-visited reserve now boasts the Big 5 as well as zebra, hippo, crocodile and many species of antelope. And, when you throw in well over 300 bird species, you have a destination that is well worth a visit – especially in combination with the dazzling lake, which itself is one of the most spectacular places in Malawi.
There are just two lodges in Majete, and our top pick is Mkulumadzi Lodge known for its luxurious chalets and first-rate service. Enjoy guided nature walks, game drives and sunset boat safaris in a beautiful and tranquil wilderness setting far from the regular safari crowds.
4. Mount Mulanje: Malawi's Hiking Region
At just over 3 000m, Mount Mulanje is Central Africa’s highest peak. This granite mountain range is where to go in Malawi for a fantastic hiking experience and sensational views of the surroundings. Situated just 65 km east of Blantyre, Mount Mulanje is host to a network of trails winding through tea plantations and cedar tree forests, as well as spectacular waterfalls tumbling into icy rock pools – perfect for a refreshing dip! Hiking here can be quite challenging, so you’ll need a reasonable level of fitness and decent walking shoes.
5. Lilongwe: Markets & Restaurants in Malawi’s Capital
Malawi’s capital Lilongwe is a well-laid-out city divided into New Town (to the north) and Old Town (to the south). The former has smart hotels, embassies and offices, while the latter has the central market, outdoor cafés and lively restaurants, making it the more interesting area to explore while visiting Malawi. Most travellers to Malawi only have a brief glimpse of the city while flying in or out of the country, but spending a day in Lilongwe is definitely worthwhile. Visit the market on Malangalanga Road, or look into some of the Indian spice and cloth shops for a bargain or two! Between the two towns is an interesting wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre, and there are even sporting facilities at the Lilongwe Golf Club.
6. Nyika National Park: Unique Grassland Habitat
Nyika National Park is Malawi’s biggest reserve and offers a unique landscape of high-rolling grasslands and forested valleys. Day and night game drives provide visitors with the incredible chance to see herds of roan antelope, eland and zebra, as well as nocturnal creatures such as hyena, jackal and serval. The park also offers hiking and mountain biking as a great way to take in the magnificent views and appreciate the solitude and space, while breaking a sweat. This wonderful wildlife destination should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Malawi.
7. Zomba Plateau: Forest Trails & Phenomenal Views
Zomba, the former capital of Malawi, has a bustling town centre and grand old buildings – their corners now softened by moss and ferns – and is considered one of the top tourist attractions in Malawi. The colourful city market is worth a morning’s browse, but Zomba’s real beauty lies further up the slopes on the Zomba Plateau: a forested table-top mountain crisscrossed by streams and woodland trails. Walk to the regally-named lookout points of Queen’s View and Emperor’s View, or simply sit back and enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace of the Ku-Chawe Hotel, perched on the edge of the plateau. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with views so impressive they were described in colonial times as ‘the best in the British Empire’.