Travel

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About

Malawi is a beautiful and unique country in southern eastern Africa, sitting between Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. The Great Rift Valley runs the whole way through the country and it encompasses one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Due to its laid-back and friendly inhabitants, Malawi is often referred to as the Warm Heart of Africa. All these factors culminate in making it the perfect place to soak up local and international culture on the stunning shores of Lake Malawi.

Accommodation & Travel Itineraries

We will be announcing more information about packages for Lake of Stars 2019 in the coming months. If you want to make the most of your trip, consider combining the festival with a longer itinerary taking in the diverse landscape and activities that Malawi has to offer. Whether hiking up the famous Mount Mulanje, going on safari in one of the national parks or enjoying the multiple water sports available on the lake, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained. You can find plenty of information on the Malawi Tourism website including a list of reputable tour and safari operators.

Getting There

Malawi is a landlocked country and is easily accessible via land borders with Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. There are several international bus companies that run from regional capital cities to Malawi. If you’re flying, the main international airport is in the city’s capital Lilongwe which is serviced by Malawian Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Proflight Zambia. Blantyre’s Chileka International Airport also receives numerous domestic and international flights each week. 

Regions

NORTHERN MALAWI

Stunning plateaus, pine forests and stretches of pristine tropical lakeshore make this part of Malawi truly special! The historic town of Livingstonia boasts fabulous views, waterfalls, and fascinating permaculture projects. Luwawa Forest Lodge is set amongst the sprawling pine forests and offers activities including horse riding, abseiling, climbing and mountain-biking. If that’s not enough there’s the unique Nyika Plateau where leopard, zebra, and antelope wander through stunning montane grassland. Once you’ve finished all that action you can relax in the laid back lake-side town of Nkhata Bay or on the white sandy beaches of Chintheche and Kande.  The city of Mzuzu is the main gateway to the north, boasting a number of god quality accommodation options.

CENTRAL MALAWI

Most international visitors to Malawi arrive at the capital city Lilongwe in the Central Region which has a lively character spread across a number of areas in the city and with a distinct, vibrant Old Town. Accommodation options exist to suit all budgets, from luxury boutique hotels to backpackers lodges, and a multitude of restaurants and cafes offer a variety of cuisines from around the world.

One of the main draws for the central region is the easy access to the stunning Lake Malawi. Senga Bay is the closest point to Lilongwe, just an hour and half’s drive from the airport. It has a range of hotels and lodges overlooking lovely beaches, and a small forest reserve.

Wildlife experiences can be found at the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a genuine wilderness area of miombo woodland on the Rift Valley escarpment cut by the magnificent Bua River. Central Malawi’s other protected area is the Kasungu National Park, a large area of woodland, bush and grassland. An easy day trip from Lilongwe is the Chongoni Rock Art Area – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the densest cluster of stone age rock art found in central Africa. Nearby is Dedza, a pleasant forestry town overlooked by Dedza Mountain and home to the Dedza Pottery. Artistic skill is also on display at Mua Mission, almost directly down the escarpment from Dedza whose students create the finest wood carvings in the country and is also home to a fascinating cultural museum.

SOUTHERN MALAWI

Malawi’s second city Blantyre, sometimes referred to as the commercial capital, is located in southern Malawi, with a picturesque setting in the Shire highlands surrounded by mountains. This region is renowned for its stunning rock formations and high peaks including south-central Africa’s biggest peak: the Mulanje Massif, perfect for hiking and host to the legendary Porters Race. From the high peaks the country descends rapidly to the white-sand beaches and palm trees of Mangochi and Cape Maclear. It is also home to two of Malawi’s best populated game parks, Majete and Liwonde, and the beautiful tea estates in Thyolo.  

National Parks and Game Reserves

Malawi has a number of major national parks and reserves across the country offering excellent game-viewing and birdwatching opportunities.

LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK

Historically one of the most popular national parks in Malawi based upon the shores of the meandering Shire River (pronounced ‘shee-ray’), this beautiful area houses a dense concentration of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and antelope, a small number of newly introduced lion, plus many other mammals all living in riverine habitat. Dense swaying palm trees and tropical reed groves house a multitude of colourful birdlife, with over 400 recorded species and unique populations only found in this area. For anyone craving the true safari experience: if you dream of gazing at a herd of elephant from the back of an open-topped Land Rover or sipping a cold beer whilst watching hippos bathe in front of you in the river, this is the place for you.

MAJETE GAME RESERVE

Majete has undergone a new lease of life in the past decade under the expert management of African Parks, arguably now having become Malawi’s premier wildlife destination. Nestled in the south-western part of the country, it’s the only place to see the ‘big five’, and contains over 12,000 animals, including lion, elephant, black rhino , buffalo, zebra, sable antelope, leopard, hippos, and many species of monkeys. Majete is very dry and hot in the summer, and several man-made watering holes have been constructed to maintain the wildlife population which make a great place to see the game interacting together.

NYIKA PLATEAU

Nyika Plateau lies in northern Malawi, towering above Lake Malawi at an elevation of 475m, with the parks highest point at 2605m. Located on the plateau, Nyika National Park is unlike any other in Africa, renowned for its vast vistas and rolling highland hills, not unlike the highlands of Scotland, but populated by elephant, zebra, kudu, various antelope, small mammals and one of the densest populations of leopard found in Central Africa. With some of the most spectacular views in the country and fantastic cycling and hiking options, it’s a perfect destination for those seeking off-beat adventures.

KUTI WILDLIFE RESERVE

Just an hour from Lilongwe and half an hour from the shores of Lake Malawi lies a little-known wildlife reserve called Kuti. This charming bush retreat is home to a small variety of wildlife including zebra, impala, sable, and a  giraffe. Explore by car, bike, or on foot – just make sure you’re at the deck overlooking the lagoon in time for the best sunset in Malawi.

There are also a number of other national parks and forest reserves to explore across the country, including Dzalanyama Forest Reserve, Thuma Forest Reserve, Ntchisi Forest Reserve, Luwawa Forest Reserve, Kasungu National Park, Vwaza Marsh and the Nkhotakota game reserve.

Activities and Adventures

Lake Malawi offers some of the best freshwater scuba diving in the world, from the clouds of colourful cichlids to large catfish and the aptly named dolphin fish. For complete beginners, it’s one of the cheapest countries to learn how to dive. And there are plenty of other water sports on offer around the lake from sailing, snorkelling, and kayaking to jet skiing and speedboat rides! On dry land, there’s numerous ways to get active, from fantastic walking and hiking options, to cycling, horse riding, and other sports activities. Cultural visits to local villages and participation in community projects are also widely available and offer a chance to see a different side to life in Malawi.

Money

The currency used is the Malawi Kwacha and ATMs are fairly widespread in the cities and bigger towns. Credit cards are not widely accepted although Visa is more popular than Mastercard. All lodges used to international tourists will accept US Dollars although the exchange rate will sometimes vary.

Weather

During September and October when the festival takes place Malawi is experiencing its ‘hot-and-dry’ season. This lasts up until the rains come in November/December. During this time expect temperatures between 25°C and 35°C with the lake warming up to a balmy 28°C! So pack plenty of sun screen and don’t forget your hat and sunnies.

Food and Drink

Malawi is better renowned for its beautiful beaches and fantastic people than its cuisine. However nsima is the widespread staple across the country and has an almost mythical place in Malawian society. It’s made from maize flour and is served with a ‘relish’ that varies from basic pumpkin leaves to groundnut stews with beef, fish, or chicken. It’s well worth a try and is probably the most filling substance on earth! However if this isn’t to your taste there are always lots of western choices available. Carlsberg is the main beer of choice, but do try the local Malawi Gin which is renowned for its great flavour. Of course there is also always the ubiquitous Chibuku – a local maize beer, similar to alcoholic porridge. 

Health and Safety

Malawi is in a malarial area so you should organise prophylaxes before you come; if you forget you can buy some upon arrival. It’s also recommended to get vaccinations for rabies, polio, tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis A. There is a risk of contracting bilharzia (a parasite that lives in the gut) if bathing in some parts of Lake Malawi but the risk is negligible and medication is available over the counter and can be taken as a precautionary measure after exposure. As with most of Africa, Malawi has high levels of HIV amongst the population and precautions should be taken accordingly. The culture of Malawi is naturally incredibly friendly but where dress is concerned is still conservative outside of the city. It’s not advised to where swimwear/short skirts/hot pants away from beach areas as you may attract unwanted attention. Malawi is considered a safe country for tourists and Malawians are rightfully known for their friendliness. However, as anywhere, be sure to keep an eye on your valuables.