Don't Miss Places In Malawi
Malawi lies along the shore of sparkling blue Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi), the southernmost lake in the Great Rift Valley. The Shire River flows south from the lake, tumbling over waterfalls on its way to join the great Zambezi River in Mozambique. From the humid lakeside, the landscape rises westward to cool plateaus and forested mountains dotted with tea plantations. Much of the country is covered in broad grasslands, where antelopes, leopards, and elephants roam, protected from hunters in Malawi’s five national parks.
Forested mountains rise steeply above Zomba. This town was founded by European settlers in the 1880s and became the capital of British Nyasaland (the country’s name between 1891 and 1964). After independence, Zomba remained the capital of Malawi until 1975 when government offices were transferred to the current capital city of Lilongwe.
The people of Malawi mostly live in villages, in round houses of mud baked in the sun with roofs of sorghum thatch. In a traditional rural family, the mother is the head of the household. Women are in charge of planting and harvesting cassava, sorghum, and corn to feed their families. The men look after the livestock, such as cattle and sheep or go out hunting or fishing. Most of the people here have jobs on tobacco or cotton plantations owned by Europeans.
Listed below are the not to be missed places in Malawi…
Nature Sanctuary (Lilongwe)
At the Nature Sanctuary, you can spend an early morning walking through the park with a guide. Unfortunately, you can see only a handful of birds, which are not wild. It is remarkable that the park is located right in the city, but it has nothing much to show to anyone. The sanctuary operates on the animals that they have rescued in the jungles of Malawi. It serves as a “nursing home” for mistreated wild animals. They nurture the injured animals, give them medication if wounded, and help them take care of their young if the “patient” is pregnant or gives birth under their care. Once they are ok, the animals are then returned to the wild or to their natural habitat.
The guides here are well-rounded and sympathize with animals that are in distress. The place is well maintained, and the animal dens are clean and well cared for. Don’t expect a zoo atmosphere where you can interact with the wild animals. Most of the tour involves information on how to preserve wild animals and education on how to help and bring any abused, wounded, or sick animals encountered in the forest or neighborhood to their attention. If you feel famished after a tour, there is a nice bar inside this sanctuary that serves snacks and reasonably priced drinks.
Parliament Building of Malawi
The Parliament Building of Malawi is located in the middle of the busy and chaotic capital city of Lilongwe. If your idea of a pleasant tour around the city is to go around by bus, then be ready to travel like sardines. The taxis here charge more for tourists and walking is quite far from the bus station. There is not much to see because from the main gates to the building is over 100 meters in something that looks more like a football stadium than a closed building of the state. The opulent building looks can only be viewed from the outside. There are military guards who patrol the area, and if they catch you taking pictures, they can confiscate your camera and detain you. It is a pity that photographs cannot be taken to capture its marvelous architecture. If you want to go inside, there is a protocol to follow. If you’re outside, there is a designated perimeter area where pictures can be taken. The guards are quite strict regarding how close you can get to the architecture of the building.
The Chinese helped design and construct this building which utilizes Chinese manpower, fixtures, lighting, and furniture. You can see the impact in the style of the building and choices of fitting that they used. If you want to watch the proceedings inside, you must secure a permit, fill out some forms and wait for an approval from their head information center. The best thing about this structure is the compositional configuration and great addition to Lilongwe’s skyline. It’s one of those 'must see' structures that you must not bypass while in the capital.
Right next to this government building is a historical mausoleum. It contains the tombs of the last two presidents that served this country. The entrance to this mausoleum is free, you just need to sign the guest book to wander along and take pictures. A visit to both sites is essential if you want to understand the country’s political history.
Lilongwe Wildlife Center
The Lilongwe Wildlife Center is another wildlife sanctuary and a delightful place to visit. Visit this site if you love animals and intend to work for their welfare. Here you can work with the volunteers to help rehabilitate wild animals from throughout Malawi. As a volunteer, you can experience everything involved with their preservation.
They have a far-reaching recovery program and discharge any animal that they are able to recover fully. The volunteer program is part of their aims to educate every individual on how to love and care for animals. In case you're staying near this sanctuary and want to visit, the ideal time is early in the morning or around 4:00 PM.
Avoid coming during noontime because the mid-day sun is hot, and the animals also choose not to go out or interact, preferring to rest inside their cages rather than be out under the scorching sun.
The center is mostly walled and there is little chance that you will come close to any of the animals, but it is still worth all the time that you spend here. There is also a lovely bar and bistro inside the wildlife center that serves good food and cocktails. If you plan to take the well marked walking trails, you can do so along the riverside and in the forest area where many pronghorns and guinea fowls gather and play. If you’d like a tour, call in advance to arrange it. A great place for kids and adults, if you are in Lilongwe take advantage of the opportunity to learn about caring for and nurturing for a variety of wild African animals.
Kumbali Cultural Village
The Kumbali Cultural Village is an outdoor dining feast served as only the Malawians can do. You will love the traditional dishes they offer and their own eco-chimney that gives warmth. The food is well thought out; the grilled chicken is superb and the decadent sweets are the best way to please anyone’s palate. You will learn a lot about the Kumbali people, their history, customs, tradition, and culture even in just one visit. You can even join the revelry and dance along with the local performers. The place is not huge, but the sincerity and dedication of the people behind this attraction whose purpose is to promote tourism and the culture of Malawi is really inspiring.
The local entertainers here give a really remarkable show bringing much emphasis to their instruments, dance, and their welcome ceremonies. If you love learning about other cultures, this village is the perfect choice. Here you will be exposed to food, music, and immersed into another culture in true Malawian fashion. You can indulge yourself in trying the exotic African food that they provide with your ticket. You can dine in the hut after the cultural performance is done, and you can even enjoy a nice cold beer on the beautiful veranda.
In the event that you are searching for a quiet place to stay for the rest of the day, there are small huts for rent here where you can spend an overnight stay and have a pleasant breakfast in the morning or a lunch at noon. You can also visit their handicraft shops and buy locally made souvenirs that you can bring to your loved ones back home.
The Latitude 13 is an unexpectedly good and unique dining experience in Malawi. The cuisine is very diverse, and the chef always comes up with lots of interesting variations. From salad to dessert, the food is not only delicious but it is also brought to the plate in a creative way. For this purpose, the owner has set up a modern lounge style atmosphere with very exceptional decorations.
The crowd is very mixed, from young to old, smartly dressed to casual. Latitude 13 offers excellent value for the money, and you would expect to pay twice as much for something similar in Europe. At night, it becomes vibrant, and the restaurant gets more crowded. This is the most visited restaurant and entertainment location in the capital city. The party crowd can be spotted hanging out here rubbing elbows with some famous celebrities of Malawi. Be sure to visit this entertainment and dining hub while in Lilongwe.
Mount Mulanje (Blantyre)
Mount Mulanje is an impressive mountain located at the city of Blantyre. The adjacent golf course is highly recommended. This mountain is surrounded by large tea plantations in Malawi near the border with Mozambique. Even from the bottom of the mountain it is an impressive sight as it stands as the only major attraction of the hilly landscape. You can make your own trips (solo hike), or you can get a local guide who climbs the mountain with a group. The ascent begins early in the morning and passes through a foggy rainforest until you reach the plateau of the mountain and climb all the way to the summit. Here, the vegetation is much lower, and it spreads across the grassland. You can wander along the edge of the plateau and see stunning views of Malawi and the small town at the foot of Mount Mulanje.
The climb is tiring but rewarding. The views of the tea estates are fantastic, the staff has very attentive guides, but the cabanas may make you wish for a more comfortable infrastructure because they have almost nothing. Therefore, pack food, bring sleeping bags and light dry and clean socks because it is likely that in crossing the streams your shoes will get wet. This is normal and should be expected on a long trekking adventure like this.
The look of Mulanje Mountain is breathtaking. You will be charmed by its environment; the vast farm of tea plantations and the top of the mountain visible beyond the horizon. To the east, you can see the border between Malawi and Mozambique. The sunset is indescribable, both from the top of the mountain and from some guest houses in the neighborhood where you can encounter better infrastructure. You can marvel at the scenery and at the end, take a dip in the cold waters of the waterfalls. If you want a good trek and hassle free adventure, avoid the rainy period in December, January, and February.
The Way of the Cross/ Njira ya Mtanda
If you’d like a stroll in the field of Blantyre that is not very exhausting, then this spiritual journey is for you. The Way of the Cross/ Njira ya Mtanda is not difficult to undertake, and there are stunning perspectives that you will admire along the way of your climb. You need not be religious to respect the purpose of the walk, which is accentuated by the crosses at the designated stops. This trek will instill respect for the solemn devotion of the Christian faith even in Malawi.
There are certain requirements you must meet before you can join the pilgrimage. First, you must be physically and mentally fit to do the walk and kids can be brought along only if the weather is clear and not very hot. You must bring enough provisions with you (drinking water and snacks) in spite of the fact that there are a couple of vendors at the base. You can take pictures and also take some time to reflect, but you must stay silent while the Christians travelers reflect on the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
Cafe Mandala (Mandala House)
The Café Mandala is located in one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Blantyre (Mandala House). It is surrounded by a garden that is typically Malawian in design and infrastructure. The food is excellent and the coffee is superb.
The thing that makes this place truly unique is the warmth and helpfulness of the owners. The location is ideal for families who want to have fun and enjoy a good meal during the weekend. The tour of the old house is free, and the owners are very accommodating. The craft bazaar is always full of unique pieces.
Plateau Stables (Zomba)
The Plateau Stables is set in the Zomba Mountains and are the best riding stables you'll discover any place in Malawi. The stables offer 30 minutes to 4-hour rides that will tour you around the prettiest mountain in this part of Africa. They have excellent breeds of horses, stallions ranging from all types of models and breed, in different shapes and sizes that will allow you to have endless fun with family and friends. Each ride is properly supervised, and one guide is assigned per rider to ensure your safety and guidance.
Both the staff and the particularly amiable owners, Maggie and Brian, deserve commendation for what they have accomplished in maintaining well-kept stables, healthy horses and making sure every rider or guest is satisfied and entertained. Aside from the incredible ride, you will be thrilled to no end by the view of the mountain and their well-cared-for steeds. A visit (as well as a ride) here is strongly suggested while in Malawi. You can also check out their own gift shop filled with horse themed souvenirs.
For every traveler, getting the most out of their holiday adventure is the greatest reward they can achieve (especially when they have to fly from one country to another). Malawi can deliver all that and more. Every mountain, attraction, plateau, museum, animal reserve center, and hip dining place you go to helps you not only learn so much about the country, but you also discover your own strength and capabilities. Come to Malawi and explore and develop the skills to interact with other cultures, faiths, and nationalities. Malawi may lack major or grand attractions, but it has a unique charm that is all its own and just waiting to be discovered.