Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, but most people know little if anything about this country. Besides maybe the fact that famous pop star Madonna has adopted children from Malawi. What I did know was that other travelers had recommended Malawi as being a lovely country with even lovelier people.I
f you are coming from Tanzania or traveling North to South, you’ll probably start with The Mushroom Farm It is a famous backpacker’s guesthouse that everyone loves. It is near a town called Livingstonia and is beautiful and a really pleasant place to spend a few days.
There is an amazing waterfall between the Mushroom Farm and Livingstonia. You can walk to it in 20 minutes and you can also hike to the bottom of it to swim which takes around 45 minutes. There are also a few other walks you can do in the area including walking to the town of Livingstonia which is very quiet, but pretty.
Around 5 hours South on mini bus (a funny experience where they pack vans or similar vehicles with as many people as possible and usually stop to pick people up when you already thought it was full enough!) is Nkhata Bay, a lovely village near the city of Mzuzu that is located on one of the more beautiful parts of Lake Malawi. It is a very pleasant place to spend a few days, especially if you stay at Mayoka Village, the best place to stay there by far. It is really beautiful, the staff is amazing and you can use all of the watersport equipment for free if you stay there.
From Nkhata Bay on Monday nights you can catch a ferry (around 8 hours) called the Ilala to Likoma Island, a beautiful island with gorgeous beaches and landscapes that is closer to Mozambique than to Malawi.
There is an amazing guesthouse on the island called Mango Drift which I highly recommend. I spent a few days there and it is a really relaxing place that has the best beaches I saw in all of Malawi.
Around 12 hours south of Nkhata Bay on public transportation, is Cape Maclear. It is perhaps Malawi´s most touristic spot with many guesthouses and an awesome hostel I stayed at called The Funky Cichlid. This is probably the best place in Malawi for snorkeling Lake Malawi. There are over 800 species of fish including cichlids which are very colorful and beautiful! Another nice place I also stayed at was Indaba Lodge which has a lovely beach and restaurant.
Both the capital, Lilongwe (around 5 hours from Cape Maclear on public transport), and Blantyre (another 5 hours south) don´’t have any impressive tourist attractions, but are pleasant cities as they aren´’t very big or crowded. In Lilongwe I recommend stopping by Cuneco, a social enterprise-café at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center that has a very nice atmosphere and free WiFi (an absolute rarity in Malawi).
Just south of Blantyre in a place called Chigumula is a very beautiful project, called the Jacaranda School for Orphans that I had the pleasure to both visit and spend time with the amazing children and staff that I encourage you to support if you want to help! (more info below post).
About an hour south of Blantyre is Thyolo, a gorgeous region full off coffee and tea Estates that are a really beautiful sight! You encounter a sea of green, with tea and coffee plantations such as the Satemwa Estate that is easy to visit and has delicious food and drink and even a lodge for travelers wanting something fancier.
If you love hiking and mountains call your name, the way they call mine, then southern Malawi is for you. Both the Zomba Plateau and the Mulanje Mountain range are perhaps the prettiest natural views and landscapes in Malawi and destinations for hiking and both are less than two hours away from Blantyre
The town of Zomba is pretty and surrounded by the beautiful plateau directly above the city. You can climb up from the town or get a lift further up the mountain and then hike to a few different waterfalls and look out points that are worth it! In Zomba I recommend the Pakachere Backpackers, it has a nice location and is a good place to meet other travelers.
If you like multi-day hikes then the Mulanje mountain range is perfect for you. There are seven wooden cabins that you can sleep at for around $1.50 USD (they provide a matt and a blanket, but you need to bring your own sleeping bag, etc). You do need a guide to do these hikes in the national park. I recommend a beautiful local and small social enterprise Mount Mulanje Tours that empowers orphans. A great guesthouse to stay at next to where your hike will start is the Likhubula Hikers Nest.
Malawi was definitely a surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting so much from it, and was very impressed with this affordable country. Lake Malawi is absolutely lovely and at times doesn’t feel like a lake with it’s nice beaches, and lakeside towns. It has some really beautiful hiking and nature, although they seem to be chopping down all their trees which is both sad and alarming. And I absolutely agree with what I had heard. The people of Malawi are so warm and kind that it really makes a difference! It’s so charming that you might plan to stay a month and end up staying 3 !
Story of the Jacaranda School founder, CNN hero, Marie de Silva
Article on Deforestation problem in Malawi:
Article on the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi:
The Tumaini Festival, at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp
Please note that my stays at the guesthouses mentioned in this post were sponsored, but all views are my own.
Thank you for a 2onderfully detailed post. I wanted to ask what was your busget for Malawi and peice range for these guest houses ( until i saw they were sponsored). I am planning a similar trip but opposite direction. From Mozambique past malawi to Tanzania. I really thought i would stay 3 day since i believed nothing to do there. Thank you.
PS: how do i get places to sponsor? Im a newbie and looking forward to travel and share stories on Africa .
Thank you very much for your kind words! Malawi accommodation isn’t the cheapest, usually $20 a night for most places, but many have dorms or campsites that charge between $5 for setting your tent, or maximum $15 for a dorm… In terms of getting sponsored, contact the organizations and offer them something of value they could be interested in, in exchange! Good luck with your journey, enjoy! As they say in Swahili, Safari Njemba (Have a good trip!)
Thanks a lot about the warm heart of Africa. The peaceful country in Africa although we are poor but we are humble people. Forget not we are God fearing nation
My pleasure brother, thank you for the kind message!