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Why you should go to Malawi

by Martha Hales

published

Malawi is one of those countries that few people can successfully locate on a map, and fewer still can tell you anything about. This can work in your favour, as it has a clutch of fantastic attractions that add up to a great holiday that is never overrun with tourists.

Zebras in Liwonde National Park, Malawo

Dwarfed by its neighbouring nations Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, Malawi is a petite country, a bit smaller than England, located in south central Africa. Around one fifth of Malawi’s territory is taken up by Lake Malawi, and this huge body of water is one of the nation’s defining features.

Lake Malawi

Other than lake based activities there are highlands perfect for trekking, National Parks stuffed with big game, characterful islands, colonial towns and a relaxed, smiling population. It’s a small corner of Africa that can offer an exciting and varied holiday without the crowds. Here’s the lowdown on our favourite Malawi highlights.

Local women dancing in malawi

Safari

It might not be the first destination that springs to mind when you are thinking of a safari adventure, but Malawi has quietly been improving its safari credentials in recent times and now has some wonderful lodges from which to explore its wildernesses.

Hippo in Malawi

Liwonde National Park is one of the highlights of any trip to Malawi, and offers classic game drives as well as boat safaris on the Shire river where you can expect to see groups of elephant splashing about, along with waterbuck, crocodile, hippo and buffalo. The birdlife is also fabulous - as many as 450 species are recorded in the park. Best of all, it’s never overrun with other people.

Yellow billed stork in Liwonde National Park, Malawi

Zomba Plateau

This flat-top mountain rises to 1,800 metres at its highest points, and the plateau extends across roughly 130 square kilometres with steep cliffs dropping away on all sides to the surrounding lowlands. The top is mostly covered by forests, particularly pine, cedar and cypress trees, and laced with streams which feed the many waterfalls.

Waterfall on Malawi's Zomba plateau

There are lodgings on the plateau itself or you could opt to base yourself in Zomba town at the foot of the plateau, which is the former capital and a showcase for Malawi’s colonial charm. On the plateau itself there are lots of options for exploring, whether on foot, on horseback or by bike, and you can fish in the forest lakes and watercourses.

View from the Zomba Plateau in Malawi

Cape Maclear

This is Malawi’s best known destination, perfectly sited on a peninsula jutting into the southern basin of Lake Malawi. It’s a prime spot to kick back for a few days pre or post safari, and there’s plenty to do in the vicinity.

Boat on the shore of Lake Malawi

Lounging on the shore of the emerald lake is a delight, and at times the golden sand and clear waters will trick you into thinking you’re in the Caribbean, especially if you stay in one of the lovely beach-side lodges hidden among the trees of the shoreline. The snorkelling is great here thanks to the 700 plus species of colourful cichlid fish, many of which are endemic to the lake.

Colourful fish in Lake Malawi

Mount Mulanje

This cluster of peaks is an ‘inselberg’ which rises from the surrounding plains in all its steep and mysterious glory. The highest peak, Sapitwa, just nudges above the 3,000 metres mark and presents a challenge for keen mountain climbers as the route is quite tricky and involves lots of scrambling and negotiating of large boulder fields.

The slopes of Mount Mulanje in Namibia

The collection of mountains is significant enough to affect the climate around it, so expect mists and storms at any time of year. If high peaks aren’t your thing, the lower slopes offer some fantastic trekking trails for all abilities.

Mount Mulanje in Namibia with a hat of clouds

Likoma Island

Curiously, this sleepy but enticing island out in the Mozambican part of the lake still belongs to Malawi, and makes a real get away from it all destination. There are plenty of beaches to explore, and several busy little communities to visit. Don’t miss a visit to Likoma’s oversized cathedral, reportedly the same size as the one in Winchester, adorned with fine stained glass and carved stone. If you tire of Likoma’s temptations, consider continuing to its sister island, remote and laid back Chizumulu, where the pace of life is even slower.

Likoma Island, Malawi

Make it happen

Malawi’s charms will quickly put you under a spell, and the ever-smiling population will make you want to stay longer than you planned. To discover this underrated destination your way, send details of your requirements to our local specialists who will construct your itinerary around your priorities. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.

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