Finally! One of the most requested blog posts. Malawi is (rightfully so) on most people’s bucket list. Here’s to hoping that your wanderlust will be stirred further, that the Universe aligns everything in your favour, and that you get to visit that beautiful country. This Malawi itinerary will help you make the most out of your trip.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind before I give my proposed Malawi itinerary:
- Malawi is visa free for most guys – certainly true for Kenyans
- Kwacha is the country’s national currency.
- It is a cheap country. As compared to other African countries, Malawi is not expensive. You will find many accommodation options, some even as low as $4. Food is not good but it’s cheap. About the food, it is generally bland soooo foodies… definitely try their fish though.
- Malawians are very friendly.
- Lake Malawi covers about 1/3 of the country
- Malawi is generally safe.
- There are many things to do in Malawi – you won’t run out of stuff to do.
- Malawi is one of the African countries that hosts the most festivals. We were blessed to attend the Ngonis’ Umthetho festival which takes place annually BTW. Plan to attend should you be in Malawi in July. Another notable festival is the Lake of Stars, a music festival.
- Malawi is still very unexplored so plan for it before it becomes infested with tourists.
- The Mulanje Massif is one of the most beautiful places on earth. No one talks about this and that should change. I want to go back.
- It is relatively easy to connect from one place to the other using public transport. However, it could hectic and they are rarely on time. Plan with that in mind to avoid getting late and so you don’t get frustrated.
- Lake Malawi has some of the most spectacular snorkelling spots in the world, housing unique creatures like the Cichlids.
- English is Malawi’s official language; Chichewa is the national language. There’s always going to be someone who speaks English, even in the villages, so if language is normally a determinant on whether you visit a place, you’re sorted.
- Malawi is a long country – the length stands at around 840 kilometres, while the width varies between 8 to 160 kilometres.
This Malawi itinerary could be adjusted based on your interests, the border you use to get into the country, and all that.
This is the town that is shared by Tanzania and Malawi. This small town served as an interesting starting point to our Malawian trip. The people there are extremely friendly. Most of them speak Swahili, thanks to the border with Tanzania.
While in Karonga, check out the Karonga Museum. Did you know they had Dinosours in Africa? Well, they did. The Malawisorous is well documented at the museum. They also have a replica. Intriguing.
Remember I mentioned that the lake covers quite a chunk of the country? Enjoy the lake right from Karonga. There are many beaches and are all easily accessible. My highlight was the Kapirintende beach. We had to hire a taxi but it was all worth it. 2 days would be perfect for Karonga.
If you thought of David Livingstone when you read that you’re right. The man was busy. Livingstonia is a town on the hill, with a lot of Christian influence. I do not remember seeing a bar/club there. We tried finding one 😋 Built by Scottish missionaries, the area offers quite a bit of Instagram-perfect locations especially if you love a vintage kind of look
Set aside 2 or 3 days for Livingstonia
If you’re short of time, take an early bus from Karonga. Once you get there, head to the Manchewe waterfalls. This includes a bit of hiking, all totally worth it. Standing at 175 meters high, the falls is the highest I have ever been to. The views are spectacular.
Livingstonia is hikers’ paradise. Spend the next day hiking. Mount Chombe is an impressive one. It is not an easy hike but it is not as tough either.
There is also a museum that has done a good work conserving what’s dear to Malawi in terms of Christianity and all that. The Stone Museum also has decent rooms, including hostels.
Accommodation options in the area are limited to around 4 places. Choose wisely.
On that note, please make sure that whoever you’re supporting as you travel is worth the salt in terms of ethics and morality. I’m generally a person who barely plans, but I do my due diligence on where I plan to spend my money. Let’s be responsible.
3 days, 2 nights are ideal for Livingstonia.
This is a very touristy area, depending on the time of the year. Still, spare a day or two for it. Besides the lake, there is quite a bit of history there since it was the most northerly point on Lake Malawi where David Livingstone reached as he traversed across Africa. There are quite a number of accommodation options, including hostels with a backpacking vibe if you’re into that. Take time to soak it in… more adventure awaits.
2 nights, 1 day are enough for Nkhata Bay. I know guys who choose to stay much longer, too. Again, feel free to adjust your Malawi itinerary to adapt to your current reality.
After Nkhata Bay, you may either choose to spend a night at Kande or head straight to Nkhotakota. We did a lovely evening boat ride at Kande Beach. We also conversed with some Kenyans who were on these huge trucks that do safaris through the South of Africa all the way to East Africa. That was perfect. On the other hand, the manager of Kande Beach hotel was less than pleasant. Everyone I’ve talked to says the same. I’d go for something else, only it wouldn’t be Kande Beach if you did.
2 nights, 1 day would be sufficient.
This one is out of the tourist path and I’m really glad we did it. There was a certain unexplainable vibe about the place that I thoroughly enjoyed. It might as well be my second favorite place in Malawi, based on that only.
The lake passes through the small town. However, what crowned my experience was pottery classes. I always try and learn something new each time I hit the road, and pottery always seemed cool; got to do it in Nkhotakota. Got too creative with the design and it also didn’t help that we were short on time. Needless to say, you might never get to see what I created 🤣 I could see myself switching careers to become a potter though.
Don’t skip Nkotakota. Do the pottery classes, visit the church, the mosque that has too much slave history… BTW up until going to Malawi, I never knew the country participated in slavery. Try as much as you can to fix learning a skill in your Malawi itinerary.
Does anyone know and is willing to tell me if some Kenyans were sold into slavery?
2 days, 1 night will be just right. We did 2 nights, 1 day and I definitely feel like we rushed things. Who would have thought!
Monkey Bay and Cape McClear
To get to Monkey Bay, you could either settle for a ferry across the lake or connect via road through Salima. We went for the latter. Monkey Bay has a laid-back vibe. We landed the best accommodation deal of our trip; we didn’t want to leave. For around $7 each, we got to glamp and enjoy buffet breakfast. I told you the food in Malawi is bland? I got to devour some of the foods we have at home, and never have I appreciated stuff like cereal better. Shout out to Monkey Bay Beach Lodge! Please stay there when you visit Malawi.
Monkey Bay was strategic for us cuz it was then possible to do a day trip to Cape McClear. We didn’t hike in Monkey Bay but you totally could. We spent a lot of time watching the Malawian army play with toys they had received from the Chinese. But seriously, they were more than toys. Get it? Moving on…
See those almost-similar Malawi Instagram posts? They are probably from Cape McClear. To be fair, it is a very impressive place. Take a boda from Monkey Bay. It takes around 45 minutes to get to the cape. I don’t like being behind a motor bike especially for long distances but oh well…
Dress conservatively. I was uncomfortable the whole day from snarls directed at us. Our boda guys told us that while nothing bad was going to be done to us, they thought we were prostitutes. It shouldn’t be a problem if you’re white. Go ponder.
3 days, 2 nights would be perfect for Monkey Bay and Cape McClear.
Remember the Zomba plateau from your Geography classes? No? Well, they are in Malawi and everything about it is spectacular. I’ll obviously give a number of days that I consider ideal for Zomba cuz that’s the point of this Malawi itinerary article, however, if you can, do more!
We love hiking. In Zomba we hiked, then hiked, some strawberries, a lot more hiking… essentially, Zomba is a place I’d move to once I get my money right. I mean, a strawberry-hike combo? Beat that! There are waterfalls in Zomba, a lot of history, and berries. Berries too. Whoa.
3 days, 2 nights would give you the right feels.
We skipped Blantyre but you could spend a night or two there given I didn’t give Lilongwe either. I know you’ve definitely heard of mice-eating tendencies in Malawi? Haha sorry. This was a running joke throughout the trip with most guys I met (shame I only mention how lovely they were this late. May it count) and I cannot stop. Anyways, if you wanna have some of that, there should be some between Salima and Lilongwe. People think I would eat it; I’d only do it if it was the only thing left before I starved to death. It follows, rats (sorry mice) are not eaten by all Malawians. These rodents are NOT to Malawians what mutura is to Kenyans.
For either of these cities, spare a day or two. I know and appreciate that there are guys who live for cities. Do you and add one of the cities to your Malawi itinerary.
I finally get to use “I saved the best for last”. I did! The Mulanje Massif is one of the most incredible places I have visited in my life. It was the mountain that got me confused cuz I always thought I’d never see a place as beautiful as Mount Kenya. Those 3 days of hiking were some of the rawest I have had in my life. It was up those ranges that I literally stood on clouds. It was also there that I experienced hatred for a man than I probably will ever do in my lifetime.
This should not miss out in your Malawi itinerary. The Mulanje Massif is spectacular; it is diverse. At some point it was craggy, then gentle. Other times it soaked in the beauty that is the sun, other times it was as moody as your girlfriend. This is the massif that taught me patience, reminded me of the need and importance to have supportive people in your life.
Okay, I’m done preaching. The Mulanje Massif needs poems written about her, songs sung, movies acted… everything that is given to beautiful things.
There are many peaks. I hear it would take you weeks to complete all of them. It would take months, if you ask me. Most guys fight for the highest point, obviously. Choose your guide very wisely. Learn from us and make the right decision. We chose a bummer of a man (to be fair, there was literally no way to know he would be a complete douche). He is the reason Mount Mulanje is the only mountain I’ve started and not completed. He is also the reason I cried up there. Since we don’t give up, he is the reason I will go back there soon.
DON’T hike with Harry of +265 882 85 72 68. He’s a piece of work and he’ll just waste your time and money.
4 days, 3 nights will be enough for the hike(s). Then again, remember I mentioned there are many peaks?
Haha like an essay. Anyway, visit Malawi. This itinerary should help but not limit you. Based entirely on this Malawi itinerary, with 24-30 days you can claim to have gone across Malawi – from North to South.
I know not many guys have such a huge number of days. Choose some of these places according to your interests and make it count.
Cheers to roasted stuff!