The gateway to the lake, this small country town knows a thing or two about hard work. Migrants come from all over Kenya, basing themselves in Naivasha to work at the flower farms that dot the lake's shoreline. Meet them in the brightly painted cafes all over town, plastered with cheery names and cheesy slogans.
Hell's Gate National Park
Dry and dusty but infinitely peaceful, Hell's Gate is that rare thing: an adventurous Kenyan park with large animals, safe to explore by bicycle or on foot. Large carnivores are very rare, so you can cycle to your heart's content past grazing zebras, giraffes, impalas and buffaloes, spot rock hyraxes as they clamber up inclines and chase dust clouds as they swirl in the wind.
Designated a wetland of international importance, Lake Bogoria is rather tempestuous. On a good day it appears sleek and pretty but is punctuated by hot springs bursting forth from the veneer of calm. There's even more going on beneath the surface: in recent years, rising water levels have sent the lake's famous flamingos flying and tempered the strength of the springs.
The green and fertile Ngong Hills were where many white settlers set up farms in the early colonial days. It’s still something of an expat enclave, and here and there in the hills are perfect reproductions of English farmhouses with country gardens full of flowering trees – only the acacias remind you that you aren’t rambling around the home counties of England.
Serene and framed by shaggy hills, Elmenteita is quieter and prettier than the lakes to its south. Squint and, depending on the season and time of day, you could be in Arizona or the Scottish Highlands; euphorbia, cacti and rocks stipple the higher ground, while cattle graze along the green soda shoreline.
Longonot National Park
One of the shapeliest peaks in all the Rift Valley, Mt Longonot (2776m) and its serrated crater rim offer fabulous views. The dormant volcano rises 1000m above the baking-hot valley floor and was formed 400,000 years ago; it last erupted in the 1860s. The park itself covers only 52 sq km, and was set up to protect the volcano’s ecosystem and little else.
The most mineral-rich of the Rift Valley's soda lakes is Lake Magadi, south of Nairobi. It is almost entirely covered by a thick encrustation of soda that supports small colonies of flamingos and gives the landscape a bizarre lunar appearance. It makes an interesting day trip from Nairobi, especially if you have your own transport and enough time to spot wildlife en route.