Best hotels and hostels in Malawi

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Kaya Mawa

    Remember Scaramanga's pad in The Man with the Golden Gun? Kaya Mawa, set on an amber-coloured beach lapped by turquoise water, is the ultimate location to live out your inner Bond. Its cliffside chalets, cleverly moulded around the landscape, are so beautiful you'll never want to leave. Imagine plunge pools, the gentle lap of waves and the quiet appearance of a waiter with a bottle of chilled Champagne. Tempted? You should be, for this is one of the finest boutique experiences on the continent. The bar-restaurant is somewhere between a tropical idyll and a Bedouin dream. Dinner is set by candlelight on the beach, staff are almost elfin in their diplomacy and discretion, and the food is dreamed up by a chef who trained under Jamie Oliver. The spa has treatments including facials, grapeseed-oil massages and reflexology, and activities such as diving, snorkelling, kite surfing, waterskiing, kayaking, sailing and mountain biking are on offer.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southern Malawi

    Bushman's Baobabs

    The former Chinguni Hills Lodge is a fun place to experience a night in the bush and a safari. In an accessible location in the south of the park, Bushman's offers 14-bed dorms, thatched A-frame tents, luxurious en-suite tents, en-suite chalets, and campsites with barbecue spots and a self-catering kitchen. Wildlife drives, walks, and boat and canoe trips are offered. Climbing the viewing platform is a great start to the morning, and meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner are US$10/10/20) are sociable occasions at the long table. By night, the lounge bar and firepit are beacons in the velvety darkness, and you may hear elephants snuffling around. The delicious, home-cooked food, prepared daily, and the warm staff are further reasons to visit. Transfers to/from Liwonde town cost US$5 per person. Safaris cost US$20 to US$35.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Lukwe EcoCamp

    This serene, tasteful permaculture camp is about being part of the environment and the community: helping local farmers and being completely self-sufficient. Comfortable glass-fronted chalets and thatch-covered tents are set in leafy terraced gardens, with private balconies and shared solar- and donkey-boiler-heated showers, composting loos and self-catering kitchen. See the mountain drop into infinity and spy Manchewe Falls from the swing chair. In the veranda bar-restaurant (mains MK6000), accompany the views with a good veggie selection drawing on the organic allotments (ask for a tour), and meat dishes from sirloin steak to boerewors sausage. Lukwe is located 10km from Chitimba, above the steep zigzag hairpins, or an hour’s downhill walk (about 5km) east from Livingstonia on the mountain road to Chitimba.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Mushroom Farm

    Perched on the edge of the Livingstonia escarpment (aka an abyss!), this permaculture ecolodge and campsite is worth the arduous journey for the warm welcome and views that will have you manually closing your jaw. The safari tents, hardwood A-frames and dorms provide charmingly rustic accommodation; better still is the en-suite cob house with cliffside shower. The bar-restaurant (mains US$5, pre-ordered dinner US$7) offers sweeping views and organic veggie fusion dishes such as tortilla wraps and Asian noodle salad. Activities on offer include yoga, woodcarving, guided day hikes (US$3 per person) to Livingstonia, Manchewe Falls and the Chombe Plateau, and coffee-plantation tours. The off-the-grid facilities include fire-heated shared showers, composting loo, solar-powered electricity and self-catering kitchen.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Chelinda Lodge

    Sitting on a hillside in a clearing of pine trees, upmarket Chelinda is a traveller's dream. The main building crackles with fires at every turn, complemented by inviting couches, walls adorned with lush wildlife photography, pillars hung with woodcarvings, glittering chandeliers and high beams. Rates include park entrance fees and wildlife-watching activities. After a day's hiking or biking, settle back for the communal candlelit dinner, or train your binoculars on the opposite valley for passing zebra. No less enchanting are the Swiss-style timber chalets, with roaring fires, wooden floors, claw-foot baths and hot-water bottles in the beds! Chelinda's elevated views are best enjoyed at dawn, when the surrounding grasslands are cloaked in blue mist that seems to possess a magical life of its own. Bliss.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southern Malawi

    Mvuu Camp

    Run by the excellent Central African Wilderness Safaris, Malawi's premier safari operator, Mvuu sits on the river in the realm of myriad hippos and crocs. The camp comprises a main restaurant building and, nearby, scattered chalets with cosy interiors, step-in mozzie nets, comfy beds, immaculate linen and stone-walled bathrooms. By night, prepare to walk past warthogs to your quarters, hear lumbering hippos passing your door, or wake to a bull elephant grazing on fallen figs next to your window. There's also a small campsite with spotless ablution blocks and self-catering facilities. Dinner is communal and the food hearty in the open-plan, thatched restaurant; campers can join meals for US$18 to US$25, as well as the wildlife walks (US$25), drives and boat trips (US$35).

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Lilongwe

    Latitude 13°

    Lilongwe's first world-class boutique hotel, this gated, nine-suite retreat raises the bar for Malawian accommodation. From the moment you step into its rarefied atmosphere of shadowy chic pulsing with glowing pod lights you're transported right off the African continent. Its walls peppered with photography and pop art, bespoke installations -– like driftwood threaded with fairy lights – at every turn, and sumptuous rooms with buffed cement floors, four-poster beds, black walls and plunge baths, Latitude is an oasis of international style. Serving dishes dreamed up by a chef who trained under Jamie Oliver, the restaurant is one of Malawi's best.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southern Malawi

    Mvuu Lodge

    This intimate, upscale Central African Wilderness Safaris lodge is full of romantic atmosphere. The sumptuous chalets, seven twin and one honeymoon double, have huge beds covered with billowing mosquito nets, and semi-alfresco roofs and bathrooms. Private balconies overlook a water hole where there are plenty of birds and crocs sunning themselves on the banks. There’s a small swimming pool, a restaurant serving excellent food and a raised lounge area overlooking the lagoon. Rates include park fees, wildlife drives, boat rides and guided walks.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Chelinda Camp

    Nestled into the lee of a valley beside a small lake, this Central African Wilderness Safaris lodge is insanely picturesque. Its bungalows have an unfussy '70s aspect to them and are ideal for families, with small kitchen, cosy sitting room and stone fireplace. Rates include park entrance fees and wildlife-watching activities. Keep your eyes peeled for leopards drinking at the lake come dawn (and ask to see their claw marks on one of the chalet walls!). Reception and the atmospheric restaurant are but a few yards away.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Lilongwe

    Kumbali Country Lodge

    A short drive from the city centre, on a 650-hectare forest reserve, is a choice of swanky individual thatched chalets (Madonna has stayed here on her controversial visits to Malawi) with beautiful views of nearby Nkhoma Mountain. This is a working farm, so the food, including fresh vegetables from the farm gardens and delicious homemade yogurts and cheese, is fantastic. There are plenty of nature trails and bird-spotting opportunities, while hyenas, wild pigs and even leopards are occasionally seen.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Malawi

    Mango Drift

    Far from backpacker hardship, this affordable island idyll is one of Malawi's most luxurious hostels. Its stone chalets are the closest you'll come to boutique this side of US$100, with hibiscus petals scattered on snow-white linen, wicker furniture, sundown verandas and loungers on the sand. The shared toilets and shower block are no less immaculate. Chill out in the bar, grab a book from the exchange, scuba dive or just flop on the golden beach shaded by mango trees. You just arrived in heaven.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southern Malawi

    Annie's Lodge

    Set in the foothills of the Zomba Plateau, Annie's has a bar-restaurant with an appealing terrace for a sundowner, and black-and-white-brick chalets with green tin roofs, engulfed in palm trees and flowers. The 40-plus rooms are carpeted, clean and welcoming, with DSTV, bathroom and fan or air-con. The executive rooms are housed in a new wing and sit at the top of the plot; what they lack in old-fashioned charm they make up for in great views. Self-catering apartments are also available. In late 2016, an annexe was under construction down the hill.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southern Malawi

    Casa Rossa

    Named after its oxblood veranda overlooking town, this Italian-owned guesthouse offers hillside tranquillity and the best restaurant around. Rooms in the old colonial house are simple but comfortable and the campsites in the leafy garden have electricity, fireplace and two barbecues. Campers get a free buffet breakfast, while guesthouse residents choose between treats such as crepes and Spanish omelettes.

  • Lodging in Central Malawi

    Mufasa Ecolodge

    This traveller's magnet is the main reason to hang around in Monkey Bay, with a sheltered beach bookended by smooth boulders and campsites on the sand or mountainside. Rooms are basic bamboo affairs, but the beach bar is appealing, with lounging cushions, wicker swing chairs and a relaxed vibe. Come dusk expect communal fires, drum circles and backpacker bonhomie. Myriad activities and volunteering opportunities are available, including walking trails, guided village visits and rental of a dugout canoe, rowboat and motorboat. From dusk until the following morning, be careful of swimming over to the reedy inlet next to the camp's main beach – a traveller was once mauled by a croc there. In this area, if there are reeds, mud banks or a stream or river flowing into the lake, crocs and hippos are a possibility. Mufasa is around 500m from the main harbour.

  • Lodging in Central Malawi

    Sitima Inn

    Within staggering distance of the Ilala ferry, this low-slung cream building with art-deco aspirations is quirky to say the least, incorporating old boat materials, car doors and nautical motifs. Despite the faint hint of decline, rooms are mostly neat, pleasantly decorated and houseproud. There are also two basic four-bed dorms and a slightly tacky suite. Up top is a beautiful open rooftop bar overlooking the lake, and the restaurant (mains MK3500) serves cannelloni, chicken schnitzel, Thai stir-fry, steaks and English breakfasts. Built by a local politician in 1964, the inn sits in isolation gazing across the sand flats at the lake. To find it, turn off the main road by the Puma garage in Nkhotakota and continue for 3km.

  • Lodging in Southern Malawi

    Pakachere Backpackers & Creative Centre

    This locally run hostel is nicely decorated, and has craftwork for sale and a bar-restaurant opening onto a garden with thatched seating areas. The spacious rooms are worn but clean, with tiled floors and mozzie nets, and there's six-bed dorm and an en-suite 10-bedder with secure storage space. Also here are a lounge, a dining room and braai (barbecue) stands, while self-caterers can use the restaurant kitchen at quiet times. Dishes from chambo to pizza are on offer (mains MK3000), as are woodcarving and painting instruction, dance performances, guided hikes and mountain-bike rental (MK4000 per day).

  • Lodging in Lilongwe

    Woodlands Lilongwe

    From the outside, these 10 brick chalets – on a 26-hectare plot next to Lilongwe Wildlife Centre – look unimpressive, but they're well appointed and have boutique flair, featuring tiled floors, step-in showers, wicker chairs and African-chic decor. Add to this the peaceful bush setting with vervet monkeys scampering around, and you have a winner. There’s also a campsite with a bar, plenty of braai (barbecue) sites and hot showers. The lodge's Indian restaurant is equally appealing. Keep your ears open to hear the wildlife centre's one-eyed lion at night.

  • Lodging in Lilongwe

    Sunbird Capital Hotel

    You can almost sense the ghosts of presidents and dignitaries who've walked along the Capital's swank corridors. Set in lush gardens, the 170 rooms offer many options, including executive (with their own mini-reception) and studios with rotatable TV. Facilities include spa, gym, pool, squash courts, hairdresser, shops and travel agents. It's a cut above the competition. Choose between fine dining in Vincent's restaurant, and casual sandwiches and pizzas by the pond in the Mimosa Food Court. In late 2016 the hotel was offering a weekend bed-and-breakfast special for US$69/83 per single/double per night.

  • Lodging in Lilongwe

    Mabuya Camp

    Lilongwe’s liveliest backpacker spot buzzes with a mix of travellers, overlanders and volunteers relaxing by the pool and in the large, shady gardens. There are dorms in the main house, as well as chalets, A-frame huts, en-suite rooms and camping pitches in the garden, with shared ablutions in thatched rondavels (round, traditional-style huts). There's also a bar, a cafe serving basic meals (MK2500 to MK4000) and barbecue stands. Fifteen minutes’ walk from the centre of Old Town.

  • Lodging in Northern Malawi

    Hakuna Matata

    At the foot of the mountain in lakeside Chitimba, this beach camp is an excellent launch pad for tackling the ascent to Livingstonia. The whitewashed rooms have mozzie nets and fans, and one room has a private bathroom. Chat to the personable South African host, Willie, in the refreshingly shaded cafe (mains MK2000, pre-ordered dinner MK4000). There's a private beach, and an adventure-sports operator was setting up in late 2016, promising to offer mountain biking, abseiling and more.