Malawi odyssey

  • 4 Weeks

Whether you start in the north or south, this is the ultimate Malawi journey, taking in mountains, wilderness, historical riches and the lake with its beaches. It's best done in a month, to allow time for side trips, but in a pinch you could squeeze it into three weeks.

Fly into Blantyre and spend a day or so acclimatising, while getting to grips with local history at the Museum of Malawi and the Society of Malawi Library & Archive. Time and budget permitting, you could make an easy detour southwest to Majete Wildlife Reserve for a few days of pampered wildlife watching, before continuing to Mulanje for a multiday hike across Mt Mulanje, the country’s highest peak. Recover by spending time in an old planter’s house on one of southern Malawi's many tea estates, and head north to the colonial gem of Zomba. Here enjoy a day or two of walking on the misty Zomba Plateau, perhaps finding time for a horseback trot to the plateau's viewpoints and waterfalls.

From Zomba, make your way north to nearby Liwonde National Park, its lovely scenery dominated by the wide, meandering Shire River. There are hippos and crocs aplenty, various antelope species and zebras, as well as canoe, riverboat and walking safaris on offer. When your binoculars are exhausted, head for the lake and the resort village of Cape Maclear. Budget at least three days here, with an overnight visit to Mumbo Island in Lake Malawi National Park and time kayaking and swimming with the brilliantly coloured fish.

Next, make your way up the lakeshore to Nkhata Bay, Malawi’s other famous lakeside resort. As in Cape Maclear, you can snorkel, kayak, take a PADI course at the local dive school and hang out at the beach bar. From Nkhata Bay you could detour to Chizumulu Island and Likoma Island, or continue north to lovely Nyika National Park, the country’s largest, to explore wild, flower-carpeted grasslands reminiscent of the Yorkshire moors on foot or by mountain bike. Finally it’s time to plunge into history at Livingstonia, a quiet hilltop town that provides a glimpse of Malawi’s colonial-era past. From Livingstonia, continue north into Tanzania (and from there to Zambia), or retrace your steps south, perhaps continuing to Mozambique or Zambia.