Malawi is one of the friendliest places I’ve encountered; called ‘the Warm heart of Africa’ in the native language it lives to its name. Malawi is surprisingly diverse country that is just waiting to be explored. It contains Africa’s third largest lake- Lake Malawi that offers opportunities to dive, snorkel, kayak or just simply relax and is one of the highlights of the continent. Many travellers skip it for unknown reasons but I’m telling you, it’s well worth a visit.
To the date this post is written, single entry visa on arrival is granted for three-month duration for $75 fee. Note that some countries don’t need a visa and some have to apply in advance. More updated information can be found here.
Your perfect Itinerary
You want to go to Mushroom Farm, which has the best panoramic view. Farm is located only 2km from the highest Malawi waterfalls- Manchwe. For all the walks around make sure to take plenty of water, as it gets incredibly humid and tiring.
For food make a stop at Munchwe forest reserve restaurant, which serves cheapest local dishes I’ve seen in Malawi.
Nkhata Bay is personally my little favourite paradise. It has that magical feeling in the air, which makes you want to stay. I came here for a few days and ended up spending two weeks.
Being situated right on a lake, it offers many water activities and great views for hikers.
Mayoka Village, which is a centre for backpackers, offers free boat trips on Tuesdays that includes eagle-feeding, cliff jumping and playing on the beach. They also have free snorkels, paddleboards and canoes for you to use. I also went there for breakfast or dinner specials, as every night they have different buffets.
Where to stay:
Mayoka Village dorms are $12 and privates between $25-$35
Nextdoor Butterfly has camping for 2000Mwk ($3) dorms for 4000 ($6) or privates for 8000 ($12).
We stayed at Crest View, which is a newly opened guesthouse with super cheap double rooms. They’re basic (like everywhere else) but cost only 4000Mkw ($6), there is no kitchen tho, but I don’t think you can use it in any other places either.
There are other places, such as Big Blue backpackers or local guesthouses but we’ve gone through them all and none is worth your stay.
Places to eat:
Everyone (including trip advisor) mentions Kaya Papaya but I thought it was most expensive option around. We opted for Mayokas food for dinner, with night specials 3600Mkw ($5) or salad 2000 ($3). Otherwise you can also check Dive Africa or Butterfly.
For more budget options you can get Malawi specials, such as beef stew with rice for 1200Mkw ($1.60) at local restaurant or get chips, eggs and salad (700Mkw/ $1) at out favourite open spot near the hill going up to Mzuzu.
If you want to make your own breakfast, Nkhata Bay is a bit short of options. With a few basic shops and little market it doesn’t offer much. At best, you can find tomatoes, bananas and mangoes in the market. I had an instant porridge (with hot water since milk won’t stay cold) with mangoes and banana, which did the job.
Minibus run from Mzuzu every 30min or so (1500mkw).
Other things to consider: Nkhata Bay has constant power cuts. For the two weeks we’ve been here, electricity was gone every day for approximately 7hours. Fans go off as well as fridges in the supermarket. Ouch!
Towards the northeastern corner of the lake, close to Mozambique shores lies the tiny unspoilt Likoma Island. With its rocky peninsulas, golden beaches and huge baobab tress it makes a perfect off the beaten track escape.
Aside from being a picture perfect, Likoma is also a home to a stunning Cathedral built by the British as the centre of the Anglican Church in southern Africa.
Ferries to Likoma leave every Monday and Thursday but you should check at the port, as sometimes they’re not running. Trip takes 4-7hours and cost $9-$27 depending on the class you choose.
Not so sleepy anymore as many describe it. Cape Mclear attracts many international and domestic tourists all year around. Unlike Nkhata Bay, it has a big sandy beach across whole village, making it easier to navigate. However, I still prefer Nkhata for its clear water around stony, deeper ‘beaches’.
There are many lodging options for any budget. We stayed at Indaba Lodge dorms for $4pp.
Regarding food, you have a wider dining choice here as well but it’s also more expensive, plus there are no local eateries. Definitely try garlic fish and giant burgers at Mgoza lodge, none other places could beat that. Also bear in mind that shopping supplies are very limited around and drinking water shortage is extreme!
Getting in and out
Cape Mclear proved to be difficult reaching with local transport. If you’re coming from Lilongwe, you have two options:
First, take a minibus to Salima (1500mkw/$2) then change to Balaka bound minibus (1500mkw) and get off at the junction near Kasinje, there will be cars going to Cape Mclear or Monkey Bay (to Cape Mclear is around 2500mkw/$3.5). This will eat up half of your day.
Another option is to go via mountains, which is much quicker. There are minibuses running from main bus depot (area 2) to Monkey Bay (5000mkw/$6.5) and from there you take a moto to Cape Mclear (1000mkw/$0.70) or a taxi.
If you’re traveling from north like Nkhata Bay take the big bus toward Blantyre and get off at Kasinje junction again to continue above mentioned route.
Have you been to Malawi? What was your experience?