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Overview

This relatively small African country is dominated by Lake Malawi, the vast inland sea for which it is named. Running for more than 350 miles through the base of the Great Rift Valley, yet nowhere more than 40 miles wide, serpentine Malawi is hemmed in by some of the continent's most spectacular mountain scenery, making it the most scenic of the three great lakes that stud the east-central African interior. Since the late 1980s, a string of low-key but beautiful lakeshore resorts — most famously Nkhata Bay and Cape Maclear — have made Malawi a perennial favorite with independent travelers seeking a cheap chill-out venue en route between East ...

This relatively small African country is dominated by Lake Malawi, the vast inland sea for which it is named. Running for more than 350 miles through the base of the Great Rift Valley, yet nowhere more than 40 miles wide, serpentine Malawi is hemmed in by some of the continent's most spectacular mountain scenery, making it the most scenic of the three great lakes that stud the east-central African interior. Since the late 1980s, a string of low-key but beautiful lakeshore resorts — most famously Nkhata Bay and Cape Maclear — have made Malawi a perennial favorite with independent travelers seeking a cheap chill-out venue en route between East and Southern Africa. But the lake is also serviced by an increasingly broad selection of upmarket resorts, particularly at Senga Bay (the closest resort to the capital Lilongwe), on historic Likoma Island (site of an important 19th century mission), and in the Lake Malawi National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is centered around Cape Maclear and incorporates several rocky islands). Home to an estimated 1,000 fish species, most of them endemic cichlids, and supporting a dense population of otters, the lake is widely rated as one of the word’s finest freshwater diving and snorkeling destinations, and it is also great for kayaking and canoeing.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Landlocked country in southeast Africa, bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique
  • Language: English, Chichewa
  • Currency: Kwacha
  • Research: Malawi | Wikitravel | Malawi
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Any time, but the dry and cool southern winter (May-October) is most pleasant and carries less risk of contracting malaria.