Affectionately known as the 'warm heart of Africa', Malawi is a much loved, yet an often underrated and overlooked country. However, with National Geographic naming it as one of the top 20 'must see' countries in 2013, Malawi is finally getting the platform it deserves.
Although land-locked, Malawi's main appeal has always been its beaches and water activities on Lake Malawi. Occupying one third of the country and stretching nearly 600km in length and almost 80km in breadth at its widest point, it is more like a sea than a lake. It dishes up miles of sandy beaches that would rival any of its competitors in the Indian Ocean, and the water is crystal clear.
Water sports are no different either, from snorkelling, boats, sailing and water skiing. The second deepest lake in Africa, it has gained a renowned reputation for offering some of the best fresh water diving in the world, boasting over 500 species of tropical fish.
For those that are not interested in a resort style experience, but rather looking for an authentic, down to earth beach add-on to your safari, then
Malawi is just the ticket. With no big chain hotels, the style is very much based around rustic, barefoot luxury. What it lacks in sophistication and gold taps, it makes up with charm and laid back escapism.
With one of its striking characteristics being the friendliness of the people, it also lends itself to wonderful cultural interactions, adding a deeper element to your beach flop.
For those that have more time, then Malawi can easily keep you entertained for a few weeks. The topography is so varied, from rolling tea plantations on the slopes of Mount Mulanje, endless trekking opportunities on some of the dramatic mountain peaks, and gentle game reserves, it offers a great combination of lake, landscape, wildlife and culture.
Time difference: + 2 hrs GMT
No visas are required for British or North American passport holders.
You are advised to take anti-malaria pills for your trip. No specific shots are required to enter. But we do recommend you visit a travel health clinic prior to departure to make sure your standard travel vaccinations are up to date.
The locals speak English and Chichewa. But English is widely spoken everywhere.
How to get around
We usually recommend private or shared light aircrafts or road transfers where possible.
We do not recommend self driving.
How to get there
You will most likely fly into Johannesburg or Nairobi (Africa’s major hubs) and then onto Lilongwe, Malawi. There are regular direct international flights to South Africa from London Heathrow and some of the major US hubs, such as Atlanta and New York. Or direct flights from London to Nairobi. There are easy direct flights from Zambia to Malawi, if using as an add-on.
Who does it suit?
Malawi suits those looking for a chilled, laid back experience and an interesting coastal alternative to the Indian ocean. It is ideal for honeymooners, families, couples.
When to go
Malawi is a year round destination, but the best months are between April - October. The other months can be hot and steamy, broken up with the occasional heavy afternoon thunderstorm, but can often be a more affordable time of year.
Good to combine with
The shores of Lake Malawi have always provided the ideal beach add on to a safari in Zambia, given its close proximity. However, for those looking for a gentle, ‘coastal’ alternative to Mozambique or Mauritius, then it works equally well as an add-on to a safari in Southern Africa. Or can be used as a beach alternative to a safari in kenya.