Quick Escapes From Nairobi

Natural wonders await on the outskirts of Nairobi
Natural wonders await on the outskirts of Nairobi | © Images of Africa Photobank - Alamy Stock Photo-
Photo of Kifaya Abdulkadir
3 December 2021

There’s more to Kenya than the Maasai Mara, Amboseli National Park or Naivasha, with a number of lesser known but horizon-expanding escapes possible from Nairobi. From waterfalls to nature trails, treat the senses at these amazing alternative destinations.

Planning to explore more of Kenya? Book yourself onto Culture Trip’s seven-day Kenyan adventure, where you’ll venture into national parks on game drives, visit an extinct volcano and learn about indigenous communities by meeting the locals.

Zaina Falls, Nyeri

Natural Feature
A river in the scenic mountain landscapes of rural Kenya
© Martin Mwaura _ Alamy Stock Photo

It’s been said that distance heals a broken heart, so Nyeri is for those completely serious about their temporary break-up with city life. Three hours from Nairobi, Zaina Falls is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Kenya, considered a hidden tourist destination. Its beautiful scenery amid the green hills of Nyeri County and its well-marked trails will leave you with no regrets.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Natural Feature, Park
Two rhinos touch heads at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya
Two rhinos touch heads at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya | © Pranav Chadha / Alamy Stock Photo

Ol Pejeta is well known for the incredible wildlife experience it gives its visitors, and is a four-hour drive from the capital. As a wildlife conservancy, Ol Pejeta is keen to receive help from visitors, so be prepared to get your hands dirty. Seek out the lions, go birdwatching and even bring out your best David Attenborough impression by identifying different animal tracks. Ol Pejeta is also home to the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and is home to the last two remaining northern white rhino in the world.

Oloolua Natural Trail

Hiking Trail
Mbagathi river flowing through Oloolua Nature Trail, Karen, Nairobi, Kenya.
Mbagathi river flowing through the Oloolua Nature Trail | © Alex MacNaughton _ Alamy Stock Photo

This 5km (3mi) trail offers the perfect slice of escapism with its gorgeous landscapes and immersive walking trails, but with the safety of being in the outskirts of Nairobi in Karen. Its beautiful forest with waterfalls and caves and a well-defined trail (which you can use for a stress-relieving jog) will be worth your time.

Rolf’s Place

Restaurant, Authentic, $$$
The wooden rope bridge across the ravine at Rolf's Place restaurant and hotel, Nairobi, Kenya
The wooden rope bridge across the ravine at Rolf's Place | © RZAF_Images _ Alamy Stock Photo

Just outside Nairobi, Rolf’s Place is where you’ll get your desired breath of fresh, unpolluted air; cross a swing bridge and set your eyes on a beautifully decorated building and get served impeccable cuisine. For all those energetic people not quite content with just relaxing, engage your body and survival instincts in a paintballing session, overlooking Nairobi National Park.

Lake Ol Bolossat

Natural Feature
Aberdares National Park Landscape, Kenya
Aberdares National Park | © Bill Gozansky _ Alamy Stock Photo

What better way to escape city life than by visiting a hidden lake, three hours outside Nairobi? Lake Ol Bolossat is a beautiful spot to the west of the Aberdare Range that is well known for its huge catfish and plentiful hippos. To get the complete experience, you can spend stay over at one of the Samawati Lakeside Cottages or the Kichakani Cabins – the perfect one-night getaway from Nairobi.

The Coral Gardens of Wasini

Natural Feature
dhows with tourists cross to Wasini island, Shimoni, Kenya
Dhow crossing to Wasini Island | © Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy Stock Photo

A must-visit location, Wasini Island is located 85km (53mi) south of Mombasa, and its footpaths consist of corals or sand. The gardens are an alien landscape created by coral rocks jutting out of the ground. The exotic mangrove trees are also a site to behold. This beautiful place is bound to soothe your mind and is a great way to escape city life, especially as you’ll be a day’s travel away from Nairobi.

Lord Egerton Castle

Architectural Landmark
Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru County, Kenya. The castle is a historical  building located in Ngata, Rift Valley, Kenya
Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru County | © Martin Mwaura _ Alamy Stock Photo

Let’s be honest – it wouldn’t occur to most people that there are actually castles to visit in Kenya. Well, this house, styled like a fortress, has quite the history to it, having been first occupied by Maurice Egerton, a friend of the Wright brothers. Make sure to give this 52-room stately home more than a flying visit, and take in its impressive architecture and tranquil ambience. While it may be a fair trek, situated just over three hours from Nairobi, near Nakuru, the travel is worth it.

Tiwi Beach

Natural Feature
Tiwi Beach, Indian ocean, Mombasa, Kenya, Eastern Africa
Tiwi Beach | © Zute Lightfoot _ Alamy Stock Photo

This list wouldn’t be complete without the beautiful beaches on the East African coast, a nine-hour trip from the capital. Tiwi Beach is perhaps the pick of the bunch, situated in Ukunda. Picture endless white sand, glamorous palm trees and spectacular weather – the perfect antidote to the bustle elsewhere. With numerous hotels lining the promenade, you can extend your stay without sacrificing any tranquility, making it one of the best resorts outside Nairobi.

Old Town, Mombasa

Architectural Landmark
Kenya, Mombasa. The water front of the old dhow harbour in Mombasa.
The waterfront of the old dhow harbour in Mombasa | © John Warburton-Lee Photography _ Alamy Stock Photo

Who says one city can’t be an escape from another? Well, it’s difficult not to be when you’re 485km (300mi) away on the coast. The Old Town holds most of the history of the second-largest city in Kenya, with its historical buildings dating back to the 18th century and housing inhabitants of Portuguese, Arab, Swahili and British heritage. Just south you can visit Fort Jesus: a 16th-century coastal building with Unesco World Heritage status.

These recommendations were updated on December 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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