Unmissable Attractions in Kenya

Bring your camera to Kenya, there is plenty of incredible wildlife to capture
Bring your camera to Kenya, there is plenty of incredible wildlife to capture | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Jean Wandimi
25 November 2021
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From the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya to the arid sands of the Chalbi Desert, Kenya is an expansive place to explore. So, whether you’re into safaris, trekking or coastal recreation, here are the top unmissable attractions in Kenya.

Planning a trip to Kenya and want all the details taken care of? Book yourself onto Culture Trip’s seven-day Kenyan adventure, where you’ll traverse national parks on game drives, visit an extinct volcano and have chance to explore the best of Nairobi.

Watch the Great Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara

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A blue wildebeest and tree in the Maasai Mara National Reserve
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This has to be on top of any visitor’s list: the Great Migration is a world wonder. This migration is actually a fluid, year-long, 1,931km (1,200mi) circuit between the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The latter sees some 2m wildebeest arriving in July and August every year, as well as gazelle, antelope and zebra.

Adopt an elephant at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

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A man hugs a baby elephant at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park
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Make a stop at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and adopt an elephant, meet orphaned animals and learn more about conservation. The conservancy in Nairobi National Park is open to the public for one hour every day, from 11am to noon. During this time, you can watch the orphans arrive for their midday mud bath and be fed.

Hike the Aberdare Range to Karuru Falls

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The Aberdare Range, north of Nairobi, soars to heights of 4,000m (13,120ft) and drops into verdant V-shaped valleys. On the gentle eastern slopes, rainforest gives way to bamboo groves and moorland, and the landscape is teeming with wildlife, from elephants and black rhinos to leopards and the rare African golden cat. Aberdare National Park is also home to the highest waterfall in Kenya, Karuru, which drops 273m (896ft).

Visit Lake Turkana to discover the cradle of mankind

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The Nabiyotum Crater juts into the jade waters at the southern end of Lake Turkana
© John Warburton-Lee Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Lake Turkana, the largest alkaline lake and largest permanent desert lake in the world, has so much history that it was named a Unesco World Heritage site – one of seven in Kenya. Here, fossils of some of humankind’s earliest ancestors have been uncovered, including some that are millions of years old. In the middle of the lake, Central Island – also called Crocodile Island – is a vapour-emitting active volcano.

Encounter endangered rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

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Three southern white rhinos including a calf rest in the wild plains of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy
© Nirav Shah / Alamy Stock Photo

Ol Pejeta is the largest black-rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and is home to the last two remaining northern white rhinoceros, Fatu and Najin. A popular safari destination, the conservancy is also home to the rest of the Big Five (lion, buffalo, elephant and leopard) as well as the endangered chimpanzee.

Discover Swahili culture in the old town streets of Lamu

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Local people chat in the narrow streets of Lamu
© Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit the oldest and best-preserved place in Swahili culture and discover distinctive architecture and labyrinthine streets that have been inhabited for more than 700 years. This Unesco World Heritage site is built with coral stone and mangrove wood and was once an important port, historically associated with the slave trade and exports of ivory. Take a ride on a dhow (a traditional wooden sailing boat); try halwa (a jelly-like sweet dessert); and visit the Lamu Fort.

Take a stroll on the white-sand beaches of the Kenyan coast

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Four women carry makuti (dried coconut palm fronds used as roofing material) on their heads, while walking on Diani Beach
© John Warburton-Lee Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

From Malindi to Diani, the Kenyan coast has beautiful white-sand beaches from which you can watch lovely sunsets. Malindi, founded in the 13th century, has been known as Little Italy since the 1980s thanks to its large Italian migrant community, whereas Diani, south of Mombasa, is known for its coral reefs, 17km (11mi) of sands and kitesurfing.

See what exciting things Nairobi has to offer

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From nightlife and restaurants to museums and urban forests, Nairobi is packed with things to see and do. Make sure to visit Nairobi National Park, which lies just 7km (4mi) from the city, for a chance to encounter the Big Five between cultural outings.

Have breakfast with giraffes at Giraffe Manor

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Two giraffes in front of the ivy-covered Giraffe Manor in Nairobi
© Paulette Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo
The Giraffe Centre sanctuary near Nairobi offers the chance to visit and feed the tallest mammal in the world; but just next door, at the boutique hotel Giraffe Manor, you can share breakfast with them. A friendly herd of Rothschild’s giraffes makes a daily appearance at mealtimes in the hopes of a treat, popping their long necks into the open windows.

Spot flamingoes in Lake Nakuru

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A large flock of pink flamingos in Lake Nakuru
© Ivan Kuzmin / Alamy Stock Photo
Although flamingo numbers have declined here in recent years, Lake Nakuru remains an exceptional location to see thousands of these pink birds as they feed on algae from the soda lake. The decline in population is down to rising water levels, which caused a migration to the nearby lakes of Bogoria and Baringo.

Walk through the treetops in Ngare Ndare Forest

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The indigenous Ngare Ndare Forest lies in the foothills of Mount Kenya. Here, 200-year-old trees expand into the canopy, and you can take a walk through the treetops – across a 450m (1,476ft) long suspension bridge 10m (33ft) above the ground – or camp, hike, dive, or swim in the chilly natural pools.

Hike through the Menengai Crater

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This massive shield volcano lies in the Great Rift Valley and is one of the largest calderas in the world. Make your way to the viewpoint (the highest point on the caldera rim) and you can see Lake Nakuru shimmering on the horizon. You can then take a hiking trail down to the caldera floor.

Make it to the top of Mount Kenya

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The highest mountain in Kenya – and second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro – rises to a peak of 5,200m (17,000ft). You can climb Mount Kenya by using any of the routes, some of the most popular being Naro Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria. Although getting to the summit is an activity for seasoned mountain climbers, lower peaks remain achievable for those less experienced.

Explore the Great Rift Valley

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See the magic that is the Great Rift Valley. This ridge system, bordered by steep escarpments to east and west, runs the length of Kenya and contains active volcanoes, a series of lakes and national parks. Soak in the views from the Rift Valley Viewpoint, an hour outside Nairobi, and make sure to explore the many natural points of interest here.

Visit Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa

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Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world and the largest lake on the continent, is shared between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, with 3,219km (2,000mi) of coastline. This freshwater lake expands to the horizon, and is known in Kenya as Nam Lolwe (body of endless water). It’s home to more than 200 fish species; try a fresh catch with ugali – a polenta-like dish commonly made with maize flour.

Blend your own brew in the Kenyan highlands

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A view of a vast tea plantation in Kericho, Kenya
© Thomas Cockrem / Alamy Stock Photo

The Central Highlands are a fertile eastern plateau covering Mount Kenya, the Aberdare Range and the Samburu Game Reserve. Filled with coffee and tea shambas (plantations), this is the agricultural heartland of the nation. A visit to the Kenyan Highlands is incomplete without visiting one of these farms, where you can make your own blend.

Learn about Kenyan history in the Nairobi National Museum

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On Museum Hill near the centre of the capital, the Nairobi National Museum displays the rich heritage of Kenya. It houses exhibitions covering cultural anthropology, natural history and artisanal crafts, as well as a zoology department that celebrates the 1,300 species of East African birds and the greatest mammals of the nation.

Walk on the wild side in Hell's Gate

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A traveller stands in the Gorge in Hell's Gate National Park, Naivasha
© Alex MacNaughton / Alamy Stock Photo

Known for its geothermal activity, Hell’s Gate National Park in the Great Rift Valley is the perfect place to spot wildlife, rock climb or cycle. There are also three campsites that provide a chance to sleep under the stars. The park also includes the Maasai Cultural Centre, which promotes an understanding of Maasai traditions.

Have your mind blown at the Gedi Ruins

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The Palace, Gedi ruins, Watamu, Kenya
| © Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy Stock Photo

This archaeological site near the Indian Ocean lies two hours north of Mombasa. The ruins, which include a palace, mosque and fortified wall, are of a town that prospered from the 11th century until it was abandoned in the 17th century. Lying within a 18ha (45-acre) site in the primeval Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Gedi is an unmissable insight into Kenyan history.

Chloe Thrussell contributed additional reporting to this article.

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