The Best Things to Do in Lilongwe, Malawi

With captivating scenes like these, Lilongwe in Malawi is a wonderful place to visit all year round
With captivating scenes like these, Lilongwe in Malawi is a wonderful place to visit all year round | © Mauritius Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Malawi is sometimes referred to as the “Warm Heart of Africa”, known the world over for its hospitable people. Lilongwe is an ideal place to experience this friendly welcome first-hand, along with plenty of other reasons to visit. Discover the top things to see and do on your next trip to Lilongwe, Malawi.

Spot Animals at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is Malawi’s sole wildlife sanctuary, set up by the trust of the same name. Their aim is to ensure the survival and wellbeing of the rescued animals that find their way there. One thing to bear in mind is that it isn’t a zoo – the animals aren’t on display – so it varies day to day which ones you will see. With that being said, there are lions, servals, baboons, various types of monkeys and an assortment of reptiles – to name a few.

Visit Lizulu Horticulture Market

The Lizulu Horticulture Market is one of the largest of its kind in Malawi. It is bisected by the Lilongwe river – with produce on one side and clothes on the other – linked by a series of bamboo footbridges. It’s as authentic a local experience as you’re likely to find, and there are spots where you can even have a sit-down meal. Try nsima (a thick corn-based porridge), which is a staple in Malawi.

Hike up Nkhoma Mountain

At its peak, Nkhoma is 5,702ft (1,738m) above sea level, making it one of the highest points in the Lilongwe area. It’s a great place to enjoy panoramic views of Malawi. From the city, it takes an hour to drive there and the hike to the top takes around 3 to 4 hours – depending on your fitness level. As well as the views, you’ll get to see a mission hospital that has been there since 1889 – and still treats patients to this day.

Smell the Roses at Four Seasons Nursery and Garden Shop

Not to be confused with the Four Seasons hotel chain – easy considering Lilongwe doesn’t have one – this expansive garden centre sits on the eastern side of town, and it’s home to dozens of different plant species: from roses and rare ferns to cacti. Many of these species can be purchased in the shop, along with handmade pots, jewellery and trinkets. If you’re travelling with little ones, don’t forget to hit up the playground.

Grab a Coffee from Ama Khofi

A Parisian-style cafe might not seem like an obvious choice in an African city, but Ama Khofi gets the formula just right. The cafe is nestled in the midst of the Four Seasons Nursery, so you can enjoy a salad or a wrap with an iced coffee in the shade of the trees, taking in the aromas of the surrounding blooms. The cafe has breakfast, lunch and dinner options, so you’re set no matter when you decide to stop by.

Buy Local Artwork at La Galleria Africa

Malawi has a long, storied artistic history going back thousands of years. La Galleria Africa proudly displays this lineage in all shapes and sizes – paintings, masks, sculptures and more – all made by locals. Clothing, mugs and other souvenirs are also sold there – if you’re in the market for something a little more suitcase-friendly.

Safari in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

Malawi’s beefier neighbours, Tanzania and Zambia, might be more well known for their safaris, but you can easily spot elephants from Lilongwe. Under two hours from the city is Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, the oldest and largest reserve in Malawi. It’s home to nearly 600 elephants, as well as hippos, antelopes and honey badgers. Book a room at the Tongole Lodge for an extended safari experience.

Marvel at the Chongoni Rock-Art Area

Malawi is zig-zagged with granite hills – many of which provided a home for humans back in the earliest days of our existence. The Chongoni Rock-Art Area is a Unesco World Heritage Site made up of 127 different sets of cave paintings, dating back to the late Stone Age. It’s vast and there’s little in the way of tourist development. However, the sites at Chencherere, Namzezi Hill and Mphunzi can be easily reached from Dedza – just under two hours by car from Lilongwe.

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