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Central Malawi


For a list of Accommodation in Central Malawi, click here.

Most international visitors to Malawi arrive at Lilongwe, the capital; hence their first view of the country is the Central Region. It gives easy access to the rest of the country, including the Lake, as well as being an exciting region in its own right. Gently undulating landscapes give the area the appearance of a plain, but it is actually is actually part of the Central African Plateau at an altitude of some 4000ft (1200m). Only in the east, close to the Lake, where the plateau’s escarpments descend into the Rift Valley, do its occasionally steep sides reveal the truth.


The plateau is crossed by numerous rivers making their separate ways to the Lake and, here and there, isolated hills, called inselbergs, punctuate the gentle landscapes. Though not quite as high or dramatic as in other regions, Central Malawi has its fair share of highlands and forests. Dzalanyama Forest Reserve lies west of Lilongwe and is known for its birdlife. The Dedza Highlands, Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve, Thuma Forest Reserve, Dowa Highlands and Ntchisi Forest Reserve to the east of the capital stretch south-north along the edge of the Rift Valley.


North of Ntchisi is the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a genuine wilderness area of miombo woodland on the Rift Valley escarpment cut by the magnificent Bua River. Just beginning to open up, it is also home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including a number of large mammal species. Central Malawi’s other protected area is the Kasungu National Park. A large area of woodland, bush and grassland and once Malawi’s main National Park, poaching and general neglect have seen animal numbers reduce.


Senga Bay is the closest point on Lake Malawi to Lilongwe, just an hour and half’s drive from the airport. It has a range of hotels & lodges overlooking lovely beaches, and a small forest reserve. Further north, the beaches continue, though Nkhotakota is known more for its history as a centre for the slave trade whilst Dwangwa has grown as a result of the giant sugar estate here.


If it doesn’t quite have the natural diversity to match the other regions, in cultural terms, it is perhaps the most interesting region. Lilongwe, the nation’s capital, is a 20th Century creation of modern office blocks in a garden setting, though with a distinct, vibrant Old Town. But to the south-east is evidence of Malawi’s inhabitants from centuries past at the Chongoni Rock Art Area – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the densest cluster of stone age rock art found in central Africa. Nearby is Dedza, a pleasant forestry town overlooked by Dedza Mountain and home to the Dedza Pottery, where today’s artists and craftsmen can be viewed producing a variety of items then found all round Malawi or sold for export. Artistic skill is also on display at Mua Mission, almost directly down the escarpment from Dedza. Mua is a mission station whose students create the finest wood carvings in the country, if not the whole of Africa, and is also home to a fascinating cultural museum.