An area of some 118,000 square kilometres (46,000 square miles) (one fifth is Lake Malawi) makes Malawi one of the smallest countries in the region. Its neighbour, Zambia, occupies over six times the area. Malawi is similar in size to Cuba; less than half that of the United Kingdom. At approximately 900 kilometres (560 miles) long and varying widths never more than one third of its length, the country is clearly elongated north-south along the line of the Rift Valley in which Lake Malawi sits.
This elongated shape of Malawi lends itself to a 3-way regional division: North, Central and South. The diversity for which Malawi is famed is reflected both between these regions and within each one. A Malawi tour that combines elements of landscape, wildlife, lake and culture can be undertaken in each of the regions; yet such a combination will give a different experience in each region.
South Malawi is the most populated and developed region, with a wide variety of landscapes, including as it does the highest and lowest points in the country. Blantyre, the commercial capital, and Zomba, the old colonial capital, are in the south. This region has 5 National Parks and Wildlife Reserves, including the Lake Malawi National Park, and a number of forested highland areas.
Central Malawi is home to the country’s capital, and most common point of entry, Lilongwe. Most of the region lies on the Central African Plateau and so the scenic highlights come from the hills sitting atop the plateau, and the escarpments that descend into the Rift Valley and down to Lake Malawi. It has one National Park and one Wildlife Reserve.
North Malawi is the least populated of Malawi’s regions, with the regional capital, Mzuzu less than one-fifth the size of Lilongwe or Blantyre. It is, on average, the highest of the regions, characterised by unique highland areas and dramatic lake shorelines. It has one National Park and one Wildlife Reserve.