Malawi has a massive diversity of beautiful landscapes and scenery. The highest peaks in Malawi touch 10 000ft (3 000m) while the lowest point is barely above sea level. This range of altitudes in a small area help to make the landscape of Malawi one of the moist varied in all Africa. It is generally a green, lush country, with plateaux, highlands, forests, mountains, plains, escarpments and dramatic river valleys.
The variety of scenery is a major attraction to visitors and many of the highland areas and forest reserves have good accommodation options. Malawi’s wonderful landscapes can be enjoyed and experienced through variety of outdoor activities that are available across the country. Most of the highlands have trails available for walking and trekking through areas of amazing unspoilt natural beauty, and it’s possible to do treks lasting a number of days as well as simple, unchallenging walks of an hour or so. For those intend on reaching Malawi’s higher peaks, there are a few opportunities for climbing (and abseiling)
Cycling and mountain biking and allow more ground to be covered and more to be seen than when exploring on foot. A few lodges have bikes for hire and with Malawi’s modest size, most local tour operators can set up itineraries using on cycling as the main means of transport. Horse riding is also available at a few well run stables dotted around the country and is another way to enjoy the surrounding scenery, that can be both relaxing and thrilling!
Malawi is blessed with a number of rivers that flow throughout the year and those, along with Lake Malawi and a few smaller lakes and dams, provide some opportunities for fishing.
Scenic Places to Visit
The Great East African Rift Valley System extends into Malawi and provides the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills. The whole lake is a sight to behold, but the Lake Malawi National Park covers particular waters, shoreline and islands at the southern part of it. On the Mozambican side of the lake, the Manda Wilderness Reserve is a protected area of stunning natural beauty. The Rift Valley extends to the south of the country following the Shire River that drains the Lake and soon flows through Liwonde National Park. South-west of Blantyre, this mighty river, en route to the Zambezi, descends to the Lower Shire Valley which is home to three protected parks & reserves including the picturesque Majete Wildlife Reserve and Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve, which is little visited but has some unique rock formations. The flatter area at the southern end the Lower Shire Valley is an important wetland, Elephant Marsh.
Central African Plateau
To the west of the Lake and either side of the Shire Valley in the south, is the Central African Plateau. The transition from Rift Valley floor up to the Central African Plateau is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, such as at Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a protected area of rugged, unspoilt wilderness. The Central African Plateau itself is gently undulating land between 1600ft (490m) and 5000ft (1500m), with the occasional lake (such as Lake Chilwa) and punctuated by more dramatic hills and forests.
It is the widespread highlands and forests that provide the most impressive of the Malawi’s varied scenery. Up where the air is fresh and cool are clear mountain streams, heaths, rolling montane grassland and evergreen forests.
The southern part of Malawi has the best known highlands – Mulanje Massif and Zomba Plateau. The former is a massive wilderness plateau of syenite granite rising from the Phalombe Plains. It has a number of peaks, including the highest in both the country and the whole of central Africa: Sapitwa, at 3000 metres (10,000 feet). The tea estates that stretch west of Mulanje as far as Thyolo, are also wonderfully scenic, with the privately restored Chimwenya Game Park protecting a beautiful area of indigenous forest even closer to Blantyre. Zomba Plateau is not as high as Mulanje, but none the less impressive. It is slab-like with a gently undulating plateau top which is accessible by road.
The Dedza-Kirk Highlands extend the rise from the Rift Valley on its western edge between Blantyre and Lilongwe. The quaint forestry town of Dedza is overlooked by a mountain of the same name and is nearby the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Chongoni Rock Art. The northern part of these highlands is marked by the Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve and then the Thuma Forest Reserve. South-west of Lilongwe, the Dzalanyama Forest Reserve covers a range of hills at the border with Mozambique. The Dowa Highlands north of Lilongwe have their most notable peaks at Dowa and Ntchisi Forest Reserve.
The Viphya Highlands – undulating hills swathed in evergreen forests – stretch north-south in north Malawi and reach the edge of the Rift Valley. Finally, in north Malawi is the Nyika Plateau, a rolling whaleback grassland plateau unique in Africa. Much of this highest and most extensive high plateau surface in central Africa is gazetted as the Nyika National Park. To the east of the National Park lies the historic Livingstonia Mission in its stunning setting, high on the Khondowe Plateau overlooking Lake Malawi.
Malawi has such beautiful and varied scenery throughout, that walking and trekking is popular at pretty much any location, even along the lakeshore.
There are a few places around Malawi where horse riding can be enjoyed – scenic locations that can be leisurely explored on horseback.
As well as Lake Malawi, rivers and smaller lakes and reservoirs provide varied fishing opportunities. Light tackle will cover most situations.
The change in scene over relatively short distances, and the varied terrain, make Malawi a great country for cycling.
With its variety of mountains and highlands, it's no surprise that Malawi has a few places that can offer some great climbing experiences.
Scenic Places to Visit
Chimwenya Game Park is a serene, beautiful and privately owned 500 acre game park, in one of the last remaining indigenous forests inteh Shire HIghlands.
In the forested granite hills around Dedza is the Chongoni Rock Art Area, a UNESCO World Heritage SIte. this is the densest cluster of ancient rock art found in central Africa.
Dedza is a town of interest for a variety of reasons. At 1600m (5300ft) it is the highest town in the country and sits in a beautiful landscape of forests and highlands.
Dzalanyama is approximately 40 km from Lilongwe and covers the steep range of hills which bear the same name. It's a beautiful natural environment to explore and enjoy.
Elephant Marsh is part of the flood plain of the River Shire. Though now devoid of elephants it is still home to a fantastic array of birdlife.
Livingstonia is a mission station established in 1894 by Robert Laws, a disciple of David Livingstone. Sited at 3000ft above Lake Malawi, there are stunning views across the Lake.
Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi's game parks. The River Shire flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris to discover the Big 5 and an array of birdlife.
The Lower Shire Valley is an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves.
Majete Wildlife Reserve is a unique conservation and tourist destination for all visitors. An amazing success story of recovery and restoration, and now home to the Big 5.
A massive 100,000 ha area of Mozambique land which runs to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi forms the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve.
Mount Mulanje is Malawi's highest peak. At 10000ft (3000m), Mulanje dwarfs all that surrounds it. It lies to the east of Blantyre and is easily accessible.
Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve is little neglected in terms of wildlife but the landscape includes scenic rocky outcrops and rivers cutting through impressive gorges.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is one of the two large wildlife areas in Central Malawi. A true wilderness, it has a promising future after recent mass restocking.
Ntchisi Forest Reserve contains some of the last remaining indigenous rainforest in Malawi. Some trees tower thirty metres overhead.
Nyika is Malawi’s largest park. Superb wildlife and landscapes in one, it offers breathtaking, unique, scenery combined with wonderful safaris.
Tea has been grown at Thyolo, south-east of Blantyre, since 1908 and the primly trimmed bushes (strictly, trees) give the whole area the appearance of a neatly kept but vast garden.
The forested Viphya is a wonderful area for those seeking a combination of stunning scenery and solitude, with opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and various other activities.
Known for its views, Zomba Plateau is a great slab of a mountain with vast tracts of cedar, pine and cypress and criss-crossed by streams with tumbling waterfalls and still lakes.
Malawi's Other Experiences
Lake Malawi is the jewel in the crown of the country’s tourist attractions, “discovered” by the missionary-explorer Dr David Livingstone just over 150 years ago.
Malawi is blessed with a rich diversity of flora and fauna and is teeming with wildilfe and big game, in no less than nine National Parks & Wildlife Reserves.
The Malawian people are, without doubt, its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. Every visitor is met with a smile.
Malawi has much offer when it comes to events, with musical, cultural and sporting events throughout the year.
As well as the various outdoor and water activities, Malawi offers a few organised sports and wellness activities.