North Malawi has so much to offer the visitor. Less well known than the rest of the country and with a lower population density, it is a region for those who wish to experience Africa at its most unspoilt. Its quite astonishing beauty is the lasting memory of all who explore this unique area of central Africa.
North Malawi is characterised by its great highlands. Forming a forested spine up from Central Malawi, the Viphya Highlands is an undulating plateau rising to 6000ft (1800m) although some peaks stretch a further 1000ft (300m) higher. On the borders with Zambia and with Tanzania, in the north, other significant ranges include the Malingu Mountains and the Misuku Hills rising to over 7000ft (2100m) and 6500ft (2000m) respectively. But the most magnificent of all is the Nyika Plateau, towering to no less than 8000ft (2500m). The rolling landscapes of the centre of the plateau are described as whalebacks but the edges of this granite core are scarp-like especially where, in the north-east, it forms the edge of the Great Rift Valley.
Not only is Nyika a unique landscape, but it is Malawi’s largest national park, populated by numerous species, including large herds of roan and eland antelope. North Malawi’s other protected area is the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, a lower lying area offering a more traditional bush-game experience.
The highlands of North Malawi also influence the nature of the lakeshore, which in this region can be quite dramatic – fishing villages sitting at the base of cliff-like escarpments accessible primarily by boat. Chintheche has perhaps some of the most beautiful of Lake Malawi’s beaches. Nkhata Bay is a bustling lake port, important to the fishing industry. Set back from the Northern Lakeshore at Chitimba is Livingstonia, a mission settlement high on a plateau overlooking the lake, that has a fascinating history dating back to 1894. The most northerly lakeshore town of note is Karonga, an important archaeological centre and now home to a museum that tells the history of this area back to pre-historic times. The skeletal remains of the Malawisaurus dinosaur have been unearthed nearby, as have been the oldest human remains in the country. Across the lake, into Mozambiquan waters, is Likoma Island. Not only does it have some beautiful beaches, also a missionary-built cathedral the size of Winchester’s. A nearby stretch of the Mozambique shoreline, Manda Wilderness, is a 120,000 hectare community reserve of unspoilt wilderness and white sand beaches.
Mzuzu, the regional capital, is the only town of any size in North Malawi. Though still dwarfed by those to the south, it is growing rapidly now. Livingstonia Mission and Karonga and the Bandawe Misison near Chintheche are sites of historical interest and the lakeshore is dotted with interesting fishing villages as well as the larger, bustling port of Nkhata Bay.
Places in North Malawi
Chintheche offers some of the best beaches on Lake Malawi, with a collection of luxury lodges right by the shore.
Karonga is one of Lake Malawi's most northern towns. It is home to a wonderful new museum of cultural history and archeology.
Likoma Island sits on the far side of the Lake Malawi in Mozambican waters. The island is home to stunning beaches and lodges, with access by boat or aircraft.
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.
A massive 100,000 ha area of Mozambique land which runs to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi forms the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve.
The capital of the north is Mzuzu, with an interesting bustling market and is growing rapidly, with a selection of lodges close by.
Nkhata Bay is a small sheltered harbour on Lake Malawi's northern shore. It is a focus for the fishing industry but becoming increasingly important as a tourist centre.
The lakeshore in the far north between Nkhata Bay and Karonga is dramatic, with steep rift valley escarpments at times forming the shoreline.
Nyika is Malawi’s largest park. Superb wildlife and landscapes in one, it offers breathtaking, unique, scenery combined with wonderful safaris.
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.
Vwasa Wildlife Reserve, an area of marsh and plain, with a few rocky outcrops, is all of 400 sq miles (1000 sq km) and lies along the Zambian border north-west of Mzuzu.
Accommodation in North Malawi
Butterfly Space is a non-profit community based lodge located on the shores of Nkhata bay in Northern Malawi.
Chelinda Camp is situated on the rolling highlands of Nyika National Park, one of Africa’s most iconic wilderness areas. The camp offers a comfortable and memorable stay in Nyika.
Nestled in the highlands of Nyika National Park, Chelinda Lodge is a 16-bedded exclusive classic camp that lies against a magnificent backdrop of towering pine trees.
An Englishman's home is his castle! The unique Kachere Kastle, situated on the unspoiled sandy shores of Northern Lake Malawi is a calm haven; a place to escape to and relax.
Hidden away on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi, at Kaya Mawa you will be transported into a world of simple pleasures. Embraced by the warmth and hospitality of the enchanting Malawian staff you will enjoy timeless luxury and only the best of modern conveniences.
Luwawa Forest Lodge is located in the Viphya Mountains in northern Malawi, a pleasant and malaria–free climate, at 5500 ft (1700m) above sea level.
Makuzi Beach Lodge is located along the northern shores of Lake Malawi. Delightfully sited in its own private bay, the lodge is ideal for that perfect “Retreat to Paradise”.
Nkwichi Lodge is a halcyon barefoot paradise. It lies on the eastern side of Lake Malawi, and although part of Mozambique, is very easily accessible.
Safari Cottage is a self-catering cottage in Nkhata Bay in northern Malawi, just a couple of metres from infamous Lake Malawi.
The Beach House, on North Beach, Chintheche, overlooks silver sands facing down Lake Malawi. It is perched on the very edge of the dunes and is shaded all around.
Situated on the West Side of Likoma Island, with spectacular sunsets, Ulisa Bay Lodge offers affordable island luxury.
North Malawi has so much to offer the visitor. Less well known than the rest of the country and with a lower population density, it is a region for those who wish to experience Africa at its most unspoilt.
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.
The southern third of the country is the most populated and the most developed area of Malawi. Economically dominated by Blantyre and physically by the great Shire Valley and Mulanje Mountain, there is great diversity in South Malawi.