The Heart of Africa: Malawi

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Advisor - Anne Bisgaard
Curated By

Anne Bisgaard

  • Adventure Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Entertainment

  • Sightseeing

  • Local Culture

Advisor - The Heart of Africa: Malawi
Curator’s statement

Every visitor is greeted with the smile and warmth of a hospitable people in the country known as the warm heart of Africa. Malawi is an undiscovered gem located between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. The country's main attraction is the vast, crystal-clear lake, Lake Malawi.

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Where to stay in Malawi

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Things to do in Malawi

An aerial view of the seashore.
  • Stunning Natural Beauty: Malawi is known as the "Warm Heart of Africa" due to its friendly people, but it's also home to breathtaking landscapes. The country boasts stunning freshwater lakes, including Lake Malawi, which is one of Africa's largest and deepest lakes. The clear blue waters, sandy beaches, and surrounding mountains make for a picturesque setting.

  • Lake Malawi National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its biodiversity. The park protects a diverse range of fish species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Snorkeling, diving, and other water-based activities provide a unique opportunity to experience this underwater paradise.

  • Rich Cultural Heritage: Malawi is home to a diverse mix of ethnic groups, each with its own traditions, music, and art. Visitors can immerse themselves in local culture through traditional dances, crafts, and festivals, gaining insight into the daily lives and history of the Malawian people.

  • Friendly Locals: Malawi is known for its welcoming and friendly people who are eager to share their culture and stories with visitors. Engaging with locals can provide a deeper understanding of the country's way of life.

  • Wildlife and National Parks: While Malawi might not be as well-known for its wildlife as some other African countries, it still offers excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing. Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park are home to a variety of animals, including elephants, lions, hippos, and numerous bird species.

  • Adventure Activities: For those seeking adventure, Malawi offers opportunities for trekking, hiking, and water sports. The Zomba and Nyika National Park are popular spots for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Affordability: Malawi is relatively affordable compared to some other travel destinations, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers.

  • Volunteer and Ecotourism Opportunities: Many organizations offer volunteer and ecotourism opportunities in Malawi, allowing visitors to contribute to conservation efforts or community development projects.

  • Authentic African Experience: Malawi offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience compared to some of the more popular African destinations, allowing travelers to connect with nature and local communities in a more intimate and authentic way.

  • Sustainable Tourism: Tourism in Malawi often focuses on sustainable and responsible practices, helping to support local communities and protect the environment.

  • Day Trips: Make sure that you include Liwonde National Park, for an awesome experience as well as Cape Maclear at Lake Malawi, in your Malawi itinerary.

While driving around you may see, at the side of the road, food stands where they sell the local delicacy, barbequed mice on a stick. I have to admit, I just couldn’t get myself to try it. 

Places to eat & drink in Malawi

tea plantation near lake

Malawi offers a variety of traditional dishes and beverages that provide a taste of the country's culture and culinary heritage. Here are some popular foods and drinks to try while in Malawi:


  • Nsima: This staple food is a thick, maize-based porridge similar to other African dishes like ugali or sadza. It's often served as a side dish alongside various stews, vegetables, or sauces.

  • Chambo: A type of fish found in Lake Malawi, chambo is a popular and delicious choice for seafood lovers. It can be grilled, fried, or cooked in various ways.

  • Ndiwo: This is a traditional vegetable stew made with ingredients like leafy greens, groundnuts (peanuts), and sometimes fish or meat. Ndiwo is typically served with nsima.

  • Mbewa: Also known as fried caterpillars, mbewa is a protein-rich snack or side dish that is enjoyed by many Malawians.

  • Kach Malawi Gin and Tonic: You can try the local gin, which is often mixed with tonic water and sometimes flavored with local ingredients.


This traditional beer is made from maize or millet and is a common beverage in many communities. It's usually fermented and has a unique taste.


Also known as "maize drink," thobwa is a non-alcoholic beverage made from maize and sometimes millet, mixed with water and sugar. It's a refreshing option on a hot day.

Local Fruit Juices

Malawi offers a variety of fresh fruit juices, including mango, papaya, guava, and passion fruit. These juices are widely available and a great way to enjoy the tropical flavors of the region.


A sweet potato-based dessert that's boiled, mashed, and sweetened with sugar, coconut, and sometimes spices.

Malawi Coffee

Malawi also produces coffee, and you can enjoy a cup of locally grown and freshly brewed coffee in many places.

Roadside Food Stands

While driving around you may see, at the side of the road, food stands where they sell the local delicacy barbequed mice on a stick. I have to admit, I just couldn’t get myself to try it.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Botswana: The Ultimate Safari Experience.

Advisor - Anne Bisgaard

Travel Advisor

Anne Bisgaard

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Africa & The Middle East.