Especially authentic places to visit in Malawi

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Despite being a poor and underdeveloped country, there are many great places to visit in Malawi. What strikes you immediately, are the horrible conditions of the roads and the potholes everywhere. Mostly you see people walking barefoot or riding bikes, there are just very little cars. Nevertheless, the police erected and guarded many checkpoints. Do not let it bring you down and discourage you from exploring this astonishing country. In Malawi, the atmosphere is overall very pleasant, safe and enjoyable.

Lake Malawi: dancing with locals into sunrise

By far the most noted place in Malawi, the lake is so large that it feels like an ocean. You can for sure imagine how impressive the view is. I was actually rushing through Tanzania to get here. In fact, the driving force was the Lake of Stars festival - concentrated happiness, local food, and heaps of music. The organization exceeded even some European festivals. I want to especially point out the safety of the campsite. Usually, there is plenty of desperate people trying to get inside and rob the tents, but the guards did an excellent job. The program was lively and full of various interprets and styles, out of which all were completely new to me. And I happily welcomed that! The best day, understand day and night, was Saturday, the day when also locals attended. They turned out to be way more enthusiastic than foreign expats. I managed to talk to some and to dance with others. It was a fantastic experience, as we had different dance moves and slowly adapted. I ended this memorable night by a morning dip in the lake under the rising sun.

traditional dance at the Lake of Stars festival at the board of Lake Malawi

Mushroom Farm: sleeping between the trees

This place was pure magic! This ecological project with camping is located on the hill, high above the lake next to Livingstonia. We arrived at the bottom of the hill just to witness the sunset. From that point on, we had to drive up the hill in complete darkness through the craziest switchback. I firmly grasped the steering wheel and slowly passed by rocks, sand and omnipresent steep slopes. With the right amount of respect, I never drove more than 15 kph. When we finally managed to reach the camp, we found cool tree houses that made all our childhood dreams come true. The open huts sat like in a fairytale on the rocks between large trees. Only in the morning, I saw the full view through the trees, the panorama of the lake. And it was the sweetest reward, making it one of the top places to visit in Malawi.

Senga Bay: getting a surprisingly different souvenir

I stumbled upon this place because I was looking for accommodation. Little did I know that I would have a unique souvenir from there! Long story short, poor local fishermen were attempting to make a deal with me for so long that in the end, I came up with a plan to have my spare tire painted. At first, I was inspired by the wall paintings and then joking about painting the whole car, which was not feasible due to its malicious condition. I gave one of them a few dollars to buy paint and we consulted ideas. Twist in a plot was a sudden sandstorm but the fishermen bravely held on. I did not know what to expect, but in the end, I was highly impressed. The whole African scenery in bright colors took them around an hour. Kudos to the men of many talents, who can always find a way!

local artists (fishermen) are painting the cover of my spare wheel in Malawi

Karonga Museum: say hi to the African dinosaur

There is unfortunately only very few places to visit in Malawi with a museum. There is one in Karonga which, like others, presents a randomly mixed exhibition. Despite being a bit older and dusty, the exhibition was still surprisingly informative. There were many unusual topics represented. It started with a celebration of the cooperation with the European Union. Surprisingly, this had started forty years ago, even before the Union itself was born. Literally, everything was covered in the EU flags, especially the employee's dresses. Another part was dedicated to an actual rarity, a Malawisaurus – well-preserved bones of a dinosaur found in Malawi. The rest of the museum shows a colorful mix of the planet’s history, local fauna, the national history and the recent political progress a.k.a. banners of current political parties. It certainly has its own signature style.

Lilongwe: diving fully into the local lifestyle

I was surprised by how rural a capital city can be, honestly. This notion was, on one hand, backed up by the omnipresent miserable infrastructure. On the other hand, the atmosphere was totally relaxed and strolling through a local food market was very joyful. Every other person wanted to chat or sell me local goods because they were simply happy to see foreigners visiting and admiring their country. I bought some peanuts and a typical south African maize drink called Mageu and I got totally hooked up on it. Pity, I have not found any of the same taste. I tried many bottled Mageu in Namibia and South Africa, but they could not compete with the fresh one bought straight from the farmer. After this, I just let myself to get lost in the moment and watched two men playing Mancala, a logical game based on the gradual relocation of marbles on a board. it is often played with ordinary stones on a plan drawn onto the ground. A game of Mancala can be eternal and practices your brain. It is inspiring that the people do not just sit around wasting their time, but reach to self-help education and strengthening mutual relations.

More places to visit in Malawi than you might think

Despite being so poor, there are some amazing places to visit in Malawi. Natural sites and big cities are always a safe bet, but in Malawi, it is any place with people. They totally surprised me with the basic, down to earth happiness of everyday life. As cheesy as it sounds, it was empowering to watch them put the effort and will in everything they did in order to make the world around better in such a selfless manner – not a usual thing.