Top 10 tourist destinations to visit in Kenya
There is no dispute. Kenya offers an unparalleled range of travel options ranging from the incredible diversity of landscapes, cultures, wildlife and activities which mean endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation, luxury and natural simplicity, social experiences and solitude.
These are the top 10 places to visit in Kenya
Thinking of going for a holiday, then think Kenya in East Africa.
No other place in the planet can match the rich wildlife that this East African country is blessed with not to mention monumental places you can visit. Also see: Top 10 Kenya Tourist destination, rhinos, water games
You won’t have toured Kenya if you haven’t been to the coastal side to explore our sandy beaches and experience our different cultures. Below is a list of places you must visit the next time you are in Kenya or the next time you decide to be a domestic tourist.
- Maasai Mara National Reserve
Of course Maasai Mara had to be on top of this list. It is one of the world’s most magnificent game reserves and the seventh wonder of the world. Located in Narok County, bordering Tanzania, the Mara is the northern extension of the Serengeti and forms a wildlife corridor between the two countries.
It’s named after the Maasai people who live in the park and graze their animals here as they have done for centuries.
The park is famous for the Great Migration when thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle travel to and from the Serengeti, from July through October. The Mara River is home to hippos and crocodiles. The park is also blessed with populations of lion, cheetah, and leopard, especially in the dry months of December through February. The weather there is mild and gentle all year round.
120km northeast of Mombasa sits a beautiful town called Malindi or sometimes called “Little Italy”. Malindi is mainly a beach resort popular with European visitors especially from Italy. It is partly an old historic old town and partly a modern tourist hub. From the white sands of Watamu Beach, dive the coral reefs of the Malindi and Watamu Marine National Parks, and soak up a dose of Swahili history in the historic town, dating from the 12th century.
Here tourists can visit the Jamia Mosque, two pillar tombs from the 14th century, and the Church of St Francis Xavier, one of East Africa’s oldest churches. The Vasco Da Gama Cross is one of the oldest standing monuments in Africa which is only found in this beautiful town. The Malindi Museum has displays on Vasco da Gama and also doubles as an information center.
Another amazing place to visit would be the Falconry of Kenya, a place where sick and injured birds are rehabilitated. Finish your visit by visiting the Marafa depression also called Hell’s Kitchen, where you will be amazed by the sandstone gorges sculpted by the wind and rain.
You might have heard about Kenya’s second largest city and biggest port, Mombasa is a multicultural tourist magnet. British, Portuguese, Arab, Indian, and Asian immigrants add to the rich cultural mix and their influence is evident in the architecture as well as the many different types of cuisine.
Coral reefs fringe the coast for 480 km providing fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities, especially at Mombasa Marine National Park and around Wasini Island. Dolphin watching and deep-sea fishing are also a must do when you visit this island.
You will enjoy exploring the 16th-century Fort Jesus and Old Town with its narrow streets, ancient Swahili dwellings, markets, and souvenir shops. The north shore of Mombasa is crammed with attractions including Mombasa Go-Kart, cinemas, sports, and a cornucopia of restaurants. This being a coastal hub, beach lovers will find some worthy strands nearby. North of the city, Nyali and Bamburi Beaches are favorites, while the white strands of Shelly, Tiwi, and Diani Beaches are must go spots south of Mombasa.
- Mount Kenya
In the Central Highlands, 175 km northeast of Nairobi, Mount Kenya National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing the country’s highest mountain at 5,199 m and providing the rare sight of equatorial snow.
Mount Kenya is actually comprised of three glacier-cloaked peaks formed by a series of volcanic eruptions. The highest is Batian, although Nelion, the next highest, is a tougher climb. The lowest peak, Lenana, is considered the easiest climb, although unpredictable weather can pose challenges.
Breathtaking scenery varies from glaciers, lakes, and mineral springs to alpine forest and dense pockets of bamboo. The diversity of flora and fauna provides rewarding opportunities for safaris. Among the wildlife here visitors may spot black and white colobus monkeys, buffalo, elephant, tree hyrax, leopard, and hyena. Nestled in the foothills, the famous Mount Kenya Safari Club is a luxury retreat with trout fishing, golf, and tennis.
Kenya’s capital and largest city, Nairobi, is legendary for its colorful colonial history a capital of British East Africa. Today, tourists can explore the city’s famous historic sites as well as some excellent wildlife-related attractions.
The Nairobi National Museum is a great one-stop spot to see exhibits on Kenya’s history, nature, culture, and contemporary art. Lovers of nature will also enjoy the botanic gardens on the grounds. Another popular tourist attraction is the Karen Blixen Museum, the restored residence of the famous Danish author of the book, “Out of Africa”.
Nairobi is the only capital city in the world with a national park. To see wildlife without venturing far from the city center, visit Nairobi National Park, now a black rhino sanctuary and also home to a host of other classics including lions, leopards, buffalo, zebras, wildebeest, and cheetahs. Within the park’s borders, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust offers close-up encounters with elephant orphans. And no visit to Nairobi would be complete without popping into the Giraffe Centre near the famous Giraffe Manor where these long-necked beauties eat out of visitors’ hands.
- Amboseli National Reserve
Located in Loitoktok District in Kajiado County, Amboseli National Reserve is one of Kenya’s most popular tourist parks. It is crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak which offers a magnificent view in the morning.
The reserve is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Other wildlife commonly spotted in the park includes big cats such as lion and cheetah as well as giraffe, impala, eland, waterbuck, gazelle, and more than 600 species of birds.
Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here ranging from the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, wetlands with sulfur springs, savannah, and woodlands.
- Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its huge flocks of pink flamingoes. The birds throng on Lake Nakuru itself, one of the Rift Valley soda lakes that comprises almost a third of the park’s area. The park was established in 1961 and more than 450 species of birds have been recorded here as well as a rich diversity of other wildlife.
Lions, leopards, warthogs, waterbucks, pythons, and white rhinos are just some of the animals visitors might see, and the landscapes range from sweeping grasslands bordering the lake to rocky cliffs and woodland. The park also protects the largest euphorbia candelabrum forest in Africa. These tall branching succulents are endemic to the region and provide an interesting textural element to the arid landscapes.
- Lake Naivasha
Lake Naivasha which is also known as a haven for birds, lies at the highest point of the Great Rift Valley and has been known to shrink considerably in times of extreme drought. A flourishing floriculture industry in the area is also impacting water levels and quality.
One of the best ways to view the wildlife is by boat. More than 400 species of birds have been spotted here, including African fish eagles. Hippos slosh in the water, and giraffes, zebra, buffalo, and eland graze around the edges of the lake. Watch out for colobus monkeys in the canopies too.
The Crater Lake Game Sanctuary features a wildlife-rich nature trail. Just south of Lake Naivasha, the relatively affordable Hell’s Gate National Park protects a wide variety of wildlife and offers excellent climbing opportunities with two extinct volcanoes and the red cliffs of Hell’s Gate Gorge. On the southern shore of Lake Naivasha, visitors can pop in for a cup of tea at the Elsamere Conservation Centre, the former home of the late Joy Adamson, author of “Born Free”, and her husband George.
- Hell’s Gate National Park
South of Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate National Park, a hotspot for climbers is one of the few parks in Kenya that allows camping and enables visitors to explore on foot or bicycle. Hell’s Gate offers excellent climbing and hiking opportunities with two extinct volcanoes, the red cliffs of Hell’s Gate Gorge, Obsidian Caves, and the pointed column of rock known as Fischer’s Tower, a former volcanic plug.
Geothermal features include hot springs and natural geysers hissing steam through vents in the earth’s crust. The park also protects a wide variety of wildlife including leopards, baboons, hartebeest, eland, ostriches, gazelles, and more than 100 species of birds as well as eagle and vulture breeding grounds.
Olkaria Geothermal Station, the first of its kind in Africa, lies within Hell’s Gate National Park and generates power from heated, pressurized water underground. The Oloor Karia Maasai Cultural Centre within the park is worth a visit with Maasai singing, dancing, and jewelry-making demonstrations.
- Tsavo National Park
This is Kenya’s largest park, divided into; Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Together these parks comprise four percent of the country’s total area and encompass rivers, waterfalls, savannah, volcanic hills, a massive lava-rock plateau, and an impressive diversity of wildlife. Midway between Nairobi and Mombasa, Tsavo East is famous for photo-worthy sightings of large elephant herds rolling and bathing in red dust.
The palm-fringed Galana River twists through the park providing excellent game viewing and a lush counterpoint to the arid plains. Other highlights here include the Yatta Plateau, the world’s longest lava flow, Mudanda Rock, and the Lugard Falls, which spill into rapids and crocodile-filled pools.
Tsavo West is wetter and topographically more varied with some of the most beautiful scenery in the northern reaches of the park. Highlights here are Mzima Springs, a series of natural springs with large populations of hippos and crocodiles, Chaimu Crater, a great spot for spotting birds of prey, and Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. Wildlife is not as easy to see in Tsavo West because of the denser vegetation, but the beautiful scenery is worth it.
Compiled by Stephanie Odhiambo
Credit: Magical Kenya