You want to travel to Kenya? If you've chosen this destination, it's probably because you want to go on safari in Africa. If so, then you chose right, because Kenya is one of the best countries in the world to discover wild animals! But it's also a place teeming with things to do and see, and your trip to Kenya is bound to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Ready for a grand tour of the best things to do in Kenya? Let's go!
Visit Kenya's cities
There's no shortage of natural sites in Kenya, but the country is also home to towns and villages with unique cultural riches, which could make for some really nice stops on your trip.
Kenya's capital is probably the first city you'll visit on your trip, as it's home to the international airport where the vast majority of flights arrive. Nairobi is one of Africa's most important cities, both economically and politically, and is home to three million inhabitants.
The city's main attraction is Nairobi National Park, less than six miles from the city center (10 km). Created in 1946, this park is home to many animals: birds, zebras, wildebeests, reptiles, hippos, rhinos...
The other major wildlife site nearby is the Giraffe Center, located in Langata, some 12 miles from the capital (20 km). This protected area is the perfect place to see giraffes from very close – and you may even have the chance to feed them! 😀
Nairobi is also home to several other very interesting natural, cultural and historical sites:
- Jamia Mosque, one of the country's main places of worship and one of the capital's few architectural edifices.
- Bomas of Kenya, a cultural center featuring identical reproductions of the dwellings of several Kenyan tribes. There, you can also see traditional dance performances.
- The Maasai market, which changes location every day of the week. It's the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture, as well as to discover traditional dishes and objects made by Kenyan artisans.
- Uhuru Park, a 13-hectare public garden located in the extension of the business district. It's the place to go if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, relax or do a bit of sport.
Mombasa is the country's second-largest city. Located on the country's southern coast, it is a city with a rich cultural and natural heritage that will leave no one indifferent. Situated some 310 miles from the capital (500 km), this port city was founded in the 8th century, and has since been an important commercial hub for imports and exports of products from all over Africa and beyond.
The old town, located on the small island of Mombasa, is the city's most popular tourist attraction. It can be reached by ferry or by crossing a bridge. It is home to several historic buildings, including Fort Jesus, a 16th-century fortress built by the Portuguese and now housing a large museum, as well as the Mombasa Mosque and the Basheikh Mosque.
Haller Park is another must-see in Mombasa. This botanical park, located in Bamburi just to the northeast of the city, is also a zoo where many animals roam freely: giraffes, tortoises, monkeys, elands... Dangerous species such as crocodiles, buffaloes and hippos, are of course kept behind fences and in enclosures.
Other cities in Kenya
- Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city. It's a colorful city, more authentic than the two biggest cities. It is also the gateway to Lake Victoria.
- Nakuru, Kenya's fourth-largest city, lies on the shores of Lake Victoria, some 93 miles from Nairobi (150 km).
- Lamu, located on the island of the same name, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of indescribable beauty. It is the cradle of Swahili culture.
- Kakuma is a town of 80,000 inhabitants located in northern Kenya, in Turkana County, near the lake of the same name.
- Nanyuki, in Laikipia County, to the north-west of the capital. Founded at the very beginning of the 20th century by British settlers, the town lies at the heart of a region with many natural attractions. But its main attraction lies in the fact that it lies exactly on the equator.
Go on a safari in Kenya's most beautiful parks
Of course, a safari is an absolute must in this wonderful country. Kenya is home to many parks and nature reserves that can be visited all year round, to see a huge number of animals roaming free. Here are some of the best national parks and nature reserves you can discover on a Kenya safari:
Amboseli National Park, an incredible place covering almost 154 square miles (400 km²), where you'll discover a wealth of flora and fauna, and superb scenery with Kilimanjaro in the background.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve, in the south of the country, is an extension of Tanzania's Serengeti Park. This is undoubtedly the country's most famous park, as it is here that the animals cross the Mara River before completing the Great Migration.
Tsavo National Park, Africa's largest wilderness park, is divided into two parts (Tsavo West and Tsavo East) by a railroad. Tsavo East is more arid and better known for its elephant and other animal sightings, while Tsavo West is home to lusher vegetation and waterholes popular with hippos and crocodiles.
The Samburu National Reserve, located in the center of the country in an arid region, with typical African savannah landscapes, is perfect for wildlife observation. This reserve is home to the highest concentration of leopards in the country.
The Shimba Hills National Reserve, just a few miles from Mombasa, offers superb views of the Indian Ocean, and can be explored on foot.
Discover Kenya's other natural wonders
Lake Nakuru is a large salt lake located in the Great Rift Valley in central Kenya. It is home to over 400 species of birds, particularly flamingos – around a million flamingos gather here every year.
In addition to birds, many other species live around the lake. Lions, giraffes, buffalo and rhinoceros can all be spotted here.
Mount Kenya rises to an altitude of 17,057 feet (5,199 meters), making it the second highest peak in Africa after Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This volcano is located right in the center of the country, south of the equator, in the heart of a superb national park, home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Mount Kenya is one of the best places for hiking in Kenya.
The Ewaso Ng'iro River
This long river rises on the western slopes of Mount Kenya and is constantly supplied with water from melting mountain glaciers. Almost 435 miles long in total (700 km), the Ewaso Ng'iro also flows through Somalia and feeds Lake Ol’ Bolossat, the largest lake in central Kenya.
Here, too, it's possible to enjoy beautiful hikes along the banks, discovering a wild and unspoilt nature. The river is also a popular spot for kayakers, with class 5 rapids.
There's another river of the same name in Kenya, in the Rift Valley, which flows into Lake Natron.
This salt lake in the Lake Baringo basin is another must-see crossing point in the Rift Valley. It is the largest flamingo sanctuary in northern Kenya, and one of the most important in the world. Along with Lake Nakuru, it's the best birdwatching destination in the country.
Lake Bogoria lies at an altitude of around 3,280 feet above sea level (1,000 m). Some 350 species of birds live here, and every winter many migratory birds from Europe, such as pelicans, cormorants and storks, join the flamingos. Other animals to be seen include gazelles, antelopes, zebras and baboons.
The Kenyan coast is a seaside destination that is not yet as popular as Zanzibar, but more and more people traveling to Kenya on safari also decide to devote a few days to exploring the region. The landscapes here are very different from those you'll see in the rest of the country. There are beautiful, long sandy beaches lined with palm trees, where the main activities are not safaris, but rather lounging and water sports.
Diani Beach is a seaside resort just south of Mombasa – the major city in this part of the country – and it even has an international airport. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful beaches in Africa. With turquoise waters and fine white sand as far as the eye can see, it's a real little corner of paradise, perfect for relaxing after a week dedicated to safari. It's also a renowned destination for scuba diving and kite surfing.
The area is a bit less pleasant during the rainy season from April to June, but you can enjoy ideal sunshine and water temperatures of 77°F (25°C) or more throughout the rest of the year.
Near the town of Nyahururu, in the Laikipia region, you can discover one of the country's most impressive and beautiful natural sites: Thompson's Falls, an impressive 242-foot-high waterfall (74 meters high). The waterfall is located on the Ewaso Narok River, which flows through a densely vegetated forest.
It is the splashes and fine drizzle that result from this waterfall that makes the surrounding vegetation so lush. Thomson Falls can be admired from below, by following a path that runs along the bottom of the ravine, but also from higher up. The upstream basin is home to the largest concentration of hippos in Kenya.
Wasini Island lies in the Indian Ocean, off the southern coast of Kenya. This small, 3-mile-long island (5 km) is the perfect seaside destination for a few days' relaxation, and is home to several luxury hotels. It's also a lively nightlife spot, with a number of trendy nightclubs.
Alternatively, the island can be easily discovered on a day trip from Mombasa. These excursions also include a visit to the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park – the ideal place for a boat trip and snorkeling to observe coral reefs, numerous species of fish and even dolphins.
A green sanctuary just a stone's throw from the heart of the capital – that's how to describe Karura Forest in a nutshell. Over the last few years, investments have been made to bring some infrastructure and amenities to this natural site, which has now become a much-appreciated site and one of the symbols of ecotourism in Kenya.
Dense vegetation, waterfalls, rivers, marshes, caves... It is possible to discover superb and varied places during beautiful hikes that can be made on several dozen miles of tracks and paths. The Family Trail, in particular, is a 5-mile hiking trail that uncovers some hidden treasures (5 km).
The flora there is of rare diversity, as this forest is home to virtually every variety of tree you can see in Kenya. And naturally, many animals live here, including numerous species of monkeys and birds.