Attractions in Kenya

14 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Kenya

Kenya – the name is almost synonymous with the word ‘safari’. Perhaps no other place on the planet evokes such an adventurous and romantic spirit. The diversity of things to do dazzles all who visit, and viewing the country’s abundant wildlife is at the top of the list. See droves of wildebeest thundering across the savannah during the Great Migration in the Maasai Mara; coming face to face with an elephant in Amboseli; or admire Lake Nakuru, dotted with thousands of flamingos. In these sun-drenched lands, ancient tribes such as the Maasai, Kikuyu and Samburu maintain their traditional customs and live in relative harmony with the natural world.

Beyond the world-famous safari parks lies a wealth of coastal treasures. You can snorkel and dive in fish-rich coral reefs, relax on pearly white beaches, experience the melting pot of cultures and cuisines in Mombasa and Malindi, and explore the tropical islands steeped in Swahili history.

Topographically, Kenya is stunning. Surrounded by calderas and mountain ranges, the Great Rift Valley divides the country. To the east of this sweeping valley you can climb the snow-capped equatorial peaks of Mount Kenya and fish for trout in crystal-clear streams. Hell’s Gate National Park is home to obsidian caves and sizzles with natural geysers and hot springs. Experience the romance of Kenya’s colorful colonial history captured in the film From Africa , head to Nairobi. This vibrant capital is the gateway to one of the world’s most exciting and thrilling travel destinations.

Read also: 10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Mombasa

1 Maasai Mara National Reserve

Maasai Mara National Reserve
 

Maasai Mara National Reserve (also “Masai Mara”) is one of the world’s most magnificent game reserves. Bordering Tanzania, the Mara is the northern extension of the Serengeti and forms a wildlife corridor between the two countries. It is named after the stately, red-cloaked Maasai people who live in the park and graze their animals here as they have done for centuries. In their language, Mara means ‘spotted’, perhaps a reference to the play of light and shadow of the acacia trees and the cloudy sky on the vast grasslands.

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 to October. In the Mara River , throngs of hippos and crocodiles lurk. The park is also known for excellent predator fishing, thanks to its relatively large populations of lion, cheetah and leopard – especially in the dry months of December to February. Thanks to the park’s altitude, the weather here is mild and mild all year round.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Maasai Mara National Reserve

2 Amboseli National Reserve

Amboseli National Reserve
Amboseli National Reserve
 

Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro , Africa’s highest peak, Amboseli National Reserve is one of Kenya’s most popular tourist parks. The name “Amboseli” comes from a Maasai word meaning “salt dust”, an apt description for the parched conditions of the park. The reserve is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Other animals commonly spotted in the park include big cats, such as lion and cheetah, as well as giraffes, impalas, eland, waterbucks, gazelles and more than 600 species of birds. Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here, ranging from the dried-out bed of Lake Amboseli , sulfur spring wetlands, savannah and forests. Look for the local Maasai people who live in the area surrounding the park.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Amboseli National Reserve

3 Tsavo National Park

Tsavo National Park
Tsavo National Park
 

Kenya’s largest park, Tsavo, is cut in two: Tsavo West and Tsavo East . Together, these parks cover four percent of the country’s total area and include rivers, waterfalls, savannah, volcanic hills, a huge lava rock plateau, and an impressive variety of wildlife. Halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa, Tsavo East is known for its photo-worthy sightings of large elephant herds rolling and bathing in red dust. The palm-lined Galana River meanders through the park, providing excellent 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 cascade into rapids and crocodile-filled pools.

Tsavo West is wetter and more topographically varied, with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the northern reaches of the park. Highlights here include Mzima Springs , a series of natural springs with large populations of hippos and crocodiles; Chaimu Crater , a great place to see birds of prey; and Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary . Wildlife is not as easy to see in Tsavo West due to the denser vegetation, but the beautiful scenery more than compensates.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tsavo National Park

4 Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves

Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves
Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves
 

On the banks of the palm tree-lined Ewaso Nyiro River , Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserves lie in an arid area in remote northern Kenya. Shaba National Reserve is one of two areas where George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the lioness, made famous in the film Born Free . The animals in all three reserves depend on the river’s water for survival, and many species are specially adapted to the parched conditions, such as Grevy’s zebras; Somali ostriches; and gerenuks, the long-necked antelope that stands on two hind legs to reach the fresh shoots on the upper tree branches.

A top attraction in the Samburu National Reserve is the Sarara Singing Wells , local watering holes where Samburu warriors sing traditional songs as they fetch water for their livestock to drink. You can also be rewarded with sightings of big cats and wild dogs.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Samburu

5 Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park
 

Lake Nakuru National Park, in central Kenya, is famous for its huge flocks of pink flamingos. The birds crowd Lake Nakuru itself, one of the Rift Valley’s soda lakes, which comprises almost a third of the park’s area. The park was established in 1961 and more than 450 bird species have been recorded here, as well as a rich variety of other wildlife. Lions, leopards, warthogs, waterbucks, pythons and white rhinos are just some of the animals you might see, and the landscapes range from vast lakeside grasslands to rocky cliffs and forests.

The park also protects the largest euphorbia candelabra forest in Africa. These tall, branched succulents are endemic to the region and provide an interesting textural element to the arid landscapes.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Lake Nakuru National Park

6 Lamu Island

Lamu Island
Lamu Island
 

The small island of Lamu, northeast of Mombasa, exudes old-world charm. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lamu Old Town is Kenya’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement with origins dating back to the 12th century. Strolling through the maze-like streets, you can see the island’s rich trading history reflected in the buildings. Architectural features from the Arab world, Europe and India are evident, but with a discernible Swahili technique. Elaborately carved wooden doors, coral stone buildings, hidden courtyards, verandas and rooftop patios are common features. A visit here is like stepping back in time. Dhows plow the harbour, there are few if any motorized vehicles and donkeys still rule the streets as they have for centuries.

Most of Lamu’s population is Muslim, and both men and women dress in traditional attire. Top attractions on the island include Lamu Museum , with displays on Swahili culture and the region’s nautical history; Lamu Fort; and the donkey sanctuary. If the history is a bit too much, sunbathe on one of the island’s white-sand beaches or enjoy Arabic coffee at a local café.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lamu

7 Lake Naivasha

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Lake Naivasha

A haven for birdwatchers, Lake Naivasha lies at the highest point of the Great Rift Valley and is known to shrink significantly during times of extreme drought. A thriving floriculture sector in the area also influences 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 roam the water and giraffes, zebras, buffalo and eland graze around the edges of the lake. Also look out for colobus monkeys in the canopies.

Near Lake Naivasha, 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 range of wildlife and offers excellent climbing opportunities with two extinct volcanoes and the red cliffs of Hell’s Gate Gorge. On the south shore of Lake Naivasha, have 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.

8 Nairobi

Nairobi
Nairobi
 

Kenya’s capital and largest city, Nairobi, is legendary for its colorful colonial history. It was once the capital of British East Africa and attracted settlers who came here to stake their fortunes in the coffee and tea industries. Today you can explore the city’s famous historical sites, as well as some excellent nature-related attractions.

The Nairobi National Museum is a great place to see exhibitions about Kenya’s history, nature, culture and contemporary art. Green thumbs will also enjoy the on-site botanical gardens. Another popular tourist attraction is the Karen Blixen Museum , the restored residence of the famous Danish author of the book From Africa , also known by her pseudonym Isak Dinesen. To see wildlife without going far from the city center, visit Nairobi National Park , now a sanctuary for black rhinos and also home to a variety of other African wildlife.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Nairobi

9 Nairobi National Park en The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Just a 15-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Kenya’s capital, you can gaze at a snoozing pride of lions or a graceful giraffe walking through the golden grass of Nairobi National Park. Visiting this wildlife-rich park is one of the top things to do if you’re staying in Nairobi, and it makes a fun day trip, especially if you can’t make it to one of the larger game reserves. All the classic safari stars here, including buffalo, leopards, zebras, wildebeest, hippos, elephants and cheetahs, and you can also see some of the planet’s most endangered species at the parks rhino sanctuary . The Nairobi Safari Walk offers a rewarding opportunity to spot wildlife on foot, and bird watchers will be pleased to know that more than 400 species of birds also call the park home, including the beautiful gray crane.

While you’re here, be sure to stop by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at the main gates of the park. This famous wildlife sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants and offers up-close encounters with these adorable animals. And no visit to the park would be complete without stopping by the Giraffe Center , near the famous Giraffe Manor , where these long-necked beauties will eat you right out.

Official site: https://www.kws.go.ke/

10 Mombasa

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Mombasa

Kenya’s second largest city and largest port, Mombasa is a multicultural tourist magnet. British, Portuguese, Arab, Indian and Asian immigrants contribute to the rich cultural mix, and their influence is evident in the architecture, as well as the many different types of cuisine. Mombasa is actually an island connected to its explosive development on the mainland by a causeway, bridges and ferries. Coral reefs along the coast for 480 kilometers offer fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities, especially at Mombasa Marine National Park and around Wasini Island . Dolphin watching and deep sea fishing are also popular.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the 16th century Fort Jesus and Old Town with its narrow streets, old Swahili dwellings, markets and souvenir shops. Mombasa’s north coast is packed with attractions such as Mombasa Go-Kart, cinemas, sports and an abundance of restaurants. This is a coastal town, beach lovers will find some valuable strands nearby. North of the city, Nyali and Bamburi Beaches are favourites, while the white beaches of Shelly, Tiwi and Diani are popular spots south of Mombasa.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mombasa

11 Malindi

Malindi
Malindi
 

North of Mombasa on the Kenyan coast, Malindi is a beach resort popular with European visitors. Thanks to its rich trading history, it is also a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, with a split personality. Part historic old town, part modern tourist hub, Malindi is where travelers come to sunbathe on the white sands of Watamu Beach ; dive the coral reefs of the Malindi and Watamu Marine National Parks ; and enjoy a dose of Swahili history in the historic town, dating back to the 12th century. Here you can visit the Jami Mosque; two column tombs from the 14th century; and the Church of St. Francis Xavier, one of the oldest churches in East Africa. On the promontory, the Cross of Vasco de Gama is one of the oldest standing monuments in Africa.

Another popular tourist attraction is the Falconry of Kenya , a rehabilitation center for sick and injured birds. About 30 kilometers northeast of Malindi, the Marafa Depression , also called Hell’s Kitchen or Nyari, is a series of sandstone gorges sculpted by wind and rain.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Malindi

12 Mount Kenya National Park

Mount Kenya National Park
Mount Kenya National Park
 

In the Central Highlands, east of the Great Rift Valley , Mount Kenya National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes the country’s highest mountain at 5,199 meters and offers the rare sight of equatorial snow. Formed by a series of volcanic eruptions, Mount Kenya is actually made up of three glacier-cloaked peaks. The highest is Batiaan, although Nelion, the next highest, is a tougher climb. The lowest peak, Lenana, is considered the easiest climb, although unpredictable weather can pose challenges.

The landscape varies from glaciers, lakes and mineral springs to alpine forests and dense bamboo troughs. The diversity of flora and fauna offers rewarding safari opportunities. Among the wildlife you can see black and white colobus monkeys, buffalo, elephants, tree hyrax, leopards and hyenas. Nestled in the foothills, the famous Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club is a luxurious retreat offering trout fishing, golf and tennis.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Mount Kenya National Park

13 Hell’s Gate National Park

Hell's Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate National Park
 

A hotspot for climbers, Hell’s Gate National Park is one of the few parks in Kenya that allows camping and allows you to explore on foot or by bike. Hell’s Gate offers excellent climbing and hiking, with two extinct volcanoes; the red cliffs of Hell Gate Gorge; ObsidianCaves ; and the pointed rock column known as Fischer’s Tower , a former volcanic plug. Geothermal features include hot springs and natural geysers that hiss steam through openings in the Earth’s crust. The park also protects a wide variety of wildlife, including leopards; baboons; hartebeest; elk; ostriches; gazelles; and more than 100 species of birds, as well as breeding grounds for eagles and vultures.

Olkaria Geothermal Station, the first of its kind in Africa, is located in Hell’s Gate National Park and generates power from submerged heated, pressurized water. The Oloor Karia Maasai cultural center within the park is worth a visit with demonstrations of Maasai singing, dancing and jewelry making.

14 Ol Pejeta Conservancy

About 200 kilometers north of Nairobi, close to Mount Kenya National Park , Ol Pejeta Conservancy is an excellent place for close-up encounters with wildlife. Conservation and sustainability are at the heart of this 90,000-hectare private reserve, where you can see the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo), as well as other animals such as cheetah, hyenas, zebras and hartebeest, set against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped Mount Kenya. The wildlife is perhaps best known for its northern and southern white rhinos, including Baraka, a blind black rhino, which lucky visitors get the chance to eat. You can view the wildlife on car rides or guided tours. Admission includes a visit to the nature chimpanzee sanctuary . Day visitors are welcome, and if you want to extend your wilderness adventure, you can stay in accommodations that range from bush camps and safari huts to a charming colonial mansion.

Official site: https://www.olpejetaconservancy.org/

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