Located in East Africa, the nation of Kenya boasts a wide array of landscapes that include mountains, valleys, beaches, lakes, and large tracts of savanna grasslands. From its caves and calderas to its villages and cities, the country beckons travelers from all over the world. While you might associate Kenya as one of the best places in the world for safari, and it is, it has so much more to offer to every type of traveler.
Nairobi is Kenya’s capital and most populous city. As such, it’s filled with cultural sites, including museums like the Nairobi National Museum and Kenya’s Railway Museum. Nairobi National Park, located just outside the city center, is home to a sanctuary for black rhino and other wildlife. A bustling and dynamic city, Nairobi also features a wide selection of hotels and restaurants. Other must-see Nairobi attractions include the Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Center, Bomas of Kenya, African Heritage House, and the nearby Ngong Hills.
Located on the border with Tanzania next to the Serengeti, Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the world’s leading safari destinations. The reserve is named for the Maasai people who continue to lead their traditional way of life in the region. Encompassing roughly 600 square miles, the reserve is famous as one of the sites to witness the Great Migration of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles as they head toward the Serengeti. You may also be able to catch sightings of hippos, crocodiles, lions, and cheetahs on your visit to Maasai Mara. As a major African tourist destination, travelers can expect to find both luxury and budget-friendly accommodations as well as many safari operators and guides.
Mombasa is Kenya’s oldest city and a major economic hub. As a coastal town, Mombasa has been influenced by many visiting groups. The influence of the English, Arabs and Portuguese can be seen in some of its architecture. When visiting Mombasa, be sure to check major attractions such as 16th century Fort Jesus, Mombasa Marine National Park—a must for scuba lovers—and its Old Town.
Tsavo National Park is Kenya’s largest park with its more than 5,000 square miles. The park’s semi-arid lands are home to a wealth of animals that include Tsavo lions, plains zebra, impala, spotted hyena, African bush elephant, and many more. When taking a safari through the park, be sure to include some of its best-known attractions such as Lagard Falls on the Galana River, Mudanda Rock, and the lava flow of the Yatta Plateau.
The pink flamingos of Lake Nakuru National Park are among the most famous of Kenya’s animal ambassadors. Lake Nakuru is one of the ‘soda lakes’ of the Great Rift Valley. It boasts an abundance of algae that make the lake and banks rich feeding ground for flamingos and other birds as well as baboons, warthogs, and even predators like lions and leopards. Sometimes as many as a million flamingos can be spotted at the lake. Park officials say the best place for views is from nearby Baboon Cliff.
Located about 20 miles south of Mombasa, Diani Beach is one of Kenya’s best-loved beaches. Famous for its crystal Indian Ocean waters and coral reefs, this beach is a great place to snorkel or enjoy kitesurfing. Activities like sailing, deep-sea fishing, and skydiving are also popular here. There are many hotels, cafes, and restaurants that cater to visiting tourists. The Shimba Hills National Reserve overlooks the beach, so many travelers combine a visit to both destinations when they’re in the area.
Kenya is home to 64 lakes, and among its best-loved lakes is Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. Birders especially revere the lake and visit to marvel at its more than 400 present bird species such as ibis, heron, and African fish eagles. According to the Maasai people, the lake's name means “rough water” because storms can rise there quickly. If you’re looking to visit an area in the Great Rift Valley, this postcard-worthy setting can easily top your list.
Located on the coast, Watamu refers to a series of beaches, which have been hailed as some of Kenya’s best. Visitors come to lounge on the powdery sands, swim, or windsurf. Deep-sea fishing is also popular here. Watamu is located near the medieval ruins Gedi, a small Swahili town, which also attracts visitors. If you’re trekking along the coast to reach Watamu, set aside some time to visit nearby Arabuko Sokoke Forest Preserve, which is home to wild cats and elephants.
Mount Kenya National Park is named after the country’s tallest peak. The park is located to the east of the Great Rift Valley and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountain features equatorial snow, an uncommon sight, and the surrounding park is home to other mountains as well as lakes and mineral springs. Visitors come to climb the mountains or take a safari, hoping to catch a glimpse of resident elephants, leopards, and hyenas.
Located northeast of Mombasa, the island of Lamu is the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited community. Its Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates to the 12th century and is celebrated for its Arab, Indian, and European-influenced architecture. Today, the island brims with Muslim and Swahili culture and features a wide array of attractions that include its seafront fort, donkey-strewn streets, central market and shops, and the Lamu Museum. The waterfront also teems with extraordinary sea views and pristine beaches.