Backpacking Africa

8 Things to Do in Malawi

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It can feel like a pretty small place if you spend a few weeks looking for things to do while backpacking Malawi. Yes, the friendly locals will keep you entertained and even just relaxing next to the beach every day can be a great way to spend the day, but honestly, at some point you will want to find day tours and things to do in Malawi.

Here are 8 things to do in Malawi:

Canoe Lake Malawi

Get out on the Lake with a canoe

Obviously you will want to visit the lake when you arrive and when you get there, why not take a stand up paddle, canoe or kayak out for a cruise. It’s one of the cheap things to do whether it be in Nkhata Bay, Kande Beach, Senga or somewhere else.

kids Zambia

Volunteer in Malawi

Yes, that’s exactly why most people visit the country but if you are not already volunteering in Malawi then you might want to check it out. Thing is, it doesn’t need to be a big NGO or charity, when you arrive there are always volunteer projects in Nkhata Bay and all the other popular spots.


Learn how to make wood carvings

Perfect for beginners, a great way to interact with locals and considering how popular it is for souvenirs, it is also one of the best things to do in Malawi. Every local under the sun in Malawi knows how to wood carve so finding someone willing to teach you won’t be difficult although be warned, the actual wood carving will be exactly that regardless of whether its a full size boat or not.


Go Scuba Diving in Malawi, if that’s your thing

It’s not mine but I hear the diving is pretty affordable, unique and easy to organize. There are scuba diving tours in Nkhata Bay, Cape MacClear and many other parts of the lake while the prices are usually anywhere from $40 upwards for a dive.

Backpacking Malawi Travel Guide

Try a Horse riding tour in Malawi

So, this is probably my number one recommendation for things to do in Malawi and horse riding in Nkhata Bay is probably the best (Also from nearby Kande Beach). Starting in the forests you travel through villages and beautiful landscapes before ending up on the beach where you can actually go for a swim on the horse.

livingstonia hike

Stay active on a Livingstonia Hike

I’ll be honest, there’s not much to see or do when you get up there, they say it’s an old antiquated town where the Livinstonia mission was built but I found it largely uninteresting. That being said, there are classic views and the Livingstonia Hike is an enjoyable day with a chance to swim in a small waterfall halfway up.


Climb the magnificent Mt Mulanje

Okay, I have yet to do this but from feedback and meeting other travelers while backpacking Malawi, I hear this is a must do for adventure seekers. Few tourists, beautiful vistas and a chance to get away from the busy towns or city.

Meet the locals

Meet the Locals, seriously

This is what Malawi is all about, meeting the locals. Visit the local markets, take a walk around town, try out the local traditional restaurants, take a cooking class. Meeting the locals is actually on my things to do in Malawi because it is always the highlight of a trip – so get out there and get involved!

For more information on Backpacking Malawi or interesting places to see, check out Backpacking Malawi Travel Tips.

Derek Cullen is an experienced overland tour leader in Africa. He is best known for cycling across Africa and writing about travel in Africa for many online media publications. If you would like advice or information for your trip to Africa, you can speak with him directly through the LiveChat box!


  1. Mohit Agarwal

    November 22, 2016 at 8:33 am

    its good to head out for a volunteering experience…the boat ride in the mist, and the horse ride are so blessed with beauty

  2. Neni

    November 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

    The pictures are absolutely stunning! Wow!
    Especially the one with the horses.
    Malawi seems like an interesting place and the canoe is right up my alley.

  3. Pingback: Most popular places to visit in Malawi • No Hanging Around Travel Blog

  4. Harsh Gupta

    November 27, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    All the landscapes look so dramatic. I love how you have captured the beauty of Malawi. Nature never fails to amaze me!

  5. Oi Meira

    November 28, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I have always wanted to volunteer in another country. But as I still have a job in Jakarta, I need to postpone this dream until next year, maybe. Great post. And have you written about what gear do you use for photography? I am just a beginner and want to learn how to take travel pictures. As pictures in my blog are just so newbie. 🙁 Great post anyway.

  6. Marlene Marques

    November 28, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Hi, Derek. Such good and different suggestions on what to do in Malawi. Just loved your tip on horse riding in Nkhata Bay. I’m sure it must be an incredible experience.

  7. Joanna

    November 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

    You are so lucky to have visited such a non-touristy hard to get to country. Your article and photos made my mind travel with you, sailing in a wooden boat on that tranquil water or horse ride in Nkhata Bay. Who would have knows that Malawi is such a beautiful country? I am all about traveling local and meeting people is always the top of my trips!
    Joanna recently posted…Hiking the Jurassic Coast: Worth Matravers to SwanageMy Profile

  8. Christina

    December 1, 2016 at 5:41 am

    One of the things I love about this story is the children look so happy. It lightens the heart to see their cheerful smiles. Fabulous photography, Derek. You’ve captured the region beautifully.

  9. Pingback: Best places to visit in Malawi • NHA Outdoor Adventure Blog

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