Landlocked Malawi's big attraction is its lake. Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa) is a magnificently long 500 kilometer slice of crystal clear water along the country's eastern border. Remote villages dot the north section of the lakeshore while the gorgeous Liwonde National Park is on the southern shore. The lake is excellent for snorkeling and diving with its 500-plus species of magnificent fish. But this isn't a country solely for water lovers. There are also the foggy highlands around Mount Mulanje and Nyika National Park, a land of gorges, towering peaks, rolling meadows and hiking galore.
Sadly, most visitors just pass through Malawai on their way to the continent's more advertised attractions. Sadly, they miss out on exploring the high wilderness, the freshwater lake's underwater treasures, the vibrant local culture, and the glory of Nyika National Park.
Established in the mid-sixties, Nyika National Park is the largest park in Malawi, stretching over 3000 square kilometers. Its main attraction is the Nyika Plateau containing both a climate and a landscape found nowhere else in Africa. This enormous range of rolling hills, dense pine forests, wide valleys, and blossoming grasslands attract horseback riders, bikers, hikers and wildlife lovers. Animals in the park include bushbucks, zebras, roan antelopes, reedbucks, spot warthogs, jackals, klipspringers, leopards and hyenas. Entrance to the park is five US dollars a day.
The capital city of Lilongwe isn't terribly exciting. Rather, it's a sleepy small and pleasant village, with the most excitement being in the Old Town. The Old Town contains a market, craft stalls, cafes, watering holes and some restaurants. The modern part of town is quite often called bland, containing little more than office buildings, banks and embassies.
Many outsiders are drawn to Malawi for its strong dance tradition. The National Dance Troupe was formed in the late eighties and regularly tours the country and often travels abroad, impressing audiences as far away as North America. No initiation rite, marriage or any ritual at all is complete in Malawi without traditional dancing. Native tribes in the country are also known for elaborate mask carving and basket making.
Malawi is one of the world's least developed countries as well as being one of the most densely populated. With an economy based mainly in agriculture and with the population being mainly rural, the government is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Aid workers believe that with international programs, the country's outlook is slowly improving. Many travelers come here to volunteer in schools and health clinics.