Lonely Planet Kenya

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Kenya is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Travel through ancient lands to witness some of the world's greatest wildlife spectaculars, climb a volcano or two, or sail in a magnificent dhow to seemingly unknown islands; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Kenya and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Kenya Travel Guide:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - daily life, tribes, national parks and reserves, cuisine
  • Over 50 maps
  • Covers Nairobi, Southern Rift Valley, Masai Mara, Central Highlands, Mombasa, Lamu, coastal Kenya and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Kenya, our most comprehensive guide to Kenya, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

  • Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's East Africa guide.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Anthony Ham, Stuart Butler, David Lukas and Kate Thomas.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

List price: $27.99

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Nairobi

ePub

Pop 3.363 million / Elevation 1661m

Telling people that you like Nairobi is like voicing a guilty secret. Yes, Nairobi’s reputation precedes it. And yes, it's a city where it pays to keep your wits about you. But there are many people who don't just like Nairobi but who wouldn't want to live anywhere else. For those who call it home, the city's muscular, cosmopolitan charms include a vibrant cultural life, fabulous places to eat and exciting nightlife. If you're just passing through, this melting pot of people and attractions has the intriguing National Museum, an unlikely national park (black rhinos and all), an irresistible elephant orphanage, the ground zero for the Rothschild’s giraffe, Karen Blixen's former home and so much more. Welcome to one of Africa's most dynamic cities, a place you'll almost certainly pass through and one that you could just learn to like if you give it half a chance.

AJan & Feb, Jun–Sep The driest months; Nairobi National Park is at its best

 

Southern Rift Valley

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It's hard to believe that the geological force that almost broke Africa in two instead created such serene landscapes. But this southern slice of Africa's Great Rift Valley is cool and calm, swathed in forest and watered by moody mineral lakes that blanch and blush with the movements of pelicans and flamingos. There's no gold in these valleys and hills; it's green all the way, from pretty Lake Naivasha to Elmenteita's forest halo.

The altitude peaks and dips all the way from Nairobi to Nakuru, ensuring pleasant weather almost year-round. Only Lake Baringo, further north, feels the heat, although the hippos, crocodiles and fish eagles don't seem to mind.

Come for the green and the peace but don't miss the peaks that push skywards; Mt Longonot and, to a lesser degree, the Menengai Crater, offer some of the most exciting views around. Perhaps that's why this region is a birdwatcher's dream. And at Lake Nakuru National Park, the lions seem to agree; they've taken to climbing the trees.

 

Masai Mara & Western Kenya

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For most people, the magic of western Kenya is summed up in two poetic words: Masai Mara. Few places on Earth support such high concentrations of animals, and the Mara’s wildebeest-spotted savannahs are undeniably the region’s star attraction. Drama unfolds here on a daily basis, be it a stealthy trap coordinated by a pride of lions, the infectious panic of 1000 wildebeest crossing a river, or the playful pounce of a cheetah kitten on its sibling.

But there's much more to western Kenya than these plains of herbivores and carnivores. The dense forests of Kakamega are buzzing with weird and wonderful creatures, the rain-soaked hills of Kericho and their verdant tea gardens bring new meaning to the word ‘green’, and amid the boat-speckled waters of Lake Victoria lies a smattering of seldom-visited islands crying out for exploration.

AMar–May The ‘heavy rains’ fall at this time, particularly in the cooler Western Highlands.

AJul–Oct With the arrival of the wildebeest migration, the Masai Mara groans with herbivores.

 

Central Highlands & Laikipia

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The Central Highlands are the green-girt, red-dirt spiritual heartland of Kenya’s largest tribe, the Kikuyu. This is the land the Mau Mau fought for, the land the colonists coveted and the land whose natural, cyclical patterns define the lives of the country’s largest rural population. These highlands form one of the most evocative sections of Africa's Great Rift Valley. It is here that Mt Kenya, Africa's second-highest mountain, rises into the clouds – climbing it is one of the great rites of passage of African travel. In its shadow lie two of Kenya's most intriguing national parks: rhino- and lion-rich Meru National Park; and Aberdare National Park, home to some of the oldest mountains on the continent. And then there's Laikipia, fount of so much that's good about modern conservation. It's also the scene for some of the best wildlife-watching anywhere in Kenya.

AMid-Jan–Feb & mid-Jul–Aug Your best chance of favourable weather to bag Mt Kenya.

 

Southeastern Kenya

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Southern Kenya is one of the great wildlife-watching destinations in Africa. Here you'll find a triumvirate of epic Kenyan parks – Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo East – that are home to the Big Five (lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes)and so much more. Big cats roam in relative abundance and large-tusked elephants pass by close enough to touch. It's all set against the backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, and a stirring backstory of wildlife surviving against the odds.

The region is also the scene for so many exciting initiatives that combine conservation with community engagement, and many of these ensure that the chances to get to know the Maasai – the soulful human inhabitants of this land – on equal terms are higher here than perhaps anywhere else in Kenya. In short, this is Kenya at its wildest and yet most accessible.

AJul–Oct Far from the Masai Mara, this is prime time for watching wildlife in southern Kenyan parks.

 

Mombasa & the South Coast

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From the hypnotic port city of Mombasa south to the border with Tanzania, this stretch of Kenyan coast is anything but ordinary. Where else can you see snow white beaches framed by kayas (sacred forests), soft-sailed dhows and elephant watering holes, all in one day?

Governed by Swahili rhythms and the rise and fall of the tides, life here moves to its own beat. Duck into the Indian Ocean and you'll see there's far more going on beneath the surface than the simple pleasures of sun, sea and sand. Those waters hide dolphins, turtles, Swahili secrets and some of the best diving and kitesurfing in Africa.

Thanks to the long interplay of Africa, India and Arabia, this coast feels wildly different from the rest of Kenya. Its people, the Swahili, have created a distinctive Indian Ocean society – built on trade with distant shores – that lends real romance to the coast's beaches and to Mombasa, a city poets have embraced for as long as ivory has been traded for iron.

 

Lamu & the North Coast

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Prepare to fall under the spell of this hypnotic part of the coast. The exotic permeates everything here, blending spice and soul and cramming your head with the accents that equal adventure. Here you’ll find honey-gathering crocodile hunters; ghost crabs, tree crabs and elephant shrews; the Vain Island and the Island of Wailing; and a stone city divided into halves, the Beauteous and the Fortunate.

You'll taste spice in fine Swahili cooking, catch it on the bow of a dhow, feel it as you slip into the salty emerald ocean. You'll hear it in the songs of village children in Malindi, chanting 'ciao!' in place of the familiar refrain of 'mzungu!' This land belongs to no single group. It's been seasoned by Cushitic Somalis, Bantu-speaking Mijikenda, cattle-herding Orma, Italians, Indians, the Bajun, who once sewed their boats together with coconut fibre, and, of course, the Swahili. This land is their land. And it can be yours, too.

AJul–Sep Lamu is aglow in the wake of Eid; satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the island's night markets.

 

Northern Kenya

ePub

Calling all explorers! We dare you to challenge yourself against some of the most exciting wilderness in Africa. Step forward only if you’re able to withstand appalling roads, searing heat, clouds of dust torn by relentless winds, primitive food and accommodation, vast distances and more than a hint of danger.

The rewards include memories of vast, shattered lava deserts, camel herders walking their animals to lost oases, fog-shrouded mountains full of mysterious creatures, prehistoric islands crawling with massive reptiles and jokes shared with traditionally dressed warriors. Additional perks include camel trekking through piles of peachy dunes, elephant encounters in scrubby acacia woodlands and the chance to walk barefoot along the fabled shores of a sea of jade.

In our 21st-century world of wireless internet and dumbed-down TV, northern Kenya is an opportunity to leave behind all that is familiar and fall completely off the radar.

AJun Head to Loyangalani for the Lake Turkana Festival.

 

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