Best things to do in Kenya
Find out more about those top places in Kenya
Contrasting with the natural beauty found elsewhere in Kenya, Nairobi, East Africa’s largest city, is the country’s diverse and vibrant hidden gem. Within the city itself, Nairobi has a clutch of star attractions that make it the envy of other African capital cities: the National Museum houses some of the continent’s best ethnographic exhibitions; the city is abuzz with numerous nyama choma restaurants serving up mouth-watering grilled meats; and the suburbs house some enlightening museums dedicated to Kenya’s colonial history. Nairobi’s concrete jungle can be escaped with surprising ease with the city nestled at the edge of the Nairobi National Park where rhinos, cheetahs, lions, giraffes and other iconic safari species can be spotted with ease. Remarkably, some of the park’s highest points provide breathtaking views of the glassy high-rises of the city’s central business district.
Perched above Nairobi’s southern suburbs, the Kenyan capital’s own national park is one of Africa’s unique safari experiences. With the glassy high rises of Nairobi’s central business district glistening distantly, visitors to the park can spot a wide range of Africa’s iconic safari experiences: black rhinos roam the savannah; prides of lions rest under giant baobab trees; and packs of hyena race through the grasslands. For the best experience, local guides can show you the best areas to spot even the most elusive wildlife, including cheetahs.
The Giraffe Center is one of Africa’s most famed conservation stories. In 1979 there were fewer than 100 rare Rothschild Giraffes roaming the grasslands of East Africa and the species looked to be facing imminent extinction. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of the Giraffe Center the species now numbers over 300 in the wild. For more details of the painstaking conservation work, local guides are available for tours of the center.
The former home of the author famed for Out of Africa, which was later adapted into a Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep, the Karen Blixen Museum is one of Nairobi’s star attractions. Blixen’s grand colonial house has been transformed into a museum detailing her fascinating and often tragic life while the gardens are immaculately maintained.
For visitors seeking an insight into traditional Kenyan culture, look no further than the Bomas of Kenya. Set amongst rich woodlands on Nairobi outskirts, the Bomas is a heritage village where the lifestyle, artistry and agricultural practices of various Kenyan tribes have been preserved. Interestingly, Barack Obama Senior, the father of the American president, founded the village.
Named as a result of the immense geothermal activity within its bounds, Hell’s Gate National Park is one of Africa’s most unusual: big predators are rare in the park allowing visitors to explore the savannah, Rift Valley cliff tops and rich tropical forests walking or by bicycle. While the park may lack lions, leopards and other carnivores, it more than makes up for this was vast numbers of zebra, hyrax and giraffe. For the best experience take a guided tour where you will also explore the park’s hot springs.
If the bustle of the big city is too much then take an overnight safari tour, which leave regularly from Nairobi, to get out into the pristine wilderness of the Rift Valley. Spread over two days, the safari takes you to one of a selection of game lodges, which are perched atop watering holes on stilts allowing for bird’s eye views of iconic African safari species.
Maasai's culture is ubiquitous throughout Kenya but there is no better place for exploring its rich heritage and recent revival than at Maasai Market located in the Ngong Hills. Run in partnership with One Horizon Africa, which seeks to alleviate poverty in South Africa and Kenya, the tour takes you to traditional craft markets and will teach you the ancient skills of Maasai jewelry making.
Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest city, is a largely workaday town that is rightly famed as a gateway to the dramatic landscapes of the Rift Valley. While the town’s colonial-era center and buzzing market place have their charms, the region’s main draw is Lake Nakuru National Park, which begins just a few kilometers beyond the city limits. One of Kenya’s hidden gems, the national park is one of the best locations for spotting the elusive white rhinos and has one of Africa’s largest colonies of flamingos. While the park was severely flooded in 2014, the drowned acacia forests are now one of Kenya’s most instantly recognizable and eerily beautiful landscapes.
As one of Africa’s most biologically diverse national parks, there is no shortage of wildlife at Lake Nakuru National Park. Guided tours of the pristine wilderness take you on game viewing safaris where you can catch glimpses of rare white rhinos roaming across the savannah and leopards lazing atop acacia trees in the midday sun. However, what makes Lake Nakuru stand out from other East African national parks is its colorful birdlife – including a vast population of pink flamingos that flock to the shallow warm waters to feed.
Just beyond the frenetic urban buzz of Nakuru is the tranquil volcanic crater of Menengai. Rising nearly 500 meters above the nearby city, the craggy cauldron shaped caldera offers breathtaking vistas of the Rift Valley countryside, a bird’s eye view of downtown Nakuru and the chance to spot some of Kenya’s iconic wildlife. Look out for the geothermal steam rising from the crater’s base, which is rumored to be the swirling souls of Maasai warriors.
One of Nakuru’s few genuine urban attractions, the Hyrax Hill Prehistoric Site is a fascinating glimpse into the last 3000 years of East African history. Excavations have been on going since the 1930s and have uncovered settlements dating back to the 1st millennium BC, including enigmatic burial mounds. Signage in the area is scarce, so local guides are highly recommended.