Malawi remains largely underrated when it comes to tourism, but it’s home to some of the most stunning landscapes of tree-covered mountains, pristine beaches (despite being landlocked) and a thriving wildlife population. Tourists that love to visit under-the-radar places gravitate toward the country for its unspoiled scenery devoid of tacky hotels and tourist traps. In addition, most residents in Malawi get around by bike or on foot, meaning there’s very little automobiles, making the roads safer for cyclists. While you can find safari jeep tours or go on a bush walk, biking in Malawi is highly recommended to get up close and personal with a country the rest of the world knows so little about.
Start with a cycling tour around Lake Malawi, a 47-mile wide lake that’s so large that you’ll feel like you’re at an ocean instead. There are paved roads nearby where cyclists can trek by the water to admire the emerald-green lake with visible underwater boulders that resemble manatees. The surrounding region is full of mountains, both dry and dense woodlands, and miles long of beaches for cyclists to park their bikes and lounge for a break. Just keep alert as Lake Malawi is known for being home to the Nile crocodiles and hippos. Or go to Lake Malawi National Park, with its own cycling trails through the wilderness where you can spot wildlife like antelopes, baboons, fish eagles, hyraxes and more.
Stay a night or two at Cape Maclear in the southern portion of Lake Malawi thats’ a popular resort area full of accommodations that appeal to cyclists. The Funky Cichlid is a “backpackers type” of hotel where adventurous tours are held and the nearby Thumbi View Lodge offers boat trips, snorkeling expeditions and sunset cruises. At Cape Maclear, you’ll meet other like-minded sports and nature enthusiasts with a passion for exploring, especially on bikes.
For a more remote atmosphere, consider Luwawa Mountain Bike Wilderness Trail to put your skills to the test. The route at Viphya Forest will take bikers through rugged woodlands and hilly terrain. It’s not a trail advised for beginners to tackle, but for seasoned riders to enjoy, since the route requires expertise to ride through shallow creeks and go uphill. Viphya Forest is also the largest man-made forest in all of Africa and guests can stay at nearby lodges like Luwawa Forest Lodge that overlooks the mountain ranges. The Luwawa Forest area is known for hosting its annual international mountain bike race in June, where avid cyclists from across the globe come to the country to partake in their favorite activity.
Another great biking destination is Malawi’s largest national park, Nyika National Park, 2500 meters above sea level and known for its wildlife. If you’re looking to combine your biking expedition with a safari tour, this is the place to be. Expect to spot animals like zebras, leopards, elephants, bush pigs, elands and up to 400 species of birds on your cycling route. The park is known for its remoteness and covers 1,250 square miles of woodlands. During your visit to the park, consider staying at Chelinda Camp, an affordable accommodation that’s popular among cyclists and offers cycling tours.
Malawi’s busiest city, Blantyre, has its fair share of cycling routes, going through both the concrete jungle and dense forests. Several cycling tours are offered in Blantyre where guests can be taken to a remote wilderness to go on a biking expedition led by a skilled guide. Planning a cycling trip around Blantyre means you won’t have to venture far after landing in its airport for an adventure, and there’s more accommodations to choose from if you decide to stay in the city instead of the countryside.
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