Take your trip to Kenya to the next level by eschewing popular tourist locations for a more educational immersion into its rich history and culture. From ancient forts, to mysterious caves, to town centers, there’s something for every history buff in this country. Read on to see what historic sites in Kenya you can include in your itinerary.
1. Gedi Ruins, Malindi
Once a thriving community featuring advanced architecture, its ruins now stand defiant against the years serving as testimony to the greatness that once was. Catch a glimpse through the ages with a visit to this coastal time capsule and official UNESCO World Heritage site.
2. Shimoni Slave Caves, Kwale
The Shimoni slave caves are among the last reminders of the grim reality of slave trade in East Africa. Once a hiding place for locals on the run from slave hunters, the caves were repurposed by Arab slave traders as holding pens where the unfortunate would be held for two to three weeks before being shipped to Zanzibar. Get a sobering look at part of Africa’s dark history during your visit to Kenya, in Kwale.
3. Fort Jesus, Mombasa
Portuguese architecture stands the test of time with Fort Jesus. Brush up on your history, and get some of the most amazing photos doing it.
4. Mombasa Old Town, Mombasa
After Fort Jesus, give yourself a tour of Old Town that has stood since 1572 and see the medley of architecture that gives the area an old world glamour that is hard to duplicate.
5. Hell’s Gate National park, Naivasha
Don’t let the name fool you. Hell’s Gate National Park is home to a variety of unique fauna, flora and geological features, ranging from stunning obsidian caves cut in glassy black rock to the Lower Gorge. Between Fischer Tower, shrouded in local mythology and natural hot springs and geysers, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
6. Paradise Lost, Limuru
Home to sprawling gardens, a campsite and fishing provisions, Paradise Lost (as it’s known to locals) also holds a surprising secret. Presently lit by a feeble electrical bulb system, it is easy to imagine when this labyrinth was home to freedom fighters.
7. Lamu Old Town, Lamu
Often playing host to major Muslim religious festivals, Lamu is and continues to serve as a major hub for Islamic and Swahili cultures and religion. Boasting the iconic Swahili architecture and traditions passed down from over 700 years of continued habitation, Lamu is a well preserved slice of history waiting to be devoured.
8. Koobi Fora, Turkana
East Africa is home to some of the most important archaeological and paleontological sites in the world, providing insights into the origin of our species. Koobi fora is a region around Koobi Fora Ridge where exciting fossils have been found, including hominid remains over three million years old.
9. Meru Museum, Meru
This compact museum in Meru was established to conserve the culture and traditional practices of the local Meru people. Displays include cultural and technological artifacts that were discovered at the important prehistoric site at Lewa Downs. There is also a traditional Meru homestead to provide an insight into how the local people live.
10. Nairobi Railway Museum, Nairobi
Established in 1971, this museum sets out to preserve the story of railway construction in East Africa through the preservation and display of relics and early records. You’ll see the carriage that was used in the hunt for the Man Eating Lions of Kima as well as old locomotives from the glory days of steam.
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This article was originally published June 30, 2014.