Lilongwe is the capital and the largest city of Malawi. The city is named after the Lilongwe River, on the banks of which it has existed for centuries as a small fishing village. Lilongwe was the British Colonial administrative center in the beginning of the 20th century. It was so chosen due to its desirable location near Lake Malawi and other important commercial cities. After Malawi attained independence in 1964, Zomba initially became the capital until 1974, when Lilongwe succeeded it. This capital city is undoubtedly emerging as the economic capital of the nation, being the processing, selling and buying center of the tobacco industry in Malawi. Lilongwe has seen an unprecedented growth in population, making it the most populous city in 2008. Currently it is home to 902,388 residents. Chichewa is the official language of Malawi, though Chinyanja, Chiyao and Chitumbuka are widely spoken. Christianity is the predominant religion here.
Lilongwe is situated in the center of Malawi and is close to the borders with Zambia and Mozambique. It sits on a plateau at an elevation of 1,050 meters above sea level, on the banks of the river Lilongwe. Spreading over an area of 6,159 sq. km, the city is divided into the Old Town in the south and the New Town in the north with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary in between.
How to Reach (Transport) :
Lilongwe is served by the Kamuzu International Airport or Lilongwe International Airport that has regular flights to numerous cities like Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, and Nairobi. Domestic flights to Blantyre are available on Air Malawi and Swiftair. The airport is a 30-40 minutes' drive from the city and taxis are easily available. Lilongwe can also be reached by buses running from several neighboring cities on the borders.
Taxis and minibuses are available to travel within the city. Minibuses are cheap and give an opportunity to know the locals and the co-passengers.
When to Visit :
Lilongwe experiences a humid subtropical climate with warm summers and mild winters. Due to the altitude temperatures are comparatively lower. The best time to visit this city is between May-August, as the temperatures are cooler during these months with less or no rainfall.
Fairs and Festivals :
Malawi has a rich and fascinating culture owing to the wide range of ethnic tribes residing there. The following are some of the festivals celebrated by the citizens of Lilongwe:
- Chilimike, or New Year, is celebrated on January 1 as a public holiday all over the country.
- Martyrs Day is observed on March 3 in remembrance of those who had lost their lives while struggling for independence from British colonial rule.
- Republic Day is a national holiday that celebrates the attainment of the status of a democratic republic by the nation on July 6, 1964.
- Malapenga Dance Season, held in August, is a celebration of the traditional dance form of Malawi. It is one of the most-awaited events of the year that showcases the rich heritage of the country.
- Lake of Stars Festival is a four-day long event held along the shore of Lake Malawi. This is an international music festival and the proceeds are donated to the local charities.
Points of Interest (Places to Visit) :
Lilongwe is a land of natural flora and fauna that can be seen in the numerous reserves and parks.
- The most popular tourist attraction in Lilongwe is the Nature Sanctuary, a peaceful wilderness sprawling out from the Lingadzi River. Crocodiles, hyenas, monkeys and many more can be easily spotted here.
- The Parliament Building was once the presidential palace in Lilongwe. It is now open to tourists for guided tours.
- The main market is a must-visit if one wishes to experience the vibe of local chaotic life. Local handicrafts and fresh products are easily available here.
- The Kumbali Cultural Center must be visited to see the traditional Malawian dance. Live acoustic Malawian music performances and traditional dinner are also available.
- A short day trip can be made to Mount Mulanje. Breathtaking waterfalls dot the spectacular cliffs of bare rock. It is one of the best places for hiking in the region.
- The Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including zebras, pukus and impalas.
- The Liwonde National Park is also worth a visit.
Accommodation facilities are easily available in various price ranges. Cresta Crossroads Hotel and Capital Hotel are among the best luxury hotels in the area. They offer some of the best modern amenities like a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, fast speed internet and a shopping mall nearby. The Kibko Town Hotel, Korea Garden Lodge and Mufasa Hotel are the more affordable ones present in Lilongwe. If one is looking for an adventurous camping experience, then the two options available are Mabuya Camp and Lilongwe Golf Club.
Last Updated : January 22, 2014