Malawi is a hidden gem! It is the unique combination of landscape, wildlife, lake and, of course, the people which makes Malawi one of Africa's most amazing countries. This is one of the safest and friendliest countries in the whole of Africa, offering the visitor a fascinating variety of sights and experiences. The diversity of landscapes, the huge lake and the national parks and reserves provide the foundation for the unrivalled choice of safaris, water sports and outdoor activities on offer!
Malawi is one of Africa's smaller countries, with about 20% of its area occupied by Lake Malawi - Africa's third biggest lake. Malawi's northern boundary comes within nine degrees of the equator, with Tanzania lying to the north, Zambia to the west and Mozambique to the east and south.
Its highest peaks in Malawi touch 3.000 metres while the lowlands are barely above sea level.
The Malawian people are without a doubt its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. With a population of a little more than 14 million, Malawi is one of the more densely peopled countries of this part of Africa. Most of the population is rural, living largely in fascinating traditional villages. Many of today's Malawians are descendants of the Bantu people who moved across Africa and into Malawi for hundreds of years up to the fifteenth century.
There is a rich cultural mix in Malawi with the Chewa being the most numerous tribe. Others include the Yao, the Nyanja and the Maravi. In the north, the Tumbuka are prominent. Traditional (African) doctors still attract many people and the two main "modern" religions, Christianity and Islam, frequently exhibit a continuing adherence to traditional beliefs.
The national language is Chichewa, official language is English.
Lilongwe was made Malawi's capital in 1975. The Old Town is distinct from the new Capital City, the two parts are separated by a wildlife sanctuary. While the former retains some of the appearance of a traditional African settlement, the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world. Its gleaming modern buildings, in their spacious garden-like settings, contrast with the hustle and bustle of the Old Town.
Karonga is furthest north with a fascinating new museum telling something of the interesting history of the area back to prehistoric times. The skeletal remains of the Malawisaurus dinosaur have been unearthed nerby as have been the oldest human remains in the country. Karonga's 19th Century history is equally of interest.
Dedza is a wonderful forest town, overlooked by the Dedza mountain and surrounded by the hills south-east of Lilongwe. As well as the scenic beauty, the town is home to the Dedza Pottery where craftsmen can be viewed in the workshops and factory, producing a variety of items. With a charming tea shop selling delicious cakes, the pottery is a popular stop between Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Nkhotakota is often described as the largest traditional village in Africa and rich in history. Visited by Dr. Livingstone in 1863, it was then a centre for the slave trade. In 1960 it was chosen by Dr. Banda for his first political rally on his release from prison prior to Malawi gaining independence.
Blantyre has its origins with the Scottish missionaries and was named after David Livingstone's birthplace. The centre of Blantyre is compact with most services and shops around a triangular core. Attractions include a major museum, a church with Livingstone connections, some interesting old colonial buildings and the shops and markets. There is an international airport just out of town.
Zomba, former capital and seat of government of Malawi lies in a beautiful setting below the plateau of the same name. As well as being home to the University of Malawi, Zomba has some interesting buildings such as the old Gymkhana Club, the barracks of what were the King's African Rifles (now the Malawi Rifles), the old parliament and one of the country's State Houses.
The area of Africa now known as Malawi had a very small population of hunter gatherers before waves of Bantu-speaking people began emigrating from the north around the 10th century. Although most of the Bantu people continued south, some remained permanently and founded tribes based on common ancestry.
Soon after 1600, with the area mostly united under one native ruler, native tribesmen began encountering, trading with and making alliances with Portuguese traders and members of military. By 1700, however, the empire had broken up into areas controlled by many individual tribes.
David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi in 1859 as the first European. 1891 Malawi became a British protectorate, 1907 it was changed to the colony Njassaland.
In 1953 Njassaland became a member of the Central African Federation, on 6th July 1964 the country gained its independence as Malawi. Under its first president Banda and the Malawi Congress Party it was ruled dictatorically. The dictatorship ended in 1993 with a peaceful referendum, which lead to free elections in 1994.
Malawi is among the world's least-developed and most-densely populated countries. Around 85% of the population live in rural areas. The economy is based on agriculture, and more than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues result from this.
The main agricultural products of Malawi include tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats. The main industries are tobacco, tea and sugar processing, sawmill products, cement and consumer goods. The country makes no significant use of natural gas.
Other exported goods are cotton, peanuts, wood products and apparel. The main destination locations for the country's exports are South Africa, Germany, Egypt, Zimbabwe, the United States, Russia and the Netherlands.