Malawi is one of the most under-rated countries in east Africa – maybe the most under-rated country. It’s beautiful, there’s a lot to do, and it’s quite cheap.
Climbing Mt. Mulanje (Mulanje) – A perfect way to get some exercise and spend a few days in the outdoors. Mt. Mulanje is gorgeous, the climb is strenuous but not unreasonably so, and Sapitwa Peak allows for beautiful views of Malawi and the Mozambique valley. It’s also incredibly inexpensive: park fees were 100 kwacha ($0.25 – really), and food/guide/hut/blanket/tip ended up being something like 6,000 kwacha ($15) per day.
Lake Malawi (Cape Maclear) – The definition of relaxing. Tucked away on the southern tip of Lake Malawi, Cape Maclear allows for the type of unabashed beach-bum laziness that you can’t get many places. We stayed at Malambe, which cost 1,600 kwacha ($4) a night for a dorm – nice place but infested (at the time) with biting ants. Also, pro tip for fellow members of Pale Force: wear sunscreen – even at 8:00 AM. Trust me.
Lake Malawi: Part Two (Nkhata Bay) – Just as beautiful as Cape Maclear, on the western edge of Lake Malawi. Stayed at Mayoka Village, a beautiful resort that was the best-run place we encountered in Malawi. We negotiated our way into the suite for 4,800 kwacha ($12) per person per night – the same price as the dorms. You can cook your own food on the grills, too.
Kusamala Permaculture Farm (Kumbali Village) – A relaxing respite from hostels and huts, this farm is wonderful. A ten-minute walk will take you to Kumbali Village, but you’ll probably be content to cook the produce you just picked from the farm. I don’t think they usually take people in, but will try to put you in contact with someone to get you started if you’re interested.
Places/Things I Wouldn’t Recommend – Lilongwe (it’s… fine, but certainly nothing special. If you’re flying in, spend a night there; otherwise, pass right through); Zomba (the Plateau is not worth going out of your way to see – if you do go, stay somewhere cheap and then go hang out at Sunbird Lodge); exchanging your money at the border (good as a general rule, too – you’re much more likely to get scammed)