Hiking up to the former utopia of Livingstonia from Lake Malawi

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 10
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
55th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class


In 1875, Christian missionaries tried to create a utopian town in what at the time must have felt like the heart of the African continent.  Naming it Livingstonia after David Livingston, the embodiment of the pioneer African coloniser, they originally settled at Cape Maclear on the south shores of Lake Malawi, but were forced to abandon the settlement because of malaria and instead looked for a spot further up in the mountains.  The spot they found not only avoided malaria, but, because it was up in the mountains on a plain that had a different climate, provided farming opportunities.  The missionaries had indeed found the right sight for their vision of Livingstonia utopia


Today, Livingstonia still has that vibe with its tree-lined streets, cooler climate, former colonial buildings such as the church and museum, and separation from the main road that hugs the west shore of Lake Malawi.  More than anything, it just feels like a trip to what another future of Africa could have looked like, and a very pleasant detour from the usual spots in Malawi


To get there – you’ve basically got the option of walking from the lake (15km / 9.5miles, will take around 3.5hours and an elevation gain of 850m / 2800ft) or driving up the very windy and bumpy road (takes around an hour).  My suggestion is to do a combo of both – get a ride up to the Mushroom Farm Ecolodge, which breaks up the ascent so you only have 7km / 4.5miles and 1.5hours with 220m / 720ft of incline to get to Livingstonia.  From here, you can check out the views, the waterfall and the farmland around you without the uphill slog – bear in mind it gets very hot in Malawi!

Where to stay – the Mushroom Farm Ecolodge is the obvious option as it could break up your journey to Livingstonia, but I’d also highly recommend staying by the lake in one of the various campsites nearby.  We camped for 2 nights there and you also have the option of rooms available at places like the Hakuna Matata Hostel.  It felt quite magical being able to wake up and kayak around this quiet section of lake and a bit of a must if heading up to Livingstonia


#1 The views of the lake and all the way across to Mozambique 40km / 25miles away

#2 The challenge of the hike with some fairly steep inclines . . . or the ride up to halfway and far more pleasant stroll - your choice!

#3 Seeing some of the locals living in and around Livingstonia who, because of the fewer tourists that visit here, get that wee bit more excited to see you

#4 Checking out the very different farmland that sits up in the mountains and sharp contrast to that by the lakeside

#5 The views out from the splendid Machewe waterfalls, which are on the way on the hike to Livingstonia

#6 Seeing the gorgeous plateau that Livinstonia is based on from from the lakeside roads

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone