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A Magical Kenya Itinerary (Plus Things To See & Do)

Kenya Itinerary - Helen in WonderlustKenya is an incredible and diverse country, perfect for an introduction to Africa travel.

Kenya is one of those countries that really has it all – great safaris, excellent beaches, mountains, traditional culture and modern cities.

My ideal Kenya itinerary would involve some time on safari at the beginning of the trip, as well as time at the beach at the end of the trip. The options are endless, so here are a few ideas to get you started planning your own Kenya itinerary.

Getting Around Kenya

One thing you need to consider when planning your Kenya itinerary, is how you will get around.

Kenya is a relatively easy country to travel by public transport. There are good coaches between major cities, smaller minibuses known as matatus that go everywhere and even an excellent train network between Nairobi and Mombasa. There are also lots of taxis and in Nairobi, Uber is a popular way to get around.

However, as travel here often involves safaris, sometimes taking a tour is a more efficient option, saving you time and money, and not wasting precious time on your Kenya holiday trying to find groups to join.

I would try to avoid matatus for long journeys as they are not known for being the safest or most comfortable method of transport.

If you are heading up towards Lake Turkana, check the safety situation on the ground and between Malindi and Lamu, it is advisable to fly.

Shimba Hills, Kenya - Helen in WonderlustWhen To Visit  Kenya

Kenya is best visited during the dry season from June to October. I would avoid the rainy season from mid-March to May. January and February can also be quite nice, although pretty hot.

If you’re hoping to see the Great Migration in the Masai Mara, July to September is usually the best time although this year the herds have arrived early in June.

Things To Do in Nairobi - Helen in Wonderlust

How Long to Spend in Kenya

On this Kenya itinerary, you’ll find a ton of different places to visit, as well as lots of things to do. Kenya has it all!

Kenya is a big country and it would be impossible to see it all in a one or two-week trip. But, with a couple of weeks, you can definitely get a good feel for the country.

Under each location, I’ve suggested the minimum amount of time I recommend you spend there. The itinerary below would take around a month, but if you’re on a shorter trip, you can just miss certain places out.

For instance, Kenya is very safari heavy, so you could easily just pick 1 or 2 safari destinations and then spend the rest of your time soaking up the atmosphere in Nairobi or on the coast, near to Mombasa.

Amboseli National Park, KenyaCombining Kenya & Tanzania

Kenya & Tanzania can easily be combined in one trip, but again, these countries are huge, so you won’t be able to see everything in 2 weeks, but you’ll still be able to have an incredible trip.

My Rock My Kenya & Tanzania Adventure tour takes in the major highlights of both countries – so definitely consider that if you want to maximise your time and let someone else (me) sort out of the logistics.

Check out my Kenya & Tanzania itinerary here and my Tanzania itinerary here.

Rock My Kenya Adventure


A Magical Kenya Itinerary (Plus Things To See & Do)


If you only have 2 Weeks…

  • Nairobi: 2 – 3 Days
  • The Masai Mara: 3 – 4 Days
  • Amboseli National Park: 1 – 2 Days
  • Mombasa: 1 – 2 Days
  • Kilifi: 2 – 3 Days
  • Diani Beach: 2 – 3 Days

This is the itinerary for the Rock My Kenya Adventure.

If you have longer you could add in…

  • Samburu National Reserve: 2 – 3 Days
  • Lake Turkana: 5 – 7 Days
  • Mount Kenya National Park: 4 – 6 Days
  • Ol Pejeta: 1 – 2 Days
  • Lake Naivasha & Hell’s Gate National Park: 2 – 3 Days
  • Watamu & Malindi: 2 – 3 Days
  • Lamu: 2 – 3 Days

The Nairobi Giraffe Centre - Helen in Wonderlust

Nairobi

Nairobi may seem a bit intimidating for a first-timer to Africa, but it’s actually a great city. The first time I visited I wasn’t that impressed as it just seemed crowded, busy and congested.

But I’ve been back many times since then and now it feels like home. It’s still crowded and hectic, but it is also vibrant, exciting and full of adventure, I just didn’t see it the first time around.

Nairobi is the perfect place to begin or end your Kenya trip and you can either head straight out of Nairobi and come back later or spend a few days there first before you go on safari.

Where to Stay in Nairobi: I usually stay at either Wildebeest Eco Camp which is a great place for groups and families. They have dorm tents too so perfect for solo travellers. If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, Anga Afrika is a great choice. Their beds are super comfy and they even bring you a hot water bottle at night. If you want to stay in the city centre, try After 40 for a mid-range option, or treat yourself and stay in Villa Rosa Kempinski (city centre), Tribe Hotel (Gigiri) or Hemingways Nairobi (Karen). Check out some other options here.

Things To Do in Nairobi: Visit the Nairobi Giraffe Centre, see the baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, visit the markets (there are plenty), visit Nairobi National Park and do a walking tour of the city. Have a read of my ‘Things To Do in Nairobi‘ post for more ideas.

Time Needed: 2 – 3 days.


READ MORE: 25 Awesome Things To Do in Nairobi


Mount Kenya National Park - Helen in WonderlustMount Kenya National Park

Near to the Samburu National Reserve lies Mount Kenya, Kenya’s highest mountain at 5,199 metres – in fact, it’s the second highest mountain in Africa.

Reaching the summit requires technical climbing, so most trekkers head to the 3rd highest peak, Point Lenana which usually takes between 4 and 6 days. Shorter treks are also available. Most trekkers start from the town of Naro Moru.

If you’re feeling less energetic you can take a helicopter ride over the summit. Flights usually depart from Nanyuki.

Where to Stay in Mount Kenya National park: Some treks offer transfers from Nairobi but if you want to stay closer, try the Noro Moru River Lodge.

Things To Do at Mount Kenya: Hike or climb Mount Kenya, take a helicopter ride over the summit or visit the nearby Meru National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy or Aberdare National Park.

Time Needed: 4 – 6 days if climbing the mountain. More if you want to stay somewhere close the night before and after your trek or want to visit some of the other nearby areas, less if you are just passing through and doing a day hike.

Umoja Women's Village, Samburu National Reserve - Helen in Wonderlust

Samburu National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve lies around 300km north of Nairobi on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River.

Believe it or not, Samburu Reserve in Kenya was the first safari I ever went on back in 2009. I cried when I saw an elephant in the wild for the first time. It was such a special moment in my life.

When I was there, we also visited the Umoja Women’s Village, an initiative set up by a lady called Rebecca Lolosoli. The project was set up to help women and girls from the Samburu tribe who are the victims of violence from their husbands or forced into marriage with older men from a very young age.

If you don’t fancy the drive, you can fly up to Samburu from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.

Where to Stay in Samburu National Reserve: For a truly local experience, you can stay at one of the Samburu women’s villages, alternatively I’d recommend Sabache Camp. For an upmarket stay, have a look at the wonderful Elephant Bedroom Camp. Check out some other options here.

Things To Do in Samburu National Reserve: Go on safari and visit the Umoja Women’s Village (see a Youtube video about the village here) visit the Unity Women’s Village.

Time Needed: 2 – 3 Days.

Lake Turkana Cultural Festival

Photo Credit: Mara Explorers

Lake Turkana

Remote Lake Turkana, also known as the ‘Jade Sea’, doesn’t find itself on many Kenya itineraries, but it can be an amazing adventure for the intrepid traveller, especially if you venture up there during the Lake Turkana Festival which takes place in June (usually – they have been known to move it).

The Lake Turkana Cultural Festival was created to help relations between the different tribes who live within the region and promote ‘cross-cultural interaction, harmony, cohesion, integration, cooperation and trading’.

At the festival, you will have the opportunity to observe and interact with people from around 14 remote Kenyan tribal groups, including the El Molo, Randille, Samburu and Turkana as well as learn about their way of life.

This is definitely something special if you can squeeze it into your Kenya itinerary.

Just keep an eye on the safety warnings around the region and seek local advice before you drive up there.

Where to Stay in Lake Turkana: The festival takes place in Loiyangalani. If you’re on a budget, camping is usually the best option – there is very little infrastructure so it is best to be self-sufficient. Don’t fancy camping, try Malabo Resort. On the other side of the lake, the most reliable option is Eliye Springs Resort.

Things To Do in Lake Turkana: See the Teleki volcano, fishing, prehistorical visits, boat rides, bird watching, tribal visits and of course, the Lake Turkana Festival.

Time Needed: 5 – 7 days. The festival lasts for 3 days and it will probably take you a good couple of days to get up there and a couple of days to back down (even without stops), so allow a week altogether, unless you fly. Samburu, Mount Kenya or Ol Pejeta are good places to stop en route.

Black Rhino in Kenya - Helen in WonderlustOl Pejeta Conservancy

Old Pejeta is a privately owned wildlife conservancy to the west of Mount Kenya National Park. The reserve houses the largest population of the endangered black rhino in East Africa (there are around 110) so sightings are almost guaranteed and you can even go horse riding through the reserve, allowing you to get close to the animals without scaring them, that includes the rhinos.

The great thing about this conservancy is that you don’t have to be staying there to visit. You can just pay to visit for the day. One of the main highlights is the waterhole at Sweetwaters Serena Camp where you will often see rhino coming to drink.

Where to Stay in Ol Pejeta: There are a number of campsites and lodges available. For tented lodges try Kicheche Laikipia or Sweetwaters Serena Camp. Check out some other nearby options here.

Things To Do In Ol Pejeta Conservancy: As well as seeing black rhinos, there are lots of other activities at Ol Pejeta, including cycling safaris, lion tracking night drives and the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Time Needed: 1 – 2 days.

Giraffe in Masai Mara, Kenya - Helen in Wonderlust

Lake Naivasha & Hell’s Gate National Park

The next stop on this Kenya itinerary is around Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park.

On the way, you could stop at Thomson Falls, which lies between Ol Pejeta and Lake Naivasha, either for a picnic stop or an overnight stay if coming from further away.

Naivasha town lies on the shores of Lake Naivasha. Nearby you’ll find the wonderful Hell’s Gate National Park, said to be the inspiration for the Lion King due to its dramatic landscape. What’s also special about Hell’s Gate, is that you can take cycling safaris allowing you to get a completely different safari perspective.

Naivasha is also close to the extinct Mount Longonot which can be climbed in a few hours and offers great views over Lake Naivasha, as well as Elsamere, home of Joy Adamson, the writer of Born Free.

Lake Nakuru

At one time, I would have definitely said to go to Lake Nakuru, which used to be famous for its flamingos, however, rising water levels have forced the flamingos to move to Lake Bogoria (around 4 hours north) and pollution from the nearby town has also had a negative effect – it’s very sad. Whilst it’s still a good place to see rhino and there are a couple of wonderful viewpoints, I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there if I was already going to Mara or Ol Pejeta. Read more here.

Where to Stay in Naivasha: There are a number of campsites and lodges available. The most popular budget option is Camp Carnelly’s. Other options include Elsamere Lodge or Enashipai, which means ‘state of happiness’ in the Maasai language.

Things To Do In Naivasha: Go cycling at Hell’s Gate National Park, take a dip in the Ol Karia Geothermal spa, see the flamingos at Lake Oloiden, take a boat out on the Lake Naivasha, go walking on Crescent Island, visit Elsamere and climb Mount Longonot.

Time Needed: 2 – 3 days.

Masai Mara Safari - Helen in WonderlustThe Masai Mara 

Next stop on our Kenya itinerary is the incredible Masai Mara, home to the ‘Big Five’ and arguably the most famous safari destination in the world.

As well as game drives through the park, you can take a balloon ride to see it all from above (with a champagne breakfast at the end), which especially cool if you time it when the Great Migration is passing through – this varies slightly from year to year, but usually happens around July, August & September.

If you want an amazing and varied Masai Mara safari, I’d definitely recommend coming along on my Rock My Kenya Adventure. It’s a really special and awesome trip (if I do say so myself)!

Where to Stay in the Masai Mara: My favourite place to stay is Mara Explorers Camp, as it’s comfortable, personable and reasonably priced. But you’re looking for something more upmarket, I would recommend Governor’s CampFig Tree CampMara Siria Luxury Tented CampKilima Camp or Angama Mara. Check out some other options here.

Cool Things To Do: Go on safari, spend time with the Maasai, go hot-air ballooning, horse riding and visit the Sekenani township.

Time Needed: 3 – 4 days. It takes at least half a day to get to and from the Masai Mara by road (from Nairobi), so I would suggest spending at least 3 nights here. You can save a bit of time by flying into Keekorok Airstrip and I believe they are considering making this an international airport… watch this space.


READ MORE: How to Experience the Masai Mara on a Budget


Amboseli National Park, Kenya - Helen in WonderlustAmboseli National Park

When planning your Kenya itinerary, you should definitely consider Amboseli National Park.

Amboseli is special for a couple of reasons, firstly for having one of the densest elephant populations in the world, and secondly for the fact that it lies at the base of Kilimanjaro, which provides an incredible backdrop for all of your photos. Simply magical!

Unless you fly between the Mara and Amboseli, you’ll probably need to stop over in Nairobi, otherwise, it would be a very long travel day.

Alternatively, you could also visit Tsavo National Park which is a little bit further on towards Mombasa.

Where to Stay in Amboseli National Park: My favourite place to stay in Amboseli is this lodge which has great views of Kili from the rooms. If you’re a fan of eco-camps, you might like to stay here.

Things To Do in Amboseli National Park: Go on safari, admire Kilimanjaro, visit the Maasai people.

Time Needed: 1 – 2 days. Allow yourself at least 1 full day to really enjoy your safari.


READ MORE: Amboseli National Park – Kenya’s Most Iconic Unknown Destination


Mombasa Old Town - Helen in WonderlustMombasa

Mombasa is a fantastic coastal city, with a very different feel to Nairobi. Whereas Nairobi is a very cosmopolitan, Mombasa has a distinct old-world, meets new-world Swahili flavour.

Mombasa is steeped in history, being one of the oldest and busiest ports on the African continent and is a great place to immerse yourself in Swahili culture.

Take a tour of the city and enjoy some of the great restaurants and bars too.

If you don’t go through Amboseli or Tsavo, you can easily get the train from Nairobi to Mombasa. Alternatively, you can also jump on the train at various different towns, including Voi, near to Tsavo National park. Booking in advance is advisable as the train almost always books up.

Where to Stay in Mombasa: The main backpacker hangout in Mombasa is Tulia House. If you want somewhere reasonably priced, with nice views and close to town, check out this place. There are some other options here.

Things To Do In Mombasa: Take a city tour, see the Mombasa tusks, visit Uhuru Park, explore the spice market, visit Fort Jesus and the Old Town, shop for souvenirs, visit Haller Park and visit the Nguuni Wildlife Sanctuary.

Time Needed: 1 – 2 days.

5 Week Kenya & Tanzania BudgetLamu

Lamu, in northern Kenya, is A UNESCO World Heritage Site and possibly the best place in the world to experience the traditional Swahili culture – even more so than Mombasa or Stone Town in Zanzibar.

Visitors to this sleepy island often spend much longer here than they intend to, sucked in by the laidback way of life.

Spend your days getting lost in the alleyways, relaxing on the beaches and immersing yourself in this intoxicating place.

Lamu also has a number of great festivals, including the Lamu Cultural Festival, the Lamu Yoga Festival and the Maulid Festival.

The road to Lamu is not known for being very safe, so it is advisable to fly. You can catch a flight from Nairobi, Mombasa or Malindi. Once you arrive, it’s a short ferry ride to Lamu from Manda Island.

Where to Stay in Lamu: People usually base themselves either in Lamu Town or Shela (a 45-minute walk from Lamu Town). I’d recommend Banana House and Wellness Centre, JamboHouse or Fatumas Tower.

Things To Do in Lamu: Wander through Lamu town, visit the market, the fort or the museum, take a dhow trip, go to a festival, relax on Shela Beach and visit the donkey sanctuary.

Time Needed: 3 days, maybe more if your itinerary permits.

Helen in WonderlustWatamu & Malindi

North of Kilifi, you’ll find Watamu and Malindi, two beautiful beach towns and popular Kenya holiday destinations, both with plenty of activities, hotels and restaurants to keep you busy for a good few days, if not longer.

I’m putting these two together because they are so close to each other (approx 30 mins) – so you could stay in one place and enjoy both. Kilifi is also nearby, but Kilifi holds a special place in my heart, so Kilifi gets a section of its own.

You can fly to Malindi from Lamu or Nairobi, or you can get a local minibus (matatu) from Mombasa.

Where to Stay in Watamu & Malindi: Most of the accommodations are resort-style. Try White Elephant Sea Lodge in Malindi or Merry Crab Cove (budget) or Kobe Suite (mid-range).

Things To Do In Watumu & Malindi: Visit Arabuko Sokoke Forest, go scuba diving or snorkelling at either Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, explore the Gedi Ruins, relax on Golden Beach, hang out at Osteria Beach Restaurant, visit the Marafa Depression and do some watersports (SUP, surfing, kite surfing).

Time Needed: 2 days + (more if you can).

Kilifi Creek - Helen in Wonderlust

Kilifi sunsets.

Kilifi

One of my favourite places in Kenya (and possibly Africa) is Kilifi, a town north of Mombasa.

I think a lot of this has to do with the incredible backpackers there, which is called Distant Relatives Ecolodge & Backpackers. It is truly is backpackers paradise and I’ve known many a person to go there for a couple of days and leave weeks, even months later.

The friendly, laid back-vibe tends to attract a lot of cool people including locals, independent travellers, so there’s always something going on and someone to hang out with.

You can spend your time relaxing in a hammock, swimming in the creek or the pool or taking a day trip out somewhere – there’s lots to do in Kilifi.

Again, you could stay in Kilifi and easily explore Watamu and Malindi from there, but I guess your Kenya itinerary will depend on how much time you have – but the options are there!

Where to Stay in Kilifi: Distant Relatives Ecolodge & Backpackers – not even suggesting anywhere else. 🙂

Things To Do in Kilifi: See the bioluminescence in the waters of Kilifi Creek, relax on Bofa Beach, sail on a traditional dhow boat, visit Vuma Cliffs, go snorkelling or scuba diving, go on a village tour, play volleyball, do yoga, relax or hang by the pool.

Time Needed: How long is a piece of string? On a serious note, at least 2 full days.

Diani Beach, KenyaDiani Beach

You can end your Kenya holiday in Diani, one of those picture perfect locations, known for beautiful blue seas and white, sandy beaches. Diani is a popular honeymoon spot, as well as a backpacker favourite, so it’s a great place to add to your Kenya itinerary.

Whether you’re looking to relax, get adventurous or party – there’s something for everyone.

The trade winds make Diani a popular spot for kite surfing and it’s also one of the best places for sky diving in Africa.

At night, the backpackers tend to gather at Forty Thieves which is always fun, especially on the weekend.

Where to Stay in Diani Beach: There are so many wonderful hotels, guesthouses and backpackers in Diani so you’ll be spoilt for choice. For budget travellers, I would recommend Stilts or Diani Backpackers. For mid-range, try Flamboyant or Diani Blue. For a more luxury stay, I love The Zubeida, AfroChic or The Sands at Nomad. If you have a big group, I would suggest Diani Villa, which is owned by the same family who owns Anga Afrika in Nairobi – really nice people. You can find more options here.

Things To Do in Diani Beach: Go skydiving, explore Shimba Hills National Reserve, take a dhow trip to Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park, relax on the beach and go dancing at Forty Thieves.

Time Needed: 2 – 3 days.

I hope this helps you plan an amazing Kenya itinerary! Got any questions? Leave them in the comments below!


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Kenya Itinerary - Helen in Wonderlust Kenya Itinerary - Helen in Wonderlust

Plan Your Trip to Kenya

Getting There: The main airports are Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airport. You may want to start and end your Kenya itinerary in two different cities, I always search for flights on Skyscanner as they allow you to search multi-city flights.

Travel Insurance:This is Africa and medical care is not free. If you get injured or fall sick, you will have to pay for your medical care which could be very expensive, so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all aspects of your trip. I recommend World NomadsOutbacker, or InsureandGo.

Resources: I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks usually travel with one wherever I go.

Tours: Don’t fancy going it alone? Join a small group tour and come on the Rock My Kenya Adventure tour.

What To Pack: See my comprehensive Africa Packing List.

Read More About Kenya:

See all Kenya posts here.


Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

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