Whether you’re wildlife-spotting on safari, hiking a dormant volcano or taking it easy on a tropical beach, Kenya delivers spectacular scenery at every stop. It’s a playground of picturesque vistas and vibrant culture, where the most pressing problem is which wild species or natural wonder to see first. From grassy plains to grand peaks, here’s our shortlist of unmissable landscapes in Kenya – hand-picked to help you plan a trip that’s packed with the very best views.
Kakamega Rainforest: Ancient Abundance
Once upon a time, a vast rainforest spanned the continent of Africa; a stripe of green stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Indian Ocean. Today, Kenya’s Kakamega rainforest is the only remaining part of that ancient Eden. In this centuries-old oasis, endangered colobus monkeys live in treetop troops, while giant forest hogs truffle in the undergrowth. It’s also one of the best landscapes in Kenya for birdwatching, so bring your binos to see how many of the 367 species you can spot. A self-guided hike into the heart of the forest brings you to the small yet scenic Isiukhu Falls and the Buyangu Hill lookout, which serves up sensational views of the canopy (top tip: this is extra-special at sunrise).
Amboseli National Park: Parades & Peaks
As national parks go, this one is top tier. The undisputed stars of the show are the large herds of elephants that call Amboseli home. Elephant sightings are pretty much guaranteed here, while wildebeest, zebras and the occasional lion or hyena might also put in an appearance. Wildlife watchers won’t leave disappointed, but it’s the scenery that makes this place truly magical. Amboseli sits in the foreground of Mount Kilimanjaro, making it one of the best vantage points for admiring Africa’s tallest peak. And though frequently covered in cloud, catch it at the right moment (typically dawn or dusk) and the mountain reveals itself in all its massive, majestic glory. Add the dusty silhouette of an elephant parade passing across the dramatic backdrop and there you have it – one of the most legendary landscapes in Kenya, right before your eyes.
Lamu Island: Castaway Culture
The beauty of Kenya’s tropical beaches shouldn’t be a surprise, as the country lies on the same latitude as the Maldives and Seychelles. For a beach break off the beaten track, where heavenly vistas reach for the horizon, we recommend the remote Lamu Island. A blend of Arab architecture, Chinese and Indian culture and dreamy shorelines have tempted travellers to Lamu since the 1960s, when it became a hippie hideaway. Fast forward to today and the tiny isle remains a relatively well-kept secret, so you can step from your boutique hotel onto the sugar-white sand in crowd-free comfort. The landscape of blue skies, blue seas and blue swimming pools ticks all the right boxes if you’re after paradise-like views. Meanwhile, the ancient Swahili settlement of Lamu Town is an enticing place to explore; a UNESCO-listed gem in an idyllic island setting.
Masai Mara: Safari Scenes
It wouldn’t be a round-up of unmissable landscapes in Kenya without the Masai Mara. The quintessential Masai Mara safari is on the don’t-miss list for many travellers. Spend the day spotting the Big Five, then retreat to your luxury lodge for ‘how incredible was that?’ chats over sundowners. And while the wildlife is undoubtedly the biggest draw, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the landscape of golden grasslands, flat-topped trees and gently undulating hills. Not to mention those big, blue skies. To experience the savannah from a fresh perspective and with a slower pace (no 4x4 needed), join a guided horse riding safari. See the scenery up close from your spot in the saddle – ticking off more must-see mammals as you trot.
Mount Longonot: Volcano in the Valley
The advanced and adrenaline-seeking trekker will be spoilt for choice in the East African Mountains. But if a multi-day expedition isn’t quite your thing, there are less arduous adventures to be had in this craggy and charismatic landscape. Mount Longonot is ideal day-trip-distance from Nairobi and can easily be tackled in half a day of hiking. An easy-to-follow trail takes you to the rim of this dormant volcano for brilliant views across the Great Rift Valley – the site of some of the most spectacular landscapes in Kenya. And although you can happily hike solo, we recommend partnering with a ranger for your walk, who will enhance every step with their local knowledge and wildlife-spotting skills.
Lake Turkana: Historic Shores
Sometimes called ‘the Jade sea’ for its milky-green hue, Lake Turkana is the largest permanent desert lake in the world; stretching almost 155 miles from north to south. It’s quite something to see the vast, turquoise-tinted expanse of water amid a bone-dry, sparsely-populated desert. And it’s also quite something to swim in it, and a welcome relief from the heat. But this dramatic, desolate landscape hides more than meets the eye. The lake has been uniquely important to our understanding of human ancestry, with a treasure trove of early human fossils discovered along its shoreline. This rich history earned the lake and surrounding national park UNESCO World Heritage status. See it for yourself to tick another natural wonder off your Kenyan wish list.