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14 best things to do in Kenya

buffalo in Kenya, safari

A certified jewel of East Africa, visiting Kenya is one of those must-do things in your lifetime. From the beautiful sunrises and sunsets to the incredible culture that threads itself through the country, and of course the unmissable safaris, Kenya is the perfect playground for any seasoned traveller.

If you’re unsure where to get started, though, this is our guide for the 14 best things to do in Kenya, and we’ve solicited the help of one of Contiki’s trusted Trip Managers, Haron, who lives and breathes his country.

1. Go for a hot air balloon ride

Starting off strong, if you want to be absolutely floored upon your arrival then a trip aboard a hot air balloon is exactly what you need (and you can do it on our Kenyan Highlights trip!). First of all, how often do hot air balloon opportunities come around? Not that often! So you’ve got to seize the moments when they come.

But when you get on a hot air balloon ride with Contiki you’ll be viewing the gorgeous Maasai Mara from above and you’ll honestly never want to come back down. Open skies, lush plains, and wildlife at every corner. Wow, wow, WOW.

hot air balloon ride in Kenya

Image source:Contiki

2. Visit Maasai Mara National Park

And on that note, you can’t very well visit Kenya without hitting up one of the world’s most famous National Reserves. It would honestly be a crime, and yes our Trip Managers are trained in law enforcement – so no messing around! 

Maasai Mara is the best place to go for a lazy game drive through the bush to spot the elusive safari Big 5 and have your chance to see majestic lions and fashionable zebras IRL. Our Kenyan Highlights trip offers safaris basically all day every day, so you’re really being spoiled here. 

3. Safari. All. Day. Long.

Did someone order heaven with a side of bliss? If you loved Maasai Mara the first time you’ll love it the second and third and fourth and fifth and… There’s no amount of safari you could do that’ll turn the sight of prowling lion cubs learning how to pounce old and tired. This is 100% one of the best things to do in Kenya.

sleeping lions on safari in Kenya

Image source:Amy Irwin

4. Get to know Swahili culture

The Swahili live along the coasts of East Africa in various countries, but a large concentration are found in Kenya, and we highly recommend getting to know them while you’re there. Swahili culture is incredibly diverse due to the many roots that it comes from: for example, it pulls influences from Arabic and Indian cultures.

Kiswahili is also the national language of Kenya, and though a lot of people you encounter in tourist areas will be able to speak English, it’s nice to pick up a few phrases here and there if you can. And who better to teach you than a person from that culture?

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5. Learn about Maasai people

Kenya isn’t just about the cutest baby animals you wish you could sneak past security, it’s also about deep cultural practices and traditions. One way to really appreciate the countries where you choose to go on holiday to is to learn about the people, and you’ll have many chances to do this on our East Africa Safari trip.

Take a Maasai village tour, and meet the Maasai people who have made this area their home for years. They will share their practices with you and welcome you into the village with open arms. You’ll learn something new and have some interesting stories to tell back home! Each of our Kenya trips include a Maasai Village tour, and we go to different ones for each departure, so booking twice may be in your favour…

Maasai people of Kenya

Image source:Contiki

6. Hit up one of the Marine National Parks

Sure Kenya is full of fluffy animals, but it’s also filled with sleek fish and marine life, and the best places to spot them in real life is at one of the many country’s Marine National Parks. These parks include Mombasa, Watamu, and Kisite-Mpunguti, and here you can spot an array of wildlife like whales, turtles, and dolphins.

7. Witness the Great Migration

The animal event of the year, thousands of tourists make the trip to Kenya in the summer for a chance to witness the wildebeest and zebras making their way from one wildlife reserve to another during the Great Migration. This marks it as one of the best things to do in Kenya, and you can experience it during the months of June and August, one of the best times to go on safari.  

The later summer months in Maasai Mara is when you’ll get the best views of these majestic animals, but it’s also one of the busiest tourism-wise, so if you are planning on travelling to Kenya then, be sure to book way in advance!

Great Migration of Kenya

Image source:Contiki

8. Head up Mount Kenya

Kenya is home to two mountains: Kilimanjaro (which most people have heard of) and Mount Kenya. Both of these are impressive, and many travellers try their hand at summiting Kilimanjaro. But what about Mount Kenya?

Well, with all major climbs it’s important to train, but Mount Kenya is one of those that is actually possible for complete beginners to climb successfully! So, as long as you have the right gear and you’re up for a challenge, why not give it a go? Amazing views await you at the top, and if you can’t quite get there you’ll still have a great story to tell.

9. Catch the sea breeze

What better way to enjoy the sun and the ocean than atop a traditional dhow? These boats are outfitted with one giant white sail, which allows the vessel to be navigated across Kenya’s turquoise waters. 

Is a holiday really a holiday without at least one boat ride? They’re kind of a must, especially when you’re on a coach, and many companies offer different services that can either take you out for a quick joyride or for a full afternoon of languishing bliss. This is one of the best things to do in Kenya, and exactly how the country should be experienced.

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10. Have a beach day

Prone to seasickness? No worries, you can enjoy the sun and the water just fine on the shores. Kenya is home to many stunning beaches, and one of the most popular ones is Diani beach. Smooth white sand, vast stretches of clear ocean, lucious forests behind, and island-style beach huts and even camels can all be found in this area! Pack a book and lots of sunscreen and spend a day in heaven.

And if you want to catch the wonders of Kenya that lie underneath the surface, then get your bikini and swim trunks on, slap a mask and snorkel to your face, and splash underwater! Rainbow-coloured fish, corals, and other unique creatures like star fish can be found, and you can swim alongside them peacefully, enjoying the good vibes. 

11. Visit Kibera

One of the best things you can do in Kenya is an experience that Contiki offers on both our trips in the area, and it’s a visit to Kibera: a local slum. What sounds like a saddening trip is actually heart-felt and eye-opening as you’ll get to meet real people and learn about their struggles, but also actually help. 

Mirror of Hope is an organisation dedicated to helping the women and children of the Kibera slum, and by visiting them and taking part in this experience, you will directly be supporting them too. So, if you want to travel and also make a difference, this is something you need to add to your list. 

Kibera slum, Kenya

Image source:Contiki

12. Visit Lamu Island

Lamu Island is a port city island just off the shore of Kenya in the Indian ocean. Filled with white houses and brightly coloured boats, it’s a little slice of paradise and a multicultural haven. Lamu Island is the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in the country, so during a visit here you can really get to know Swahili culture.

The town is gorgeous and the white buildings built out of coral stone make it seem like it’s straight out of the iconic Greek Islands. A day trip here is well worth the journey and you can enjoy delicious seafood and a whole new world.

13. Explore Lake Turkana

Another lake to explore, except the vibes here are supremely different. Lake Turkana is one of Kenya’s strangest and most interesting locations as it sits on an islet alone. Three active volcanoes, three blueish-green lagoons, black sand beaches, and of course the country’s largest concentration of Nile Crocodiles. 

The island has a post-apocalyptic vibe to it, kind of like Mad Max or Dune, but in a totally non-threatening way. You can take a speed-boat ride to the mystical shores and explore at your leisure, like the adventurers of old. 

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14. Visit Mombasa’s Old Town

An old British and Portuguese colonial bastion, Mombasa’s Old Town holds a lot of history. It has a distinctly different atmosphere in its architecture: from the narrow winding streets to the white and the old worn-out Fort Jesus which dates to the 16th century. However, it’s still very modern, and you can take a stroll here to various coffee houses and shops.

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