Districts

Karonga

Karonga

Land Area (km²) / Rank 3,355 km² / 14th out of 28 districts
Population (2018) / Rank 365,028 / 19th out of 28 districts
Population Density / Rank 109 persons/km² / 22nd out of 28 districts

The gateway for overland crossings into Tanzania, Karonga is the largest and oldest town in the far north of Malawi, around 40km south of the Songwe border post.

Karonga was established in 1883 and remained somewhat isolated until 1981 when the surfaced M1 was extended this far north, and it enjoys significant economic benefits when the first bridge across the Songwe River on the Tanzanian border was constructed in 1988.

The town received another economic shot in the arm in 2008 with the opening of the controversial Kayelekera Uranium Mine 40km to the west.

Today, Karonga ranks as the largest port town anywhere on the shore of Lake Malawi.

Historically, Karonga was known for its slave trading industry in the nineteenth century, also has the proud title of Malawi’s ‘fossil district’, with well-preserved remains of dinosaurs and ancient humans.

Its most famous discovery is the Malawisaurus (Malawi Lizard), a 120-million-year-old fossilised dinosaur skeleton found 45km south of Karonga.

A fragment of humanoid jawbone roughly 2.4-million-year-old was also discovered near Uraha village in Karonga in 1991.

The only tourist attraction is the Cultural & Museum Centre Karonga, which focuses on the region’s fascinating history and prehistory.

Tumbuka is commonly spoken in Karonga for both home and school.

Cultural & Museum Centre KarongaCultural & Museum Centre Karonga Entrance: USD2, 8:30-17:00 (Mo...
  1. Karonga was known for its slave trading industry in the nineteenth century.
  2. The Malawisaurus (Malawi Lizard), a 120-million-year-old fossilised dinosaur skeleton was discovered 45km south of Karonga.
  3. A fragment of humanoid jawbone roughly 2.4-million-year-old was also discovered near Uraha village in Karonga.

Getting there and away

Karonga lies on the M1 about 225km north of Mzuzu and 590km from Lilongwe. The road from Lilongwe and Mzuzu is surfaced in its entirety and covered by a steady stream of buses and minibuses, including a daily AXA Coach to/from Mzuzu. There are daily direct buses by MATOURS (MK11,000) and LINK (MK10,000) from Devil Street in Lilongwe, leaving Lilongwe at 6:30pm and 6:00pm respectively. Pick-up trucks call matola and minibuses ply back and forth all day between Karonga and the Tanzanian border post at Songwe. After crossing into Tanzania, it is easy to get a lift on a bicycle-taxi through to the main Mbeya-Kyela road, where you can pick up a bus in the direction of your choice. If you’re heading towards Zambia, you must first aim for Chitipa.