Livingstonia, perched on the Rift Valley Escarpment above Lake Malawi, founded by missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland in 1894, is one of the most scenic places in Central Africa.
The vertiginous views from the edge of this historic town are quite breathtaking.
The missionaries had first established a mission in 1875 at Cape Maclear, but they decided to move the location north to Bandawe in 1881 due to the high number of malarial fatalities. Unfortunately, the second site, Bandawe, also had a risk of malaria and moved once again to the higher grounds between Lake Malawi and Nyika Plateau.
This new site, Livingstonia, proved highly successful because it is located in the mountains and therefore not prone to mosquitoes carrying malaria. The Livingstonia Mission found its permanent home situated a full 900m (3000ft) above the lakeshore, and it was blessed with a healthy climate, fertile land and abundant supply of water, and within ten years the mission station gradually developed into a small town.
The combined scenic and historical interest of Livingstonia makes it one of the most popular non-lakeside tourist destinations anywhere in Malawi.
It’s not easy to reach on public transport, but the uphill hike from Chitimba is an attraction in itself.
The main tourists’ attractions in Livingstonia are the Livingstonia Mission, the Old Stone House which was the home of the missionary’s family, and Mushroom Farm, an eco-lodge offering fascinating view and a comfortable base for tourists to rest and recharge their batteries.
- Livingstonia is one of the most popular non-lakeside tourist destinations in Malawi and also one of the most scenic places in Central Africa.
- Livingstonia was founded by missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland in 1894.
- It’s not easy to reach on public transport.
Getting there and away
Livingstonia is a town located in the Northern Region district of Rumphi. From the main north-south road between Karonga and Mzuzu, the road to Livingstonia turns off at Chitimba on M1 by S103, a spectacular 15km dirt road, forcing its way up the escarpment. This steep hillside road with multiple hairpin bends are in poor condition and became almost unusable in the wet season, and a 4×4 might be necessary after rain.
There is no public transport between Chitimba and Livingstonia, but a few vehicles switchback up and down every day, and with an early start you can be reasonably confident of finding a matola lift. Alternatively, Chitimba Camp offers regular Land Rover trips to Livingstonia, and motorised excursions to the mission can be organised at Nkhata Bay. You could also call the Mushroom Farm to arrange a pickup, guide or porter.
The 2 ½ hour, 15km walk to Livingstonia is popular with fit travellers. You’ll enjoy the walk a lot more if you leave as much luggage as possible at the base. Chitimba Camp would be your safest bet.