Liwonde is located in Machinga district on the Shire River along the main road connecting Zomba to Lilongwe.
Liwonde is an important crossroad linking the four districts in the area (Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba).
The name of the town comes from the influential Yao chief, Liwonde.
Liwonde is known widely as one of the gateways to Liwonde National Park.
From Liwonde, the park is accessible by boat along the Shire River or by vehicle from the south entrance.
The national park is undoubtedly one of the prettiest game reserves in central Africa and ranks highly on any ‘to do list’ for Malawi. There’s plenty of wildlife around, notably dense concentrations of elephant, hippo and crocodile.
The opportunity to explore the magnificent palm-fringed river by boat is not to be missed, and the birdlife is astounding.
The town itself has a reputation for being hot. As you drive down from Zomba, the heat and the humidity of the valley can be sharply felt.
The Shire river divided the town in two:
the compact Old Town centre, which lies about 1km southeast of the Shire river immediately north of the M3 between Mangochi and Zomba, is quieter but more developed in terms of urban facilities, housing a large hospital and organised market.
The satellite town referred to as Liwonde Barrage on the northwest side of the road barrage is a scruffier and livelier settlement that grew organically around the police block and bus stop on the M3.
- Liwonde is located in Machinga district and an important crossroad linking the four districts in the area (Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba).
- Liwonde is the gateways to Liwonde National Park which is the one that ranks highly on any ‘to do list’ for Malawi.
- The name of the town comes from the influential Yao chief, Liwonde.
Getting there and away
Liwonde is a major route focus, situated alongside the M3 about 100km north of Blantyre, 50km north of Zomba and 75km south of Mangochi. Branching west from the M3 a few kilometres north of town, the M8 leads via Balaka to the M5 northward to Salima and the M12 to Dedza and Lilongwe, which is 220km away. All these roads are surfaced and in good condition, but taking traffic into account, allow 90 minutes to drive from Blantyre in a private vehicle, and 3-4hours from Lilongwe.
Lakeshore AXA buses pass by Liwonde on their way up to Mangochi but most drop off passengers at the turn-off and not in the town itself. So you’re better off using a minibus, which runs regularly from Zomba (45minutes), Limbe (three hours) and Mangochi (two hours). You can also get a minibus to the Mozambique border at Nayuchi (two and a half to three hours). Minibuses out of Liwonde mostly leave from the station in the Old Town centre. Liwonde is also the best place to board the train to Nayuchi on the Mozambican border, at least when it’s in service.