Lamu is an island at the northern coastal area of Kenya, close to the Somalian border. It is an ideal destination for ending your trip in Kenya. Relax, enjoy and do feel home for a couple of days at this incredible island. There is a wide range of things to do, but this our selection of the 5 best things to do in Lamu!
Written by Saskia.
Lamu has an ancient traders history and you will find a unique mix of Islamic and Swahili cultures and habits. It is a special and remote island with an atmosphere of easy going, narrow streets, friendly people, and there are only donkeys and boats used for transportation. Local people may well welcome you with the Swahili words: ‘Karibu Lamu!’
1. Explore the old city
It feels somewhat adventurous to explore the old city walking around and getting lost in the labyrinth of the small and narrow streets. Lamu’s Old Town is characterized by a variety of different types of houses with influences from Arabia, India, Peru and Europe. You will walk pass houses with large and tall wooden doors, open verandas, curved balconies and beautiful decorative paintings and furniture.
At a place where it looks like if time has stood still, surprise yourself by seeing the daily local life. Everywhere you go the residents will welcome you with a big smile. Little kids are playing while their mothers are doing the laundry, see the older children coming home from school and hear people praying in the mosques.
Do visit the daily fruit and vegetables market, the meeting point in the middle of the town or hang around at the harbor where you can see how donkeys and people handle incoming goods by boat. The best way to finish your day is at one of the restaurants close to the waterline. Try the fresh juices and enjoy the delicious Swahili dishes or a fresh meal of fish (the catch of the day).
Nice to know: the Lamu village is on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.
In Lamu Town and Shela (a village at the other part of the island) are some government and locally run sights worth to visit:
• Lamu Museum: Helps you understand the culture and history of Lamu.
• Lamu Fort: Takes you back into the world of the 18th century when Lamu Fort was build. At Lamu fort you can also enjoy a guided walking tour.
• Donkey Sanctuary: Learn about the more than 3.000 donkeys that live in Lamu. The donkey sanctuary is a special project to take care of the old and almost terminal donkeys and to improve donkey treatment both local and worldwide.
• Swahili House Museum: Deepen your knowledge about the traditional Swahili life.
3. Relax at Shela Beach
Do walk from Lamu’s Old Town to the other village at the island: Shela. It is a nice walk along the shore and it will only take approximately 40 minutes. Or pay a bit of money and travel by boat in around 15 minutes.
Shela has a stunning and almost deserted beach where you can enjoy the good weather of Kenya all year round. Of course, you can also take a refreshing dip in the deep blue water of the Indian Ocean.
At Shela Town and beach you will find a lot of accommodation options (luxury and mid range) with nice sea views. Some of them are also offering cooking lessons, yoga classes and massages.
4. Sail around the Lamu archipelago by Dhow
In the harbor of both villages local people are offering trips by Dhow; a traditional Arab sailing boat. There are many different options to sail around the island. The sailors know the best spots to enjoy white sand beaches, surfing, exploring nature or… snorkeling in the paradisiacal underwater world of the ocean.
5. Visit one of the amazing Lamu festivals
Lamu has a wide range of historical, cultural and Muslim religious festivals. During the Islamic Festival of Maulidi (celebration of Muhammad’s birth) there are several sport events to visit; donkey races, tug of war games and swimming competitions. New Year is celebrated each year with a spectacular Dhow Race in which sailors compete for the honor of being the best sailor of the island. Another big festival is the Lamu Cultural Festival, held in November which promotes the Swahili culture.
There are also a lot of events just for fun, such as the ‘Hat Competition’, where Lamu residents are challenged to design the most special and spectacular hat of the island. These events attract a lot of local people and it is great to be a part of this enthusiastic crowd. If you would like to visit one of these festival or event we recommend to go to the information center in Lamu Town or surf around on the internet in order not to miss anything!
This was our selection of the 5 best things to do in Lamu!
About the author
Saskia’s dream has become real: to explore the world! At the moment she is still traveling to many countries and places together with her boyfriend. At the Dutch Travelblog ‘Groeten Uit’ (Dutch for: Greetings from) can you find all stories about their adventures. You can also find Groeten Uit on Twitter!
Kenya travel guide
How to travel Kenya on a budget
Get in the mood for Kenya with these five popular songs
How to arrange a budget Kenyan safari?
An interview with the Dutch ambassador in Kenya
28 Things not to miss in Kenya