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Located at the intersection of trade and migration routes that are as old as the human race itself, Kenya is a magical land that dares visitors to forget its pull. From the towering heights of Mount Kenya and the endless expanse of Lake Victoria to the teeming plains north of Kilimanjaro and the warm shores of the Indian Ocean, Kenya offers stunning contrasts on a grandiose scale. At the same time, its welcoming people are happy to guide visitors around their exotic, often incomprehensible home. Whether you want to relax on a beach or boat with a cocktail in your hand or stalk the bush in search of lions, elephants and buffalo, you'll find exactly what you need on your bespoke tour of Kenya. All that's left to do is plan the highlights.
Cosmopolitan Culture in Nairobi: As Kenya's capital and largest city, Nairobi absorbs much of the country's considerable talent and energy. The city is awash with cultural institutions, including world-class art museums like Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art and the Nairobi National Museum. A walk through the archives at the latter institution will transport you to Kenya's rich colonial past, and the galleries at the Nairobi Railway Museum provide a vivid illustration of the "domestication" of the country's rugged, wild interior. Before you leave, enjoy a savory cup of locally grown coffee at Nairobi Java House and feast on stewed meat and okra at one of the city's many bazaars.
Nairobi National Park: You don't have to travel far from the city to see Kenya's most charismatic animal inhabitants. In fact, Nairobi National Park lies within the capital's borders and hosts breeding populations of giraffes and rhinoceroses. The dry season is a particularly active time at the park, and guides are available to walk visitors through its highlights. Where else can you admire a towering urban skyline while gazing upon feeding giraffes?
The Highlands of Mount Kenya: Africa's second-highest mountain lies near the geographical center of Kenya. As a volcanic massif, Mount Kenya harbors ash pits, cinder cones, craters and other geological oddities. At 5,200 meters, it also supports a wealth of tropical, temperate and subarctic ecosystems, including a rare cloud forest. After making the several-day ascent, pose for a photo amid the summit's snowfields and gaze out on the carpet of clouds below.
Coastal Reserves: Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline has a number of nearly contiguous reserves that showcase the area's lush vegetation, teeming wildlife and unique aquatic ecosystems. After a day or two of listening to drum music on the beach near Mombasa, strap on your hiking boots and visit the thick jungles of Arabuko Sokoke Forest or Dodori National Reserve. Just inland, the more arid plains of Arawale Nature Reserve are a popular destination for day safaris.
Best Time To Visit:
Although the equator runs through Kenya, the country is home to a range of climatic zones and has been known to serve up unpredictable weather. The coastal lowlands experience a tropical climate with distinct wet, dry and "moderate" seasons. In Mombasa, the dry months of January and February are ideal for visitors who wish to avoid excessive humidity and the prospect of flooding. The wettest months are April and May. Much of Kenya's interior sits on a high plain that's a bit cooler and more arid than the coast. At nearly 2,000 meters above sea level, Nairobi rarely experiences excessive heat and remains dry for much of the year. Like Mombasa, precipitation spikes during the spring. Those who wish to visit the Kenyan bush should avoid the rainy season as well as popular bank and religious holidays.