Eco-lodges and backpacker's hostels in Malawi

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Lisa & Pol
by Lisa & Pol

We spent 16 days discovering Malawi and here are the places where we stayed at. It's a mix of camping, budget accommodations and a treat-yourself kinda stay.

Chilumba

The restaurant is a huge round hut directly on the Lake
The restaurant is a huge round hut directly on the Lake

We went from North to South and the first accommodation was camping at La Rondavelle. It took us about 2h to get there from the borders of Tanzania using public transportation. This place is nicely situated on Lake Malawi, near the town of Chilumba and it feels pretty remote. The owners are Belgians, they started their own organic garden for their Belgian & French cuisine. They even make their own cheese! Pol got excited about trying out their camembert since we haven't had a chance to eat a lot of cheese on our travel through Africa. It was delicious but pricey! The same goes for the accommodation. Considering we were camping here, 10$ per person seemed excessive. Lastly, there was an extreme number of the small lake flies flying around. Of course we are at the lake so it is not crazy to expect insects but we had never seen anything like that before. All this makes us rate this place 5/10.

Livingstonia

Our camping spot at the Mushroom Farm in Malawi
Our camping spot at the Mushroom Farm in Malawi

Our second accommodation was a famous place called Mushroom Farm. This place has a lot of hype and is probably on the radar of everyone coming to Livingstonia But not many people mention the struggle to get here! There is a very steep and rocky road leading up the mountain. We took motorbikes for 9000 kwacha each, the ride lasts 45min and is quite demanding. But Mushroom Farm is totally worth the hype! This place is magical and has an amazing view!

This is the bathroom at the Mushroom Farm
This is the bathroom at the Mushroom Farm

There is not so much to do in Livingstonia but we ended up staying here for 3 nights, enjoying the vibe of this place. If you want there are many activities offered like farm tour, woodcarving lesson, hike to the waterfall etc... We were camping here as well but the price was quite affordable at 6€ per person. On the other hand the food is a bit pricey and considering there are not many options around you might end up spending more money on meals than usual. For example the common dinner was 7,5€ per person. We rate this place 9/10, it's just so beautiful and original!

PS: our favorite part was the shower with the view ;)

Unique shower opportunities at the Mushroom Farm
Unique shower opportunities at the Mushroom Farm

Nkhata Bay

Butterfly Space is much more than a lodge, it's an entire community ecosystem
Butterfly Space is much more than a lodge, it's an entire community ecosystem

Here we stayed with Butterfly Space that in many ways reminded us Mushroom Farm. They are a non-profit eco lodge with different types of accommodation and it's possible to camp there as well.

Our unique room at Butterfly Space, overlooking the lake
Our unique room at Butterfly Space, overlooking the lake

We stayed in the Lake View cottage. The price is 40$ per night (for 2) although we got it for free as part of a collaboration deal with them, doing a blog-writing workshop. This place is perfect if you want to get closer to the locals as it's an open house for anyone in the community seeking books or access to computers. They organize and fund many community projects, movie and trivia nights and thanks to those the place is very lively. As a guest you also get free paddleboards and snorkeling equipment!

The view from our room at Butterfly Space
The view from our room at Butterfly Space

Our rating is also 9/10 because honestly these guys are doing an amazing job creating a space where we would love to come back to.

Ntchisi Forest

Fancy camping in the forest at Ntchisi Forest Lodge
Fancy camping in the forest at Ntchisi Forest Lodge

To celebrate our 200 days on the road, we chose Ntchisi Forest Lodge - The Commonage. It is a place that is a bit harder to access and probably overlooked by many travelers but totally worth it in our opinion! It takes around an hour from the highway to the lodge, but it's an incredible opportunity to witness the real authentic daily life of the small rural villages. Thanks to that this place is a source of amazing peace and tranquility and the 2 nights we spent there fully recharged our batteries. We got to try two different options as this was as well part of a collaboration package (taking pictures + sharing it on our instagram). First was a forest tent (40$ per night) and the second night we stayed at an Ensuite Room (starting at 60$ per night) . The tent is in the forest and has a very comfortable bed ! One of the dogs came and guarded our tent throughout the night which was the sweetest thing ever! Here we had the best breakfast (10$ if staying in the tent, included otherwise) of this trip so far and I think it is quite unbeatable ! The coffee is excellent and made with great beans and skills.

Chilling by the pool at Ntchisi Forest Lodge
Chilling by the pool at Ntchisi Forest Lodge

As for activities, you can chill by the pool the whole day or you can decide to hike, there are many beautiful places in Ntchisi, the last indigenous rainforest of Malawi. I think Malawi is our favorite country in terms of accommodations, it felt easy to find cool places to stay and once again we are rating The Commonage with a 9/10.

The beautiful pool of Ntchisi Forest Lodge
The beautiful pool of Ntchisi Forest Lodge

Lilongwe

Crown Lodge, one of the cheapest options of Lilongwe
Crown Lodge, one of the cheapest options of Lilongwe

Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi was on the other hand quite disappointing. Firstly, it doesn't really feel like a capital, there is not much to do and the budget accommodation options are very limited. The city is lacking hostels and budget-friendly options! We originally planned to camp at Woodlands Lilongwe but after learning that the camping there is 10$ per person for not really much (the place to pitch your tent is next to a construction site) we decided to look elsewhere. And we found probably the cheapest place to stay in Lilongwe. It's conveniently located next to the bus station in a quiet area of town. This place is called Crown Lodge and it is all you need for 1 night. A bed, a mosquito net and shower with hot water. There is even a local restaurant if you are hungry and lazy to go somewhere far. We paid only 8€ per night for the 2 of us! And we were ready to leave Lilongwe the next morning! It gets a 7/10 : it's very basic but cheap !

Cape Maclear

We rented kayaks at Warm Heart Adventure Lodge
We rented kayaks at Warm Heart Adventure Lodge

And finally comes our favorite place in Malawi - Cape Maclear. If you are planning your trip to Malawi you can't miss this place ! It was quite a journey to get here (we take public transportation everywhere we go) but the last 40 minutes on the motorbike from Monkey Bay to Cape Maclear were super scenic and staying here is totally worth the effort. Firstly, the whole area around Cape Maclear is part of Lake Malawi National Park. You don't have to pay the entrance to the park for visiting or staying at Cape Maclear. But if you want to do a hike or take a kayak on the lake for the day, you need to pay 10$ for a ticket valid from sunrise to sunset. As for our accommodation we stayed at the dorms at Warm Heart Adventure Lodge. This place has a great location directly on the lake and the dorms are a super affordable option for budget travelers. We paid 9€ per person per night at the dorms that we ended up having all to ourselves. And we even had a small breakfast included at this price! Every morning we woke up to having a basket with bread buns, butter, peanut butter and coffee ready in front of our room. They also offer a laundry service for a tip! We loved it here and we can also recommend to hire the kayaks from them, it was so much fun! The price for half a day is 15$ and 20$ for the full day. The only thing missing here was a restaurant and that's why we give it a 9/10.

To conclude

This is all the accommodations we tried in Malawi. As you can see, we were very impressed by the quality and uniqueness of the places, it was hard to choose! It's a bit pricier but very much worth it.

Lisa & Pol
Lisa & Pol
We're a Slovak-French couple in our twenties currently backpacking across Africa for a year. One of our goals is to inspire travellers to go explore this often forgotten continent. On this blog we're focusing on providing up to date info about prices and itineraries, especially geared towards backpackers on a budget. We also create content on Youtube and Insta if you prefer a more visual approach 😉
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