Nestled on the northeastern coast of Kenya, Lamu County is a captivating destination that offers a perfect blend of stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and fascinating history. From its beautiful beaches and vibrant festivals to its unique architecture and warm-hearted people, Lamu County has something for every traveler seeking an unforgettable experience.
In this article, we will explore the geography, history, people, cultural heritage, economy, festivals, things to do and see, accommodation options, cuisine, and more that make Lamu County a must-visit destination.
Quick Facts About Lamu County
- County Number: 005
- Number of Sub-Counties: 2 (Lamu West and Lamu East.)
- County Headquarters: Lamu Old Town
- Current Governor: Issa Abdalla Timamy
- Current Senator: Kamau Joseph Githuku
- Woman Representative: Monicah Muthoni Marubu
- County Website: lamu.go.ke
Geography of Lamu County
Lamu County is located on the northernmost tip of Kenya’s coastline, bordering the Indian Ocean. It encompasses several islands, including Lamu Island, Manda Island, Pate Island, Kiwayu Island, and the coastal mainland. Sandy beaches, mangrove forests, and the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean characterize the county’s geography. Its unique topography provides a stunning backdrop for exploration and relaxation.
History of Lamu Island
Lamu County has a rich historical significance, with Lamu Town being one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. Established in the 14th century, Lamu Town was a prominent trading port along the Indian Ocean, attracting Arab, Persian, Indian, and European merchants. Its strategic location made it a hub for cultural exchange, shaping the town’s unique architecture, traditions, and way of life.
People and Cultural Heritage
The local population of Lamu County is predominantly Swahili, with a vibrant cultural heritage deeply rooted in their traditions and language. The Swahili people have preserved their customs and practices, which are beautifully showcased through their unique architecture, traditional music and dance, poetry, and culinary delights. Interacting with the warm and welcoming locals provides a firsthand experience of their rich cultural heritage.
Lamu County’s Economy
Lamu County’s economy is primarily driven by fishing, agriculture, and tourism. The region’s traditional dhow sailing industry is renowned, with skilled craftsmen building and maintaining these iconic vessels. The local marketplaces, known as “souks,” offer a vibrant array of spices, textiles, woodwork, and handicrafts, providing opportunities for both locals and visitors alike.
Land of Festivals
Lamu County is famous for its vibrant festivals, celebrating the region’s cultural diversity. The Lamu Cultural Festival, held annually in November, features traditional dances, dhow sailing competitions, donkey races, and Swahili poetry recitals. The Maulid Festival commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s birth, and the Lamu Yoga Festival, promoting wellness and mindfulness, are also worth experiencing.
Things to Do and See in Lamu County
Lamu offers an array of activities and attractions for every type of traveler. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or simply relaxing on the stunning beaches, Lamu County has something for everyone.
Explore the narrow streets of Lamu Town, marvel at the intricately carved wooden doors, and visit historical landmarks such as Lamu Fort and the Swahili House Museum. Relax on the pristine beaches of Shela or Manda Bay, go snorkeling or diving in the coral reefs, or embark on a dhow sailing excursion. Discover the ancient ruins on Pate Island and immerse yourself in the local culture by interacting with the friendly inhabitants.
Here are 17 things to see and do in Lamu County that will make your trip unforgettable:
#1 Explore Lamu Town
Wander through the historic streets of Lamu Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admire the unique Swahili architecture and intricately carved wooden doors.
#2 Visit Lamu Fort
Discover the history of Lamu at Lamu Fort, which houses a museum showcasing artifacts, photographs, and exhibits on the region’s cultural heritage.
#3 Relax on Shela Beach
Unwind on the pristine shores of Shela Beach, known for its soft white sand, clear turquoise waters, and stunning sunsets.
#4 Take a Dhow Cruise
Embark on a traditional dhow boat and sail along the Lamu coastline, enjoying breathtaking views of the archipelago and the Indian Ocean.
#5 Explore the Lamu Archipelago
Discover the other islands of the Lamu Archipelago, such as Manda Island, Pate Island, and Kiwayu Island, each with its own charm and attractions.
#6 Visit Siyu Fort
Take a trip to Pate Island and explore Siyu Fort, an ancient fortress built in the 19th century offering panoramic views of the island.
#7 Attend the Lamu Cultural Festival
Experience the vibrant Lamu Cultural Festival, held annually in November, featuring traditional music, dance, dhow races, and Swahili poetry.
#8 Enjoy Water Sports
Engage in water activities like snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and windsurfing in the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean.
#9 Take a Mangrove Tour
Explore the intricate mangrove forests by taking a guided tour, either on foot or by boat, and learn about their ecological significance.
#10 Discover Takwa Ruins
Visit the Takwa Ruins on Manda Island, an archaeological site showcasing the remains of a Swahili trading town dating back to the 15th century.
#11 Experience Swahili Cuisine
Sample delicious Swahili dishes, such as biryani, samosas, pilau, and coconut fish curry, which reflect the region’s diverse cultural influences.
#12 Visit the Swahili House Museum
Gain insight into Swahili culture and traditions at the Swahili House Museum in Lamu Town, which showcases a traditional Swahili house.
#13 Attend Maulid Festival
Participate in the Maulid Festival, a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, featuring religious processions, prayers, and cultural events.
#14 Take a Donkey Ride
Experience a unique mode of transportation by taking a donkey ride through the streets of Lamu Town, where donkeys are the primary means of transport.
#15 Explore Lamu Market
Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting Lamu Market, where you can find an array of fresh produce, spices, textiles, and traditional handicrafts.
#16 Attend the Lamu Yoga Festival
Engage in wellness and mindfulness activities at the Lamu Yoga Festival, which offers yoga classes, meditation sessions, and holistic workshops.
#17 Enjoy Sunset Dhow Cruises
Experience the breathtaking beauty of Lamu’s sunsets. You can do this by taking a sunset dhow cruise, relaxing and soaking in the serene atmosphere.
Accommodation in Lamu County
Lamu County offers a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. From luxurious beachfront resorts and boutique hotels to charming guesthouses and eco-friendly lodges, there is something for everyone. Some popular choices include Peponi Hotel, The Majlis Resort, and Kizingoni Beach.
Cuisine in Lamu County
Lamu County’s cuisine is a delightful fusion of Swahili, Arab, Indian, and Portuguese flavors. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes such as biryani, samosas, pilau, and coconut fish curry. Don’t forget to sample freshly squeezed sugarcane juice and traditional Swahili coffee for a complete gastronomic experience.
Lamu County is a hidden gem that seamlessly combines natural beauty, cultural heritage, and a fascinating history. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, beach lover, or culture seeker, this enchanting destination will leave a lasting impression.
Immerse yourself in Lamu County’s vibrant festivals. Explore its architectural wonders, interact with the friendly locals, and savor its delectable cuisine. Lamu County is a place where time slows down, allowing you to create cherished memories.