Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, remains a stunning beacon of multiculturalism eager to reveal its history and contemporary charms to visitors. Millions of people flock to Kenya to explore the Maasai Mara and other breathtaking parks and reserves, splashed with green hillsides and flamingo-filled lakes but traveling in Nairobi’s wilderness promises incredible diversity. From views of Africa’s iconic Big Five to vibrant cultural activities, tantalizing culinary opportunities to insightful heritage highlights, you can experience the breadth of the cosmopolitan ambiance.
In the Nairobi National Museum of the Kenya Museum Society, the marvels of nature shine in the Geology Gallery, where the impressive evolution of the landscape, formed by shifting tectonic plates and volcanic cycles, is on display. The Hominid Skull Room has been described as the world’s most important collection of early human fossils and represents the extent and lineage of anthropomorphic history in East Africa, with the region referred to as the “Cradle of Mankind.” The second floor, with elaborate documentation, provides great insight into the history of Kenya and greater East Africa.
Best Exhibits of the National Museum: The Birds of East Africa Gallery | The Great Hall of Mammals | The Hall of Kenya | Ahmed the Elephant | The Joy Adamson Gallery | The Cycles of Life | The Cradle of Mankind | Historia ya Kenya
Kenyan entrepreneurs, artists, and craftspeople gather in Nairobi's Maasai Market to share their creations with visitors and residents. Colorful clothing dangles outside shops in narrow aisles as merchants haggle over prices or promise passersby the best deals. The open-air venue hosts an abundance of paintings, drawings, clothes, fabulous East African fabrics, unique jewelry, and distinctive wood-carvings, all handmade by locals. Visitors may bargain for traditional Maasai goods to commemorate their time on safari in Kenya.
Things to Shop For: Woven blankets | Beaded bowls | Leather shoes | Maasai jewelry | Wood-carving sculptures | East African prints | Colorful Kenyan clothing | Intricate wildlife paintings
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the Nairobi National Park feels like a different world. The nonprofit dates back to the 1970s and is focused on protecting and rehabilitating elephants. With one of the most successful orphan elephant rescue centers in the world, it has become a fascinating place for visitors to view baby elephants from a safe distance as they bathe and are fed by professional handlers. You can learn the elephants’ stories, understand the broader mission of the trust, and gain insight into the beauty of nature and the importance of conservation.
Nairobi’s tourist village is a microcosm of the greater country. It represents the 40 ethnic groups in Kenya by celebrating their traditional lifestyles and customs, and providing information on the settings of each Kenyan tribe. Boma is Swahili for homestead, enclosure, fortress, or stockade, and refers to the 23 replica communities in the complex. Each reflects a different characteristic of a respective tribe. A massive auditorium fills with traditional music each day to share a diverse spectrum of sounds, movements, and themes that shape a Kalenjin warrior dance or a Swahili taarab song.
Top Performances and Experiences: Harambee dance show | Cultural artifact display | Bomas of Kenya library | Cultural homesteads | Swahili taarab song performance | Utamaduni restaurant | Live music concerts | Stroll in the open grounds
The non-profit Giraffe Centre offers visitors unique experiences of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffes. The opulent grounds host the Giraffe Manor guesthouse, whose mission includes conserving the animals and educating children and adults passing through Kenya. Visitors can view the graceful giraffes from a lofty platform that puts them at eye-level with the animals. It also serves as a spot from which tourists can feed the population with specially prepared pellets. You may also relish a stroll along the forest trails of the adjacent nature reserve to view more indigenous wildlife.
Highlights of the Giraffe Centre: Giraffe feeding | Conservation education | Ecology visits | Biomass fuel production | Tea house | Nature sanctuary | Compost manure production | Tree nursery
Nairobi National Park is a surprising wildlife sanctuary in that it borders the bustling city center. Over 50 rhinos graze the lush grasses of the protected landscape, in addition to gazelles, cape buffalo, cheetahs, zebras, and lions. The park also boasts 400 bird species. Animal lovers have a chance to explore the vibrant countryside on game drives or excursions such as the Nairobi Safari Walk.
Fauna and Avifauna to Spot: Rhinos | Lions | Cheetahs | Cape Buffalo | Blacksmith lapwing | Hartlaub’s bustard | African paradise flycatcher | Baglafecht weaver
Though an impoverished informal settlement, Kibera is a must-visit destination. Locals meet visitors from around the world daily to share their stories, heritage, and hopes for the future. A guided tour of Kibera reflects the distinction between poverty-stricken African townships and bustling central business districts, with their glitzy skyscrapers, less than four miles away. Upliftment initiatives in the township include recycling, education, progressive causes, and art projects, such as the Uweza Gallery.
Informative Kibera Activities: Home-cooked Kenyan lunch | Non-profit initiatives | Township market tour | Cross-cultural exchange | Education-support activities | Environmental tours | Biogas plant tour | Soweto Village homestead visit
In the urban-cum-wild Karura Forest, honey badgers, Sykes’ monkey, bushbuck and butterflies are easily visible in the dense trees. Locals often use the forest as an escape from bustling Nairobi, where they run, walk, cycle, or horse ride beneath the verdant canopy. The experience takes you far from the urban space, even though it’s within easy reach.
Fauna and Avifauna to Spot: dik-dik | bush pig | African civet | genet | East African epauletted fruit bat
The Karen Blixen Museum brings the beauty and interesting history of Nairobi to life. The colonial house and expansive gardens represent a different time and perspective of Kenya, while creating a movie set-like atmosphere. The grounds date back to the early 20th century and grew in popularity after the hit 1980s movie, Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. The colonial homes and thriving gardens have become landmarks in their own right.
What to see: Posters | Postcards | Movie props | Historic artifacts | Gardens
Hell’s Gate National Park, approximately 72 miles from Nairobi, supports over 100 species of birds and once hosted a prehistoric freshwater lake among its obsidian caves and glinting black rocks. Towering formations, deep gorges, steep cliffs, and volcanic activity give credence to its name. The absence of dangerous game makes it a unique setting in which visitors can walk or cycle across the heart of the national park for spectacular views of zebra, eland, giraffe, and gazelles. Beyond viewing rare-winged creatures such as the Lammergeier vulture, visitors can enjoy rock-climbing up the steep, jagged volcanic surfaces.
Things to See and Do: Lammergeier vulture | African kestrel | Chinspot batis | Eastern imperial eagle | Rock-climbing | Mountain trekking | Ol Njorowa Gorge | Olkaria hot spring
Kenya’s bustling cosmopolitan city of Nairobi boasts a range of exciting travel destinations and experiences for visitors to sink their teeth into through tailored Zicasso tours featuring knowledgeable guides and expert insider information. Explore the volcanic landscape of Hell’s Gate National Park, spot indigenous wildlife in the Nairobi National Park or relax on the banks of Lake Turkana on select tours available on our Kenya Safari Tours & Vacations. Find more Kenya travel tips and inspiration with our Safari Travel Guide. Or chat with our travel specialists by completing a Trip Request. You can also contact us on 1-888-265-9707.