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One of the most beautiful dirt roads in the country lies between Mponela and Ntchisi Forest Reserve, the most direct route from Lilongwe. At 1500-1700 metres, the climate in Ntchisi Forest Reserve is cooler than the surrounding low-lying areas, making it a welcome escape from the heat. It is also mosquito-free.

Before it became a protected area, the forest was used as a refuge by the local Chewa tribe against attacks by the warring Ngonis in the 19th Century. Because the forest proved as vital as a shelter for people, it largely escaped the deforestation for firewood that has unfortunately decimated so much of Africa’s indigenous woodlands. It later became a designated Forest Reserve.

It is small at 75 sq km and is characterised by rolling hills cultivated by subsistence farming and dotted with traditional villages. This is a pristine area that is yet to be discovered by the masses.

Ntchisi Forest Reserve is situated on the escarpment of the East African Rift Valley in some of Malawi’s last remaining indigenous rainforest in an isolated spot near Lilongwe.

This is a part of rural Malawi where tourists are still a rarity, and guests can enjoy relaxing and walking in the beautiful scenery, while hiking and mountain biking offer an invigorating change of pace.

Guests visiting Ntchisi should take the opportunity to engage, or observe the Malawian culture with a visit to a local village. There are traditional dances, cooking, craftwork and more to be enjoyed.

Nearby is the Nkhotakota Pottery, which is a lakeside location working pottery, complete with restaurant and shop. This is well worth a day visit.