Kenya has more to offer than just beaches and safaris, despite being quite often thought of as such. It takes pride in its diverse cultural heritage as a symbol of its national identity. Taking part in the festivals of Kenya is a great way to learn about its diverse cultures. In addition to the Maasai culture, which is well-known worldwide, Kenya has more than 40 other ethnic tribes, each with its own unique traditions.
Engaging in these cultural festivals gives tourists a chance to learn about the cultural histories of these tribes as well as to value diversity, promote peace and unity, and support these tribes.
- The country received 924,812 global visitors in the first eight months, compared to 483,240 arrivals in the same period in 2021.
- Data from the ministry showed that the inbound tourism earnings between January and August grew to KES 167 billion, about USD 1.39 billion, compared to USD 691 million during the same period in 2021.
- Out of the 924,812 international arrivals:
- 313,466 were on holiday.
- 274,722 traveled to visit families or friends.
- 258,889 for business and meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions.
43,883 in transit.
- With the rest coming in for other purposes like education, religion, and sports.
4. In 2021, travel and tourism contributed 5.4 billion U.S. dollars to Kenya’s GDP. The sector’s contribution to GDP is expected to grow 20.5 percent to $144 billion by the end of 2022.
10 Best Cultural Festivals of Kenya You Don’t Want to Miss
Kenya is a nation with diverse and vibrant cultures. Unique art, fashion, cuisine, music, and more are often the focus of many events and festivals in Kenya. Here are ten cultural festivals of Kenya you must not miss out on.
1. Mombasa Carnival
Do you want to visit one of the most beautiful places in Mombasa? Every November, there is the Mombasa Carnival. One of the biggest and most popular festivals of Kenya. The Ministry of Tourism arranges the event, which honors Kenya’s diverse culture and traditions. This vibrant festival is held in Mombasa.
Two vibrant parades with people showing amazing costumes from many ethnic groups are the main attractions of the event. This festival also has dance and music on a large scale. Both men and women wear the Kikoy and Khanga, which have Swahili phrases boldly printed on them. Local bands perform while dancers show their talent. Tourists to Mombasa during the festival have the chance to shop for treasures and savor delicious Kenyan cuisine.
2. Lamu Cultural Festival
Lamu, a UNESCO site is an alluring island, and it’s the best place to spend a few days in November during the festival. Lamu festival unites the people of Lamu sub counties in a celebration of Swahili culture and heritage in this most famous Swahili town. Try the tasty Swahili dishes as well at one of the top festivals in Kenya.
A variety of local Swahili traditions are on display during the festival like dance, craft workshops, henna art, local Swahili food, poetry readings, handicraft exhibitions, historic Bao game, etc. Enjoy the thrill of the dhow races at sea and the excitement of the donkey races on land.
3. Rusinga Festival
Every year, just before Christmas, the Abasuba community, which is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria in Kenya’s Western region, hosts this two-day event. One of the indigenous Kenyan languages listed by UNESCO as being on the verge of extinction is Suba. You can get a taste of the Suba people’s traditional music, art, sports, cuisine, and literature by going to this cultural event.
Dancers move their bodies to the beat of music and drums while wearing traditional clothing. Every year, a new theme is created for this event. It offers a chance for the locals to display their talents in carving, pottery, fashion, and art. There is more to one of the best festivals of Kenya.
Boat racing, fishing, tug of war, and a friendly wrestling match are among the organized sporting events that are done primarily for bragging rights or to draw people. The tribe’s primary source of income is fishing. The primary delicacy served all through the event is Kuon Anang’a (ugali), which is served with fish (Nile perch or tilapia).
4. Maulidi Cultural Festival
Image credit – Eric Lafforgue/Flickr
Maulidi, a seven-day celebration of the birth of the prophet Mohammed, is observed all across the coastal region with a majority of Muslim people. The festival was started by Habib Swaleh in the 19th century. On the final day, a cheering crowd makes its way to Habib Swaleh’s tomb. One of the best places to take in this festival is Lamu, where tens of thousands of Muslims flock to pay their respects and take in the godly yet friendly atmosphere.
Many blessings are bestowed upon the throngs of pilgrims who travel from near and far to take part in the processions, dances, and prayers. It has been said that for Muslims, two pilgrimages to Lamu are equal to one trip to Mecca. There are many cultural activities, such as Swahili music and dance, dhow and donkey races, swimming contests, and art exhibits to keep you engaged in addition to devotional pursuits. Explore one of the most religious festivals of Kenya.
5. Lake Turkana Festival
Every year, around the month of June, the Lake Turkana National Park Festival is held. On the majestic shores of Lake Turkana, the festival unites many cultural traditions of Marsabit County. One of the most amazing festivals of Kenya is a collection of 14 tribes like Turkana, Samburu, Borana, Watta, and more. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the cultures of the many tribes living in the Lake Turkana region and to end their enmity.
It features incredible cultural displays that each tribe puts on, from their unique customs, and way of life, to arts and crafts, costumes, music, and dance. The costumed parades and dances are amazing on their own, it is a truly unique event that is well worth the trip to Loyangalani town.
6. Kilifi New Years Festival
Image credit – onthebeatingtravel.
It is also known as Beneath the Baobabs Festival and is held in Kilifi, Kenya’s coastal region, from December 30 to January 2. Are you ready to do something off-beat? Do you want to attend one of the artsy festivals of Kenya? This is the ideal event for fans of modern African music and art to attend.
The event’s themes are natural and cultural diversity and sustainability. It draws a large number of campers who come to stay in a 20-acre field surrounded by old baobab trees, bamboo, and wild lemon orchids at the Takaungu Creek of the Indian Ocean. So many activities can be done on the beach like ball games, swimming, yoga, boat rides, and camping. Don’t miss out!
7. Maralal Camel Derby
Image credit – eastern newspaper.
The Carmel Derby Festival, which takes place in the northern cities of Kenya every August, is a fusion of art and the best camel races. The derby is not only noted as a serious Kenyan safari sport but also as a good way to raise awareness of Kenya’s rapid desertification.
Being one of the most exotic festivals of Kenya, the best camels take part in the big race, which fills the streets of Maralal with color and joy. Tourists from all over the world travel to the small town of Maralal to celebrate and take in the camel races, cycling contests, and other activities that are held in this 3-day event every year since 1990.
[Also, Read: 10 Epic Adventure Activities & Best Beach Hotel near Mombasa]
8. Luo Festival
The Luo way of life is honored at this yearly festival. It is one of the rarely known festivals that is held at different locations in Kenya every year. It combines traditional and modern art performances and features well-known musicians of Luo in Kenya. Like many Nairobi festivals and events, the Luo Festival in 2021 was held at Ngong Race Course. Emma Jalamo, Prince Indah, Kibandasky, Brizy, Elisha Toto, and more performed live at the event. However, the Luo festival 2022 was canceled.
9. Rift Valley Music Festival
Image credit – lonyikalocal
One of the many lakes in the rift valley in Kenya is Lake Naivasha, which is surrounded by vast food and flower farms due to the region’s plentiful freshwater supply, fertile soil, and favorable climate. The Rift Valley Music Festival, Kenya’s most modern music event, is held at the Fisherman’s Camp, which is located on the lake’s edge.
Since its launch in 2010, the festival has taken place in late August every year. It draws a diverse range of performers from Kenya and other East African countries with occasional bands or artists from abroad. To be nearer the action, you can camp on-site or stay nearby. The Rift Valley of Kenya hosts one of the most exciting festivals of Kenya. It offers food and beverage stands, a craft market, and kid-friendly activities along with music.
10. Nairobi Film Festival
Image credit – hapakenya.
Finding the best place to visit in Nairobi or an event? The Nairobi Film Festival helps to promote the country’s domestic film market. This one-week event brings local and global film producers and audiences of movie fans to screen both new and old films with modern African themes. It is one of the lesser-known festivals of Kenya but the most enjoyable if you like to watch movies.
Stay at the Best Beach Resort to Explore the Top Festivals of Kenya
Are you looking for Diani luxury villas or a Diani resort? Don’t because you can travel to Villa MB by Xanadu Collection, one of the best hotels in south coast Mombasa. You can fly directly into Ukunda Kenya Airstrip (you can also explore Ukunda beaches) from Nairobi or take the Likoni ferry from the island city of Mombasa. Ukunda to Nairobi flights are short and pocket-friendly.
On your ocean-side luxury vacation in Kenya, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a world of exotic indulgence and Swahili opulence. The resort’s design features Swahili and white color structural elements. And the Msambweni weather is great all year round.
This beach resort in Msambweni is one of the top kwale hotels and has a tranquil ambiance, making you feel as though you are alone in the untouched natural paradise. It is also perched on a coral-lined cliff that rises 40 feet above the Indian Ocean. The property has its own 3 km stretch of gorgeous white sand and swaying palm trees and is spread over 28 acres of land by Msambweni Beach, close to Diani (don’t worry about Diani temperature as it is always pleasant) and other Mombasa sub counties, Funzi Island, and Shimba Hills. Is Diani in south coast Mombasa? Yes, it is just 45 minutes away from the resort.
Privately owned and operated, this opulent resort offers the utmost privacy and personalized services. There is one main house and three private villas with all the modern amenities like AC, safe, tea and coffee station, and more. The main house features 3 master suites and 1 ocean suite and looks out over a 25-meter pool.
The master suites are spacious, and the furniture and doorways are all decorated with intricate Lamu carvings. All of the rooms have private balconies, and a path winds down the cliff to a small seating area where you can relax with a cocktail before dinner and take in the view of the Indian Ocean. Don’t look for villas in south coast Mombasa because the private villas here have their own swimming pools with jacuzzis.
Your dining experiences at Villa MB by Xanadu Collection will be unique. You can order a variety of global and local dishes that are expertly prepared under the training of a Belgian celebrity chef. You can select exotic seafood, French or Belgian cuisines, and must-try Swahili dishes while visiting a beach in East Africa. Please feel free to ask the staff for changes to the menu or order your own choice if you would prefer a customized, one-of-a-kind meal.
The staff can also arrange for you to have a candlelit dinner by the beach or pool while the stars shine down on you under the African sky. A special, romantic moment during your Indian Ocean beach honeymoon or the highly desired romantic getaway that you will treasure always.
There is always something fun to do at the resort. From playing ping pong to volleyball and beach tennis, you will never get bored here. And if you want to shop for traditional Kenyan souvenirs then the Curio Shop is your best option. Do you want to relax and unwind? Then, you should go for a spa session on the beach with stunning ocean views.
Are you looking for some adventure or Diani diving? Then you should speak to the reservations desk for unique excursions away from the hotel. Try the best scuba diving in Kenya, take the Shimba Hills tour, dhow boat sundowner, mangrove and sandbank tour, and more. You won’t be able to get enough of the marine life, wildlife, and nature.
What’s more? You can enjoy the cultural festivals of Kenya while staying here. Experience the Kwale Music and Cultural Festival, Mombasa Carnival, Shimba Hills Family Fun Day, Beach parties at Diani beach, and much more. You can enquire about more amazing events at the hotel itself or before booking. Your memories of Msambweni, also known as the “Land of the Sable Antelope,” will linger, and you’ll return time and time again to this beachside paradise.
Enjoy the Cultural Festivals of Kenya with Us!
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.” – Willam Burchell.
Kenya has a thrilling and diverse cultural landscape. And each tribe holds festivals every year. They invite other groups to take part as they celebrate diversity and promote peaceful relations. These festivals of Kenya, which take place everywhere from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the lovely Lake Turkana, are melting pots of culture that keep local traditions alive.
Whether through traditional, modern, or sporting activities, these events and festivals provide some deep insight into the Kenyan way of life. Adding a festival to your itinerary is easy when you have our experts ready and waiting to tailor your itinerary to your needs. Searching for the best prices of hotels in Mombasa or near Mombasa south coast? Get in touch with us at +254 723 697 346 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a private villa or if you need help with excursions or local festivals.