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Top 7 Historical Sites of Kenya & Take a Trip to Msambweni

cultural heritage sites in Kenya

UNESCO world heritage & historical sites of Kenya are 7 in total. 4 of which are cultural heritage sites in Kenya and 3 are natural. More than 160,700 people visited museums, snake parks, and historical sites in Kenya as of 2020. The number declined sharply compared to previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, the volume of visitors to those facilities peaked at nearly 1 million.

The 4 cultural sites are Lamu Old Town, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Thimlich Ohinga and the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests. Lamu Old Town, located on Lamu Island, is a well-preserved Swahili settlement that has been in use since the 14th century. Fort Jesus is located on Mombasa Island and is a 16th-century Portuguese fort that was built to protect the island from invaders. As of 2020, there were about 43,400 people visiting Fort Jesus in Kenya.

This dry-stone walled settlement was built in the 16th century CE and is located northwest of the town of Migori in the Lake Victoria region. The Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests consist of 11 small forests that are known to be sacred by the Mijikenda people, who have protected the forests for centuries.

The 3 natural sites are Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest, Lake Turkana National Parks, and the Lake System in the Great Rift Valley. Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest is a protected mountain area that is home to an array of flora and fauna.

The Lake System in the Great Rift Valley is a landscape hotspot with some of the highest bird diversities in the world. Lake Turkana National Parks is a protected area famous for its crocodile species and amazing desert landscapes.

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If you are planning to travel to Kenya anytime soon, visit Msambweni, a coastal town in Kwale County in the south of Kenya. It is just 45 minutes away from Diani (the south coast of Mombasa) and away from the hustle-bustle of city life. Looking for places to visit in south coast Mombasa or beach hotels in Diani? Instead stay at Msambweni Beach House in Msambweni for a private 3 Kms stretch of white sands, blue ocean front and plenty of activities. Searching for Mombasa beach hotel contacts? Click below instead.

7 UNESCO Heritage & Historical Sites of Kenya That You Shouldn’t Miss

UNESCO World Heritage and historical sites of Kenya are listed below. It is only second to South Africa which has ten sites. A nation must ratify one or more of the existing World Heritage conventions. Then adhere to their rules to be regarded as a member of UNESCO. In order to be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List, state parties agree to identify and nominate properties on their national territory.

[Suggested Read: 10 Things to Remember While Travelling to Mombasa & Msambweni]

1. Lake Turkana National Parks

historical sites in kenya images
One of the historical sites in Kenya images includes the South Island of Lake Turkana in Kenya.

Image credit – © Doron/UNESCO

The Lake Turkana National Parks are now jointly managed by Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) after being added to the World Heritage List in 1997. Turkana is a superb research facility for the study of plant and animal families because it is the most saline of East Africa’s large lakes. The three National Parks are vital breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippo, and a number of venomous snakes in addition to being a resting place for migrating waterfowl.

Sibiloi, the South, and Central Islands make up the Lake Turkana National Parks. What is the size of Lake Turkana? Being one of the most famous historical sites of Kenya, it has a combined surface area of 161,485 hectares. The Lake is the largest desert lake in the world, surrounded by a lifeless and arid landscape.

With an average depth of 30 m and a length of 249 km from north to south and 44 km at its widest point, Lake Turkana descends along the Rift Valley from the Ethiopian border. Due to its stunning color, it is known as the Jade Sea and is the fourth-largest lake in Africa.

2. Lamu Old Town

On June 20, 1986, Lamu Old Town was gazetted, and in 2001, it was included on the list of UNESCO sites in Kenya. The oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa is Lamu Old Town, which still retains its age-old traditions. The town is made of coral stone and mangrove wood. It is defined by its simple structural forms, which are enriched by details like inner courtyards, verandas, and intricately carved wooden doors. Also, it is one of the best tourist places in Kenya.

Since the 19th century, Lamu has hosted many vital Muslim religious festivals and has grown to be a key hub for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. The town’s narrow lanes and streets, which only permit movement by donkey or foot, are its defining features. A fusion of European, Swahili, Arabic, Persian, and Indian-style buildings can be seen in the town’s stone structures.

Lamu, in contrast to other Swahili towns along the coast of East Africa, has been steadily inhabited for more than 700 years. Since the 12th century, Lamu has been a major trade hub in Islamic coastal East Africa. The German Post Office, the Lamu Museum, and the Lamu Fort are just a few of the historical sites of Kenya that Lamu boasts.

3. Mount Kenya National Park

One of the most stunning landscapes and historical sites of Kenya in East Africa is Mount Kenya. It has a rocky summit covered in glaciers and middle slopes covered in forest. The National Park and Forest were created in 1949 and are jointly managed by KWS and the Museum (NMK). It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. The goal was to safeguard Mount Kenya’s ecosystem, wildlife, and habitat. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and serves as a water catchment area that supplies water to Kenya.

The park is home to a variety of wildlife like leopards, hyenas, elephants, and buffalos. It is also home to five of the seven peaks of Mount Kenya, the second-tallest mountain in Africa at 5,199 m. The region is also located along the African elephant’s traditional migration route. It is also the best place for hikers and trekkers, as well as a popular spot for rock climbing and mountain biking. What are the Mount Kenya National Park fees? $26 for adults and $43 for children.

4. Fort Jesus in Mombasa

Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya is a fort and museum that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 as per Giovanni Cairati’s designs, it is a remarkable example of military architecture and was designed to protect the trading port of Mombasa. Built with limestone blocks, the fort is surrounded by a deep ditch and a wide moat. It has a central square, four bastions, and several other structures. Pictures of Mombasa don’t do justice to this fort.

Fort Jesus is one of the best Mombasa historical sites. It serves as a reminder of the exchange of cultural beliefs and influences. African, Arab, Turkish, Persian, and European people fought to seize control of this valuable port. It offers stunning views of Mombasa and the ocean and a glimpse into the city’s past. Want to know more about the beach villas in Mombasa? There are plenty of luxurious beach resorts in Mombasa and near.

Looking for affordable places to visit in Mombasa? Finally, it is not only one of the most-visited historical sites of Kenya but also a great place to have a picnic. Mombasa is also one of the truly amazing cities of Kenya just like Nairobi. Looking for nice places to visit in Mombasa or near? Keep reading.

5. The Mijikenda Kaya Forests

The Mijikenda Kaya Forests
Mijikenda elders at Kaya Kauma sacred grave inside an indigenous forest.

Image credit – Joseph Muchiri/The Standard

These Forests span about 200 km along the coast and are made up of 11 distinct forest sites. The Mijikenda people’s numerous kayas, or fortified villages, are still visible there. The kayas, which were built in the 16th century but were abandoned by the 1940s, are now sacred sites.

Known as the homes of the dead, these are kept up by councils of elders. These locations were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 2008. NMK formed the Coastal Forest Conservation Unit (CFCU) to manage and protect these sacred forests. Today, these sacred forests are one of the well-known historical sites of Kenya.

6. The Lake System in the Great Rift Valley

The Lake System in the Great Rift Valley
Split crater (Sleeping warrior) Lake Elementaita.

Image credit – © NMK/UNESCO

2011 saw the addition of the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Elementaita are three interlinked, shallow lakes that make up this naturally beautiful property. It has a total area of 32,034 hectares. Within these small lake systems, some of the highest diversities of bird species have been observed. They are overseen jointly by NMK and Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS).

map of the great rift valley
Flamingosin Lake Bogoria.

The lakes are known as valuable locations for the study of ecological processes and have large mammals. Black rhinos, Rothschild’s giraffes, greater kudus, lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs can all be seen. Up to 4 million flamingos migrate between the three shallow lakes for the majority of the year. It creates an amazing wildlife spectacle.

The setting of the lakes in the Rift Valley, surrounded by hot springs, geysers, and a steep escarpment with volcanic outcrops, provides a rare chance to experience nature. Hence, it is one of the historical sites of Kenya that you must visit. If you are visiting, the map of the great rift valley will give you a better idea of the place.

7. Thimlich Ohinga Historic Site

thimlich ohinga historic site
Large cattle enclosure at the Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Site.

On April 6, 1982, the Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Site was declared a national monument. It was later included in the 2018 list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Dholuo people, a Nilotic tribe that inhabits the area, use the term “frightening dense forest” (Thimlich Ohinga) in their language. The walls of the stone structure enclosure, which range in height from 1.0 to 4.2 m were built entirely out of loose stones and blocks without the use of mortar or dressing.

Materials discovered on the site have archaeological records dating back more than 500 years. The stone structures appear to have been first built by the Bantus, who inhabited this region before the arrival of the Luos. They had access to building materials to meet their needs for security thanks to the plentiful rocks in the hilly areas. The raw structures make it one of the must-visit historical sites of Kenya. It is also one of the best places in Kenya to see.

[Suggested Read: 10 Major Cultural Festivals of Kenya & The Best Beach Resort]

Are you still searching for the best Kenya beach houses? Read below.

Visit Msambweni to Discover the Historical Sites of Kenya

Msambweni is a small coastal town in Ukunda Kenya, not far from the border with Tanzania and Diani (Mombasa south coast). A unique mix of stunning views, historical sites of Kenya, and a laid-back atmosphere is what attracts tourists to this coastal city. For those who love to explore and uncover the mysteries of the past, Msambweni is a must-visit. Where is Msambweni in Kenya? It is just 2 hours away from the hustle-bustle of Mombasa and its historic sites like Fort Jesus, Old Town, Jumba la Mtwana and more. On top of that, the Msambweni weather is great all year round.

Unable to find the best beach resort in Mombasa or near? Msambweni Beach House in Msambweni is perfect for holidays because of its stunning and serene location. It is situated close to the Indian Ocean with a 2.8 km stretch of white sands and a private beach. It offers luxurious amenities and excellent service.

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Msambweni Beach House also known as Msambweni Beach House has 3 opulent rooms and 1 ocean suite at the Main House with an infinity pool. It also boasts 3 private villas located close to the Main House. All the rooms and villas come equipped with world-class amenities like AC, TV and more. The 3 villas feature spacious interiors, private pools and gardens with amazing views of the ocean. The Msambweni Beach House accommodation has also won many awards.

scuba diving in Kenya

The Msambweni beach resort also offers a wide range of activities. We provide a relaxing spa, a Curio Shop and daily excursions as well as some fun indoor activities. Want to go on adventures in Kenya? Whether you want to play a game of ping pong, or beach volleyball, or try scuba diving in Kenya and explore the Kisite Marine Park, it is the perfect place.

romantic dining

From romantic dining by the pool to casual beach BBQs with family, the Msambweni beach hotel has something to satisfy every palette. Our talented chefs specialize in local as well as global cuisines, ranging from French and Belgian to Swahili. Guests can enjoy their meals with breathtaking views of the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. We also serve savory cocktails and local beers.

17 Historical Sites of Kenya That are on the Tentative UNESCO List

importance of historical sites in Kenya
Mombasa Old Town in Kenya.

Image credit – www.safari254.com

The importance of historical sites in Kenya is immense. The historical sites of Kenya that each State Party intends to take into account for the nomination of UNESCO world heritage sites make up a tentative list. There are 17 such locations in Kenya. Some of these are listed below.

1. Mombasa Old Town (1997)
2. Lake Nakuru National Park (1999)
3. Lake Naivasha (1999)
4. Lake Bogoria National Reserve (1999)
5. The Historic Town of Gedi (2010)
6. The Mfangano-Rusinga Island Complex (2010)
7. The African Great Rift Valley (2010)
8. The Kakemega Forest (2010)

Do you want to travel to Mombasa or Mombasa sub counties? Are you planning to visit the historical sites in Mombasa? Are you looking for beach houses in Mombasa? Can’t wait to see the most beautiful places in Mombasa or near? Stay at Msambweni Beach House, one of the top-rated hotels in Msambweni to enjoy the best of both worlds. Be one with nature and relax in Msambweni and explore the historic sites and nightlife in Mombasa (just 2 hours away from Msambweni). Your search for a Kenya luxury hotel ends here!

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