Lamu Town: Kenya’s Oldest Swahili Settlement

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The Lamu Archipelago consists of a range of islands, both large and small. Lamu Island is one of the archipelago’s largest islands, and Lamu Island’s most distinct attraction is Lamu Town. This town’s unique architecture is characterised by coral stone buildings with courtyards, verandas and intricately carved wooden doors.

The Swahili have inhabited Lamu Town for over 700 years, which makes it one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements of the Swahili in the country. The town’s culture, architecture and lifestyle shows an interaction between the locals and Arabs, Persians. Indians and Europeans who sailed to the coast of Kenya centuries ago.

Aerial view of the narrow streets of Lamu Town.

Aerial view of the narrow streets of Lamu Town.

Things to Do in Lamu Town

There is more to see beyond the narrow streets of the town.  A long white sandy beach stretches around the island, and the ocean calls out for you to attempt water sports like sailing and swimming.

Explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site by visiting attractions and attending events like:

  • Lamu Fort

Built between 1813 and 1821, the two storey fortress was a base for Omani governance. However, during the British rule, the fort was turned into a prison. Now, it is a museum with a courtyard that hosts local events and celebrations.

  • Lamu Donkey Sanctuary

Since Lamu Island’s mainly depends on donkeys for transport, there are thousands of them in the town. A sanctuary was set up in 1985 by Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen to protect the beast of burden.

  • Lamu Cultural Festival

The best time to visit this town is during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival.  It is a celebration of the culture and religion of the Lamu community.  Activities during the weeklong celebrations include henna painting, Swahili poetry, swimming, dhow and donkey races.

Where to Stay in Lamu Town

Stay close to the creamy empty beach by choosing well-appointed oceanfront Lamu houses and villas like Forodhani House. Other outstanding houses are Waridi House and Lamu House Hotel.

Breathtaking view of the Ocean from Forodhani House.

Breathtaking view of the Ocean from Forodhani House.

Lamu Island is accessible by boat from Manda Island.  You can fly to Manda Island, then sail to Lamu Island.

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