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Backpacking In Kenya – Epic 2-Week Itinerary

Planning to go backpacking in Kenya? Great! I spent several weeks backpacking there and this is what I recommend for a 2 weeks itinerary for backpacking in Kenya.

It will also help plan for a different length of the trip just by getting an idea of places to visit in Kenya.

Kenya is one of the best countries in Africa to go backpacking and two weeks in Kenya is a good enough time to get a good feel for the best things to do in Kenya.

The average traveller that I met there had around two weeks to travel in the country so I thought I would put this itinerary together for those with a similar time scale.

Bear in mind there is so much to do in Kenya that in two weeks you will have to decide on regions carefully. What I am suggesting here will be a lot of moving around.

It’s just to give you a rough idea and you can mix things around depending on if you want to have more beach time than being inland.

I have written a lot of other articles about different parts of Kenya and have added links to them in the specific sections, to help plan your trip better.

2 Weeks Itinerary For Backpacking In Kenya

The articles will give you more in-depth information about the destination. Three of them are about safaris in Kenya so you have plenty of wildlife options to do.

1st Day – Nairobi

backpacking Kenya on a budget baby elephants backpacking Nairobi
Baby elephants at an orphanage in Nairobi.

Get out of Nairobi as soon as you can!

If you only have 2 weeks in Kenya do not waste any time in Nairobi, it’s just another big city and not the safest either. I’m not a big fan of the place at all. But hey, who knows, maybe you will like it.

You would have to spend your first night in Nairobi pretty much anyway as it’s the main point to fly into the country or to arrive from Tanzania.

If you didn’t arrange a Masai Mara safari before arriving then organise one as fast as you can in Nairobi, hopefully within the day.

There are plenty of agencies around and they should be able to join you up with a group already going.

Ask in your hostel/hotel what agencies they recommend and maybe you can meet some fellow backpackers there to go travelling with.

If you have some time to kill in Nairobi then head to a nearby orphanage for baby elephants which is definitely worth a few hours as they are so adorable, and your money goes towards a good cause as these elephants are rescued from the wild after their mothers have been killed by poachers.

The elephant orphanage is run by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. That’s a link to their website and you can always send a donation their way even if you don’t go to visit them.

You can join a half-day tour to see the orphanage here.

Find places to stay in Nairobi here (my favourite hotel booking site Agoda).

2nd to 4th Days – Masai Mara Safari

backpacking Kenya on a budget elephants in Masai Mara safari
Elephants in the Masai Mara.

A Masai Mara safari in Kenya is one of the quintessential African experiences to have, and one of the main reasons for visiting Kenya, if not Africa.

Safaris in Kenya are slightly cheaper than in neighbouring Tanzania so are great for the budget traveller in Kenya. This is perfect for arranging a safari from Nairobi to Masai Mara.

Try and arrange a safari before arriving in Nairobi so you don’t have to spend so long there as I mentioned before.

Otherwise, arrange one as soon as you arrive to hopefully get out the next day.

It’s what I did and had no problems with it.

Sometimes arranging Kenya budget camping safaris is better done by visiting the agencies in Nairobi.

However, you won’t save that much more which means spending an extra day in Nairobi to organise it.

I’ve visited the Masai Mara twice and both times were the same.

Most travellers I met had a similar experience with booking the two night safari and doing the same things.

On the first day, you will be taken from Nairobi for several hours to the place where your camp is, which should be on the edge of the Masai Mara to give quick access to it.

The same day they will give you an evening safari into the park.

The next morning you will be out on a full day safari. This is the African wildlife trip you have probably been dreaming about.

Along with the adjoining Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, it’s the best wildlife safaris I’ve had in Africa, out of many.

At night you will be staying at the same campsite. The following morning they will take you one more time into the Masai Mara before leaving around 10-11 a.m.

You can always book a Masai Mara tour in advance as well

They will take you towards Nairobi, but instead of going all the way back get out at the turnoff after a few hours of driving.

At that turnoff, you will go the other direction from Nairobi to Lake Naivasha.

It will take around one hour so is not so long.

Have a read on my long guide for safaris in East Africa that will give you a safari packing list on what to bring with you.

A good book to pick up about safaris in Africa that includes a Kenya safari is Fodor’s The Complete Guide to African Safaris

4th to 6th Days – Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate National Park

backpacking in Kenya on a budget cycling Hells Gate National Park
Cycling Hells Gate National Park.

Lake Naivasha and Hell Gate National Park give you the chance for some relaxing time and some adventure.

You will probably get there too late on the first day from the Masai Mara to do anything. Get a guesthouse by the lake and just chill in a hammock, if they have any.

Meet some other travellers and hang out but be mindful of hippos as they are known to come upon the riverbanks where the hostels/guesthouses are.

Did you know hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa?

The full day you have at Lake Naivasha and nearby Hells Gate will be busy.

In the early morning take a boat out (with a guide) onto the lake to go hippo spotting. Again if you’re alone your hostel/guesthouse should be able to arrange for others to join. Hopefully, you met other travellers on your first night there to join.

Come the late morning after the boat trip rent some bicycles from where you are staying and head to Hells Gate National Park.

backpacking in Kenya on a budget hippos Lake Naivasha
Hippos in Lake Naivasha.

This was one of my favourite things to do when backpacking in Kenya, simply because you can ride through the national park and see the animals really close up.

Thankfully there are no predators around so don’t worry about that. Just enjoy a few hours getting close to zebras, warthogs, deer, and more.

Cycle next to an area that is good for hiking (mentioned in the link to the separate post).

You can go hiking there for roughly two hours through small canyons before cycling back to the lake for a relaxing sunset.

The long way back to the lake goes past some natural hot spring baths and that is highly recommended.

6th – 8th Days – Lake Nakuru

backpacking Kenya on a budget rhinos at Lake Nakuru
Rhinos at Lake Nakuru.

Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the best places in Africa to almost be guaranteed a sighting of rhinos, so is highly worthwhile just for that experience.

It helps that it really is a beautiful lake to hang out by.

It’s only a few hours from Lake Naivasha to get to Nakuru, so leave early from there to get to Lake Nakuru and arrange a full-day safari for the next day.

You can stay in the town itself next to the national park but I recommend trying to do an evening safari into the park if you get there early enough to Nakuru, and then stay at a guesthouse just on the outskirts of the park for some peace in nature.

I even had lions come past the flimsy fence by the guesthouse.

The next day (the 7th if everything’s going to plan) will be spent in the Nakuru National Park, and hopefully, this is where you will see some rhinos.

The rangers are experts at finding rhinos.

If you’re unlucky and don’t see any, which is rare, it’s still one of the best smaller places for a safari in Kenya.

In fact, the rhinos weren’t my favourite thing about the area, it was simply being in such awe-inspiring nature that made it perfect.

You can also do a short hike to a waterfall when out on safari to have a swim to cool off, and have a picnic up on a mountain overlooking the lake.

As usual for Africa and Kenya, the sunsets are spectacular.

Find places to stay in Nakuru here (with my favourite hotel booking website Agoda).

8th – 11th Days – Lake Victoria

backpacking Kenya on a budget Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria.

If you go to Lake Victoria you will be really escaping the crowds, but it is a bit of a mission.

It’s at this point however where you may want to deviate from my itinerary and go from Nakuru to nearby Mount Kenya or head straight to the coast for some beach time.

I can’t help with the Mount Kenya part as I never went there, but I have mentioned the coast below.

I wanted to get off the beaten path more which is why I went to Lake Victoria.

It’s very relaxed in its own way, so if you don’t make it to the beaches on the coast just spend an extra day or two on the lake.

Doing it that way you wouldn’t have to rush and would save money on flights (see below in the Mombasa section).

You will have to leave very early from Nakuru to get to Lake Victoria as it’s a bit of a drive to Kisumu where you will have to spend the first night as it will be too late for the ferry.

There’s nothing special about Kisumu apart from the feeling of being away from the standard “backpacker route”.

The next day take the local ferry across the lake to Mbita and base yourself there for two nights.

You will be far away from other tourists and feel some real local Kenyan life.

Fishing boats at night light up the horizon with their lights which you can see from your guesthouse up on a small hill.

I should probably say, make sure to get a guesthouse on the small hill.

It’s a real magical place.

Your full day can be a day trip out to Mfangano Island where you can get out with the local motorbike taxi “gang” to explore the island.

The “gang” are hilarious and some of the best people I have met.

They will take you up to the mountain where you can go hiking around a bit for amazing views, then head to the shore to eat some very tasty fresh fish from the lake, and just meet some friendly locals not used to many tourists.

I loved it there which is why I recommend it.

Bear in mind though you will have to sacrifice time on the coast if you do this.

11th – 14th Days – Mombasa and The Kenyan Coast

boats on the Kenyan coast - backpacking Kenya on a budget
Traditional boats on the Kenyan coast.

Kenya’s gorgeous coast is one of the highlights of travelling there and has a different vibe from inland. Apart from busy Mombasa, it’s all about just chilling at the beach.

This is where you will think I’m crazy though. You could technically rush to the coast for just one full day to get a glimpse of the coast and Swahili food.

Do this only if you are willing to fly from Nairobi to Mombasa if your budget can stretch to it, otherwise, it won’t be worth it.

The plan would be to leave Mbita on the 11th for a full day to Nairobi, spend the night there (unless there is a late-night flight to Mombasa), and take an early flight on the 12th to Mombasa.

Spend a few hours in Mombasa to see the fort, take a wander around the old city, and try some Swahili food (so good), before heading out to a beach a few hours away for two nights.

With the full day on the beach just take it easy, maybe go out for a few hours in a local boat, do some snorkelling, or maybe take a day to go and swim with dolphins. Whatever you feel like.

If you have a late flight from Nairobi on the 14th day then fly out from Mombasa on the 14th day to Nairobi at midday if there is a flight. Obviously, book everything in advance so everything goes ok.

To be honest I would actually recommend slowing down inland and spending a few days extra on the lakes so you won’t be rushing the whole trip.

The coast definitely has a different feel to inland Kenya like I said, but being beautiful beaches it’s also much more touristy (apart from the Masai Mara).

Again if you want to get off the beaten path choose Lake Victoria over the coast.

I didn’t do the coast on my first visit to Kenya. I stopped there on my 2nd trip and only spent a few days there.

I liked inland better.

This should give you a rough itinerary for backpacking in Kenya for two weeks.

Naturally, with three weeks you get in some coast time, or if you ignore the Lake Victoria part you could get to the Kenyan coast for a few days on a Kenya itinerary for 2 weeks.

If you are thinking about maybe spending one week in Kenya and one week in Tanzania, then it really depends on how much wildlife you want to see.

If you were going to choose the one week in Kenya option then I would suggest three days in Masai Mara, three days mixed between Naivasha or Nakuru, back to Nairobi for a night and then head to Arusha in Tanzania to arrange a five-day safari into the Serengeti and Ngorongoro.

As for Kenya itself, there are lots of other adventurous things to do in Kenya. You could head to Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa.

Deserts in Kenya in the north and northwest are spectacular but would require a lot more planning.

Also, some Kenyan desert regions can be dangerous so check the latest news on the area.

Solo Backpacking In Kenya

If you’re worried about backpacking alone in Kenya, don’t be.

You can easily meet some travellers in your hostel on your first night in Nairobi (by the way take a taxi from Nairobi airport straight to your hostel for safety) and you should find a few of them will be heading to the Masai Mara as well

If not the agency will join you with a group of others. At Lake Naivasha, there are always a few backpackers hanging out so all will be fine for you.

You can always check forums for Kenya on travel sites such as Lonely Planets Thorntree.

Kenya on a Budget

It is possible to do Kenya on a budget backpacking, but all the safari temptations can be hard to resist.

Basically, Kenya itself is a reasonably priced country, and food, chilling on a Kenyan beach, or a day safari, won’t kill your budget.

But going for 3 days into the Masai Mara and then doing more day safaris elsewhere will kill the Kenya budget backpacker.

Then again Kenya is one of those unique African safari destinations and visiting by doing some safaris would really be a shame. It’s such a cool experience.

Kenya Packing List

I wrote a very long guide for safaris in East Africa. There you will find the clothing and gear that is recommended for what to pack for safari in Kenya.

As for Kenyan dress styles and a Kenya dress code you can see with that link what to expect as well.

Kenyan Food

Food in Kenya is a mixed bag. In the capital Nairobi, you can find food from all over the world, but head to more remote areas and the options become limited.

By Lake Victoria or on the Kenyan Coast you will find delicious fresh fish. Along with the seafood on the Kenyan Coast, you will also find tasty coconut rice.

But the standard Kenyan food is honestly not much to write home about. Kenya food like Ugali. This is the staple food of Kenya and is quite bland.

It’s a cornmeal mash and is really just something to fill you up. Honestly one of my least favourite things for Kenyan food.

Kenya is generally modern enough though that you will find something you like to eat. But if heading to more remote areas like Lake Victoria you may want to bring some supermarket food to supplement what you get there.

Some of the Kenyan desserts, however, are delicious, such as the coconut macaroon.

Also, Kenya has a great barbecue tradition and meat being barbecued up is a great thing to have there.

You can find loads more about Kenyan food here.

Go Backpacking In Kenya

Kenya really is one of those perfect backpacking destinations as it offers so much so enjoy your trip. I hope I helped out a bit with rough ideas on what you can do.

Again mix it up and maybe pick and choose what appeals to you. Or just go with the flow and see what the hell happens when you get there!

Happy backpacking in Kenya!

Be sure to take backpacking insurance for your trip. I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

Get a travel insurance quote:

For a very detailed guidebook for your backpacking in Kenya adventure, I recommend the Lonely Planet Kenya (Travel Guide) It’s the guide, I used to help plan the in-depth details of the destinations in Kenya.

If you liked this article about the 2 weeks itinerary for backpacking in Kenya, a share would be cool:

15 thoughts on “Backpacking In Kenya – Epic 2-Week Itinerary”

  1. This is a great post about backpacking Kenya @Jonny. I also agree that Nairobi is hectic and a bit crazy. With a local guide, it is easier to explore as there are so many interesting places to visit in and around the city.

    Other parts of Kenya are better though. I would also add Lake Elementaita during the Hell’s Gate & Lake Naivasha visit. It is very beautiful.

    Otherwise, I see you had a great trip.

    Karibu Kenya tena.

  2. Thank you Johnny for excellent info! I wonder how you move between the spots? You write: “instead of going all the way back get out at the turnoff after a few hours driving”. But how do I get to Naivasha? Local bus?

    And then further on, from Naivasha to Nakuru and Lake Victoria? Still local transportation or should I rent a vehicle?

  3. Hey Tim! I should have mentioned this in the post, I will go and add the info now. Basically yes you can take local buses and mini-vans between all these places. Once at Lake Victoria you can also take ferries to places like Mbita. Just be aware the transport is rough going and definitely not luxurious! But then it is a backpacking trip 😉 Have fun!

  4. Hey Johnny ! I’m planning to do Kenya in November as well. Can u tell me what was your budget for those 2 weeks moving through Safari etc ? did u book safari and other activities directly at the each campsite ? I want to do a Kilimanjaro additionally and want to fit in my budget plan.

  5. Hi Johnny! I’m a 30-year-old Irish female hoping to travel to Kenya/Tanzania this summer-autumn. I know you’re a guy, but how do you think a woman travelling alone would find it there in terms of safety? Did any female travellers you met give you any insights? I have travelled for 3 months alone through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and I got on fine. Just don’t want to feel stressed out!
    Thanks 🙂

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  8. Jambo
    I am a Kenyan and one thing that makes me feel very appreciated is how bloggers like you keep talking good about our country. There lots lots of things a visitor will have to explore in Kenya. In my view your blog has got top a notch content in it.

  9. Hi
    If you want to hit these destinations with ease its good to hire a vehicle roughly an average comfortable vehicle you can spend around 40 USD on a day.

  10. Hi Jonny, very interesting post, like most of them in your blog! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    As someone asked, I would like to know your burget for this trip, including the safari bits. I find very little information about how to arrange a safari from the campsites, and we can’t afford an organised Safari offered online (they are insane expensive).

    Thanks mate!

  11. Hi Nil. The best bet to get a budget safari is to just show up in Nairobi and visit around the different safari agencies compare prices bargain a bit and you should find one for around $120-150 a day for a cheap one.

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