Skip to main content

5 Kenyan Holiday Destinations in Turkana and Rift Valley

Much local holiday travel in Kenya involves going to the Coast. If not the Coast, most holidayers end up in Nanyuki or Naivasha. But what if you wanted to go somewhere else, what are the alternatives? 

An interesting itinerary would be Lake Turkana, through the Kerio Valley and Kerio Escarpment. This is a trip doable both by public transport or as a self-drive. Given the distance, it takes at least 2 days by road - though it's manageable in one day if you have 2 drivers. 

However, it would be more fun if you explored different destinations on your way up and back, which I'll highlight below. 

1. Iten - Kerio Valley and Kerio Escarpment

The Kerio Valley is a breathtaking valley within the Rift Valley, with the Elgeyo/ Kerio Escarpment forming one boundary of the Rift Valley and the Tugen Hills forming the other. The Tugen Hills are within the Rift Valley and one of the oldest features on the planet. The Kerio River flows in between falling over the escarpment at the Torok Falls. 

The best way to take in the scenery is to drive to Nakuru, then on to Marigat. The drive from Marigat to Kabarnet offers a very scenic approach to the Tugen Hills followed by an ascent up the hills. 

The road then descends to the Kerio Valley through 2 viewpoints. You can always stop by the roadside, but it's best to stop where you are visible by drivers going both ways due to the sharp bends hence minimising risk of an accident. 

This route offers the shortest but most scenic ascent into Iten as compared to the alternative through Eldama Ravine. 

It's advisable to leave Nakuru by 1 PM to make the best of the scenery in daylight. 

If taking public transport, it's best to be in Nakuru by 10 AM, then take a matatu to Kabarnet, and another to Iten. While the matatus don't stop at the view points, a window seat will work well for the trip. 
The road is tarmacked all through, but has a series of potholes to Marigat. If you have time, you may consider touring Lakes Baringo and Bogoria which are on the way too, and separated by a swamp. 

In Iten, the Kerio View Resort is parched just over the escarpment offering views into the Kerio Valley below. Double rooms go at about KSh.12,000 on half-board. The hotel and bar are well stocked with good meal options. It also features an athletes' village as Iten is a high altitude athlete training camp. 

More affordable accommodation options are available within Iten town. 

Samich Resort offers an alternative, scenic peek into the Kerio Valley, but at this time remains shut after closing down for renovation during Covid. The route to Samich through Eldama Ravine is however the less scenic road though the views here may be better. You could also take a circle through Iten then back to Samich which is way longer but offers the scenic views.

The valley has a smoky haze most of the year due to land and charcoal burning both in the valley and all the way in South Sudan. 

Stock on shopping such as ice in Nakuru as Iten offers few options with variety. 

While in Iten, you could visit the Torok Waterfalls.

2. Turkana - Lokichar/ Lodwar
Iten to Eliye Springs is currently 8 hours by road - avoid the road through Kapedo unless you really know what you are doing as it is a bandit prone area. 

You may therefore find it easier to have an overnight stop at Lokichar which is 6 hours away. The Black Gold Resort is recommended at about KSh. 5,000 for bed and breakfast. Alternatively you may proceed to Lodwar which has a livelier nightlife and more options.

If driving, you can almost totally avoid the Eldoret- Kitale highway by going through Moiben and the Cherangani Hills, then rejoining the Kitale Highway just before Kapenguria at Maili Saba. You'll have to take a short untarmacked section between Moiben and Cherangani.  

If taking public transport, you may consider taking a matatu from Iten to Eldoret, then to Lodwar which is easier.

The road is scenic as it winds down the escarpment from Kapenguria and again as it makes its way through the small gap in between the hills at Marich Pass. Caution is advised when driving due to the steep descent, sharp bends, potholes and trucks which crash often.
Between Lokichar and Lodwar, the road remains largely under construction. Some sections of the old roads have corrugations, and these can be avoided by following the sections motorists have carved out beside the main road - where you see the matatus and trucks driving along. 

In Lodwar, Ceamo Prestige Lodge is a recommended place to stay, though lots of other options exist. 

Previously, the road was bandit prone between Kainuk and Lokichar, but is now safe with increased security and ongoing road reconstruction. There are also potholes along this stretch. 

There are lots of police road blocks on the road from Kapenguria, though these shouldn't be a bother until after Kainuk. Here, you may be hassled and it's generally advised to leave "something small" should that happen to you. 

3. Lake Turkana - Eliye Springs
About three quarter of the road to the Elite Springs is untarmacked. It is however motorable including by non-4 wheel vehicles. The shoreline stretch to Eliye is sandy and you may get stuck in some sections if in a non 4WD/AWD/AWC. You can call the resort or call on other motorists to tow you out. 

If on public transport, take a Probox taxi from Lodwar to Eliye Springs. There's no proper public transport on this stretch. 

Lodwar has well stocked shops and supermarkets and you can shop at supermarkets such as Kilimanjaro before heading to the Lake.

You will need to have your tyre pressure at two thirds the recommended pressure - for 35 PSI, your pressure should be 25 PSI to 29 PSI. This is due to the corrugation and sandy stretches which will shake the car too much if at normal pressure. You can manually deflate the tyres should you find the car skidding or shaking too much. However ensure the sidewall doesn't bulge as this brings a risk of the tyre coming off the rim. The aim is to have enough leeway to avoid the tyre bouncing off the corrugations but wrapping around them. Remember to reinflate your tyre once back to Lodwar as deflated tyres last shorter on tarmac. 

The Eliye Springs are one of a few springs that feed Lake Turkana. The Lake shore is sandy and dotted by Duom Palms which resemble Coconut palms. 

The water is warm and enjoyable to swim in, though the lake is crocodile infested and lots of people have fallen victim to the reptiles. Swimming is at your own risk and totally not recommended from dusk and at night. 

You can take sunset boat rides at about KSh. 3,500 per boatload or rides to Central Island at about KSh. 20,000 per boat load. 

Accomodation is available at several camp sites which range at between KSh. 600 to KSh. 800 per person. 

Non-camping options are largely the Eliye Springs Resort, which is not much of a resort. Rooms on half-board start at KSh. 13,000 for a twin bed and KSh. 28,000 for a double hut. Traditional huts go at KSh. 2,000 a night but have shared toilets and bathrooms. 

It's however recommended to do a tent and mattress at the campsite as it's cooler, or take the KSh. 13,000 twin rooms which go at KSh. 8,000 for one person. 

Note that the power at Eliye goes out at 8 PM as it's solar generated off-grid, while Eliye Springs Resort runs it's generator till 10 PM. It's still quite hot indoors until past midnight where temperatures may drop below 30 degrees when the lake gets windy. You will therefore need to plan to have your devices charged and a light to move around after lights out. 

Besides chilling by the lake shore, you can take walks around the lake. Due to the hot weather, the walks are best early in the morning or at sunset. Avoid walking at night due to scorpions and snakes. 

The lake itself sits in a low basin flanked by a 10 to 20 metre steep hillside marking previous high water levels. The Ethiopian Highlands are said to have erupted later cutting off Lake Turkana from the Nile where it got its fish and crocodile from. Decreased rainfall from the Congo weather system led to a fall in water level and it's disconnection from Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria which were once all connected. 

4. Kapenguria - Barnley's Resort 
While heading back from Turkana, you can take advantage to stop over in Kapenguria for a night or so. The Barnley Resort is a homestay and campsite just outside Kapenguria town run by The Barnley family for decades. 

It's currently run by Richard Barnley who's in his sixties and quite the gifted and hilarious orator. His hilarious stories will have you wiping tears. 

Accommodation can include dinner and breakfast, or you could opt for dinner at the nearby Kesogon shopping centre. 

By public transport, take a matatu to Kapenguria and then another alighting just before Kesogon, or a matatu to Kitale and alight at Barnley's before Kesogon.

5. Kembu Cottage
Kembu Cottage offers a number of cottages in Njoro, set in an expansive farm with hundreds of horses and a few cattle. 

The units are nested amidst grass and tree expanses setting the mood for a relaxing stay or for those seeking some inspiration from mother nature. 

Cottages start at KSh. 7,200 per night and half-board at an additional KSh. 3,000 per person. The good here was the best so far in all places visited. 

A self-cook option may be available, but be sure to bring all your ingredients. Equally, stock up all your supplies in advance as the nearest proper shopping option is in Nakuru about 20 kilometres away. 

Some of the cottages come with an all-glass sitting area with a fireplace for cooler nights. 

Besides the cottage, there are dozens of tracks around the farm where you can walk along amidst horses and cattle grazing in their paddocks. 

By public transport, take a matatu to Nakuru, another to Njoro town and then a taxi to Kembu Cottage.


Popular posts from this blog

Nairobi's Top 4 Texas Brisket Places Reviewed and Ranked

Brisket on a bed of roast vegetables with barbecue sauce at Texas Brisket, Kikuyu  This review has been updated after a number of you suggested I try the brisket at County2County.  What's the best place to have Brisket in Nairobi? What's even brisket?  Brisket is one of the toughest cuts in a cow, from around the belly. It is so tough that it has to be smoked for about 16 hours to tenderise. But that there, is the catch.  12 to 16 hours later, it is the most flavourful and softest cut you will ever have. So full of flavour and so soft you can pick it apart with your fingers.  However, due to the long cooking time involved, only a few places offer brisket in Nairobi.  The best so far is Texas Brisket which is located within Kikuyu Railway station.  They do the meat for a proper 16 hours, and will usually have a fatty or non-fatty portion. The fatty portions are more tasty. A 500 gram serving goes for KSh. 900 and a 1 KG order comes with a serving of free fries. Their brisket has

The bitter story of the downfall of Mumias Sugar company

A spoonful of sugar, but for who? ( Image: Carol Wallis on Flickr ) Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar? Regarded by many as Kenya's most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen. Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya's sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, "Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji". The proverb means that if you see your neighbour's head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same - you'd therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave. But what ails Kenya's sugar industry? The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here. Many of Kenya's sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly decline

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

Note: This is a dated post and has since been mostly passed by events. SAB Miller beers including Castle and Peroni are no longer widely available in Kenya after their exist. Sirville Brewery was bought out by Brew Bistro before being permanently shut in a tax dispute. Kenya is a land of milk, honey, beaches and taxes. I have penned, or is typed, a newer post here .  Peroni - One of the best beers in Kenya. Did a taste of canned and bottled Italian, and bottled Tanzanian I like the tangy flavour and body in Tanzanian Peroni. The can is close. Heineken drinkers will like the Italian one.  I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinion of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives one free, extra hangover for every hangover you get

Why Humanity Hasn't Learned From the Covid Pandemic

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic began ravaging the world, succeeding the 1918 flu pandemic.  Many found it unbelievable that despite all the scientific progress that the world has made since 1918, from composite jets to modern healthcare to going to the moon, the world was still susceptible to a pandemic.  Ironically, some of these advancements largely played a role in the spread of the pandemic. Thousands of global flights every hour and air conditioning fanned its spread like a dry wind would in a forest fire.  There was even further disbelief in mid-2020 when it became apparent that many countries were even struggling to keep a pandemic in check. Developed countries, supposed to have the best healthcare, suffered the worst outbreaks amidst disagreements on measures such as quarantines and wearing of masks.  In yet another twist, technology advancement finally came to our rescue with the speedy development of vaccines, including the safe pioneering of never-tried-before mRNA vaccines

Should I buy a Smartband?

 Mi Band 5 is a nifty smartband with long battery life, a colour screen and lots of features including call and SMS alerts, a weather app, and fitness tracking  If your phone is always on vibrate or silent, it might seem too much to have a device around your wrist that alerts you every time your phone rings or an SMS checks in. Yet, that has been the most convenient thing about getting a fitness tracker, or more so, a smart band.  The smart band turns your wrist into a screening device for which calls to pick or to ignore, without having to dash across the room or house to check your phone whenever it rings. The other surprisingly convenient thing about these smart bands is how long their batteries last. One of my early fears was a device that would need charging every other minute. But my first try saw the Mi Band 5’s battery carry on for 21 days after charging. This was with no heart tracking and low-level sleep monitoring. The battery life is so good that I have switched on some o