Discover Nyeri County
Brief Overview of Nyeri County
The rather easy 151 kms journey to Nyeri via A2 Nairobi-Isiolo Road is a joyride across a year round evergreen engirdle in parts of Kiambu, Muranga, Kirinyaga and Nyeri Counties. As you cross Muranga County, beyond Thika, the journey hereafter is for the most parts a drive up and down a series of rolling wooded hills with alternative valleys crossed by a series of rivers; which all conjoin to become River Sagana and which lower down drains into River Tana. The roller-coaster ride commences with the most impressive valley that crosses the mighty River Tana at the bottom before arriving at Sagana in Kirinyaga County. From Sagana, which sits at 4,041 ft., and one of the lowest regions in Kirinyaga, it’s an unrelenting ascend to Karatina Town, at 6,128 ft., excepting the small dip near the turnoff into Baricho. Karatina is the southeast entrytown into Nyeri County.
From Karatina the roller-coaster drive resumes. A trait carried across much of the landscape of Nyeri County. As you near Nyeri Town, 25 kms away, the Nyeri Hill, Mweiga Hill, Mount Kenya and Aberdare Range appear in view. Withal, the butterfly-shaped Nyeri County is dominated by the large bulk of the dome-shaped Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Range: the former skirting in on the outer half of the right wing and the latter on the outer half of the left wing. It is one of five counties whose border is thrust to the highest peak of Mount Kenya, in company with Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, and Tharaka Nithi. The presence of these two outstanding natural landmarks gives it a unique topography and one of the surpassing landscapes in Kenya. This is a year round verdant country too.
Although we know that Nyeri is surrounded by the Aberdare Ranges and parts of the Mount Kenya National Park, Nyeri is still foremost an agricultural area. Much of the land in Nyeri County is dominated by medium sized farms, all the way to its boundaries in the north and northeast, where the open plains start, and further north where the roomy grass-covered Laikipia Plateau commences.
Salient Features of Nyeri County
- County Number 19
- Area – 3356 km2
- Altitude – 6128 ft
- Major Towns – Karatina, Nyeri, Othaya
- Borders – Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Meru, Laikipia, Muranga
Brief History of Nyeri County
Shortly after completing Fort Hall (Muranga) in 1901, the British East African Company set their sights on Kikuyuland, and, in no time, completed their third fort, at Nyeri. In 1902, led by R. Meinertzhagen, the BEA had marched a strong military force to Nyeri, meeting spirited resistance from native Kikuyu warriors led by Wangombe Wa Ihura. The Kikuyu were defeated. After Meinertzhagen’s victory, a decision was reached to set up Nyeri Fort. Promptly, the extension of Thika railway towards Nyeri began in 1923. After the establishment of the post, settlers and missionaries migrated into Nyeri, growing it to a trading centre for white settler farmers who farmed wheat, tea, and coffee. They also established Nyeri Club, the White Rhino Hotel, Outspan Hotel, and Aberdare Country Club.
Places of Interest in Nyeri County
1. Wajee Nature Park
Just 2 kms beyond Karatina Town en-route Nyeri Town the Mukurwe-ini Road Junction is reached, which is quickest route to Wajee Nature Park. This is one of the oldest alternative sites in the Nyeri Circuit. Its 10-hectares of unspoiled indigenous forest with many planted exotic trees became a park in 1992 before which Wajee was for many years an ancestral land belonging to Jagi Gakunju – CEO of African Air Rescue. In 2008, it was taken over by the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. Wajee Nature Park also hosts a spectacular concentration and variety of birds and is a relished birding paradise and bio-sphere hosting a mega 126 bird species, to include, four rare bird species: Hinde’s babbler (endemic to Kenya), the African wood owl as well as the seasonally migratory Blackcap warbler and European bee-eater. The nature trail, through tunnels and turns, is bedizened with variegated flora. The park is also home to abounding numbers of squirrels.
A generous grass-thatched rondavel serves as a gathering and resting place. For trippers willing to spend at night or two, the original 3-bedrooms family house raised in 1941 is available for rental. All the rooms have electricity and running water. In addition, two white washed grass thatched twin-bedded rondavels are also available, charmingly set-up amongst the flowering shrubs and bird baths. There’s also a pretty camping site for up to 20. Tents, mattresses, ground sheets and camping stoves can be provided at a small fee. For cultural tourism there is a replica Kikuyu homestead, with illustrations. The high-standing Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga – home of Gikuyu hero and heroine of origin – is within striking distance. Mount Kenya can be seen in the distance on a clear day. It is located 21 kms from Karatina Town along the Mukurweini-Mihuti-Gakonya Road just 1.2 kms from Mihuti Market, and about 5.4 kms from Mukuruwe-ini Township.
2. Njigari Forest Hike
‘Nature will reward your courage to be out there’ as you divest yourself from the demerits of gridlocked roads and expanding towns, into a trail weaving through health-giving bamboo forests, hilltop plenaries, picturesque waterfalls and past ancient podo trees. Njigari Forest Trail, at the southeast corner of the Aberdare Forest, commences near Njigari Center – 15 kms west of Othaya Town – cutting through a section of the Nyayo Tea Estate and inclining for about 1 km to the Aberdare National Park fence and thence leading you into the dense forest. The 12 kms trail rated moderate is a fairly long-distance trail typically taking over 8 hours to hike. “Not for long in the giant Podo forest, the trail evolves into a huge bamboo garden; some shooting, others rotting, others hugging, others standing alone, others broke and dying along elephant tracks, and yet others have broken but growing again; nature has so much to teach” – HikeManiak. It is a hike of great sceneries and some steep ascents, challenging in parts, accomplished by almost anyone with average fitness. Ensure to carry plenty of water and snacks, wear sturdy shoes and carry a poncho. The hike through the Aberdare Reserve must be in company with by park rangers. For group trips contact Hike Maniak.
3. Chinga Dam
The Karatina-Mukurwe-ini Road is also one of two ways to get to Othaya Town and to Chinga Dam. Completed in 1957, this is to date the largest reservoir dam in Nyeri County. Thereupon, water levels have fallen due to silt accumulations. According to a recent study by the water agencies, the mud is now about 18 feet deep. At its deepest the dam is 40 feet. All the same, this man-made marvel sits beautifully in the center of a woody-landscape, part of which was cleared for its construction, with hemmed-in tea farms and embarking slopes that include the filmy Karima Hill. The primary interest for trippers is boating around the dam. Once at the Dam, information should be obtained on arrival concerning hiring of the hop-on hop-off boat taxis. Generally this region enjoys a lovely climate, however, early morning are bothered by fog. Across the road from the Dam is the pretty Chinga Falls. The best months for visiting the Dam are December to February, and those to be avoided are March to May, in the rains. The weather is cold and gloomy between May to August, thus restricting boating and hiking. Othaya is 16 kms from Mukurwe-ini. And Chinga Dam only 7 kms from Othaya.
4. Karima Hill
The tapering dome-shaped Karima Hill, which reaches 2,014 ms at the highest point, was enshrined as a National Monument in 2000 owing to its cultural heritage and its outstanding biodiversity. Covering an area of about 265-acres it uniquely lies between Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya Forests, which are key biodiversity locations within the Eastern Montane Biosphere. Of interest at Karima Hill are the 109 recorded bird species, 21 exotic tree species, Kamwangi and Gakina sacred shrines, the 400 year old large sacred Mugumo tree, and the indigenous knack of traditional or medicinal therapy of the flora. The forest is faced with logging incidences. Though there are two forest guards in the forest, there are many isolated cases of logging within the forest. Restoration efforts are underway after a significant part of the forest was cleared in the late 1990’s.
5. Gathuthi Tea Factory
17 kms north of Othaya Town is the larger Nyeri Town. The short drive between these two major towns takes one through a breathtaking roller-coaster drive as the steep slope fall away into the valleys covered by fetching tea farms. Tea is one of the most valuable exports of Nyeri which is prominent around the areas proximate to the Aberdare Range. Much of the beauty of the highlands, around Mathira, Othaya and Tetu, arises from the swathe tea-landscape. Gathuthi Tea Factory about 15 kms from Othaya Town and 11 kms from Nyeri Town is one of the easily accessible factories which welcomes guests and offers insights on the processing of tea; from farm to cup. The tours include stops at the weighing, fermentation, timed-dying, sieving and grading divisions and, of course, a cup of their best in class tea. It processes about 15 million kgs of green leaf annually.
6. Serena Mountain Lodge
500 ms beyond the Karatina-Mukurwe-ini turnoff (left) E599 Unjiru-Kiamariga Road turnoff (right) is reached, which 30 kms away terminates at the edge of Mount Kenya National Park at one of Kenya’s beautifully-appointed tree lodges. Reminiscent of the resplendent Treetops Tree Lodge at Aberdare National Park, Serena Mountain Lodge offers the romantic finery of Mount Kenya. One of the establishment’s biggest trump-cards is the self-indulgent open-air sun-awning poop deck from where guests gaze down at the water-hole backdropped by the dense rainforest draping the slopes of Mount Kenya. The vista, bustling at most times of the day with herds of elephant and buffalo, is an ever-changing gallery and one of consuming interest which occupies and transfixes guests for hours on end. To boot, there are wake up calls to view prized game at the waterhole on request. The general design of the three-storeyed tree lodge takes full advantage of the lovely serenity, tranquility and solitude, with each of its 41-rooms having private balconies overlooking the rain forest canopy. Guided forest walks, trout fishing, mountain climbs and trekking are some of the liked activities. To top it all off, guests can enjoy tip-top views at the gallery dining room at tree top level.
7. Kayaba Scouts Centre
Set up on a 3-acres property atop a hill with memorable views of Mount Kenya and Aberdare Range, the Kayaba Scout’s Centre which can accommodate up to 100 campers is one of the best budget camping destinations in Nyeri. Owned by Kenya Scouts Association and run by the Nyeri Scouts Camp, it provides near-endless opportunities for week-long backpacking trips. “Scouting Movement is the largest youth movement in Kenya, with over 1,000,000 boy and girl Scouts and a support troupe of almost 40,000 Scout Leaders. Scouting in Kenya was established in 1910. It is located off the Ruthagati-Kaburuini Road (which also takes to Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls) about 810 ms from Karatina-Nyeri Road.
8. Tumu Tumu Hill
Keen hikers who decide to drive up to Tumu Tumu Hill, making a left turn just after the turnoff to Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls, now travel on a good tarmac all the way through a most beautiful rural scenery. The region north and west of Karatina forms an area of higher ground marked by a belt of broken steep-sided hills, often flat-topped, like Tumu Tumu, Kiamucheru and Niana. Also known as Karatina Hill, Tumu Tumu Hill which is a more than pleasurable hiking trail is perhaps best known for its time-hallowed mission history – becoming a base for early settlers and ground-zero for mission work in Nyeri and which, in part, demystified the old myth of modern schools making rational colonized subjects. The history of Tumu Tumu Mission dates back to 1918 when the Assembly of the Church of Scotland formed of a Church government and inaugurated Parish Canons for the Congregations of Kikuyu, Tumu Tumu and St. Andrew’s – found in Nairobi. The Presbytery of British East Africa (PCEA), the most widespread denomination in Nyeri County, was instituted to exercise jurisdiction over the congregations. The appeal of PCEA was its resolve to ordinate native elders to lead. Gazetted as a National Monument, the PCEA Tumu Tumu Church offers a glimpse into one of the most fundamental paradigm shifts in the region. Also of interest nearby are the Kiamachimbii Mau-Mau Graves and a meet-and-greet with locals who are happy to detail memoirs of the Church and Mau-Mau Wars.
9. Nyeri War Cemetery
Just 8 kms from Marua Junction along the A2 Kiganjo-Nanyuki-Isiolo Road on the right hand side – as indicated by the directional sign – sits the Nyeri War Cemetery. Sometimes known as Kiganjo War Memorial owing to its location in Kiganjo and abutting with Kagumo High School, “it holds 368 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the Second World War. Four of the burials are unidentified and one soldier is commemorated by a special memorial. Kiganjo Cemetery also contains two non-war burials and one French war grave. Nine Italian graves have since been removed” – CWGC. After the Second World War, three major general hospitals were built at Nyeri but only two were used; one by the military authorities and the other for the Italian refugees and prisoners of war held in the area. The burials at Nyeri War Cemetery were made from these three hospitals. It is open – Monday to Friday – between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm.
10. Kahiga Homestay
On the whole, Nyeri County offers a splendid mix of accommodation options. In point of fact, it was one the pioneers of the ‘homestay’ model in the region, long before the concept was made accessible by the global online marketplace and hospitality giant Airbnb. Kahiga Homestay, one of the earliest and still widely popular homestays, is a spacious 5-bedrooms (en-suite) holiday home modelled on the ethos of providing ‘a home away from home’. Originally developed as a family retirement home, this offers a relaxed and family-oriented option away from the conventional hotel life. Travellers stay on a self-catering basis with the additional option for camping on the sprawling lawns. Other highlights include its stocked bar, billiard table, gazebo, farm, cozy fireplace and, of course, the tranquil rural hush. It is located in Kiganjo close to Kiganjo Police College via Karatina-Nyeri Road (turning off at Marua) and Marua-Kiganjo-Nanyuki Road.
11. Thego Fishing Camp
Shortly before arriving at Kiganjo Town the Kenya Police College (renamed to National Police College, Kiganjo Campus) and the turnoff to B5 Nyeri Road is passed. From its humble beginnings between 1887-1902, tracing its foundation on the Imperial British East Africa Company, and the businessman Sir William McKinnon, who in the interest of his businesses found it necessary to provide some form of protection for his stores in the Coast Region of Kenya, this is now Kenya’s central college for police training. At Chaka, the next-door centre, one may, however, be interested in visiting the calming waters of the Thego River, a long-standing fishing camp. From this camp the avid angler can fish the Thego itself; the Sagana, Nairobi, Chania and Gura Rivers, and Naro Moru, Burguret, Liki and Nanyuki Rivers are within an hour’s drive. At the camp, there are two basic self-catering rondavels, both fitted with wood burning stoves. Aside from being a great fishing spot, its scenic trail which follows a ridge looking over the river makes for a pleasant walking adventure. Thego Fishing Camp is located off the Chaka-Sagana State Lodge Road – approximately 6 kms from Chaka Centre.
12. Chaka Ranch
Since its establishment in 2014, Chaka Ranch has resolutely vindicated its well-earned standing as Kenya’s unsurpassed leisure and entertainment park. Now practically a household name, it has decorously bagged the rare distinction of a bucket-list destination. To start with, it has the biggest and widest collection of quad bikes and buggies in Kenya, yet, it is its location away from the city and away from civilization, in a picture-postcard setting with views of Mount Kenya and Aberdare Range, which captures the imagination of its guests. In all, there are 10 different exciting outdoor activities and the visitor may be assured that, whether it is having all out fun in the mud on the quad bikes or buggies, racing it out on the go-kart track or skating park, shooting it out at the paintball arena, splashing it out at the huge water park or simply admiring the scenery, there is something for all ages. It is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Chaka Ranch Tented Camp, just a walking distance from the leisure park, offer an intimate and exclusive one-of-a-kind accommodation. It is reached via Marua-Kiganjo-Nanyuki Road at Chaka nearby Kiganjo, with plenty of signs along the A2 Road.
13. Naro Moru River Lodge
Established in 1949 at the foothills of Mount Kenya and along the Naro Moru Route, the 46-rooms Naro Moru River Lodge set on 70 acres of delightful alpine bliss with wondrous smoky mountain views is the perfect base camp for hikers. Founded by Sir Rufus Klarwill, who also mapped out Naro Moru Route – the most popular route up the mountain because it is the quickest trail to Top Hut and Point Lenana – the lodge sits along the banks of the Naro Moru River that rises from the Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya and drains into the Ewaso Nyiro River. This River, which also passes right at the centre of the Lodge, is a useful natural yardstick along the hiking trail. For those looking for a quiet weekend away from the expeditious city life, the rustic cabin-styled hidey-hole offers an intoxicating rest whose appeal is capped by the awe-inspiring Mount Kenya. Naro Moru River Lodge is a top-rated ornithological destination that hosts an exceptional variety of bird life. Visitors can also enjoy facilities like swimming, squash and lawn tennis courts or walks in the beautiful gardens. In addition to these, for the more adventurous at heart, there is the outdoor Naro Moru River Lodge Challenge Course. Dining facilities include the Nelion-pool restaurant and the Kirinyaga restaurant both serving international cuisine and traditional African dishes. The lodge has two bars: Lenana Bar and Batian Bar which also serve coffee and fresh juices. Game drives to the famous Ol Pejeta Conservancy as well as to many of the revered ranches and parks can also be organized. The Lodge is found 28 kms north Kiganjo via the A2 Marua-Kiganjo-Nanyuki Road.
14. Bantu Mountain Lodge
8 kms north of Naro Moru or 15 kms south of Nanyuki sits the Bantu Mountain Lodge also popular as a starting-point for circuits taking to the northern face of Mount Kenya. The delightful budget-friendly country-style resort, also known as Mountain Rock Lodge, is tucked away in the woods on the lower slopes of the mountain. It offers a span of thrilling activities, notably trekking or horse back rides along the trails. The lodge itself has 28 rooms classed as either superior or standard room. Most of the 12 superior-double rooms are convertible to triples.
15. Mau Mau Caves
Another of the great launches within easy reach of Nanyuki Town, about 15 kms along the Nanyuki-Nyeri Road and 8 kms north of Naro Moru if approaching from Nyeri, accessible through Mountain Rock or Bantu Lodge (also popular as a starting-point for circuits taking to the northern face of Mount Kenya) are the Mau Mau Caves. These prevail as a solemn reminder of one of British Empire’s bloodiest struggles in East Africa and a beacon of some significant steps to the independence of Kenya. Located at the foothills of Mount Kenya, the Mau Mau Caves were utilised by the infamous Mau Mau fighters as a military rendezvous point, between 1953 to 1959. Although much of the history of the fierce battles in and around these caves was censored by the colonial government, historians estimate that about 11,000 Mau Mau fighters lost their lives in the insurgence waged in the nearby forests; including native fighters who died in 1959 when the Caves were bombed by the Royal Air Force. Mau Mau Caves were gazetted as a National Monument in 2003. They are located 15 kms from Nanyuki Town.
16. The Trout Tree
A short drive past Bantu Mountain Lodge, just 34 kms north of Kiganjo, brings one to the Trout Tree Restaurant, an exemplary stopover that has been offering new thrills and unfamiliar horizons for decades. Built in an enormous fig tree along the Burguret River, below Mount Kenya, Trout Tree is the home of the char-grilled trout. The menu also includes prime Laikipia beef and vegetarian options, while at weekends a kids’ menu is available and the pizza oven is fired up to offer a variety of delicious pizzas. It operates on a farm-to-fork policy with trout raised in a hatchery of 10 small fry fish ponds, 4 medium sized fingerling ponds and 21 large ponds with an average production of about 2 tons of trout per month. Although fish and fishing does not attract half as many trippers to Nyeri County as does it wildlife, this eatery has curved out an unlikely niche. A trip here gives also offers fine walking especially along the banks of Burguret River. Here again, the walking trail goes past the self-contained Creaky Cottage.
The farm was started as The Tamarind Trout Farm in 1978 and managed by Elsen Karstad from 1984. It was bought by John Njuguna in 1996 from the Tamarind Group. It remains the largest commercial trout farm in East Africa.
17. Nanyuki Airstrip
Nanyuki Airstrip, which has been operated and maintained by Tropic Air since the early 1990s, is a busy jumping-off place for many prodigious air journeys to the labyrinthine and wondrous Northern Frontier of Kenya and even further to Congo. “Despite having evolved into a vibrant air hub, the airfield’s charm has remained unchanged – with its simple wooden buildings, extensive lawns, and incredible scenic location” – Tropic Air. It has a 1.2 kms strip running parallel to the A2 Kiganjo-Nanyuki-Moyale Road with all-round picturesque views best enjoyed from the impressively rough and ready time-honoured Barney’s Bar and Restaurant which has also remained unchanged for decades. This is set in a spacious garden betwixt the air strip and highway providing a unique place to have a nice meal before travelling north. Rated highly, the exquisitely prepared European continental dishes are the star here. Seeing the small planes landing and taking off back-dropped by Mount Kenya is a bonus. It is open daily from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm, and found just 2 kms before the main town en route Nyeri.
18. Nanyuki Equator Marker
Despite the travel-liked gesture of crossing the equator, and by the same token crossing both hemispheres of the planet, this is not at all a cosset idea in Kenya considering the Equator passes over Kenya from east to west virtually splitting it into two almost equal halves. Most equator crossing points in Kenya along the major roads have an obligatory pillar, but are otherwise bland and uneventful. Rather oppugnant, the equator crossing at Nanyuki has earned a reputation as a must stop-over for its equator crossing ceremony. Considering Nanyuki is a busy jump-off town to Laikipia County, the locals have devised pawky and fairly simple set-ups to demonstrate the Coriolis Effect: an inertial or fictitious force that seems to act on objects that are in motion within a frame of reference that rotates with respect to an inertial frame. Due to the earth’s rotation, the air mass curves relative to the earth’s surface. In the north (hemisphere) this effect causes the air to deflect ‘to the right’ of the direction of the air movement and in the south the deflection of the air is ‘to the left’ of the air movement. “If you are standing on the equator at Nanyuki in Kenya and see this experiment live, the Coriolis effect will have a long-lasting effect on your memory”. – Be on the road
19. Mount Kenya Safari Club
Originally built as a holiday home for famous American actor William Holden – one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1950’s and 1960’s, this sublime hotel with dazzling gardens and astounding views is now one of Kenya’s great resorts and as famous as the icon it was built for. Mount Kenya Safari Club is unique in that it caters, luxuriously, for the world’s wealthy. Set on the slopes of Mount Kenya, above Nanyuki, it boasts a heated swimming pool, a chain of ornamental lakes, frequented by hundreds of rare birds imported from the world over, and such facilities as riding, safari trips, a golf course, bowling greens, croquet, and a private wildlife sanctuary. The Club also has its own team of African dancers, and is internationally regarded as one of the best resort of its kind in the world. Its 120 rooms set in 100 acres are hemmed-in by well kept lawns, gardens, trout filled rivulets and, priceless all-round views. It is located 10 kms from Nanyuki Town, turning left onto a dirt road nearby Lions Court and the Equator Marker.
20. Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage
The secure and secluded Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage, situated adjacent to Mount Kenya Safari Club, is a safe refuge and rehabilitation centre for harmed and orphaned wildlife. At the orphanage, they give orphaned, injured, abused and frightened animals a second chance to thrive in safety before being released back to the wild. Likewise, travellers and students benefit from their education program and get to see the wildlife up-close. Their rehabilitation project which aims to prevent “extinction” has been a big success – not least, the breeding of the endangered mountain Bongo and Grevy’s zebra. With the help of their program, the rare ‘white zebras’ are finally safe from extinction, thanks to their captive ‘breeding and release’ back to the natural and ancestral wild habitat. It is located 10 kms east of Nanyuki Town, taking a left turnoff near the Equator marker or an alternative along Mt Kenya Road near ASK Nanyuki Showground.
21. Nanyuki War Cemetery
Nanyuki War Cemetery is found 4 kms along a rough road from the township, turning left onto the road into Mount Kenya Safari Club. The cemetery is down the roadway on the left hand side, set well back with the grassed entrance drive marked by boundary stones. The route is well signposted from town. During the Second World War, Nanyuki Town was the key rail head for the advance into Ethiopia, via Isiolo, Marsabit and Wajir, and was also an important advance base for the Royal Air Force. The war cemetery was started during hostilities by the Army, the first burial taking place in February 1940. In 2008 the nearby Civil Cemetery burials were transfered here. Today, the Nanyuki War Cemetery contains 196 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. There are also 36 non-war burials and one Abyssinian war grave found within the cemetery. It is reached via the Mount Kenya Road, turning left near Nanyuki Show Ground.
22. Nanyuki Town
Dubbed “the Best Western” owing to a subtle resemblance of a classic western movie set, the obscurity of Nanyuki has always been fascinating. Spatially, it marks the northeast gateway into Nyeri County and conversely as the gateway to Northern Kenya. Not far from the main town, the first bridge over Nanyuki River marks the unofficial boundary between Nyeri and Laikipia County. A little further ahead, the River also mark the unofficial border between Laikipia and Meru Counties. Nanyuki is also the jumping-off place to the conservancies of Laikipia situated to its west and north. It is also home to a permanent training support unit for British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) and Laikipia Air Base (formerly Nanyuki Air Base). Time and tide have evolved its initial social structure based on race and class and today Nanyuki is the “melting pot of the north” folding in many local communities from the three counties, and beyond.
Founded in 1907, as the railway head for the East African Railway to Ethiopia, Nanyuki has since its inception been classified as a “Leisure Outpost” and the evidence is telling. It is revered for its hotels, its outdoor endeavors, its cultural pursuits, its enviable nightlife and socializing. Indubitably, it is one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Kenya – next to Nairobi and Mombasa – and nowhere is this diversity more apparent than in its range of fine restaurants – which make for a useful health and stretch rest. Some of the household names here include Le Rustique, Kongoni Camp, Cape Chestnut, Tusks Restaurant at the Mount Kenya Safari Club, The Painted Dog, Barney’s Restaurant and Kungu Maitu. “A song is sung of Nanyuki being ‘mwisho wa reli’ – the end of the rail road – to imply it was the epitome of all fantasies and leisure activities”. Indeed, most of its iconic hotels predate the 1950’s – Mount Kenya Safari Hotel (1930), Nanyuki Sports Club (1945), Silver Beck Hotel (1946) and Sportsman Arms Hotel (1950). The latter opening 12 years before the first hotel was built in the Mara (in 1962).
23. Mount Kenya National Park
The dissected volcano of Mount Kenya, which forms Kenya’s highest mountain, has been a walkers paradise for explorers and mountaineers since 1889 when the summit was first reached. “Overlooking Nyeri, and Kikuyuland, at 17,058 ft (5,199 ms) Mount Kenya is a fairy tale castle mountain whose triad of peaks rise through the moorland mist as a challenge to the walker and the rock climber and whose brooding, rolling foothills, covered with dense indigenous woodland contains enormous concentration of big game.” The views of this Cathedral of nature’s cosmic beauty when seen on a blue sky clear day justifies its reputation as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites – inscribed in 1997. Of particular interest are its snowy peaks, composed of ten dwindling glaciers, which are all the more impressive bearing-in-mind Mount Kenya is in spitting distance of the Equator.
Mount Kenya is more scenic than faunal and is a key attraction for hikers and mountaineers – not motorists. Howbeit, it is possible to drive from Nanyuki to the far end of Sirimon Track and Old Moses Camp (Judmier Camp) at 3300 ms. There are 8 walking routes up to its main peak spread around the Mountain in the five counties whose borders extend to its highest peak. Sirimon and Naro-Moru Routes being the most frequented. Of the two routes in Nyeri – Burguret and Naro Moru – the latter which follows the Naro Moru River to a clearing at 10,000 ft then onward to Teleki Valley (15,700 ft) and Point Lenana (16,355 ft) is widely popular. Mount Kenya National Park is denned as the area above the 11,000 ft contour, under the aegis of Kenya Wildlife Service. About half of the remainder of the area between the 11,000 ft and 5,000 ft contour is the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve under Kenya Forest Service – with stations at Nanyuki, Gathiuru, Kabaru, Hombe, Ragati, the Castle Forest Lodge and Irangi in Embu.
24. Naro Moru Route
Naro Moru Route maintained by Kenya Wildlife Service and Mountain Club of Kenya is the most direct access to the higher parts of Mount Kenya. The Route commences at Naro Moru Gate, nearby Naru Moru Police Station, on a pathway which leads through farms to the Forest Station. It follows the Naro Moru River and ends in the clearing at 10,000 feet. If hiking from Naro Moru River Lodge, the path leads to their Met Station Lodge at 10,000 ft. From here, a well marked path continues up the through moorland and vertical bog on a narrow path that goes past the ridge overlooking the Teleki Valley, to Kwarwill’s Hut at 13,500 ft. From here, its a sharp trail to Top Hut (15,700 ft.). The distance from the end of the clearing to Top Hut is 9 kms. From Top Hut, the walk goes through Firmin Hut to Lenana. Although the highest levels on the mountain to which a vehicle can penetrate are reached on the Sirimon Track, Naro Moru Route provides the quickest route to Point Lenana. It takes on average just three days (round-trip).
Point Lenana can be reached by almost anyone who is fit. The youngest climber to climb Mount Kenya from Naro Moru River Lodge climbing base was a 6 year old from the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and the oldest was an 80 year old Asian man. The highest peaks of Batian and Nelion can only be reached by more experienced climbers.
25. Burguret Route
The less travelled wilderness Buruget Route to Point Lenana, descending on the Sirimon or Chogoria Route, is the least hiked of the 8 routes; only favoured by parties ascending the mountain with pack-animals. Originally a wild trail, it was the adventuresome mettle of the famed Italian prisoner of war and writer Felice Benuzzi, going-up and descending via Chogoria Route, who first put in under the limelight. Felice’s epic escape in 1943 and his ascend to Mount Kenya using the Burguret Route, aiming to put the Italian Flag on the summit, is detailed in exotic detail in his captivating book “No Picnic on Mount Kenya“. The Buruget Route commences on the west side of Mount Kenya near Mountain Rock Lodge -recognized as the company which revived treks on this route. It also provides a restful base to acclimatize and prepare. Burguret Route extends about 30 kms and takes on average 6 days (round-trip). It is not motorable above Gathiuru Forest Station (15 kms away). From here, the ascent goes through the Bamboo Forest to Giant Bamboo Camp, through the pencil cedar forest to the Highland Base, Shipton’s Camp, Old Moses and Top Hut, before aiming for Point Lenana.
26. Burguret Kilele House
Located halfway between Mountain Rock Lodge and Nanyuki Town, Burguret Kilele House set on a 25-acres is a reposeful base for trippers aiming for Point Lenana (via the Burguret Route) or for trippers heading out north to Samburu. If the latter were not sufficient, the appeal of tranquil and tastefully furnished 3-bedrooms self-catering house is capped by magnificent scenery of Mount Kenya. It gives all its visitors as warm a welcome to soak-in the beauty and live repose of the romantic alpine aura. From here visitor can take walks up to the forest or visit many places of interest found within easy reach. It is located at Burguret along the Kiganjo-Nanyuki Road, about 15 kms from Nanyuki Town.
The drive across the Honi Valley, from National Police College to Seremwai, is said to be one of Nyeri’s finest drive, and for those who haven’t journeyed on the Nyeri-Nyahururu Road, the Kaburuini-Chaka Road through Nyaribu, or on the Solio Ranch-Naro Moru Road that is probably true. The drive across Honi Valley is a heart-stopping 7 kms of meandering road down to the valley where the Honi Rover is crossed before the commensurate ascent up the valley. Just the same, it is exceedingly scenic and provides memorable sights for first-time trippers to Nyeri. At the top of the hill, en-route Nyeri, the native coffee farms are reached. On the left, one may catch a glimpse of the quintessentially British settler dwelling simply known as Seremwai. A great but seldom visited relic, it was built in 1920 as a residence for settler-farmer John Carberry as part of his 650-acres coffee estate. “His coffee plantation was called Seremwai, meaning ‘the place of death’ in Maasai; which was the scene of an ancient battle” – Oloi. Surprisingly in good condition at close inspection, it exudes a strict adherence to the fine ethos of British country homes. It is located 9 kms from Nyeri Town.
28. Le Pristine Hotel
This is a short drive of about 2 kms from the Nyeri-Kiganjo Road via Seremwai Road and taking the turnoff at Game Rock to Mount Kenya Academy (Primary). Conscious of the fact that coffee was once worth its weight in gold and a highly-profitable venture for farmers in Nyeri, before it faced a complexity of setbacks leading to its disfavour, driving through boulevard like road crossing expansive native farms is an unfamiliar horizon of new thrills, even for the locals of Nyeri. Tucked away deep in these native coffee estates of Seremwai and perched on a prominence facing-out to Honi Valley and outwith to Kiganjo and Mount Kenya is Le Pristine Hotel. Tastefully crafted in the prim and proper transitional ‘Old English Style Home’ with a steeply pitched roof, cross-gables and a large stone chimneys at the front, and in the same league as the rustic and earthy interior exemplified by the elegant woodwork on its furnishing, panels and floors, it, on a whole, decorously matches this landscape and offers a fine twist on dining. It has great-looking gardens too. It is situated 2 kms past Mount Kenya Academy.
When James Ramsey Smith Esq., a British Colonial Settler, decided to put up a homestead in his Nderutu Coffee Estate in highlands of the then Colony & Protectorate of Kenya in the 1930s, he chose the most vantage location in the Estate. Here, he constructed a magnificent Victorian house with a panoramic view of Mt. Kenya and the surrounding plains. This house has been restored to its original elegant form.
29. Nyeri Civil Cemetery
Passing Game Rock and the turnoff to Le Pristine it is a short 8 kms drive to Nyeri Town going past Nyeri Primary (the old days top of the tree education giant) and the turnoff to Mweiga-Nyahururu Road before wandering over the valley crossed by Chania River over which, at the brow, is the town. Noticeable as you enter Nyeri Town is the wicket gate to Robert Baden-Powell Cemetery at Nyeri Civil Cemetery. This site contains agency maintained non-war graves plus the graves of Lord Baden Powell and his wife, Lady Olive Baden Powell. It has no Commonwealth war graves. The site was declared a National Monument on 9th March 2001, in company with, St. Peter’s Anglican Church found next door, St. Cuthbert’s PCEA Church found across the road, Nyeri Old Clock Tower set 300 ms away and White Rhino Hotel found 500 ms away – making this one the great concentrations of National Monuments in one area. Furthermore, Nyeri Provincial Police Headquarters on Baden Powell Road, Nyeri Club and Africa Retailers (Osman Allu Shop) gazetted as National Monuments all lie within a radius of only 1 km. Nyeri Civil Cemetery is open daily between 6 am and 6 pm.
30. Nyeri Museum
The establishment of Nyeri Fort in 1902 emboldened colonial penetration at a huge cost to the socio-economic system of the natives, interrupting and forever changing the outlook of Nyeri. Foremost on the agenda was the appropriation of native land and labour, in most cases with a general application of force and esoteric pre-capitalist modes of production to obtain both. To make commercial headway, the colonial government employed natives to build roads, bridges and forts. And for convenience, the laborers were forced to settle in Nyeri Township demarcated on basis of class and race – the newcomer settlers living in the Ring Road area, the Asians at Asian Quarter and natives in insufficient and informal native areas. Thus the Town grew. To maintain and reinforce law and order, the Native Law Courts – part of which houses Nyeri Museum – was established in 1924. “Its main objective was to deal with customary law cases, previously dealt by clan elders in the villages.” It would later become popular for sentencing of captured Mau Mau fighters. The nearby Ruringu Police Station was then used to detain the Mau Mau prisoner. Both these sites are also National Monuments.
To return. The general atmosphere in Nyeri Town since its establishment to the late 1940’s was one of substantial apprehension and strict ordering. In any case, the distribution of wealth only further expanded the “Crown Land” and brought with it more incomers. “The labourers, in turn, responded by maintaining some interest in the reserves as a form of social security. As a result, most belonged to two economic spheres: wage earning in the town became complementary rather than an alternative to the produce of the family in the reserve”. Even so, many natives continued to exist in poverty. It would be the return of African Carrier Corps and soldiers from World War II that gave rise to a nationalism sentiment of dealing with the austere land policies, outfitted as Kenya Land and Freedom Army. And bearing in mind that many natives were deprived and desperate, the movement spread like wildfire. This resolve was demonstrated by the violence that shook Nyeri shortly after WorId War II in the name of ‘Mau Mau Uprising‘.
31. Consolata Nyeri Cathedral
Nyeri’s long and warm-hearted relationship with the Catholic Mission dates to 1909 with the arrival of Filippo Perlo, its first vicar apostolic, who founded the Nyeri vicariate and established the Mathari Mission. He also founded the 1,000 acres Nyeri Hill Farm created for the support of their missionary outreach. The ecclesiastical edifice of the Our Lady Consolata Cathedral, along Kenyatta Road, was open in 1957. Rising gently out of the hidebound and undeveloped area of town, the Cathedral has a certain aura of romance about it. It was popularized in 2015 by the the beatification of Sister Irene Stefani “Nyaatha”; a Papal event of pomp and glitz on a scale not seen before in Kenya and a first in Africa. Born on August 22nd, 1891, she joined Consolata Sisters’ Institute at Turin in France, at age 20, concentrating her life to the service of God. She arrived in Kenya in January of 1914, at the height of WW1, as a medical colonel and later served in the Mission of Gikondi (1920- 1930). Here, they simply called her “Nyaatha” or merciful mother. “In October 1930, she offered to God her life for the Mission”.
In 1995, Irene Stefani’s remains were exhumed from her final resting place in the compact village of Gikondi in Mukurwe-ini and preserved at the Consolata Nyeri Cathedral. She had succumbed, in 1930, to the highly communicable Bubonic Plague contracted while treating a villager at Gikondi. At the time of her death she carried the title ‘servant of God’. “The miracle attributed to the intercession of Sister Irene Stefani, which opened the way to the Beatification Process, was one of multiplication of water in the Baptismal fount of the Parish of Nipepe (Diocese of Lichinga, Niassa, Mozambique); water was used for four days by about 270 persons sheltered there to escape the violence of civil war”. The documentation was collected in the ecclesiastical process that was carried on July 18th to 26th, 2010, in Mozambique. After this, Pope Francis decreed in June 2014 that Sister Irene Stefani Nyaatha be beatified. The remains of Sister Irene Stefani were interred in a tomb in the Cathedral, on the 23rd May, 2015.
It is important to note that before 1953 there were many autonomous branches of the Catholic Church operating in Kenya – CMS in Taita Taveta, Methodist in Meru, Holy Ghost in Mombasa, St. Austin’s Mission in Ukambani, the Mill Hill Mission in Kavirondo, Consolata Society in Kiambu, Muranga and Nyeri, and numerous orders of sisters – which came together in 1953 when Kenya became an ecclesiastical Province with the Archdiocese of Nairobi and three Dioceses – Kisumu, Meru and Nyeri. It is also important take note of the fact that Nyeri’s obscure title “as a place of smoke and mirrors” has much to do with its colonial legacy as does with its religious history. On the surface of it, Christianity is all-round and across the board, yet, many avow culture and tribal allegiance takes precedence. The omens are that Christianity has become for Nyeri – and Kenya in general – what sociologist unacceptably describe as a “sugar coated religion”.
The Western education imparted to Africans in mission schools enabled them to rationalize that the comfortable lives of the Europeans in Kenya was the direct result of the African drudgery and poverty. It is in this light that the emergence of welfare, religious, and political associations in Nyeri must be analyzed – Kiruthu, Felix Macharia.
32. White Rhino Hotel
The success of colonial farming enterprises brought with it big entertainment in Nyeri. What’s more, it was in the heart of big game county with year-round fine weather. In a bid to attract tourists, and to find accommodation for them when they arrived, three settlers – Berkely Cole, Lord Cranworth and Sandy Herd – founded the White Rhino Hotel, in 1910. Its 27 rooms – most of which were not self-contained at the time – providing very simple accommodation for travellers were widely popular and welcomed guests from far and wide. It was also famed as the first segregated exclusive pub for whites, memorialized for its baroque and excessive jamborees. Its original canopied-terrace entrance lounge, nearby Kenyatta Road’s Lumumba Junction, which has preserved its old-way character since, was listed as a National Monument in 2001. The lodge was named after a wounded Rhino that collapsed and died at its passageway. And while this old antique block connecting it to a rich past warrants a look-see, its modern, exotic and refined 4-stars-wing, with 105 rooms, connects it to the future. Some of the highlights include 3 restaurants, 3 bars, penthouse lounge, and business center.
33. Nyeri Golf Club
Started in 1910 by Reggie McClure and Sandbach Baker as a 9-hole course, later extended to 18-hole in 1934, this pleasing course is the second oldest in Kenya after the Royal Nairobi Golf Club started in 1906. What is offers in spectacular scenery is expiated with a difficult mountainous course. Helpfully, the Club has maintained a tradition of well manicured greens flanked by the tall indigenous trees. In 2016, they put in a sheltered starters-cabin that offers a much needed rest area. NGC hosts the annual Kibaki Cup inaugurated by former President Mwai Kibaki on the 2nd of September, 2001. It is located 1.3 kms from White Rhino Hotel along the Baden Powell-Kamakwa Road. The equally impressive 9 hole golf course at Aberdare Country Club that is found 16 kms away at Mweiga.
34. Outspan Hotel
This hotel with fetching views of Mount Kenya, lovely grounds, tennis, squash, swimming pool, trout fishing and riding is the base for holiday-makers visiting the Treetops Lodge and specially reduced packages are offered to those visiting Outspan and the Treetops on consecutive rights. It is also head and shoulders above the rest of the watering-holes in Nyeri Town. It offers a perfect holiday-stay for a weekend or longer and has been a long-standing icon of Nyeri. It dates back to 1926, when Major Eric Sherbrooke Walker and his wife, Lady Bettie, chose the perfect spot between the Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya to build their dream retreat. It has 45 rooms, of the colonial architecture, spread over 20 acres. A tour around the hotel takes one to many places of interest, to include, the multi-cultural village depicting the traditional life of the Bantus Tribes living around Mount Kenya (Ameru, Aembu, Ambere, Agikuyu and Akamba), a cherished 501 year old Mugumo tree, Chania River and, of course, the Paxtu Museum. It is located 1 km past Nyeri Club along Baden Powell Road.
35. Paxtu House
Set in the lovely grounds of Outspan Hotel, this modest two bedroom cottage-style house with views of Mount Kenya was a residence for Baden Powell, best-known as the founder of Scout Movement and author of the best-seller Aids to Scouting. Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell spent his grey years of life here between 1938 to 1941. It was no coincidence that he stayed at Outspan. “After graduating in 1908, Sherbrooke Walker was associated with the Scouting Movement, and was a personal secretary to Robert Baden-Powell. He was one of its two first Scout inspectors, overseeing Wales and the South of England. He was also present at Baden-Powell’s initial Scout camp in Humshaugh in 1908, and toured Canada with sixteen Scouts in 1910 to demonstrate Scouting”. Since his death on January 8th, 1941, this abode has been a bucket-list site for many a scout. Inside Paxtu House there are innumerable tributes and memorabilia left behind by scouts from almost every country. The Golden Book, an autograph by visiting scouts, is particularly engaging. In accordance to their family’s wishes, Baden-Powell and Lady Olive Baden-Powell were buried at the Nyeri Cemetery.
36. Zaina Falls
3 kms from Outspan Hotel through Kamakwa one arrives at Kamuyu, the jump-off to Zaina Falls found at Chania Village in Kinunga. This is, perhaps, the most deserving walking trail in Nyeri, described as an arcade of incredible grandeur. Until a few years ago the walk through this sparsely inhabited backwoods was one of an overall impression of an idyllic wild with the water from Chania River, which cuts through Gakanga Valley and Zaina Forest, perfectly safe to drink. Still and all, the landscape here is a most impressive one. It takes on average 5-6 hours (round-trip) to explore the Zaina Falls on a roller-coaster trail down a steep slope to the valley, with an alternating climb crossing Chania River along the way, before arriving at the Falls. The pretty as a picture falls in an unsullied ever-green alpine montane and worth all the difficulties of getting there. Just 5 kms from Zaina Falls the trail terminates at the fenced boundary of Aberdare National Park. A visit to the Zaina Falls should be planned in good weather, to avoid the rainy months of April, May, August and October. Obvious perhaps, is to carry plenty of drinking water (with refreshments) and to wear sturdy shoes.
37. Mboi Farm Homestay
Also found in the neck of the woods around Kinunga is the commodious three-bedrooms Mboi Farm House. This welcoming and homely old-world house set in the bucolic countryside at the footslopes of the Aberdare Range offers a well-rounded and genuine rural experience outside the kosher of hotels. The whole area is a joy to explore, and at the very least the impressive Zaina Falls in within striking distance of a lazy afternoon walk. Guests can also take part in the usual calisthenics of tea or coffee picking and visit the nearby collection centres. To disentangle the weariness of a hard day’s toil there are the bog-standard games of soccer and volleyball unfailingly enjoyed by the locals at dusk. Evenings are sentimentally family-time and guests also take part in the preparation of meals with the option of washing it down with traditionally honey brewed wine. Mboi is located 12 kms from Nyeri town via Nyeri-Kamakwa-Kamuyu-Kinunga Road.
38. Wambugu Apple Farm
Not to be confused with Wambugu Agriculture Training Centre outside Nyeri Town, this latter-day farm in the Heni area of Tetu is a specialist in apples and a passion-turned-into-profit by owner Peter Wambugu after whom the Wambugu Apple was named after. So far, Peter has created eight varieties, which he grows on his 20-acre farm at Ihwa Village nestled between Kinunga and Ihururu Hills in Nyeri County. The turning point for the thriving farm came when Wambugu effectually grafted regular apples with the little-known exotic varieties found in the orchards deep within Aberdare Forest. Much of his success comes from the fact that ‘Wambugu Apples’ yield more and are comparatively resilient – “I was always fascinated by apples. They are nutritious yet expensive because most of them are imported from South Africa or Israel. I always wondered why we did not grow our own local varieties, yet the region is opportune?” Peter Wambugu.
39. The Trout Valley
At Ihwa, close to the Ihwa Primary School and Chania Shopping Centre, 2 kms from Kinunga, there’s a choice to revel in one of Nyeri’s latest alternative tour sites. Trout Valley as the name suggests is reaches by a steep road to the bottom of a valley where the trout farm is set, looking out to the Aberdares. The pretty Range is sacred to the Agikuyu People. It was there that the Mau Mau Fighters took refuge in the time of war againist the British Empire, and there that they waged their resistance to disagreeable colonial land policies which was a symbol of the regime. For all that, the valley offers unmatched serenity and tranquility. The Chania River, running at the edge of the farm, is an added charm. The trout farm itself consisting of five large ponds hosting more than 8000 fingerlings is the key attraction and its trout dishes are the star here. It offers a great setting to enjoy a long lunch and drinks from its fully-stocked bar. A footpath leads to up the valley and outwith on which visitors can enjoy floricky walks through the sights of the region like Zaina Falls. It is open daily from 9:00 am till late. It may be important to take note that this area gets chilly and cold in the evening.
40. Italian Memorial Church
This is located over the ridge from Kinunga at the settlement of Ihururu, and is easier reached via the Nyeri-Mweiga-Nyahururu Road, turning left shortly after the turnoff at Kingongo. The keen driver will find a thrilling experience in just driving through the 7 kms jaunt from Nyeri to Italian Memorial Church. Along the way, farms and back-road horizons of ridges interconnected by forests and natural vegetation corridors should please even the hardest of skeptics. It offers a glimpse of the Laikipia Plains too. This site contains two contiguous National Monuments – Italian Memorial Church and Italian’s Servants Wall – in honour of 676 soldiers, mostly Italian, captured by British forces during World War II. While the former can be carried through as one of the loveliest Church edifices in Nyeri County, it is, as a matter of fact, not a Church; rather, an ingenious way to maintain a “low-profile”. Italy’s and Kenya’s flags are hoisted at the entrance.
Constructed in 1952, this contains, along its wall, ceremonial plaque identifying each soldier, battalion served and place of death. The Italian’s Servants Wall located outside the Italian Memorial Church memorialized the Somali fighters who fought alongside the Italians. Respecting their faith, their remains were in-eartherd in a vault near the Church. Also of interest within the Italian Memorial Church is the marble-lined tomb memorializing Sacrario Puca D’costa – leader of Italian forces in East Africa who commanded 7,000 Italians at the mountain fortress of Amba Alagi, in Northern Ethiopia. He was next in line to the Italian throne before his death in 1942, in WWII. Both these National Monuments are within the precinct of Nyeri Farm which also encompasses Consolata Mathari Hospital gazetted as a National Monument. Mass at the Italian War Memorial is held once a year. After its construction, all known remains of Italian soldiers from several sites around East Africa were gathered and transported to this site.
41. Nyeri Hill Farm
If the aim of your journey was to tour the Italian Memorial Church and you get to Consolata Mathari Hospital, you’ve gone far and need to redouble to the top of the hill to the entrance of Church Mission Society and Nyeri Farm. A visit to one should not omit of the other. Unique to the 3,500-acres Nyeri Hill Farm is that it was among the first coffee plantations to be established in Eastern Africa with its first planting in 1914. It attained the coveted international recognition of UTZ ‘good inside’ Certification in 2010 – for the superior quality of its coffee and for its principles of fairness and transparency. UTZ Certified is the world’s largest coffee certification programs recognizing good farming practices leading to better business and sustainably grown products. Of the 3,500-acres around 850-acres are under coffee plantation. And it is through the coffee income that Consolata Nyeri Cathedral, Consolata Mathari Hospital, Nyeri High School and Kamwenja Teachers College were developed. A visit here offers fine insights to the art of producing premium world-class coffee. It also has noteworthy historic relics that include plaques marking the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the World War Two Italian Prisoners of War. The landscape is also wildly-beautiful.
42. Nyeri Hill
Designated as the Nyeri Hill Forest Reserve in 1944, the verudous woody of the isolated and strategic Nyeri Hill (which is located between Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya) offers a stimulating challenge for the motorist, and rewards the adventurous hiker with some of the most striking scenery to found in Nyeri. Its jungle-like dome, easily recognized by a radio transmitting station at the top, is the most prominent feature around Nyeri Town. On the ascend from Consolata Mathari Hospital in the east sits the the spectacular snow capped Mount Kenya; in the west, Aberdare Range; and in the north lies the flat wildlife rich plains of Laikipia. There is a motorable road up the side of Nyeri Hill which takes to its summit. For many years, it has been possible to walk up the hill through well-developed paths, yet, it remains one of the hiking destinations often-sold-short.
43. Dedan Kimathi Trench
On the furthest end to Nyeri Hill, around the bend, the road terminates at the small centre of Ihururu. Just 4 kms from here, going through Ihururu Town, at Karuna-ini, is the reputable but seldom travelled Dedan Kimathi Trench. At the time of his much-publicised capture, the clamp-down on Mau Mau Uprising had reached breakneck urgency. Now the recurrent headliner of international media, decisive action was assured. It would have far-reaching punitive effects in many parts of Kenya especially around Kikuyuland. One useful tactic on the part of the British was to set up ‘detention and rehabilitation centres’ famously known as ‘colonial villages’ largely to isolate the non-sympathizers and reduce casualties. This contrived the Mau Mau fighters and their sympathizers into the forest; to a wild terrain that favoured both parties. It is salutory to mention that while there were casualties on both sides, disproportionately on the side of the Mau Mau, the colonial forces’ always had the upper hand of might and logistics.
It was indispensable to capture the leaders of Mau Mau to thwart any further lawlessness. The self-proclaimed leader of the Mau Mau, Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi, was openly declared as the most wanted leader and prime target. No expense was spared for his capture. On the evening of October 20th, 1956, a party of about 24 Tribal Police and Tribal Police Reserve under a Tribal Police Corporal Wanjohi went out from Kahigaini Home Guard Post to line part of the continuous trench – a flat-bottomed trench 12 feet with thick forest cover to the edge of the ditch in most places – that separated the Kikuyu Reserve from the forest in South Tetu Location of Nyeri. In the early morning hours of Sunday 21st, 1956, two guards – Ndirangu and Njogu – positioned on the Reserve side of the trench spotted a lone man crossing the trench, making his way into the forest. On a verbal order to stop, the man dropped what he was carrying and started back on the trench, aiming for the Reserve. A fleeting foot chase ensued.
Ndirangu then fired two separate shots. The suspected had escaped. After an hour and twenty minutes of searching, Ndirangu and Njogu in their statement say, they saw a thing like a leopard lying in an undergrowth under a small castor oil tree. On approach they saw it was a man wearing a leopard skin coat and cap. On inquiring his name, the man simply replied “it is I Kimathi s/o Wachiuri. He was wounded in the front of the right thigh. Under his leopard skin coat they discovered a holster containing a pistol and a simi (native sword) in a sheath. He was taken to the Ihururu Police Station for first aid before been taken to Nyeri Provincial Hospital. The recognizable photo of a handcuffed and bare chested Kimathi on a stretcher was taken at P.G.H Hospital Nyeri hours after he was arrested. On October 22nd, 1956, he was questioned by the police.
On November 27th, 1956, at the Majesty’s Supreme Court of Kenya in Nyeri, in Emergency Assize Criminal Case No. 46 of 1956, the accused, Dedan Kimathi s/o Wachiuri, was charged with two offences against the Emergency Regulation of 1952 for unlawful possession of firearms (a 38 Webley Scott revolver, with 6 rounds of ammunition) contrary to Regulation 8A(1) Regulation 8A (1A). While been remanded at the Kamiti Maximum Prison he was sentenced on the second account to seven years hard labour. On the first account he was sentensed to be hanged by the neck until he is dead. In the early morning of February 18, 1957, Kimathi was executed by hanging at the Kamiti Maximum Prison and buried in an unmarked grave unknown to date. Like clockwork his capture and execution led to the winding-up of the unrest, and was a step-forward to thwart Mau Mau.
44. Aberdare Country Club
Characterful old-English style buildings, alpine air, open fires, wild Africa – all in a dreamy idyllic resort aptly chronicled as the “Haven Under the Hill”, this 1,300-acres fairyland was selected, with much emotion, by an English couple who had decided to settle in Kenya. Its wealth for wildlife was the main reason for it to be declared a wildlife sanctuary. It has plenty of Kenya’s high-minded species which include: impala, zebra, giraffe and the elusive leopard. Originally known as the ‘The Steep’ for its portentous set up on a slope of the Mweiga Hill overlooking the spellbinding golden plains of Laikipia and Mount Kenya, it was later reestablished as the Aberdare Country Club and opened for guests. All in all, it has 47 rooms – 20-twins, 20-doubles, 2-triples, 3-deluxe, 1-VIP Suite and 1-room for physically disabled – each with a fireplaces lit on request. There are lots of other good reasons for escaping to this leisurely hidey-hole. You’ll have the choice of golfing at the 9-hole golf course, play tennis, take a mountain bike ride and swim in the heated swimming pool with fine views. You can also dine elegantly after a day of unrivalled game drive at Solio Ranch. It is located about 28 kms from Nyeri, near Mweiga Town, via B5 Nyeri-Mweiga-Nyahururu Road.
45. The Ark Lodge
The base for the Ark Lodge is the Aberdare Country Club where visitors, booked on consecutive terms, enjoy lunch before heading off through the Aberdare National Park to the Ark Lodge. The Lodge, beautifully situated, has attractions of its own including four viewing decks, trout fishing, visits to the moorland and birding. Unique to the Ark (and the Treetops Lodge) are its excellent facility of observe the ever-present animal activity by floodlight at night. Over the years animals have become used to the floodlight and assemble in notable varieties – buffalo, elephant, rhino, rare mountain Bongo, giant hogs, bushbucks, Harvey’s duikers, baboons, warthog. And so that you don’t miss any animal sightings, the night guard will buzz your room when special animals come to the waterhole. Game can also be watched from an underground “pillbox” on the waterhole, in complete safety. Into that bargain, its alpine crisp air and coolness of the bright days have earned it its reputation as an intimate wildlife encounter. Its 60 en-suite rooms with four different options are spread over its three floors, or decks.
46. Sandai Farm
Set on 100-acres in the wildlife rich picturesque plains of Mweiga, eyeing both Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya, Sandai has a sempiternal “lost in the wild” air about it that’s catchy and worth the experience. Its unpretentious, wooden cottages and farmhouse complements the sweeping primitive plains which have remained unchanged for millennia. There is lots to warm the heart at Sandai, most notably of the sun-downer horseback-safaris. It has the option of living on a self-catering basis in five furnished cottages. It’s found 15 kms east of Mweiga.
47. Sangare Gardens
The 20 km2 private livestock ranch, re-established in 2007 as a conservancy, is composed of moderately welted slopes forming part of a large wildlife corridor which connects the Aberdares and Mount Kenya. As such, its views are bosting. Its centerpiece 10-rooms self catering eco-friendly house is a stunning wooden-cottage reached by crossing a lovely simple rope and wood suspension bridge. In addition to many game viewing options, Sangare Gardens has several smaller surprises. The most attractive of these is probably the elevated “Nyama Choma Gazebo’ overlooking a pretty scenery. It is found 26 kms from Nyeri, at Mweiga.
48. Solio Game Reserve
More popular as Solio Ranch, the 300 km2 privately-run Solio Game Reserve began in 1970 by Courtland Parfet is notable as the first conservancy in Kenya dedicated to the preservation of the endangered rhinos. Up until now, it’s still an indispensable forte in many rhino conservation projects, and its success in breeding rhinos and providing a safe habitat for them to thrive is a highlight of Kenya’s conservation efforts. Callers to the inter-territorial Solio Ranch, shared by Nyeri and Laikipia Counties, can enjoy uninterrupted open-top game views of the prolific wildlife with the option of self drive or guided tours. “The wildlife experience at Solio is intense and exclusive with 19,000 acres of conservancy surrounded by 45,000 acres of ranch and just one lodge” – Safari Collection. A trip through the elaborate network of roads around Solio Ranch would not be complete without visiting the rhino sanctuary and the bespoke Solio Lodge. The main gate is located 22 kms from Nyeri, along the B5 Nyeri to Nyahururu Road.
49. Aberdare National Park
To a great degree, Game Parks in Kenya are prospered by the big-five species – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinocero and Cape buffalo. The pre-eminence on this cosset group of highly charismatic species originated in the days of big game hunting, when these were considered especially dangerous. You’ll find all these and more here. The Aberdare National Park often romanticized as ‘the valley of beauty’ has unique floral interest, bearing many unique varieties. A drive across the Park takes one through moorlands, bamboo forests and several clear trout streams – west via Naivasha and east from Nyeri. What the 766 km2 Aderdare National Park lacks in size is made up for by its easily accessible sites and good parkways. The Park contains the famous Treetops and the Ark Lodges. Its huge vistas have also enjoyed a share of Hollywood Fame. Gura Waterfall, the most precipitous in Kenya, and Karuru Falls, the tallest, were portrayed in the Oscar-winning film Out of Africa. It was also the set for filming of Gorillas in the Mist and White Mischief. Its links to the Royal Family and the Mau Mau Uprising have had a multiplier effect. The park’s HQ is located 15 Kms from Nyeri, along the Nyeri to Nyahururu Road. It can be reached from Naro Moru and Naivasha.
50. Mau Mau Post Office
Also christened ‘the Kimathi Post’, this venerable Mugumo tree on the Abedare slopes was a germane Mau-Mau rendezvous post especially useful at the state of emergency and suppression of the uprising, where the leaders of the two main battalions stationed in the forest would leave each other letters. Remarkably, this one-of-a-kind secret post remained unheard-of until toward the end of the strife despite the British forces and Home Guards continually reconnoitering this forest area. “To most of the fighters, the tree came to be known simply as the Kimathi Post Office in honour to their leader Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi who was said to have mooted the idea of having one point where the Mau Mau would deliver and collect letters to communicate with sympathetic villagers and among troops” – The Standard Group. It’s easily accessible from the Ark Lodge.
51. Treetops Gallery
Most travellers to Treetops assemble for lunch at Outspan Hotel in Nyeri Town before been tranferred in hotel transport. To the most famous of all the tree-lodges in Kenya. This honoured tree-house lodge forming a canopy near a water hole is determinately a round-the-clock lookout for watching wildlife. Originally established in 1932, along an ancient elephant migration corridor, it was built high among the branches of several giant trees supported on wooded stilts. The high vantage, overlooking the waterhole, provides a facility to watch in comfort. Now accustomed to the floodlight around the waterhole, the animals ignore it, and stream in at their convenience to drink and dig for salt. This offers a multi-dimensional experience to discover the faunal beauty of the Aberdare National Park. Treetops has 36 en-suite guest rooms and three observation decks. One of its most popular room is, undoubtedly, the history rich Princess Elizabeth Suite.
“For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a queen” ~ J. Corbertt.
52. Karuru Falls
Not to be missed on any trip that takes to Aberdare National Park, a tour of the Karuru Falls Parking, to the top part of the falls, is one of the parks outstanding launches and unforgettable vista that offers great viewing at close quarters, and in perfect safety. Karuru Falls is the highest waterfall in Kenya, plummeting 273 ms in three steps – 118 ms, 25 ms and 130 ms – that form a fantastic turbulence as is roars down into the wooded gaping valley. It scenery is only rivalled by the variety and abundance of big game. What’s more, just around the bend, visitors can enjoy sights of the Queen’s Cave Waterfall (also known as the Magura Falls) from the comfort of the picture-postcard Queen’s Picnic Site. It is found 48 kms from Nyeri Town and 20 kms from Treetops (Nyeri) Gate to Aberdare National Park, passing the turnoffs to the Ark Lodge and Treetops Gallery – all of which are well signposted and easily located. It is located in the south area of the Park.
53. KWS Fishing Lodge
Tucked away in the tranquil Aberdare Park, about 5 kms from turnoff to Karuru Falls Viewpoint, via Nyeri Gate, is the self-catering KWS Fishing Lodge which sleeps up to 7. There are several camp sites found in the general area, as well as, several trout fishing streams on the moorlands. Trout fishing is permitted and fishing licences are available at the park’s entrance. If fishing were not sufficient enough, the Lodge is a perfect jump-off base to explore many areas of the park. Found within easy reach are the Reedbuck Camp, Queen’s Picnic Site, Queen’s Falls, Mau Mau Cave, Chania Falls and Campsite, Karuru Falls and Sapper Hut.
54. Rhino Watch Lodge
The road system from Nyeri to Nyahururu is relatively good, and the chain of hotels and lodges, managed by individuals and companies, are attractively sited throughout the stretch. Among the variety of attractions is Rhino Watch Lodge. It is in a country of rich wildlife, beautiful valleys and open plains. Surrounded by three wildlife sanctuaries – Giraffe Walk, Solio Ranch and Aberdare National Reserve – it provides great opportunities for for game expeditions. The lodge itself, decorously thatched in a traditional roofing style to enhance the outlook, is comprised of 7-chalets and 8-exclusive tents. Other highlights at the Rhino Watch Lodge include its infinity pool overlooking Mount Kenya, lovely spa and sauna, a gift shop and a conference room. It is situated 27 km from Nyeri Town.
55. Giraffe Ark Lodge
The 30-rooms Giraffe Ark Lodge situated at the edge of the Aberdare National Park overlooks a fine scenery which varies from rolling savanna, woodland and backdropped by Mt. Kenya. More modern it its style, it is a place of informality and relaxation. It is also a place to divest oneself from the ballyhoo of modern life and enjoy a unique game of chess at the giant life-size outdoor board. Apart from its stellar views, places to visit include Solio Ranch and Aberdare National Park. Visitors may take many memorable landscape pictures on horseback rides around the lodge. It’s located 40 kms from Nyeri via B5 Nyeri-Nyahururu Road.
56. Tafaria Castle
Just 66 kms from Nyeri via the B5 Nyeri-Nyahururu Road at Ndaragwa sits the hauntingly beautiful Tafaria Castle, which is inspired by the ‘Medieval Gothic Castles’ popular in the 1300’s to 1400’s. On arrival holiday-makers are in equal parts surprised and enthralled by its gothic design blocks of dressed masonry, columned arches and towers, and which in the 21st Century rural Kenya sits dauntless as a fairytale hidey-hole retreat. The landscape in no less impressive overlooking Mount Kenya, Aberdare Range and the Laikipia Plains (plateau). The singular architecture of Tafaria Castle and the encircling landscape piece together one of the most unique and heartwarming country lodges in Kenya. As the name suggests, the castle is filled with plenty of activities to keep its royal guests always smiling and happy, from its lookout-deck, horse stables, horse riding, horse carriage, swimming, archery, lawn tennis, medieval bowling, art tour, birding, and game drives. Its art exhibitions runs throughout the year either by artist-in-residence after the end of each residency or by established and upcoming artists. For accommodation Tafaria Castle has 57 rooms in the various residential quarters with a capacity of up to 160 guests in different set-ups. The Castle building has the Lord’s Room, the Chamber and seven rooms in the Lord’s Court. The rest of the rooms are set around the Castle. Then, there’s the Moat Bar, Bailey Lounge, and the Dungeon with a tuneful disco and cinema.
Geography of Nyeri County
The main physical features of the Nyeri County are Mount Kenya (5,199 ms) in the east and the Aberdare Range (3,999 ms) in the west. The western part of Nyeri County is generally flat, whereas further southwards the topography is characterized by steep ridges and valleys with a few hills such as Karima, Nyeri and Tumutumu. These hills affect the pattern of rainfall, thus influencing the mode of agricultural production in some localized areas. Nyeri County has two forest eco-systems: Aberdare and Mt. Kenya. The county also has other isolated forested hills like Karima, Nyeri and Tumu Tumu all gazetted as forest reserves.
Land Use in Nyeri County
Nyeri County has a total area of 987.5 km2 and 758.5 km2 of arable and non-arable land respectively. The larger part of the land is used for food crop while the rest is used for cash crop farming, livestock rearing and farm forestry. The mean holding size is one hectare for majority of the small holders. Over 85 % of farmers have title deeds as adjudication started early after independence, 1963.
Highlights in Nyeri County
Mt. Kenya National Park located in the upper region of Nyeri County boasts of thick indigenous forests with a lot of wildlife and cottages providing a serene environment for both domestic and foreign tourists. It also hosts the Aberdare National Park. Nyeri has 19 tourist class hotels and lodges and three airstrips to facilitate transportation of travellers. There is great opportunity to increase the number of tourist class hotels since the county is on a major tourist circuit to Mt. Kenya and the northern region. Other tourist attractions include the Paxtu House Museum, Mau Mau Caves found at Mount Kenya, and Aberdare N. Park.
Population in Nyeri County
The population density for Nyeri County was about 280 people / km2 in 2009, projected to reach about 285 in 2013 and 291 by the year 2017. Majority of the population live in the high potential areas of Mathira, Othaya, Nyeri and parts of Mukurwe-ini. The highest populated town in Nyeri County is at Nyeri Town.
Airports in Nyeri County
Nyeri County has three airstrips.
Roads in Nyeri County
Nyeri County has 3,092 kms road system with 450 kms of bitumen, 1390 kms gravel and 1252 kms earth surface. Many earth surface roads are impassable during the rainy season. All the major towns are linked with bitumenized roads.
Climate in Nyeri County
Long rains in Nyeri County occur between March and May while the short rains occur between October and December but occasionally this pattern is disrupted by abrupt and adverse rainfall. Monthly mean temperature ranging from 12.8º C to 23º Degrees C, with January and February being the hottest driest months.
National Monuments in Nyeri County
- Mau Mau Caves
- African Retailers Traders
- DC’s Office
- Old Clock Tower
- Nyeri Court
- Ruringu Police Station
- Ruringu Old African Court
- Baden Powell Graveside
- Paxtu House
- St. Peter’s Church
- St. Curthbert Church
- Mathari Mission Hospital
- Italian Memorial Church
- Italian Servant’s Wall
- Queen Elizabeth Monument
- Dedan Kimathi’s Trench
- Mau Mau Fig Tree
- Karima Hill
- Burguret Mau Mau Shelter
- Narumoru Mau Mau Caves
- Nyeri Provincial Police
- Nyeri Club
- White Rhino Hotel
- Tumu Tumu Church
- Mau Mau Mass Grave