Chipata, Zambia, is the country's third-largest city and is on the highway from Lilongwe, Malawi, to Lusaka, just twenty-two kilometers west of the border. It is also the gateway to the wonderful South Luangwa National Park, just over one hundred thirty kilometers northwest. Coming from Malawi, travelers will need to change buses in Chipata to get to the park, but there is very good hostel accommodation in Chipata if you'd rather take a little more time over it.
Chipata is home to the Ngoni people, and the important Ncwala ceremony takes place in Mutenguleni village just outside Chipata, in February each year, to celebrate the first harvests of the year. Chipata is a somewhat ordinary city; there isn't much to keep you here. Coming from Malawi, it's a useful stop to stock up on Zambian kwachas, as there are plenty of banks with international ATMs here and bureaux de change. There are also several supermarkets and it's a good place to pick up a Zambian SIM card for your onward journey.
Chipata, Zambia hostel accommodation chops and changes fairly regularly, although there is one long-running place that offers a great chance to rest and draw breath if you've been putting in the miles. The hostels in Chipata, Zambia, provide great-quality dorm beds as well as double and twin rooms and they're also an excellent source of information for onward travel in Zambia. Chipata is a favorite stop for overlanders, particularly those traveling by bike and motorbike, as spares are available here.
If you're visiting South Luangwa National Park -- and every visitor to Zambia should! -- you'll need to stay overnight in Chipata if you're coming from or going to Malawi. It's now possible to go direct to the park from Lusaka bypassing Chipata completely, but it is an all-day bus journey of at least ten hours, so a stopover in Chipata is a good idea.
Chipata is not an essential stop on any traveler’s itinerary, but it is a convenient one to break up potentially long road journeys, and it boasts a number of cheap and comfortable lodgings where you can recharge.
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