This is a list of world heritage sites in Kenya. World heritage sites are natural sites or areas that have cultural, scientific and historical significance and are recognised by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Kenya is home to 7 world heritage sites that have a rich and unique cultural, historical, archaeological and scientific value.
Here is a list of world heritage sites in Kenya.
1. Lamu Old Town
Lamu Old Town was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2001. The town is one of the oldest Swahili settlements in East Africa. It is located on Lamu Island, which is part of the Lamu Archipelago. It is renowned for its unique and fascinating Swahili architecture.
Lamu Old Town harbours the Lamu Fort, a donkey sanctuary and over 20 mosques. This explains the rich cultural history of the people of Lamu, with a majority of the residents being Muslims.
The town has for years been a major tourist destination, drawing both local and international visitors who throng the town to capture the unique Swahili architecture and other attractions such as Lamu museum and cultural festivals such as the Maulidi festival.
2. Fort Jesus
Fort Jesus was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2011. It was built by the Portuguese between 1593 to 1596. It is a major tourist hub in Mombasa County, owing to the numerous attractions within the Fort.
It houses a historical museum that displays ceramics, pottery and other artefacts used by communities that traded along the Kenyan Coast. It also features numerous ruined buildings such as the Omani house which houses Omani jewellery and early Swahili cultural artefacts.
3. Mijikenda Kaya Forests
Kaya forests are sacred forests of the Mijikenda people who live in the Coastal region of Kenya. Mijikenda is a group of 9 Bantu ethnic groups of the Duruma, Chonyi, Kambe, Kauma, Ribe, Rabai, Jibana, Digo and Giriama.
The Mijikenda kaya forests consist of about 10 separate forests which are all spread along the Coastal region.
The Kayas are very sacred and are designated cultural places of worship, conducting rituals, burial and initiation ceremonies. Some of the Kayas are also believed to be important sources of traditional medicine.
4. Thimlich Ohinga
Thimlich Ohinga is located in Migori County, about 180 kilometres from Kisumu Town. Thimlich is a Luo word that means frightening dense forest while Ohinga means a large fortress.
It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2018 and also designated as a conservation site by the Kenya Wildlife Service and National Museums of Kenya.
Thimlich Ohinga features traditional enclosures that depict early settlement of people and communities in the Lake Victoria basin. The place is surrounded by dense forests and rocks that habitats of wild animals such as monkeys, birds, guinea fowls, antelopes and snakes.
5. Mount Kenya National Park
Mount Kenya National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The park was established in 1949, particularly to protect and preserve the scenic Mount Kenya and the surrounding environment.
The park traverses the counties of Meru, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu and Tharaka Nithi. It is known for its unique flora and bio-diversity.
The park is an excellent destination for hikers, campers, bird watchers and game viewers who desire to have a glance at wildlife such as elephants, different species of monkeys, waterbucks, leopards, buffaloes and black rhinos.
6. Lake Turkana National Parks
Lake Turkana National Parks consists of three national parks which are all located around the magnificent Lake Turkana. It was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.
Lake Turkana is the world’s largest desert Lake and the 4th largest salt lake in the world. The lake lies in the counties of Turkana and Marsabit.
Lake Turkana National Parks consists of Sibiloi National Park, Central and South Island National Parks which are serene destinations for game viewing of wild species such as crocodiles, hippos, zebras, hyenas, cheetahs and kudus.
Sibiloi National Park houses an important archaeological site known as Koobi Fora which is located on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana.
7. Kenya Lake System
Kenya’s Lake system was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001. It comprises three lakes found in the Great Rift Valley. The three inter-linked lakes are; Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita.
All the three lakes are alkaline shallow lakes and cover a total of 32, 034 hectares.
Lake Bogoria is well known for its magical hot springs and geysers formed due to volcanic activity. The lake also harbours over 10 beautiful islands which are serene destinations for adventure lovers. Avid bird watchers can also visit the lake to have a glimpse of the beautiful flamingoes that throng the shores of the lake.
Lake Nakuru is a scenic alkaline lake that is renowned for flamingoes which are found at the shores of the lake. Apart from viewing flamingoes at the magnificent lake, one can visit the Lake Nakuru National Park which is a wildlife haven, with species such as impalas, white rhinos, hippos, waterbucks, gazelles, lions, leopards and baboons.
Lake Elementaita is located about 10 kilometres from Gilgil Town. It is a bird watchers paradise and home to rare species such as the colobus monkey, eagle owl, Rothschild giraffe and the bat-eared fox.