Festivals in Kenya

Festivals in Kenya
Barry
Barry 
Updated
| 5 min read

Kenya’s popularity in Africa has never been in question. A country with stunning landscape and fascinating wildlife, millions of tourists land here with the intent of experiencing a quintessential African safari. With over 50 indigenous communities and even more sub-communities, Kenya’s culture is as diverse as its landscape. This diversity is evident in the country’s language and it’s even more visible in its cuisine. To celebrate such a rich heritage, various festivals are organized each year, ranging from the contemporary to the downright traditional. Below, we have put together a list of the festivals in Kenya, so plan and be a part of one of them.

1. Lamu Cultural Festival


Towards the end of each year, sometime in November (exact date varies), the country turns its eyes towards Lamu for the annual Lamu Cultural Festival. Centuries ago, when explorers and traders still roamed the waters, Lamu experienced a lot of settlement from Arab and Indian traders, thanks to its very convenient position on the Indian Ocean. Fast forward to today and the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status is much deserved and an honor they wear with pride.

It is this history and culture celebrated during the Lamu Cultural Festival. The annual fiesta is a carnival of fun competitions, like donkey racing and dhow racing. There’s also art, poetry and food – lots and lots of food.

Lamu Cultural Festival

Where: Lamu Town

Website: Lamu Cultural Festival

When: November each year

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2. Rusinga Festival


Rusinga Island, on Lake Victoria, is a jewel that’s largely unknown to tourists. However, its obscurity belies the beauty it holds, the beauty of its culture and enchanting scenery. During the Rusinga Festival, you’ll get to experience all this and more. The funfair runs for two days, celebrating the culture of the local community, the Suba. And, as you’d expect from any festival, there’s plenty of singing, dancing, food and fun during this fete that is held every last Thursday and Friday before Christmas.

Rusinga Festival

Where: Rusinga Island

When: December every year

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3. Nairobi Film Festival


When Kenyan filmmakers roll up their sleeves and create an epic flick, they know they’re up against the monolith of Hollywood. But, they face their Goliath with vim, trying to get Kenyans (and the rest of the world) to give their content a chance. To help promote Kenyan productions, the Nairobi Film Festival was born: a one-week affair where new movies are premiered and old ones are screened. If you’re in Nairobi during the film festival, take advantage of this opportunity to binge on local movies, which are definitely up to the task of taking on Hollywood.

Nairobi Film Festival

Where: Nairobi, Kenya

Website: Nairobi Film Festival

When: Varies

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4. Pawa Festival

festivals in kenya | pawa festival
Source: instagram

Pawa is a one-day festival, often held in December, just before Christmas. This is where Kenya’s artists, fashion designers and photographers come out to showcase what they’ve been up to. Held in Nairobi’s city center, the festival takes over a whole street that transforms from a buzzing business center to a colorful gallery. Come with loosened purse strings, because you’ll want to buy some of the art pieces or even a new outfit. Then, of course, food is aplenty.

Pawa Festival

Where: Koinange Street, Nairobi CBD

Website: Pawa Festival

When: December every year

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Kenya Tour Guide

Samuel Njoroge

Samuel Njoroge

5. Storymoja Festival


In the last quarter of the year, writers and other creatives get their time in the spotlight at the Storymoja Festival. Running for five days, this festival promotes reading and writing culture in an age where more and more people are attached to their smartphone screens. But it’s not a dull affair, where bespectacled people trot around with books under their armpits. Storymoja livens up the world of books with dramatizations of stories, poetry, music and debates. After over a decade, this festival has become a massive convergence of book lovers and has even been described as ‘East Africa’s biggest book party.’

Storymoja Festival

Where: Nairobi, Kenya

Website: Storymoja Festival

When: February every year

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6. Lake Turkana Festival


Lake Turkana, in Northern Kenya, is dogged by media images of drought, hunger and disease. Unfortunately, these images tend to overshadow the other side of the region, where a rich culture remains entrenched in the people and the landscape is as beautiful as it is vast. Lake Turkana Festival tries to open our eyes to these positives by bringing together the communities that live in this part of Kenya: the Samburu, Gabbra, Rendile, Watta, Turkana and Dasannach.

The festival’s venue is a tiny town called Loyiangalani, that’s tucked away on Lake Turkana’s south-eastern coast. For three days, the local communities set up camp here and liven it up with song and dance, as well as competitions, like boat racing and wrestling.

Lake Turkana Festival

Where: Loiyangalani, Kenya

When: June every year

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7. Lamu Yoga Festival


When a local started teaching yoga at Shella Beach in Lamu, no one knew it would take on a life of its own and grow to become a much-anticipated festival on the archipelago. Lamu is, inherently, a laid-back destination and this blends well with the whole philosophy of yoga.

During the four-day festival, locals and tourists come together to take part in yoga classes conducted in various places on the island. Then, when the sun goes down, there’s a meditation session under the moon. To make things even more interesting, there are dhow sails, and a showcase of Swahili dishes, before the festival climaxes with a beach party.

Lamu Yoga Festival

Where: Lamu Town

Website: Lamu Yoga Festival

When: March every year

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8. Safaricom Jazz Festival

The Mambo Tribe
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gallery Khately used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The name says it all: the Safaricom Jazz Festival is a week of soulful jazz music, put together by Kenya’s largest telecommunications company, Safaricom. Held early in the year, the jazz festival runs for a whole week, headlined by popular local and international artists. This jazz fiesta has popularized the genre among Kenyans, a genre that was erstwhile a preserve of the wealthy.

Safaricom Jazz Festival

Where: Nairobi, Kenya

Website: Safaricom Jazz Festival

When: February every year

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9. Maralal Camel Derby

Maralal Camel Derby
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sipee Kaphle used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Every year, around June or July, the sleepy town of Maralal, in the northern part of Kenya, comes alive. Crowds throng here for one reason: the Maralal Camel Derby. This competition is more than just a bunch of men and women racing on camels, it’s a celebration of the beauty of this region, a part of the country that’s rarely pictured as a tourist destination. However, during the derby, excited locals and international tourists arrive, attracted by the derby. Maralal, at least during this festival, turns into a buoyant town with an electric atmosphere.

Maralal Camel Derby

Where: Maralal Town, Kenya

When: Mid year

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10. Cake Festival


Last on our list is, by far, the tastiest festival in Kenya, the Cake Festival. Held in June, every year, the fete brings together hundreds of professional and amateur bakers, along with salivating cake lovers who seek to devour the bakers’ creations. The cakes come in all shapes and sizes, each one more creative than the last. The one-day festival ends with a winner, the one whose cake was most creative and, possibly, most outlandish.

Cake Festival

Where: Nairobi, Kenya

Website: Cake Festival

When: June every year

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Join in on the celebrations

If you hunger for an experience that opens your eyes to the culture and traditions in Kenya, there’s a festival to appease you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something a little bit more contemporary, then perhaps the film or book festival is your thing. Whatever your fancy, Kenya’s festivals are bound to serve up some fun and excitement to all who attend.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Barry, a seasoned freelance writer, has accumulated years of experience, enabling him to produce entertaining and educational content. His pride lies in being a valued member of the Trip 101 team,...Read more

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