Things To See, Do And Experience During A Layover At Nairobi Airport

Things To See, Do And Experience During A Layover At Nairobi Airport
Contributing Writer
| 5 min read
Barry Juma
Endorsed by a Nairobi Local Expert
Barry Juma

An airport is either your first introduction or last memory of a country that you are arriving to or departing from, so it has to stand out for the right reasons. In some cases, you may also only be transiting through an airport, so if you’re not going to step outside of it, you’ll certainly only get a feel for the country through its airport terminals and it’s better that your experience be positive! Having travelled through and from countless airports, I thought it was about time that I give you an insight into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. This airport is one of the busiest airports in Africa and boasts of over 40 passenger airlines and 14 cargo airlines. This airport really is quite representative of its country as it highlights why tourists do and should visit Kenya and in this review, I’m going to tell you a little bit about each of these reasons and how they are reflected in the airport.

Experience the life-size animals from every angle

things to see, do and experience during a layover at nairobi airport | experience the life-size animals from every angle

Blessed with so many different environments, Kenya has so much to offer those that either want a relaxing or an excursion based holiday. Visit the sandy beaches on the coast, climb the snow-capped Mount Kenya or trail through the abundance of private sanctuaries where you can see and connect with animals and nature. If you fancy seeing one of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then head over to the Great Rift Valley, which will leave you speechless. The remarkable landscapes in Kenya are so very notable and if and when you get to see them with animals in the backdrop, I can assure you that you will be blown away.

Elephants, buffalos, cheetahs, leopards, lions, giraffes, monkeys; you name it, you will find it in Kenya and your introduction of seeing these animals will be at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport itself. Yes, you read that correctly (although perhaps, I should clarify a little bit). As Kenya is so proud of what it has to offer, there are some very creative reminders of the gorgeous animals that have made home in this country. As you walk through the airport, you will find windows with life-size animal imprints on and as you look up at the ceiling, you will find an abundance of little life-size statues of colourful birds flying above. What a great way to show and remind you of what Kenya has to offer!

Learn about the Kenyan community through art

things to see, do and experience during a layover at nairobi airport | learn about the kenyan community through art

Culture and history are profound in Kenya, which is reflected in many forms of art including visual art, which specifically depicts and reflects the local people. If and when you are walking through art galleries or even on one of the coastal beaches, you will see an abundance of artwork displayed of Kenyan people, including the famous Maasai. The Maasai are a tribe that have clung onto and preserved their traditional way of life in Kenya, despite western cultural influences. They are most distinctive in their culture, dress style and approach to survival and one of the reasons that many tourists travel to see Kenya is to see them in their habitat.

Unsurprisingly, you will find artwork that reflects the Maasai and other local communities throughout Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Take for example, the painting that you see in the photograph above. It shows the local people of different cultures connecting and coming together; it shows how diversity is accepted, appreciated and how people can live alongside each other successfully. Seeing and enjoying the abundance of artwork displayed throughout the airport actually makes it a very leisurely experience during a time that is usually quite hectic and busy and makes one’s experience in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport a surprisingly calming one.

Relaxation and re-energising spa treatments

things to see, do and experience during a layover at nairobi airport | relaxation and re-energising spa treatments

With the emerald green waters and the white sandy beaches, Kenya is known to offer relaxation to the maximum. The lodges, hotels and resorts are certainly recommended and the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa is one of the most tranquil and luxurious establishments on the coast of Mombasa that you’re urged to experience. The Tulia Spa located within Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa offers tourists and locals the opportunity to indulge in some revitalising treatments and is recommended. The opportunity and experience to relax, unwind and de-stress is available in different locations and for different prices across Kenya, and this option is also represented, unsurprisingly, in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

This is because it has its own spa within the airport that is called Sheri Palm Spa, which is located in terminal 1A, level 2 and gives travellers the chance to have a real pampering experience. If you fancy a massage, body scrub, manicure, or even a haircut, the Sheri Spa can make it happen for you. It offers 30 different treatments that range from 1547 KSH – 12378 KSH (15 USD – 120 USD). If you want to feel refreshed but are short of time, the Sheri Palm Spa has a “jet lag express service” menu, which includes options like 15 minute back massage (for 2578 KSH (25 USD), which may take your fancy.

Recharge yourself and devices in a lounge

things to see, do and experience during a layover at nairobi airport | recharge yourself and devices in a lounge

On the topic of relaxation and re-energising, if you simply want somewhere where you can truly rest for a few hours and recharge your batteries and yourself, then one of the many private lounges are recommended. There are a number of lounges located after security and closer to the boarding gates throughout the various terminals in the airport. Examples of some of the lounges available include the Aspire Lounge, Turkish Airlines Star Alliance Lounge, Mara Lounge, Mount Kenya Lounge, Pride Lounge or the Simba Lounge. Some of these lounges are open 24 hours a day, so whatever time your flight is arriving or departing, they are available to make sure you have the most comforting time in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

I would have to urge you to consider experiencing either the Pride or Simba Lounges if you are in terminal 1 of the airport. These lounges truly celebrate Africa with their design and interior including the seating, which in some parts reflects that of a modern and beautiful circular Maasai hut; this is perfect for sharing and meeting fellow travellers. The lounges offer free Wi-Fi, ample snacks and drinks (including alcoholic) that are replenished regularly and also washroom and shower facilities. There are complimentary newspapers and magazines available so that you can keep up-to-date with the news and current affairs. With the amenities available, you will feel more like you’re in a cool and modern hotel as opposed to an airport! The cost to access either of these lounges is 4126 KSH (40 USD) per person and whilst expensive, I would have to say it is entirely worth it if you have a long layover.

Nairobi Tour Guide

Lewenei Japhet

Lewenei Japhet

I am 26, born and raised in Kenya. In the year 2015, I started my journey in the Travel & Tour Industry :- Tour Consultancy and Safari guiding. I established Happy Feet Travel in 2019 and have been operating private and small group tours in Kenya and Tanzania - planning, organizing, guiding and leading the ultimate, unique and exclusive safari to key destinations in East Africa. I have ... Read more

Tours by Lewenei

Have a great safari in the airport

Visiting Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is an insightful and positive experience and if you’re visiting or departing from a holiday in Kenya, I am confident that you will enjoy your experience within it. If you have to transit through Nairobi whether it be for business or pleasure, I feel certain that you will find it to be a smooth process. If you have resources available, then I would urge you to consider the spa treatments or/and a lounge experience. However, if you’re of limited resources, then wander around and enjoy the art on display all over the airport. Notice how each piece is different and has a story yet connects with another piece in the airport. And as the Kenyan’s would say, have a great “safari” (which means “journey” in Swahili) in the airport, you will be surprised to find that your airport experience can be quite calming, mindful and leisurely.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


This article has been endorsed by Nairobi local expert Barry Juma

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Puja Modha has trained as a lawyer, worked as a compliance officer and is an experienced travel journalist that enjoys writing about her experiences across the world. She was born in England, her...Read more

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