Top 10 Largest Counties in Kenya
Largest Counties in Kenya
Land Area (km²)
Tana River County
Largest Counties in Kenya
Kenya, a diverse and vibrant East African nation, is divided into counties for administrative purposes. Among these counties, there are some that stand out for their vast land areas. These largest counties, based on data from 2023, are known not only for their extensive landscapes but also for their unique geographical and cultural features. In this article, we will explore the top 10 largest counties in Kenya, each offering its own distinct character and significance within the nation.
1. Turkana County (71,597.8)
Turkana County, situated in northwestern Kenya, holds the distinction of being the largest county in Kenya, covering a staggering 71,597.8 square kilometers of land. This expansive region is known for its arid and semi-arid climate, characterized by scorching daytime temperatures and relatively cooler nights. Despite its harsh environment, Turkana County boasts remarkable natural resources, including significant oil reserves, which have garnered attention for its potential economic impact on the region and the nation as a whole. The county is inhabited by diverse ethnic groups, primarily the Turkana people, who have adapted to the challenging conditions by relying on livestock herding and subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Turkana County is also home to several captivating tourist attractions, such as Lake Turkana, also known as the “Jade Sea,” and the Sibiloi National Park, which hosts a wealth of prehistoric fossil remains.
2. Marsabit County (66,923)
Marsabit County, located in northern Kenya, is the second-largest county in the country, covering an impressive 66,923 square kilometers of land. One of its most notable features is the presence of Lake Turkana, Kenya’s largest lake and a vital water source in the region. Marsabit County boasts a diverse population, with various communities, including the Borana, Rendille, Samburu, and Gabra, coexisting and contributing to the area’s rich cultural tapestry. This county’s landscape is characterized by a mix of arid plains and mountainous terrain, with the iconic Mount Marsabit, an extinct volcano, rising prominently above the horizon. Marsabit is a haven for biodiversity, hosting a range of wildlife species, and its national park is home to the endangered Grevy’s zebra. The county’s distinct blend of cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and unique wildlife make it an intriguing destination for travelers interested in Kenya’s less-explored regions.
3. Wajir County (55,840.6)
Wajir County, situated in Kenya’s northeastern region, ranks as the third-largest county in the nation, covering an extensive area of 55,840.6 square kilometers. This region is known for its semi-arid climate, and it borders Somalia to the east, making it a critical point in Kenya’s security landscape. Wajir County is inhabited predominantly by Somali communities, and their cultural influences are evident in various aspects of daily life. The county is characterized by vast plains and occasional riverbeds, which are essential sources of water for both livestock and agricultural activities. Despite the challenges posed by its arid climate, Wajir County has shown resilience in economic development, with a focus on livestock rearing, trade, and small-scale agriculture. The county’s unique cultural heritage and its role in cross-border trade contribute to its significance in Kenya’s northern frontier.
4. Garissa County (45,720.2)
Garissa County, located in northeastern Kenya, boasts a rich history and cultural diversity. It covers an expansive area of approximately 45,720.2 square kilometers, making it one of Kenya’s largest counties. This region has significant historical importance as it is believed to be the ancestral home of many Somali communities. Garissa’s landscape is characterized by arid and semi-arid terrain, and the county has faced various challenges, including occasional droughts and limited access to freshwater sources. However, the resilient communities in Garissa have adapted to these conditions and have a unique way of life, often centered around nomadic pastoralism.
The county’s capital, Garissa Town, serves as a vital hub for trade, education, and administration in the region. It is also home to several ethnic groups, with Somalis being the majority. The cultural diversity in Garissa County is reflected in its vibrant traditions, languages, and cuisine. Additionally, the county is known for its scenic beauty, including the Tana River, which flows through its southern regions, providing essential water resources and supporting agriculture and wildlife. Garissa County offers visitors an opportunity to experience a unique blend of cultures, explore its rich history, and appreciate the resilience of its communities in the face of challenging environmental conditions.
5. Tana River County (35,375.8)
Tana River County, situated in southeastern Kenya, covers an expansive land area of approximately 35,375.8 square kilometers. The county takes its name from the Tana River, which is a lifeline for the region, providing water for agriculture and sustaining various ecosystems. The Tana River is also known for its picturesque landscapes, offering opportunities for riverine tourism and water-based activities. This county is ethnically diverse, with communities such as the Pokomo, Orma, and Wardei residing in the region.
Tana River County’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, with subsistence farming and livestock rearing being common practices. The county’s fertile land along the riverbanks supports the cultivation of crops like maize, rice, and sorghum. Additionally, Tana River County is home to various wildlife species, and several conservation efforts aim to protect its unique biodiversity. Visitors to this region can explore its natural beauty, take part in water-based adventures, and immerse themselves in the cultural traditions of its diverse communities, making it an attractive destination for ecotourism and cultural experiences.
6. Isiolo County (25,336.1)
Isiolo County, located in the central-northern region of Kenya, covers an expansive land area of approximately 25,336.1 square kilometers. The county’s landscape is characterized by a mix of arid and semi-arid terrain, making it a unique ecological region. Isiolo is known for its cultural diversity, with various communities such as the Borana, Meru, Somali, and Turkana residing within its borders. The town of Isiolo serves as the county’s administrative center and a hub for trade and transportation in the region. The county’s economy primarily relies on agriculture, livestock farming, and small-scale businesses. Additionally, Isiolo is a gateway to several wildlife conservation areas, including the Shaba National Reserve, which attracts tourists and researchers interested in the region’s rich biodiversity.
7. Kitui County (24,385)
Kitui County, situated in the eastern part of Kenya, boasts an expansive land area of approximately 24,385 square kilometers. The county’s landscape is characterized by a mix of flat plains and undulating hills, which contribute to its unique natural beauty. Kitui is known for its distinct culture, with the Kamba community being the predominant ethnic group. The county’s economy relies heavily on subsistence farming, livestock rearing, and handicrafts production, particularly basketry. Kitui is also home to several conservation areas and natural attractions, including the Tsavo East National Park and the Nzambani Rock, which draw tourists interested in wildlife and outdoor activities. With its rich cultural heritage and scenic landscapes, Kitui County offers a glimpse into the traditional way of life in Kenya’s eastern region.
8. Kajiado County (21,292.7)
Kajiado County, located in the southern part of Kenya, covers a vast land area of approximately 21,292.7 square kilometers. The county is home to several communities, including the Maasai and Kikuyu, each contributing to its cultural diversity. Kajiado is known for its arid and semi-arid landscapes, characterized by savannah plains and scattered acacia trees. Agriculture and livestock farming are the primary economic activities in the county, with the Maasai people renowned for their traditional cattle rearing practices. Kajiado is also famous for its Maasai cultural festivals and wildlife conservancies, such as the Amboseli National Park, which offer visitors the opportunity to experience both Kenya’s natural beauty and its rich cultural heritage.
9. Samburu County (20,182.5)
Samburu County, with its vast expanse of 20,182.5 square kilometers, is nestled in the northern region of Kenya. It is a region characterized by breathtaking natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage. The county is inhabited by the Samburu people, who are closely related to the Maasai and are known for their distinctive clothing and beadwork. Samburu County is renowned for its wildlife conservation efforts and is home to several wildlife reserves, including the Samburu National Reserve. This reserve is famous for its diverse range of wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, and various bird species. The Ewaso Nyiro River flows through the county, providing a lifeline for both wildlife and the local communities.
Samburu County also presents opportunities for cultural tourism, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the traditions and customs of the Samburu people. The county’s landscapes are a mix of arid plains, rugged mountains, and semi-desert terrain, making it a unique destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. Additionally, Samburu County plays a vital role in preserving the natural heritage of Kenya and offers a glimpse into the coexistence of indigenous cultures and wildlife in this remote part of the country.
10. Narok County (17,921.5)
Narok County, covering 17,921.5 square kilometers of land in southwestern Kenya, is a region of great significance, both economically and culturally. It is perhaps best known as the gateway to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, one of Africa’s most famous wildlife conservation areas. The Maasai Mara, a part of the greater Serengeti ecosystem, is renowned for its annual wildebeest migration, where millions of animals traverse the plains in search of greener pastures. This natural spectacle draws visitors from around the world, making tourism a major driver of the local economy.
Narok County is also culturally rich, predominantly inhabited by the Maasai people, who have preserved their traditional way of life and are known for their colorful clothing, beadwork, and traditional ceremonies. The county’s landscape is a mix of rolling savannahs, hills, and the Great Rift Valley escarpment, providing a stunning backdrop to the Maasai culture and the remarkable wildlife experiences in the region. Additionally, agriculture plays a significant role in Narok’s economy, with the fertile lands along the Mara River supporting farming activities. The county’s unique blend of wildlife conservation, cultural heritage, and natural beauty makes it a prominent destination in Kenya’s tourism map.
How Do These Counties Contribute to Kenya’s Economy and Tourism?
Kenya’s largest counties play a significant role in contributing to the country’s economy and boosting its tourism sector. Here’s an elaborate look at how these counties contribute to Kenya’s economy and tourism:
1. Agriculture and Livestock:
Many of the largest counties, such as Narok and Kajiado, have fertile land and suitable climatic conditions for agriculture and livestock farming.
These counties produce a substantial portion of Kenya’s agricultural output, including maize, wheat, tea, coffee, and horticultural products.
The Maasai community in counties like Narok relies on livestock farming, particularly cattle, which is a vital part of their economy.
Tourism is a major contributor to the economy of these counties, especially those with renowned wildlife reserves and national parks like the Maasai Mara in Narok County.
Visitors from all over the world flock to these counties to witness the incredible wildlife, including the Great Migration in the Maasai Mara, which is one of the world’s most iconic natural events.
The tourism sector supports various businesses, including hotels, lodges, restaurants, tour operators, and souvenir shops, providing employment and income for local communities.
3. Cultural Tourism:
Many of these counties, like Samburu, offer unique cultural experiences to tourists interested in traditional African cultures.
Visitors can engage with indigenous communities, learn about their customs, attend cultural ceremonies, and purchase traditional crafts and artifacts, contributing to the local economy.
4. Natural Resources:
Some of these counties, like Turkana, are rich in natural resources, such as oil and minerals.
Extractive industries can significantly contribute to the county’s revenue and create job opportunities, while also contributing to the national economy.
5. Employment and Entrepreneurship:
The tourism and agricultural sectors in these counties provide employment opportunities for local residents, reducing unemployment rates and poverty levels.
Entrepreneurs in these counties often run small businesses that cater to tourists, further boosting the local economy.
6. Infrastructure Development:
The influx of tourists and the need to improve transportation and accommodation facilities have led to infrastructure development projects in these counties, including road networks and airports.
7. Conservation Efforts:
The counties with significant wildlife populations are actively involved in conservation efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats.
These efforts not only preserve Kenya’s natural heritage but also attract ecotourism, contributing to the economy.
Kenya’s largest counties contribute to the nation’s economy through agriculture, tourism, natural resource exploitation, and cultural experiences. They serve as important hubs for economic activities and play a pivotal role in showcasing Kenya’s rich biodiversity and cultural diversity to the world.
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only. All information on the Site is provided in good faith, however we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information on the Site.