KITALE is smaller than Eldoret, and not much more exciting, but has more going for it from a traveller’s point of view, primarily as the base for visits to Mount Elgon, Kenya’s second giant volcanic cone, and the superb, very underrated hiking country in the area. It’s also an obvious springboard for the Cherangani Hills, and a straightforward departure point for trips to the west side of Lake Turkana. There’s a national park nearby – the little-known but easily accessible Saiwa Swamp, which can only be explored on foot. In addition, the town also has two museums and a couple of other sites to visit.
The town’s present population is a mix of tribes, including Nandi, Pokot, Marakwet, Sabaot and Sengwer, as well as a few Luhya, Kisii and Kikuyu and an influential Asian community. Like most towns in the Rift Valley and western Kenya, it was seriously affected by the post-election clashes of 2007–08, but managed to make a swift recovery.