The largest port on the coast of East Africa, Mombasa is hot, steamy and historical. Its earliest history dates back to the 12th century. A Muslim haven for centuries, it was attacked by the Portuguese in 1505 and burnt to the ground. It was quickly rebuilt only to be reduced to rubble again by an embattled Mombasan ruler during the long fight against the Portuguese. Mombasa's Old Town is testament to this tumultuous era. Filled with ornate wooden shop fronts and balconies, it's a constant source of delight for the observant wanderer. The old quarter's most prominent attraction is Fort Jesus, which dominates the harbor entrance. Begun in 1593 by the Portuguese, it changed hands nine times between 1631 and 1875. Now a museum, the fort is a fascinating mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Arabic design.

Mombasa proper sprawls over Mombasa Island, which is connected to the mainland both north and south of the city. The railway station is in the middle of the island, close to plenty of good hotels, restaurants and entertainment spots. A string of great beaches dominates the coast just south of the town. There are heaps of daily flights, trains and buses between Mombasa and Nairobi. There are also regular buses and ferries running between Mombasa and Tanzania.