You'll find smooths sands on the beaches of Lake Malawi.

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Malawi was named one of the top 10 places to visit in 2014 by Lonely Planet

It's noted for its wildlife and beaches

Malawi has friendly people, an easygoing vibe, Lake Malawi and good game parks

Lilongwe, Malawi CNN  — 

Despite a majestic lake stretching through its eastern border that gives way to beautiful beaches, Malawi is the African country less-traveled.

But it’s the place to be if you want to enjoy a natural paradise without everybody else. Though it hasn’t become a booming destination such as Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa, Malawi has numerous attractions.

Named one of the top 10 places to go in 2014 by Lonely Planet, Malawi is one of the lesser known destinations on the travel guide’s annual list, which includes Brazil, Sweden and the Seychelles. The country is touted for its wildlife and beaches.

But there’s more to Malawi than animal parks, warm sands and Madonna’s adoptions.

1. The locals are friendly

Called the “Warm Heart of Africa,” in the native language, Malawi locals exude friendliness. It’s common for strangers to wave and greet visitors as if they know them.

And it’s easy to make them smile with a “moni” (pronounced mo-nee, not money), which means hello in Chichewa, the local language, and “Zikomo” (thank you).

Curious kids often come by to say hi and see what you’re up to. The refrain I heard repeatedly was, “Welcome. You are welcome.”

Although overt friendliness often arouses suspicion in the world traveler, especially when someone’s trying to sell you tchotckes, there’s hardly any hawking or selling of tacky souvenirs in Malawi – the people are genuinely friendly.

Founded in 1964, Malawi has never had a civil war.

Malawi: Land of ancient splendor

2. It’s not crowded

You can enjoy the pristine views of massive Lake Malawi – known locally as Lake Nyasa, it’s the ninth largest lake in the world – without having your perfect day wrecked by a bunch of vacationers blasting horrible music.

Instead, you’ll hear restaurants jamming 1990s pop music such as the Backstreet Boys – can’t win them all.

Another perk: you won’t have to jostle for reservations at hotels, restaurants or game parks. Most of the travelers you’ll likely encounter in Malawi are tobacco businessmen or NGO workers – nary a tourist in sight.

Even the capital of Lilongwe has the relaxed vibe of a garden.

There are few cars and you can walk to places without feeling overwhelmed or fearful of getting run over. (The country’s commercial capital of Blantyre is much busier.)

You can go from the high life of the Kumbali Country Lodge, where Madonna stays, or sleep in more budget accommodations.

3. Lake Malawi is spectacular

spc inside africa southern malawi c_00021306.jpg
Lake Malawi's spectacular fish
07:17 - Source: CNN

Although Malawi is landlocked, its giant, freshwater lake is its life blood. The sunny beaches of Lake Malawi are golden, and the waters are nearly empty except for a few boats.