Mwinilunga is a large, thriving outpost of a town, raised up in the remote northwest corner of Zambia. In the town you'll find petrol, shops with basic supplies, a couple of banks, a few outposts for aid agencies, a small Franciscan mission, and a choice of basic local resthouses.
Getting there and away
By far the easiest way to get to Mwinilunga is via the Copperbelt, Chingola and Solwezi. To reach it, travel through Chingola and then take the turn to Solwezi. This is tarmac, but in a variable state of repair.
About 28km after Solwezi there's a junction at Mwelemu (GPS:MWELEM). Mwinilunga is signposted to the right, and from there it's about 288km of largely reasonable tarmac away. Eventually you'll descend a hill, cross the West Lunga River, and drive into town. Beyond the tar, a good gravel road leads north into DRC via Ikelenge. Alternatively, head for Angola via Kalene Hill, and the border at Jimbe Bridge just over 100km away.From Kabompo
See Kabompo's section on Getting there and away to locate the turn-off for Mwinilunga from the M8 (GPS:TUMWIN). Then after 4.5km, take the right fork, and bend around left. It's a beautiful drive here along a good but narrow road on which you can average about 30–40km/h in the dry season. On either side are occasional subsistence farming communities, and large areas of forest. It does cross one or two large dambos, which could be very sticky during the rainy season.
Note that this route does go relatively close to Angola, and you'd be well advised to check the security situation locally before coming this way. Equally, don't be tempted to divert off to the west of the road unless you know exactly where you're going.
After about 49km it passes the village of Lunsongwe (GPS:LUNSON), where there's a school and a small grocery shop. (It is spelled 'Lusongwa' on some maps.) Around 54km later, you pass the very spread-out village of Kanyilambi, notable mainly for its church and beautiful silvery fields of rice – and then you're almost half-way to Mwinilunga.
Continuing north, the forests and other vegetation start to get thicker whilst the atmosphere becomes perceptibly warmer and more humid – despite the slight but steady rise in altitude. In places the forest is thick enough for the canopy of trees over the track to interlock – and for some of the birding 'specials' found in Mwinilunga to occur here too.
Eventually you reach a T-junction (GPS:TUKABO) with the main Mwinilunga–Solwezi tar road, and the centre of town is a few kilometres west. In the dry season it takes about five hours to cover this 219km from Kabompo.
Mwinilunga has a large post office, several banks including a Union Bank and a Finance Bank, a sizeable local market, and an assortment of very unremarkable places to sleep and/or eat. These include the Big Three Lodge
(tel: 36018); Ncuba Lodge
and the Muzinga Guest House
(PO Box 160059, Mwinilunga). The Mwinilunga Riverside Guesthouse
, which is opposite the turning from the tar road to go south to Kabompo, has open-sided rondavels spread out on a grassy bank down to the river – although this is on the edge of town, and so campers should beware of petty theft.
There are also guestrooms at Mwinilunga Night Club
, and the New Generation Night Club and Restaurant
– though I'd expect earplugs to be useful for either of these.
Despite this assortment of options – all fairly inexpensive – most visitors here will want to proceed up to Hillwood Farm and Nchila Reserve rather than stay here. Most will want to re-fuel though, and Mwinilunga does usually have fuel at the single station in town.