15 Best Places to Visit in Burundi

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Burundi may be one of the smallest countries in mainland Africa but it packs a lot of stunning nature into such a small space. The country is divided into 16 provinces which cover an area of just over 28,000 square kilometers; a similar area to Maryland, one of the USA’s smallest states.

Hippos and birds are the main natural attractions in Burundi with their home varying from shrublands and forests, to huge lakes. The lack of coast in Burundi doesn’t mean a lack of beaches either and the country has some great inland beaches where the heat can be escaped by a cool and safe dip in one of the country’s lakes.

Culture in Burundi is also varied for such a small nation and the influences from colonial settlers as well as the aboriginal cultures are worth learning about in order to understand this small but fascinating country.

Unfortunately, the country is currently going through a hard time politically and recent events involving a military coup means that at the time of this article being written, travel to the country is not advised. Hopefully the people, the culture, and the nature of the country will not be hit to hard by the political events. Here’s a list of the best places to visit in Burundi!

1. Bujumbura

View of BujumburaSource: cindysayuti / shutterstock
View of Bujumbura

This relatively small city has not seen much development over the past decades mainly due to years of conflict in the region. The city, commonly known as Buji, has retained other characteristics from its period as a French colony such as excellent food, drink and nightlife.

French cuisine can be found at various restaurants in the city, occupying a wide range of prices and quality. Sights in the city include the university which is the only one in Burundi and the Independence Monument which remembers hard times of occupation by French, Belgian and German rulers.

The Living Museum is also located in Bujumbura and is arguably one of the best museums of its kind in Africa. It shows ancient and modern crafts used in Burundi.

2. Rusizi National Park

Rusizi National ParkSource: Anne Czichos / shutterstock
Rusizi National Park

Located just outside of Bujumbura is the fascinating Rusizi National Park. The plains surrounding the river are flooded periodically, bringing hundreds of animals to the area for his vital lifesource.

Hippos are just one of the many animals to frequent the area and are one of the most sought after by tourists. The park, with its clear skies, is a true bird-watchers paradise.

The migratory birds that visit the park include rare and beautiful species from both Asia and Europe such as sand pipers and plovers.

3. Ruvubu National Park

Ruvubu National ParkSource: Simone Migliaro / shutterstock
Ruvubu National Park

The Ruvubu National Park is the largest in Burundi and covers an area of over 500 square kilometers. The park, which was founded in 1980, is home to some of the most majestic and impressive wildlife in the country including beasts such as hippos, buffalo and crocodiles.

The park is also known for its variety of rare plants and flowers as well as the birdlife that migrates to the region throughout the year.

Preservation of the park is one of the country’s top concerns, so much so that humans have been evacuated from the area. The park is well equipped for camping and is easily accessible by road.

4. Lake Rwihinda Natural Reserve

Lake Rwihinda Natural ReserveSource: Wirestock Creators / shutterstock
Lake Rwihinda Natural Reserve

Another hotspot for an amazing variety of flora and fauna and another top attraction for tourists in Burundi.

The reserve covers an area of over 8,000 hectares consisting of a mix of shrubland, forest and grassland. The lake is another place that birdwatchers will adore. The amount of rare and stunning birds that visit this lake is too many to mention.

Agriculture and decreasing water levels are having an impact on the reserve despite preservation efforts. For now though the reserve remains a must-visit destination for travellers in Burundi.

5. The Kibira National Park

Great Blue TuracoSource: Ondrej Prosicky / shutterstock
Great Blue Turaco

The Kibira National Park lies within a fascinating location between 1,500m and 2,600m in altitude. The park is largely occupied by primeval rainforest and was once used as a sacred hunting ground by the country’s former kings.

Today however, it is another of Burundi’s protected areas where vast amounts and varieties of wildlife make their homes. The forest, and the rivers and streams that flow through it, support animals such as baboons, chimps and more than 200 kinds of bird species.

The park is commonly visited by tourists who first pass through the large tea plantations in Teza; these are an attraction in their own right.

6. Kigwena Natural Forest

Kigwena Natural ForestSource: Ntahonsigaye / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Kigwena Natural Forest

The Kigwena Natural Forest is conveniently located on the National Route no.3 in the Rumonge commune of Burundi and covers an area of more than 3,000 hectares.

The forest here is dense and it feels like an adventure just to step foot in. Inhabiting the forest are a number of baboons, monkeys and various species of butterflies and birds.

A guided tour of the forest is available through the country’s Environmental and Conservation Institute.

7. Gitega

GitegaSource: GATETE Pacifique / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0

This city, which is now Burundi’s second city, was the country’s capital during colonial times.

The city has a number of worthwhile attractions including the remarkable Gitega National Museum which has a vast collection of artifacts and antiquities from Burundi’s past.

Gitega is well equipped for tourists and has a decent range of accommodation options for most budgets. The city is commonly included on safari tours as an overnight stop.

8. Gishora

GishoraSource: Rostasedlacek / shutterstock

7km away from Gitega, Gishora sits proudly atop a hill chosen for its strategic position by King Gisabo.

The main sight in Gishora, and another common stopoff for safari tours, is the drum sanctuary. The drums have played an important role throughout the history of Burundi and were often made for, and played at, important events such as royal ceremonies.

The sanctuary is a great way to experience this aspect of Burundi culture as well as the architecture of a royal palace which is recreated here.

9. Mount Heha

View from the Bottom of Mount HehaSource: Muco Aristide / shutterstock
View from the Bottom of Mount Heha

The highest mountain in Burundi, Mount Heha is part of the Burundi Highlands mountain range. The mountain is popular for trekking and at  2,864m it makes a good challenge for anyone looking to summit.

The mountain is located fairly close to Bujumbura and this is the most convenient location to use as a base before setting out to climb the mountain.

10. Saga Beach

Saga BeachSource: mbrand85 / shutterstock
Saga Beach

Whoever thought a country needed a coastline for great beaches can be proven wrong with a trip to Saga (pronounced sagga) Beach in Burundi.

The beach, which is part of the shore of Lake Tanganyika, may not be a sandy white beach from the Mediterranean but it is a great place to take a dip and enjoy the warm waters of the lake. The beach is easily accessible and is located only a few kilometers away from the capital.

The best time to visit the beach is at the weekend when the crowd of locals ensure that the atmosphere is lively and fun.

11. The “Source du Nil”

Source du NilSource: Dave Proffer / Flickr | CC BY
Source du Nil

Although it is debated whether it is in fact the true source of the Nile (in fact there is no one source but many) this natural landmark is still worth a visit. What looks like a rather insignificant spring over 100km from the capital, is most probably the southernmost source of the Nile river.

The spring is made more obvious by the stone pyramids that mark its location.

Getting here is impossible without either your own method of transport or a local guide willing to take you. A further half an hours drive will take you to the hot springs south of the Source du Nil.

12. Chutes de la Karera

Chutes de la KareraSource: Nathanael Boarer / shutterstock
Chutes de la Karera

The Chutes near Rutana consist of four beautiful falls. The fall nearest to the car park is actually the prettiest but this should not stop you from walking around and seeing the others.

Walking upstream is possible and a quick shower to cool off is possible in the smallest of the four waterfalls. The tallest waterfall and the areas namesake is the Karera Fall which is especially fearsome in the height of the wet season.

There are no public transport options to the falls so a visit needs to be arranged by a chartered vehicle, as part of a tour, or of course self-drive is an option.

13. Vyanda Natural Reserve

ChimpanzeeSource: Martin Prochazkacz / shutterstock

Another of Burundi’s natural reserves, the Vyanda reserve can be easily accessed by the town of Rumonge which is nearby.

The reserve is not particularly well equipped for tourists but a visit is possible with some forward planning and contact. There are usually two prices for guided tours; the full price and a reduced fee if your guide fails to show you any of the chimps in residence here.

It is also worth noting that the chimps are fully wild and not accustomed to close encounters with humans so don’t expect the sort of photo-oppurtunities that some of Africa’s other reserves offer.

14. Bururi Nature Reserve

Bururi Nature ReserveSource: [Photo: Bob Copeland] Londt JGH (2019) A revision of Afrotropical Astochia Becker, 1913 with descriptions of three new species (Diptera, Asilidae, Asilini). African Invertebrates 60(2): 215-237. https://doi.org/10.3897/AfrInvertebr.60.38432 / Wikimedia | CC BY 4.0
Bururi Nature Reserve

The wet forests of Bururi provide the perfect habitat for a number of animals including well over 100 species of birds.

Walking in the reserve is a popular activity and the reserve has a number of circuits to suit all levels of fitness. The reserves is high in altitude and is therefore a refreshing place to visit in the heat of summer.

The drive from Roumonge to the reserve is fairly short but offers up some stunning vistas along the way.

15. Rumonge Nature Reserve

Rumonge Nature ReserveSource: Robin Nieuwenkamp / shutterstock
Rumonge Nature Reserve

Founded in 1980 the Rumonge Nature Reserve is one of the most recently formed in Burundi. Like the other reserves in Burundi, Rumonge Reserve has a number of rare bird species that can be spotted here throughout the year as well as species of mammals and exotic plant life.

Access to the park is possible with a guided tour.

15 Best Places to Visit in Burundi:

  • Bujumbura
  • Rusizi National Park
  • Ruvubu National Park
  • Lake Rwihinda Natural Reserve
  • The Kibira National Park
  • Kigwena Natural Forest
  • Gitega
  • Gishora
  • Mount Heha
  • Saga Beach
  • The "Source du Nil"
  • Chutes de la Karera
  • Vyanda Natural Reserve
  • Bururi Nature Reserve
  • Rumonge Nature Reserve