Burundi off the beaten path
East Africa

Burundi Travel Guide

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Burundi, located in East Africa, is a small yet beautiful country that offers a unique and off-the-beaten-path travel experience.

Despite its troubled past, Burundi has been steadily making progress toward stability and is gradually gaining recognition as a travel destination for adventurers seeking to explore a lesser-known African gem.

From stunning landscapes to cultural heritage, Burundi has much to offer.

What is Burundi most known for?

lake Tanganyika in Burundi

Lake Tanganyika

One of the highlights of Burundi is its natural beauty. The country is famous for its lush green hills, picturesque landscapes, and breathtaking lakes.

One of these places is Lake Tanganyika, the second oldest and second deepest lake in the world.

Bordering four countries—Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—this vast freshwater lake offers a unique and captivating travel experience for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those looking to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Stretching approximately 673 kilometers (418 miles) in length and reaching depths of up to 1,470 meters (4,823 feet), Lake Tanganyika is a true natural wonder.

Its crystal-clear waters are renowned for their biodiversity, supporting a staggering array of marine life, including over 350 species of fish found nowhere else on Earth.

The lake’s exceptional biological value has earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the primary attractions of Lake Tanganyika is its opportunities for water-based activities.

From swimming and snorkeling to fishing and boating, the lake provides a playground for aquatic adventures.

The warm waters of the lake are inviting and make for an enjoyable swimming experience, while snorkeling unveils a vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful fish and unique aquatic species.

Fishing enthusiasts are drawn to Lake Tanganyika for its impressive variety of fish, including the famous Tanganyika sardine, locally known as dagaa, as well as various species of cichlids.

Anglers can try their luck at catching these prized fish while enjoying the serenity and beauty of the lake.

Local fishermen often offer boat trips and fishing excursions, providing an authentic experience and an opportunity to learn about their traditional fishing techniques.

For those seeking a more adventurous experience, Lake Tanganyika offers excellent opportunities for kayaking and sailing.

Exploring the lake’s shores by kayak allows you to get up close to the stunning scenery, observe birdlife, and discover hidden coves and beaches.

Sailing on the expansive waters of Lake Tanganyika offers a sense of freedom and tranquility, with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

The lakeside towns and villages around Lake Tanganyika provide cultural immersion and a glimpse into the lives of local communities.

In Burundi, Bujumbura, the capital city, sits on the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

It offers a range of amenities and attractions, including restaurants, hotels, and a lively waterfront.

Bujumbura Beach, a popular spot among locals and visitors alike, is an ideal place to relax, swim, or enjoy a picnic with a stunning view of the lake.

Lake Tanganyika in Burundi with mountains in the background

Exploring the lakeside communities also provides opportunities to engage with local traditions and customs.

The people living along the shores of Lake Tanganyika have a rich cultural heritage and are known for their warmth and hospitality.

Visitors can learn about traditional fishing practices, participate in local ceremonies and dances, and interact with artisans who create intricate crafts and artwork.

Kibira National Park

Kibira National Park

Kibira National Park, located in northwest Burundi, is a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

This dense rainforest, covering an area of approximately 400 square kilometers (154 square miles), is a haven of biodiversity and offers a unique and captivating travel experience.

One of the primary highlights of Kibira National Park is its remarkable flora and fauna.

The park is characterized by towering trees, lush vegetation, and a diverse range of plant species.

As you venture into the forest, you’ll encounter a rich tapestry of ferns, orchids, and epiphytic plants clinging to the trees, creating a mesmerizing green paradise.

Kibira National Park is home to an impressive array of wildlife, including primates, mammals, and various bird species.

Chimpanzees are the park’s most famous inhabitants, and tracking these intelligent creatures through the dense forest is a thrilling experience.

Alongside chimpanzees, you may also spot other primates such as colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, and baboons swinging through the trees.

Baboon in Kibira National Park Burundi

The park is a sanctuary for a variety of mammal species, including duikers, bushbucks, civets, and bushpigs.

While some of these animals are elusive and challenging to spot, the park’s knowledgeable guides can help you navigate the forest and increase your chances of encountering them.

Birdwatchers will be delighted by the park’s avian diversity, as Kibira is home to over 200 bird species, including the great blue turaco, Ruwenzori turaco, and the endemic Kibira Akalat.

Exploring Kibira National Park can be done through guided hikes and nature walks.

The park offers a network of trails that lead you deep into the heart of the rainforest, revealing its secrets along the way.

The sound of birdsong and the rustle of leaves underfoot create an immersive experience that connects you with nature in its purest form.

For the more adventurous traveler, Kibira National Park provides opportunities for camping and overnight stays within the forest.

Imagine falling asleep to the sounds of nocturnal creatures and waking up to the melodious calls of birds as the forest comes to life.

These camping experiences offer a unique chance to truly connect with the natural surroundings and experience the park more intimately.

One of the park’s notable attractions is the beautiful Rusizi River, which forms the western border of the park.

The river’s serene waters and picturesque surroundings provide a tranquil setting for relaxation and reflection.

Boat safaris along the Rusizi River offer an excellent opportunity to observe hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species that inhabit the riverbanks.

Flamingoes on the banks of the Rusizi river

The conservation efforts in Kibira National Park are focused on preserving the delicate ecosystem and protecting its unique biodiversity.

By visiting the park, you contribute to these conservation efforts and support the local communities that depend on sustainable tourism.

Additionally, the park provides employment opportunities for local guides and rangers, who play a vital role in preserving the park and ensuring visitor safety.

When planning a trip to Kibira National Park, it is advisable to make arrangements in advance and hire a local guide.

The guides are not only knowledgeable about the park’s flora and fauna but also have a deep understanding of the local culture and traditions.

They can provide insights into the history of the area, share fascinating stories, and help you navigate the park’s trails.

It’s important to note that Kibira National Park is still relatively undiscovered and offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience compared to other popular African parks.

As such, the infrastructure may be less developed, and accommodation options are limited.

However, this adds to the park’s charm, as it provides a genuine and authentic wilderness experience for those seeking adventure and exploration.

Rusizi National Park

Boat safari in Burundi

Rusizi National Park, located in western Burundi, is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of wetland, savannah, and woodland ecosystems.

Nestled along the Rusizi River and bordering Lake Tanganyika, this diverse park provides a haven for wildlife, birdwatching opportunities, and a chance to explore the natural beauty of the region.

One of the primary attractions of Rusizi National Park is its rich biodiversity.

The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including hippos, crocodiles, antelopes, monkeys, and numerous bird species.

As you venture through the park’s different habitats, you’ll have the opportunity to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.

The Rusizi River, which runs through the park, is a lifeline for many species and offers a picturesque setting for exploration.

Boat safaris along the river provide an excellent opportunity to observe hippos and crocodiles up close.

These safaris allow you to witness the impressive size and power of these animals while enjoying the serene surroundings of the river.

Birdwatchers will be delighted by the avian diversity in Rusizi National Park.

Over 140 bird species have been recorded in the park, including the African fish eagle, malachite kingfisher, African jacana, and various heron species.

The marshy wetlands attract a multitude of waterbirds, creating a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Exploring the park with a knowledgeable guide can enhance your birdwatching experience as they can identify and point out the different species.

Rusizi National Park offers various activities for visitors to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings.

Guided nature walks and hiking trails allow you to explore the diverse habitats of the park, including the riverine forest, savannah grasslands, and wetlands.

These walks provide opportunities to spot wildlife, learn about the flora and fauna, and gain a deeper understanding of the park’s ecosystems.

For those seeking a more adventurous experience, canoeing along the Rusizi River is a thrilling activity.

Paddling through the tranquil waters and winding channels allows you to explore the hidden corners of the park and witness wildlife from a unique perspective.

Canoeing also provides opportunities for birdwatching and photography, as you can get close to the riverbanks and capture stunning shots of the animals and bird species that inhabit the area.

Accommodation options near Rusizi National Park range from guesthouses to hotels, providing a comfortable base for your explorations.

Bujumbura, in close proximity to the park, offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets.

Staying in the city allows you to enjoy the amenities and convenience while being within reach of the park for day trips and excursions.

It’s important to note that Rusizi National Park in Burundi is a protected area, and conservation efforts play a crucial role in preserving its unique ecosystems.

By visiting the park, you contribute to these conservation initiatives and support the local communities that depend on sustainable tourism.

It is advisable to hire a local guide when exploring the park, as they can provide valuable insights, enhance your wildlife sightings, and ensure your safety.

Bujumbura – Burundi’s capital city

Burundi is also a culturally rich destination.

The capital city, Bujumbura, showcases a blend of African and colonial influences.

Exploring the city will lead you to discover historical sites, such as the Livingstone-Stanley Monument commemorating the meeting of explorers David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.

The Musee Vivant, a small zoo and cultural center, provides insights into Burundi’s cultural heritage, housing a variety of animal species as well as traditional artifacts.

To truly experience Burundi’s cultural traditions, consider visiting during one of the country’s vibrant festivals.

The annual Drummers’ Guild Festival, known as “Kaya-Magamba,” celebrates Burundi’s drumming heritage and brings together talented percussionists from different regions. It is a captivating display of rhythm, dance, and cultural pride.

For history buffs, the city of Gitega is a must-visit.

As the country’s former capital, Gitega is home to the National Museum of Burundi, which offers a deeper understanding of the country’s history and cultural heritage.

The museum showcases traditional artifacts, archaeological findings, and exhibits on Burundi’s monarchy.

When it comes to accommodation, Burundi offers a range of options to suit various budgets, from luxury hotels in Bujumbura to guesthouses and eco-lodges in the countryside.

The warmth and hospitality of the Burundian people are evident throughout the country, making visitors feel welcome and at home.

Is it safe to travel to Burundi?

It’s important to note that while Burundi has made strides towards stability, it is always advisable to check the latest travel advisories before planning a trip.

Additionally, it’s recommended to hire a local guide who can provide insights into the culture, navigate the country’s infrastructure, and ensure a safe and enriching experience.

Burundi is an emerging travel destination that promises a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and historical significance.

With its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, Burundi offers an unforgettable African adventure for those seeking to explore the Black Continent off-the-beaten-path.