Known as one of the least visited countries in Africa, Burundi has forests, savannas and stunning lakes for travellers wanting to go off the beaten path.
It is difficult to find reliable information about Burundi online. It was one of the most complicated countries to plan a visit to, and I was not sure exactly why I was going there. Articles about political tensions, violence and risks are all over the internet and as a traveller with vast experience in Africa, even I felt intimated about going there.
Fortunately, visiting a country and exploring cautiously is the best way to learn more about it. I travelled to Burundi last Summer and found one of my favourite countries in East Africa, a place where I truly felt welcome.
In 7 days of visiting Burundi, I went to several natural reserves, learnt more about the deep connection between Burundians and music, and even got invited to a wedding.
Burundi was a country of surprises and here I want to show you some of the best natural places to travel in Burundi. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to visit them all. However, now I have a bucket list to fill in.
This is the heart of Burundi. Whether you are up in Bujumbura or south in Nyanza Lac, the views you get of Lake Tanganyika will leave you speechless. This is the only spot you can’t miss during a trip to Burundi, and even if you just go to the Club du Lac in Bujumbura for a cold drink, you will understand why the lake is so particular for local Burundians.
It is one of the most beautiful freshwater reserves in Africa, and even though Burundi is landlocked, Lake Tanganyika makes you forget it is. According to local Burundians, Lake Tanganyika is where locals drink, dance, fall in love and spot a hippo from time to time.
For those wanting to enjoy a warm day at the beach, the beaches of Saga, Kinido and Bora Bora – all three in Bujumbura – are the places to go. For those wanting to explore further and visit areas where tourists rarely go, the towns of Magara, Rumonge and Nyanza are the places to visit.
This is one of the most accessible natural wonders Burundi has to offer. Located in the heart of Burundi’s central mountains, the Kagera Waterfalls are a great place to explore on your way back from Gishora.
These two 80-meter waterfalls might not be as impressive as other waterfalls in Southern Africa. Still, they are worth a visit for travellers wanting to take a quick swim on a hot day. There have been some incidents in the past, so independent exploration of the waterfalls is not allowed. However, you can get a guide that would tell you more about the importance of these falls and guide you through the walking path.
You can even cross a hanging bridge on top of a waterfall at some point.
Rusizi River National Park
If you plan to explore some of Burundi’s national parks, Rusizi River National Park will probably be your first stop. Located just 30 minutes from Bujumbura, the park limits the northern edge of Lake Tanganyika.
Keep this in mind. This is not a place to see chimpanzees or do a proper safari experience. This is more a place for relaxation in which you book one of the many private boats that take you along the shore, sit down, enjoy a cold drink and see how fishermen work or hippos roam around you with curiosity.
Ruvubu National Park
Isolated from tourism, Ruvubu is an example of how national parks in Kenya and Tanzania were a hundred years ago. This is different from where people would come to see the big five. However, for those travellers who have seen Masai Mara and Serengeti more than a dozen times (not many, I guess?), Ruvubu is a fresh take on disconnecting from modern life and being in nature.
Expect to see buffalos, antelopes, and several types of primates – sometimes elephants and lions. If you are lucky enough, you can spot rare species like the red colobus monkey or the overly cute bushbaby.
INSIDE INFO: Ruvubu National Park is one of the few game parks where walking safaris are an activity. This is a rare opportunity to explore a safari environment from a more intimate and personal perspective.
Lake Rwihinda Natural Reserve
Located in the northern part of Burundi, this is one of the most popular destinations for locals. This is a place to experience a more relaxed side for Burundians and enjoy the calm and relaxation the lake offers.
There are no large fishing boats or passenger boats at Lake Rwihinda. Here you can rent a canoe for yourself and enjoy the quietness of the landscape, plus hundreds of birds singing for you. The natural reserve is located around 4 hours from Bujumbura, making Lake Rwihinda a pretty accessible place to explore in Burundi.
Kibira National Park
Kibira can be considered the most beautiful national park in Burundi. This is the proper tropical forest experience you expect from this part of Africa. It is one of the country’s best places for wildlife spotting and one of the few destinations where travellers can easily find wild chimpanzees.
Tours to Kibira can be easily organised by many companies from SafariBookings. Prices depend on the tour length, how many countries you want to combine, and what kind of activities you want to do.
Kigwena Natural Forest
Visiting the Kigwena Natural Forest is an odd experience. This place does not look like the Burundi you know from photographs. Burundi’s national reserve is characterised by giant trees, colourful birds and butterflies, and thick vegetation.
No 4×4 safari cars are moving you around or souvenir shops selling crafts. Here you travel to be fully isolated and explore one of the most pristine forests in the world for yourself. This is also one of the most unexplored places in Burundi, so images of the Kigwena Natural Forest are nonexistent – something that fascinates any traveller wanting to explore places off the beaten path.
How to plan a nature multi-day trip to Burundi?
Planning a trip to Burundi independently is fun. However, if you want to arrange everything with tour operators beforehand from the comfort of your home. SafariBookings is the best platform for it.
They have the largest database of tour operators in Africa and you can simply send a request and negotiate a tour and a price directly with the operator. You don’t have to pay any additional fees.
These are some of the most popular tours in Burundi at SafariBookings.
How to travel around Burundi
Unfortunately, renting your own vehicle and driving independently is highly complicated. We tried asking different companies and private people, and locals we met. However, we had no luck. The best option was renting a 4×4 with a private driver for 100 USD daily. This included him driving us anywhere we wanted, petrol, and his meals and accommodation.
Even though this was not the option we wanted, it was convenient to travel with someone who knew the area well enough. Places like the Kagera Waterfalls would have been challenging to reach without a guide, and we could just relax during long driving hours, and spend our energy exploring the country’s natural parks.
The most significant advantage of having a driver, including everything, was not having to get gasoline after our trip. Getting gasoline in Burundi can take up to 8 hours – sometimes even 12-14. Lines of vehicles wait next to the petrol stations, and there is no other way to tank your car. I couldn’t imagine the frustration if we had to go from station to station hoping to find gasoline and less than 5 hours of wait.
Read more: Which are the best safari parks in Africa
Where to stay in Burundi
Accommodation in Burundi ranges from all prices. From 10 USD for a private room without AC to hundreds of dollars for a luxury resort with all-inclusive.
Burundi is also one of the least visited places in Africa. It is easy to find accommodation on the spot. However, if you want to be safe, you can book hotels easily with Booking.com
By booking a hotel using the platform below, you will also support the blog and get the cheapest price on the market.
How do I find cheap flights to Burundi?
Finding a cheap flight anywhere around the world is not always easy. It’s about comparing platforms, selecting the right routes and booking at the right time. Fortunately, platforms like Skyscanner became known as an all-in-one tool for booking flights at the lowest cost possible.
They analyse every potential company and sub-contractor in order to find the lowest price available for you. Not only that, but you can also select the option “Travel Anywhere” and let Skyscanner find the cheapest place to travel at any selected date.
I check all my flights first at Skyscanner, and in 90% of the cases, I find the best option for me to book.
Also, by booking here using Skyscanner, you will support my blog and help me create more amazing and useful content.