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Top Attractions to Explore by Rental Car in Burundi

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 shrub-lands 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. 

LIST OF THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BURUNDI

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. The Kibira National Park

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.

  1. Gitega

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. The city 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.

  1. Gishora

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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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 ensures that the atmosphere is lively and fun.

  1. The “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 hour’s drive will take you to the hot springs south of the Source du Nil.

  1. 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 reserve 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.

  1. Lake Tanganyika

The most popular attraction in Burundi, the great lake of Tanganyika is also the longest in the world and the second largest in Africa, spanning a total area of 19,883.9 square miles. It offers remarkable biodiversity with more than 1,300 plant and animal species residing there, from microscopic algae to large crocodiles, along with 300 species of small and large fish.

The lake is also the second deepest in the world (after Baikal Lake) and the second largest fresh water reservoir (after Lake Victoria). More than its underwater richness, the lake boasts beautiful landscapes enhanced by the soaring mountains and coastal plains perfect for photographs. 

Conclusion

From the lakeside to the mountainside, Burundi does not disappoint adventurous travelers looking for active fun, plus a sprinkling of historical and cultural discoveries.

What do you think?

Written by Mike Bisho

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