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Burundi

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© Lonely Planet Publications
610

Burundi
Beautiful Burundi has been blighted by a generation of ethnic conflict, but with the advent
of peace, this charming country may at long last be able to put its dark past to rest. A tiny
little nation of soaring mountains and languid lakeside communities, Burundi is sandwiched
between the African giants of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. The
scenery is stunning and the welcome warm, and it may once again begin to receive a trickle
of travellers as the word gets out that the war is over.
The steamy capital Bujumbura has a lovely location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and
just outside the city are some of the finest inland beaches on the continent. Ask the old
Africa hands about Burundi before the war, and it is the sort of place they go misty-eyed
about and hark back to the life of the lotus-eaters. Sadly there has been no lotus-eating for
most Burundians during more than a decade of violence.
Many of the upcountry attractions have been off limits for years, but the stunning scenery
and warmth of the Burundians more than compensates. Choose from the southernmost
source of the Nile, the ancient forest of Parc National de la Kibira or the spot where Stanley
was reputed to have uttered those timeless words ‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’.
Intertribal tensions have devastated the country since independence in 1962 and there is
always a chance things could kick off again. It is a young peace, so make sure you do your
homework before embarking on an adventure in Burundi.

FAST FACTS

HIGHLIGHTS

Bujumbura (p613) Dine out in style before
dancing the night away in this city where
people love to live it up.
Saga Beach (p614) Hit the best inland
beaches in East Africa for some fun in
the sun.
Source Du Nil (p616) Journey to Burundi’s
very own pyramid, marking the southernmost source of the Nile at Kasumo.
Being in Burundi (opposite) Enjoy the novelty of being pretty much the only tourist
in the country.
La Pierre de Livingstone et Stanley (p616)
Visit the rock where those fateful
words ‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’ were
uttered.

CLIMATE & WHEN TO GO

The climate in Burundi varies widely
depending on whether you are in the hot and
steamy lowlands around Lake Tanganyika,
where temperatures average 30°C, or the more
mountainous north, where the usual temperature is a much milder 20°C.

ITINERARIES

Two Weeks It is hard to talk of itineraries in
such a small country with a long history of
civil war. Most people ...
BURUNDI
BURUNDI
lonelyplanet.com BURUNDI •• Highlights
Beautiful Burundi has been blighted by a generation of ethnic conflict, but with the advent
of peace, this charming country may at long last be able to put its dark past to rest. A tiny
little nation of soaring mountains and languid lakeside communities, Burundi is sandwiched
between the African giants of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. The
scenery is stunning and the welcome warm, and it may once again begin to receive a trickle
of travellers as the word gets out that the war is over.
The steamy capital Bujumbura has a lovely location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and
just outside the city are some of the finest inland beaches on the continent. Ask the old
Africa hands about Burundi before the war, and it is the sort of place they go misty-eyed
about and hark back to the life of the lotus-eaters. Sadly there has been no lotus-eating for
most Burundians during more than a decade of violence.
Many of the upcountry attractions have been off limits for years, but the stunning scenery
and warmth of the Burundians more than compensates. Choose from the southernmost
source of the Nile, the ancient forest of Parc National de la Kibira or the spot where Stanley
was reputed to have uttered those timeless words ‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’.
Intertribal tensions have devastated the country since independence in 1962 and there is
always a chance things could kick off again. It is a young peace, so make sure you do your
homework before embarking on an adventure in Burundi.
Burundi
HIGHLIGHTS
Bujumbura ( p613 ) Dine out in style before
dancing the night away in this city where
people love to live it up.
Saga Beach ( p614 ) Hit the best inland
beaches in East Africa for some fun in
the sun.
Source Du Nil ( p616 ) Journey to Burundi’s
very own pyramid, marking the south-
ernmost source of the Nile at Kasumo.
Being in Burundi ( opposite ) Enjoy the nov-
elty of being pretty much the only tourist
in the country.
La Pierre de Livingstone et Stanley ( p616 )
Visit the rock where those fateful
words ‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’ were
uttered.
CLIMATE & WHEN TO GO
The climate in Burundi varies widely
depending on whether you are in the hot and
steamy lowlands around Lake Tanganyika,
where temperatures average 30°C, or the more
mountainous north, where the usual tempera-
ture is a much milder 20°C.
ITINERARIES
Two Weeks It is hard to talk of itineraries in
such a small country with a long history of
civil war. Most people do a hit and run on
Bujumbura ( p613 ), entering via Rwanda.
Assuming peace holds, it is likely travel-
lers will continue south along the shores of
Lake Tanganyika to link up with Gombe
Stream National Park ( p781 ) in western
Tanzania.
HISTORY
The original Burundians were the Twa Pyg-
mies, but they were soon squeezed out by
bigger groups. First came the Hutu, mostly
farmers of Bantu stock, from about 1000 AD.
Later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the tall,
pastoral Tutsi from Ethiopia and Uganda
arrived. Relations were cordial, but the Tutsi
gradually subjugated the Hutu in a feudal
system similar to that of medieval Europe.
At the end of the 19th century Burundi
and Rwanda were colonised by Germany, but
after WWI the League of Nations mandated
Rwanda-Urundi to Belgium. Taking advantage
of the status quo, the Belgians ruled through
the Tutsi chiefs and princes. The establish-
ment of coffee plantations, and the resulting
concentration of wealth in the hands of the
Tutsi elite, provoked tensions between the
two tribal groups.
Independence Days
In the 1950s a nationalist organisation based
on unity between the tribes was founded
under the leadership of the mwami’s eldest
son, Prince Rwagasore. But in the lead up to
independence he was assassinated with the
connivance of the colonial authorities, who
feared their commercial interests would be
threatened if he took power.
Despite this setback, it appeared that Bu-
rundi was headed for a majority government
following independence in 1962. But in the
1964 elections, Mwami Mwambutsa refused to
appoint a Hutu prime minister, even though
Hutu candidates were the clear winners. Hutu
© Lonely Planet Publications
FAST FACTS
Area 27,830 sq km
ATM s There are no ATMS; come with cash
Borders DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania
Budget US$20 a day
Capital Bujumbura
Languages Kirundi, French
Money Burundi franc; US$1= BFr1040
Population 8 million
Seasons Wet (mid-March to mid-May, October-January);
dry (mid-May to mid-October, mid-December to mid-
March)
Telephone Country code
%
257; international access code
%
00
Time GMT/UTC +2
Visas Required by all; US$40 for one month
HOW MUCH?
Cheap hotel room US$20 to US$40
Plate of garnished brochettes US$2
Internet access per hour US$1 to US$2
Local newspaper US$0.50
100km bus ride US$2
LONELY PLANET INDEX
1L petrol US$1
1L bottled water US$0.50
Primus beer US$1
Souvenir T-shirt There aren’t any!
Grilled goat brochettes US$0.50
TRAVEL IN BURUNDI
Burundi was engulfed in civil war for more
than a decade and although progress to-
wards peace has been steady, it remains a
potentially unstable country in an unstable
region. Travel to the capital Bujumbura
was safe at the time of research, as was
the main road north to Rwanda. Assum-
ing things continue to stabilise, Burundi
may once again find itself on the overland
map of Africa, as it is a great way to link
Uganda and Rwanda with western Tanzania.
Check, double check and triple check the
latest security situation before heading into
the country or travelling anywhere beyond
Bujumbura.
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