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Burundi Travel Guide

Burundi sits at the central heart of Africa, often dubbed “the Switzerland of Africa”. Much like Switzerland, Burundi features a wonderful landscape of enormous lakes, mountaintops, and verdant forests. The only difference between the two countries is the climate; Burundi is much more tropical.

Burundi is one of the smallest and most densely populated countries in Africa. It is inhabited by three major ethnic groups: the Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. Burundi has a long history as a feudal and is in many ways similar to its northern neighbor, Rwanda.

Geographically, Burundi is situated along the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa. Lake Tanganyika lies in the southwest at more than 2,500 feet above sea level. In the east and south, the land rises to more than 8,000 feet. The Ruzizi River runs along the country’s western boundary while the Malagarasi traverses Burundi’s eastern fringes. There area few forests in the country, mostly near the river streams distributed throughout the regions. Most of the fertile lands are found along the river banks where grass grows wildly. The rest of the country is savanna and old grasslands that are no longer farmable due to overgrazing.

One of the country’s main tourist destinations is Kirundo in the north, which features three lakes: Rwihinda, Rweru, and Cohoha. Rwihinda, in particular, is known as the “Birds Lake” for its sheer diversity and quantity of birds. You’ll find more than 20 different species. An equally large number of birds in Kibira National will also delight birdwatchers.

Lake Tanganyika is one of the most popular attractions in Burundi. Many flock here to enjoy a real lake vacation experience. Hotels, restaurants, and cafes enclose this lake and water sports facilities enable visitors to fish, water-ski, sail, and swim.

In Bururi Province, there is a pyramid-like monument built near Rutovu to pay tribute to one of the sources of the Nile River. It was discovered in 1934 by German explorers. The water stream here is trickle-like and eventually leads to several major lakes in Africa, including Lake Victoria, and then becomes the mighty Nile. Nearby is the Muhweza hot springs, known as the “German Falls” where tourists can enjoy health-treating curative waters. The big forests that lead into the Bururi province is also noted for its large population of monkeys.

Bujumbura is the capital of Bujumbura. This city features three important museums that showcase Burundian culture. South of Bujumbura, there is also a stone that commemorates the historic meeting place of Stanley and Livingstone. In 1871, the two German explorers spent two nights as guests of Chief Mukamba during their exploration of the northern ends of Lake Tanganyika. There is a place called “Resha Center” nearby, which is a lodging place destination for people who camp, swim, and skinny dive in the vicinity.

Burundi is located near the equator but the temperature in this country is moderately cool due to its high altitude. Rainfall averages about 50 inches a year, with the west season between February and May and the dry season between June and August.

Burundi was originally inhabited by the Hutu farmers and Twa hunter-gatherers. Tutsis moved into the area northeast of Lake Victoria between the 14th and 16th centuries, bringing cattle and organizing a feudal state in which they offered Hutus protection and cattle in return for their loyalty and agricultural tributes. The Tutsi, thus, ruled over the Hutus as feudal lords.

German explorers, David Livingstone and Henry Stanley, passed by during the 19th century. Eventually, the Germans colonized Burundi. They were forced to give up the region to Belgium after their defeat in WWI. In 1962, Burundi was granted independence.

From 1969 to 1988, Bundi was mired in ethnic strife between the Tutsi and Hutu. The Hutu Prime Minister, Micombero, ousted the Tutsi monarch in 1966 to become president himself. Micombero was himself ousted in a military coup in 1976. In 1987, Major Pierre Buyoya overthrew Bagaza.

In 1993, after Buyoya was ousted, the first multiparty elections were held. The first Hutu president of Burundi, Ndadaye, came to power, but was assassinated by the Tutsi army. The assassination led to new violence and mass genocides that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Today, the country is still mired in military coups after another and ongoing conflict between the Tutsis and Hutus. Recently signed ceasefire agreements bring hope that Burundi can finally put behind all the violence and live peacefully as one nation.

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