backpacking in burundi

  • Population: 7.3 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Bujumbura
  • Area: 27,816 sq km (10,740 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili
  • Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs
  • Life expectancy: 42 years (men), 44 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Burundi franc = 100 centimes


Backpacking in Burundi

Backpacking in Burundi – Republic of Burundi is a tiny pod at the heart of Africa that, at present, has remained Mama Africa’s hidden jewel, just as shiny, opulent, and precious. Burundi is a country we missed discussing in History class, or we mostly slept through, but an interesting place no less. But straight to the factoids, Burundi is one of the Top 10 poorest countries in the world with the lowest per capita GDP EVER of any country in the world. Burundi faces a glitch because of overpopulation and corruption-a concept absolutely familiar to Africa. Overpopulation is quite an impediment with 6.25 children to every woman and lack of resources to support the boom. Perhaps, there’s something in the air causing such fertility, which by the way is unbelievably fresh and crisp; beach-side is even better.

When Germany and Belgium took Burundi under its wings at the onset of the 20th century, it became a European colony with Rwanda, the Rwanda-Uruni. As an independent state, Burundi’s like a tod with shaky knees. And that’s the beauty of it. Clean and pristine surroundings, curious and warm people, this is a land generally unscathed by the ravenous claws of globalization. Although a majority of locals have life quite hard, this is not the sad part. It is seeing their fellow countrymen have it better than the rest. Tanganyika knows how placate emotions of injustice with that blinding glimmer from its ivory sand and turquoise waters.


backpacking in burundi 

Burundi (3 30 S, 30 00 E) is a landlocked territory in Central Africa with a total area of 27,830 km2 only bigger by a few square kilometres to Haiti. The general terrain is hilly and mountainous the lowest point is actually 772 metres above sea level, the Lake Tanganyika, and the highest, the Mount Heha at 2670 metres elevation from the sea surface. This is because the country of Burundi lies on a rolling plateau. With the presence of some plains, Burundi’s lands are agricultural or pasture with 35.57% of the area as arable land. Unfortunately, the entire country is nearly deforested with but 600 km2 of preserved rain forest and wildlife sanctuaries.


The country has an equatorial climate but with considerable variations due to altitude inconsistencies. There are two wet seasons, from February to May, and then again from September to November; two dry seasons, from June to August, then December to January. Overall, it is warm and breezy the whole year round.


Burundians have numbered to 9,863,117 as of the late-2009/ early-2010 statistics, with populations quite far from the top of the AIDS charts. With this voracious Burundian fertility, the republic is the 2nd-most densely populated country in SSA, way more than its economy can afford.  Most of the Burundians live near volcanic areas for fertile soils for agriculture, while others where the beaches are because village life takes place here. There are three major ethnic groups, as represented by the three stars on the Burundian flag, the Hutu (85%), Tutsi (14%), and the Twa (1%). Also, about 3,000 Europeans, and 2,000 Asians are home to Burundi.


KIRUNDI is the official and most widely spoken language, as is FRENCH. KISWAHILI is also widely spoken especially in Bujumbura, the capital, and areas near the Tanganyika Lake. ENGLISH is very little spoken, thus, some French or Kirundi is essential with preference to the former as Kirundi is quite a mighty language to learn in a short time. Rest assured those in the hospitality and tourism businesses speak little to proficient English.


Christianity is the dominant religion of Burundi accumulating around 70% of the total population. The Roman Catholics represent the biggest group, then Protestants and other sects. There also are a significant number of members of indigenous religions and Islam.


Burundi is a hidden gem for more reasons than one. Not only is tourism highly suggested, but is a much rather needed aid in these areas, admitting certainly that Burundi is a little paradise with coastlines that par and never shy of the Caribbean. Other countries in Africa have set on ecological conservation, but with a truly poor country as this and corruption as the locals’ Kraken, they can only set their eyes for the moment on “community development.” Correspondingly, the tour may involve some orphanage visits, what I would like to call “tourism for a cause”. Hats off, the scenery is stunning, and the people are so happy, these alone are totally redeeming factors, except that the country is almost absolutely deforested – the plight of countries with malevolent corruption.

The Kibira, Rurubu, and Nyungwe Forest National Parks are the only areas that have been helping the preservation of unique wildlife of Burundi. The main attraction remains to be Tanganyika Lake- the longest lake in the world. This lake just takes the cake because, aside from the amazing beaches, clear blue water, and unbelievably plenty of elbow room, the happening is right on its shores. For an experience of local life and culture, Bujumbura, which is also along the lake, or any fishing village along the coast is where everything’s at, add the miles of splayed out beach bars. Why wouldn’t anyone want to be here when every 5 days that a tourist spends in Burundi creates 1 job for a Burundian? Now, that’s responsible tourism.


The lake-side is one of the safer places of the country that may, at a point or another, be highly volatile and dangerous. Lake-side is also the culinary centre of Burundi where the lot of their fish come from, and we’re talking a sea of fish right off the lake, as in the fishing village of Rumonge. The fish are amazing when grilled, and better eaten. So for lunch in Rumonge, the best to have is fish, of course. For the traveller, the fish would be a delectable meal. For the locals though, it is a luxury. Mainly rich people can afford the prime fish, while the fishermen who hauled them, like the locals, rarely benefit from this abundance. Most diners and restaurants cannot afford fish on their menu, so when the traveller spots one that serves fish, go right at it. Besides fish, produce from the fertile volcanic soil make for a wonderfully fresh and organic meal.

Goat meat is the staple meat for most Burundians simply because it is cheaper, but they know their way around goat bar none. Such a meal would perhaps be paired with red kidney beans, which is fairly universal to Burundian cuisine. As part of the international food fare influence, brochette, a French term for kebab or meat skewered and then grilled, can also be found, as is pommes frites,French fries as called in Germany and Belgium. South Asia cuisine has also made its way into the kitchen and at the dinner table like the samosas and curry dishes with rice and beans or lentils.

Desserts are not eaten in an after-meal sense, rather as a snack. Burundians are not heavy on sweets but they are elated with the idea of fresh fruit and bananas, which, FYI they use to brew home-made banana wine and beer. How’s that for ingenuity?


Backpacking in Burundi

Backpacking Addictz looks at Backpacking in Burundi.

Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman

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