For all its wondrous landscapes (think undulating mountain ranges, dense rainforests and shimmering lakes), travellers are advised to steer clear of Burundi right now – the scenery might be beautiful, but the political situation is decidedly ugly.
Civil unrest, an abortive military coup and controversial elections have dominated the headlines in Burundi recently, which is a great shame given what this country has to offer.
The vibrant if tumultuous capital, Bujumbura, has a prime location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and just outside the city are some of the best inland beaches in Africa, plus a number of idyllic beachfront bars and resorts.
The city itself has some interesting examples of French architecture and has developed a reputation for its vibrant nightlife, but infrastructural development has been hindered by decades of sporadic conflict that culminated in 1994 and left more than 300,000 dead.
Further beyond the city limits, the four beautiful waterfalls at Chutes de la Karera are well worth a visit, as are a few of the largely unexplored and underdeveloped national parks. Parc National de la Rusiza is the most accessible, just 15km (9 miles) from Bujumbura, while Parc National de la Kibira is the largest rainforest in Burundi and is home to rare colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.
An advantage of Burundi’s small size is that if you have your own vehicle or hire a driver, it’s generally easy to visit any of these highlights and return to Bujumbura within the same day; public transport, however, is limited outside the city.
Burundi has made tentative progress towards peace and stability since a power-sharing government was set up in 2001 and most rebel groups agreed to disarm, but in 2015 President Nkurunziza’s bid to change the constitution and stand for a third term sparked mass protests and a violent response from the state.
Hundreds of thousands of Burundians have fled into neighbouring Tanzania, fearing the collapse of the country’s fragile democracy and a return to civil war. Watch this space.