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Things to see and do in Burundi

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Attractions in Burundi

Admire the flora and fauna

For a small nation, Burundi has a diverse series of habitats, ranging from savannah to blooming fields and mountain forests that are home to myriad species of both plant and animal life. Just 15km (9miles) from the capital, Rusizi National Park provides a wetland habitat for hippos, while Ruvubu National Park also contains a sizable population of leopards.

Be beguiled by Gitega

Gaze across the beautiful vistas of Burundi's central plains from the mountaintops of the Congo-Nile range in Gitega before exploring the second city's exquisite charm, from the history of the ibwani (or Royal Court) and National Museum, to the natural beauty of the Chutes de la Kagera waterfalls.

Echo Stanley’s famed words

Around 10km (6miles) south of Bujumbura is a large stone that is said to mark the historic first meeting between Stanley and Livingstone in 1871. Having pushed through equatorial Africa from the coast to locate the lost missionary and explorer David Livingstone, Stanley is supposed to have been mortified when all he could muster was 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?'

Experience drumming rituals

Located on a hilltop outside the town of Gitega, Gishora Drum Sanctuary was founded by King Mwezi Gisabo at the end of the 19th century to protect the ritual drums of the royal court. Today, a reconstructed palace houses the retinue drums used to announce important events, and two important unplayed drums named Ruciteme and Murimirwa.

Explore the capital

On Lake Tanganyika's northern shore, Bujumbura is a bustling city of 200,000 people. Growing in size after German colonisation in the 19th century, the city centre still includes a number of colonial-era buildings, including the Postmaster's House. Other attractions include an excellent market, the Islamic Cultural Centre, and the museé vivant, a reconstructed open-air village displaying Burundian culture.

Go birdwatching

Located around Kirundo, in the far north of Burundi, Cohoha, Rweru and Rwihinda lakes are known locally as the best places in the country to settle down to some birdwatching. Rwihinda is even nicknamed 'Birds Lake' because of the sheer quantity of birds that settle there. Another popular birding spot is Kibira National Park.

Play the locals at urubugu

Compete with locals in the ancient game of urubugu (also known as mancala). Similar to draughts, the aim is to capture an opponent's pieces or block any legal move. It is traditionally played with pebbles, seeds or seashells on a board of hollows scooped out of the ground, or with expensive and elaborately carved wooden boards.

Reach the source of the world’s longest river

As far as Burundians are concerned (Rwandans hail it to be a narrow stream in Nyunge Forest National Park), the southernmost source of the Nile bubbles out of the ground at Kasumo, just 115km (70 miles) southeast of the capital, where a stone pyramid marks the spot.

Take to the waters of Lake Tanganyika

Whether you want to relax on its sandy beaches, kick back in waterside cafes and restaurants, become seduced by its natural beauty or take the opportunity to take to the water, Lake Tanganyika is the place to be. Thought to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world, it laps against the shores of Burundi's capital, Bujumbura.

Try your hand at traditional arts

A great way to get under the skin of Burundian culture is to explore its traditional arts and crafts at the Craftwares Village at Giheta. Leatherwork, ceramics, and woodcarvings are all for sale, while sculpture, wickerwork and painting can be practiced in the town's Art School.