When is the best time to visit Rwanda? Our destination experts share an overview.
Despite its proximity to the Equator, the high altitude cools the climate in Rwanda. It is warm throughout most of the country but cooler in the mountains. Rwanda has a pleasant, tropical-highland climate, with daily temperatures that can average 77°F. Temperatures vary considerably from region to region because of the variations in altitude, ranging between 70-80°F during the day and 60-70°F at night. You can expect frost in the high mountains.
During the rainy season, heavy rainfall occurs almost daily, but after this short shower, the rest of the day usually remains sunny. However, it can rain a lot when you are in Volcanoes National Park. This area accounts for almost 90% of the rainfall in Rwanda (which is one reason why farmers have left this area for the gorillas to inhabit).
January is part of the short dry season that usually begins in mid-December. This is a good month to go birdwatching as many of the migratory birds make the parks their home at this time. Temperatures usually average around the mid 20°C during the day time.
- Plan a safari in Akagera National Park, which has more than 500 different bird species!
This is not peak tourist season time in Rwanda, but if you happen to be here during this month, it is an excellent time to go gorilla tracking. The conditions are largely dry and clear, making conditions great for spotting these primates! While it will be warm during the day, temperatures can drop to the late 50s in the night, so make sure you carry layers!
- Come close to the highly endangered mountain gorillas during a trek in Volcanoes National Park for a truly extraordinary wilderness experience
This is the start of the long wet season in Rwanda, so expect heavy rain through the country. However, most of these showers are usually short. With the rains, the conditions underfoot, especially in the parks become muddy and difficult to navigate and usually not the best time for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees due to the rains. But with the rains, the animals usually stay on the lower slopes or near the fringes of the forest, making spotting them relatively easy!
- Head to the Nyungwe National Park for a spot of chimpanzee tracking
The rains continue well into April, so conditions in the park are usually not the best for any wildlife tracking – wet and difficult to walk! Ideally, not the best time to head to Rwanda if you have gorilla and chimpanzee trekking on your agenda. This is a good time for birdwatching through as it is the breeding season as well.
- See an abundance of birdlife at parks such as Akagera and near Lake Kivu
May continues to remain wet but expect the rains to ease towards the end of the month as the dry season approaches again. While conditions remain wet underfoot should you head for a spot of primate tracking, the greenery affords some great photographic opportunities!
- Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center museum in the country’s capital to learn about Rwanda’s tragic history
This is the start of the dry season in Rwanda. Rainfall is largely low through the country. While the highs average in the mid-70s, the lows can be around 53°F, so make sure you carry layers!
- This is the ideal time to explore the labyrinth of swamps and lakes, and marvel at the wildlife at Akagera National Park
This is peak tourist season in Rwanda! Temperatures are pleasant – it is warm during the day and can get quite chilly during the nights and early morning. As this is high season, you will need to plan your trip well in advance to ensure you get the permits necessary for gorilla trekking as these can fill up quite quickly!
- Find yourself sitting face to face with a 160kg silverback in the impenetrable rainforest on a trek in the Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park
Expect similar weather conditions in Rwanda in August like you would in July – pleasant and dry and peak tourist season!
- Enjoy birdwatching, watersports and cruising in Kibuye, an idyllic lakeside town on the shores of Lake Kivu
September marks the end of the dry season, so while the pleasant temperature conditions continue, expect precipitation to increase, especially towards the end of the month.
- Spend time walking through the busy, colorful market studded with souvenir stalls displaying a wide range of local crafts in the capital city of Kigali
- Kigali also hosts the Rwanda Film Festival in September during which you can watch productions of local filmmakers as well as international filmmakers centering around Africa
Expect rains through the month during this time. The landscape is lush and green and birdlife abounds, making this an especially time to take photographs! This is one of the best times to go chimpanzee tracking as with the rains, spotting them could become easier.
- Explore Nyungwe Forest National Park – in the rainy season, nearly 500 chimpanzees can be spotted!
Expect the rains to be in full flow at this time making trekking conditions slightly tough underfoot. But if you are willing to brave them, then this is still a great time to track chimpanzees and gorillas!
- Spend time in Butare – the intellectual capital of Rwanda!
Expect the rains to ease off towards mind month, making Christmas and New Year’s a busy time in Rwanda! While conditions are not the ideal for trekking – muddy underfoot – you will still need to book early if you plan to see gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild!
- Visit Mount Nyiragongo is a volcanic mountain with the largest crater lake in the world, known for its persistent volcanic activity with wildly churning lava
- Hike to the peak of Nyiragongo, through lush rainforests, spotting colobus monkeys, baboons, chimps and smaller game and camp overnight at the mountain peak
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Best time to visit Rwanda by season
The climate in Rwanda is characterized by the following seasons:
Long rains: March – May
Long drying time: May – October
Short rains: October – December
Short drying time: December – March
What to Pack
Safari wear should be comfortable and casual. Evenings and early mornings can be chilly so warm sweaters are recommended. Flat, comfortable sports or trekking shoes are most suitable for walking should you intend to join any walking safaris. We recommend you bring warm clothes, including a fleece or a light woolen sweater and socks, apart from typical safari gear. During the day it can get quite hot, so don’t forget your sunglasses and a high SPF sunscreen, as well as a sun hat with a small brim. Some specialist trips, i.e. mountain climbing, require extra items of clothing and footwear. Many hotels, lodges and camps have swimming pools so you are advised to bring swimsuits.
Due to limited space in the vehicle and in light aircraft, we advise you to keep your luggage to the minimum. We suggest you pack your luggage into a small bag of no more than 15 kgs – the luggage limit for local flights issued by the airlines. Almost all safari lodges and camps provide same-day laundry service.
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Kibuye is an idyllic lakeside town on the shores of Lake Kivu, one of the world's largest inland bodies of water, home to a wide variety of birds and plants.
Lake Kivu – Kibuye
Lake Kivu is the largest of fresh water lakes that simmers in the valleys of Rwanda with irregular shores that form numerous inlets and myriad forest-fringed waterfalls.
Lake Kivu – Gisenyi
Nyungwe Forest National Park is an enormous high-altitude, mountainous tropical rainforest with a canopy that extends across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda.
As Rwanda’s capital and its geographical heart, Kigali is an important business center and port.
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