When's the Best Time of Year to Visit Rwanda

Rural Rwanda
Rural Rwanda | © Nick Fraser / Flickr
Leah Feiger

Rwanda, though one of the lushest and most spectacular countries on earth, can be pretty tricky when it comes to weather. Rainy season and dry season often intermingle, and the best strategy is to generally be prepared for all kinds of weather. Read on to hear all about what Rwanda has to offer in the different seasons, and start figuring out the best time to book your trip to the land of a thousand hills.


January is a great month to check out Rwanda. January 1 and January 2 are public holidays in Rwanda, and the main cities of the country are generally pretty quiet. The month is part of Rwanda’s short dry season (a season that includes parts of December, January, and February), making it an excellent time to tour around the country and try out a whole host of adventure activities — kayaking Lake Kivu, biking the Congo Nile Trail, and hiking any of the volcanos in Volcanoes National Park are all great activities this time of year.
Rainfall: 10 days
Temperature: 69°F (21°C)

Kibuye on Lake Kivu


February 1 sees the whole of Rwanda gather together to celebrate National Heroes Day. Most stores will close, and a lot of tourism operations will cease as well. National Heroes Day celebrates and remembers the lives of the victims of the Rwandan genocide, as well as those that fought against the genocidal mandate in 1994. The weather during this month is fairly moderate, although layers are recommended especially for tourists venturing into the North and Northwest of the country. This is a great time of year to visit Rwanda’s national parks and Lake Kivu.
Rainfall: 10 days
Temperature: 69°F (21°C)

Zebras in Akagera National Park


Rwanda’s longest rainy season — lasting from March to May — generally starts to get pretty heavy around mid-March. Plenty of rain gear is recommended, as well as general layers to take on and off throughout the day. Although rains towards the end of the month can last for several hours, rainfall at the beginning can occur, while daily, for just a short amount of time. Plenty of activities — like safari drives in Akagera National Park and city tours around Kigali — can still be planned for this month, but make sure to have a little flexibility when it comes to possible rain delays. The Mashariki African Film Festival also often occurs at the end of March, showcasing some of the continent’s most impressive cinematography.
Rainfall: 13 days
Temperature: 69°F (21°C)

Cloudy views from Mt. Kigali


April is one of Rwanda’s rainiest and most harrowing months. On April 7, the country commemorates the Genocide Against the Tutsi in 1994. The entire country shuts down that day, and often a few days after or before April 7. Businesses are closed, stores are shuttered, and few restaurants (other than those inside hotels) stay open. Although stores and businesses reopen after a week, loud parties and music are often discouraged for several weeks. By the end of the month, however, the country is up and running again. Due to the heavy rains, tourism at the end of the month can often be low cost, making the end of April a great time to save some money, beat the crowds, and check out the country’s impressive national parks and attractions.
Rainfall: 17 days
Temperature: 68°F (20°C)

Photographs at the Kigali Genocide Memorial


It continues to rain throughout the month of May in Rwanda. Although hiking can sometimes be difficult due to the soft ground after the many weeks of heavy rainfall, alternative activities around the country like visiting Lake Kivu and the scenic twin lakes outside of Musanze, as well as game drives in Akagera National Park, shouldn’t be missed. Prepare for some serious rain though, and pack accordingly. Additionally, the first of this month is Labor Day, a holiday officially celebrated in Rwanda with the closure of many businesses and stores.
Rainfall: 14 days
Temperature: 68°F (20°C)

Cloudy days on Lake Burera


With the end of rainy season, comes the beginning of one of the best months in Rwanda — June! The very best of rainy season and dry season intermingles during this month, where light showers happen infrequently and the country still looks incredibly green and lush from all the rainfall in March, April, and May. For avid hikers, the ground finally hardens up enough to make trekking through Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest a little bit easier, and encourages the endangered mountain gorillas in the park to come out of hiding. To celebrate the beginning of summer and dry season, bars, restaurants, and events frequently occur all over Kigali.
Rainfall: 3 days
Temperature: 68°F (20°C)

Rwanda’s impressive Nyungwe National Park


As dry season continues, there’s a lot to celebrate. July 1 and July 4 are national holidays that celebrate Independence Day and Liberation Day respectively. Massive parties, concerts (like the annual Kigali Up music festival), and events commemorate this occasion, as locals and tourists alike travel around the country to take advantage of the days off. This is also high season in Rwanda — prices are a little higher than normal, and reservations at many restaurants and hotels need to be made in advance. This is also when it gets hot — really hot. Bring layers for some cool evenings, and some light clothing for those sweltering summer days. Make sure to check off those activities that require dry weather — traversing the Congo Nile Trail and doing a bit of hiking in Nyungwe National Park are all great options for July.
Rainfall: 1 day
Temperature: 68°F (20°C)

Quantum Split at Kigali Up 2016


August is another dry month at the peak of high season. Laze away those summer days on the shores of Lake Kivu and the twin lakes, beating the heat with some cool dips into the calm water. Though sometimes overcast, the hot temperatures and dry climate make this month a really easy one to travel around Rwanda. Buses leave on time, raincoats are rarely needed, and animals in Akagera National Park gather around the remaining water sources, making August an excellent time to try your hand at lion and rhino spotting. The annual Umuganura festival, Rwanda’s harvest festival, also takes place in late August.
Rainfall: 4 days
Temperature: 71°F (22°C)

Grey Crowned Crane in Akagera National Park


September is a great month to visit Rwanda, especially for those that want some good weather at slightly better prices. The beginning of the month is generally quite dry, though rainy season begins again the last few days of September. This is an excellent time of year for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, chimpanzee trekking and bird watching in Nyungwe National Park, and general safari visits to Akagera National Park. Plus, Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s baby gorilla naming ceremony, occurs in early September, meaning the whole country will be flooded with adorable photographs of baby gorillas and high profile celebrities eager to support Rwanda’s animal conservation work. Tourists are able to attend the ceremony, though tickets and accommodation arrangements ought to be made far in advance.
Rainfall: 9 days
Temperature: 70°F (21°C)

The canopy walk over the rainforest is one of the park’s highlights


October and November make up Rwanda’s short rainy season. It can get pretty cool during the month of October at night, so rain gear, hats, and some light jackets are definitely advisable. The Rwanda Film Festival also occurs towards the end of October in Kigali, and the public film viewings showcase Rwanda’s bourgeoning creative sector and talents. Take advantage of the lower prices this month for accommodation, traveling around the country as well as getting to know the vibrant city of Kigali.
Rainfall: 14 days
Temperature: 70°F (21°C)

Boat rides in Kigali


Another rainy month, November is still a great one in Rwanda. Check out Rwanda’s impressive museums (including the Ethnographic Museum, the Genocide Memorial, and the King’s Palace Museum), before getting some outdoor activities in towards the end of the month. Layers here are key — some days can be sweltering hot and sunny, whereas others are quite wet and cold. Low season in November however — especially before the busy tourist rush of December, makes exploring the country all the cheaper, easier, and calmer.
Rainfall: 15 days
Temperature: 69°F (21°C)

Views of Kigali at dusk


December is a really fun time to be in Rwanda. Businesses around the country celebrate the Christmas and New Years vacation with a lot of raucous parties and events, and the weather is perfect for pretty much every activity the country has to offer. Make sure to book activities and accommodation in advance, as tourists around the world use their vacation time to visit Rwanda as well. Gorilla trekking, lake visits, forest hikes in Nyungwe National Park, coffee plantation tours, and safari drives are all excellent activities for December.
Rainfall: 12 days
Temperature: 69°F (21°C)

Gaddafi Mosque in Kigali

When not to go to Rwanda and general tips

While every month is a good month to visit the land of a thousand hills, April and May can be particularly difficult ones. The often unpredictable (and rainy weather) can make outdoor activities, while doable, a little less enjoyable. Also, every last Saturday of every month is reserved for Umuganda — a day of national service for Rwanda. From 6am to 11am, roads and shops around the country are closed as citizens participate in public works projects. Make sure to take this into account while planning your trip.
Additionally, it’s important to note that many Rwandan holidays and festivals change their specific date on a year to year basis. Consult online calendars and tour guides several months and weeks prior for up to date information.

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