When is The Best Time to Visit Rwanda?

For the last few years, Rwanda has been rising through the ranks of travelers’ must-see vacation spots. Its stunning mountain scenery and conservation efforts, not to mention the endangered gorillas, have been drawing in visitors from around the world. With so much natural beauty to explore, we wanted to make sure that you had a smooth trip and choose the best time to visit Rwanda.

Rwanda’s unpredictable seasons offer a variety of opportunities for travelers. Because each season has its own positives and negatives, you can choose the season that fits your experience level and interests most.

Rwanda experiences two wet seasons and two dry seasons throughout the year. The wet seasons are from March to May and from September to November; the dry seasons are from December to February and from June to August. When we are talking about the best time to visit Rwanda in this article, we really mean the seasons with the least amount of rain.

The Best Time to Visit For The Best Weather

The absolute best time to visit Rwanda is during the drier period from June to September, when you have the best chance at spotting the mountain gorilla. This is also when you’ll have a better chance of viewing the rare and elusive okapi in their natural habitat, as they avoid the rainforest during the wet months.

You can expect rain every day at some point or another during this three-month period. Sometimes it’ll last an hour and other times it could be heavy enough to change your plans or possibly ruin your day.

The rainy season isn’t all bad though, and some days it will only rain for an hour or shorter. The wet seasons mean plenty of vegetation for animals, with greener mountainsides and lots of rainbows.

Since the rest of Rwanda is so lush with vegetation and full of life, and you can see elephant’s or chimpanzees throughout the year. This means that there’s no bad time of year to travel here unless you are specifically looking to avoid rain or encounter the mountain gorillas.

Of course, vacationing isn’t all about the perfect weather or timing. If you are planning an exciting vacation to Rwanda that is not really time sensitive and you can take advantage of off-season rates, then by all means, visit at whatever time of the year works best for your budget.

If you do choose to travel to Rwanda during the summer, it is important to remember a few essential items that could really make or break your trip. Here are a few of the must have’s at this time.

Some Things to Bring Along During the Dry Season:

  • Swim and beachwear while at camp
  • Strong waterproof walking boots (comfortable for going up steep hills). Pants should be tucked into socks and boots while trekking.
  • Sun block, sunglasses, hat, moisturizer, and lip-balm
  • Strong insect repellent
  • Binoculars and camera equipment
  • Small backpack to carry water/lunch

The Best Season to Visit Rwanda

Dry Season: June – August

When you’re visiting Rwanda for the first time, it may be a good idea to plan your visit around the long dry season, which is usually from June to August. The weather is pleasant, with little rain and mild temperatures: warm enough to spend the day outside by noon, but still cool enough to enjoy sipping an after-dinner coffee or glass of wine while sitting on the veranda of your lodge.

And this is truly when you’ll want to be outside to see the views of the Virunga range which are beyond incredible. The hillsides are dotted with hundreds of families farming their land, and the sky above them is so blue it will take your breath away. But be sure pack some warm clothing so you can spend the night out there if you like because it does get chilly after dark!

Another advantage is that in the heart of this dry season, things dry out and you’re less likely to encounter rain. That alone can make all the difference for a lot of travelers to this area. During this period, Volcanoes National Park is much more accessible to visitors than in the rainy season and the primates of Rwanda are most active.

The gorillas especially have no need to seek shelter now and can usually be found in more open spaces. This means that you’ll get the chance to see them at a more leisurely pace, allowing you to enjoy their company for longer and take pictures without having to worry about being drenched. Be sure to book your tour well in advance as these tend to fill up quickly due to a limited number of permits.

The two main parks to visit are Akagera National Park and Volcanoes National Park. Akagera National Park is home to the famous silverback mountain gorillas and it’s possible to track them on foot or by boat. Both parks can be visited as day trips from Kigali but if you want to stay overnight in the bush, Volcanoes is the only park that allows this. This also means that there is a wide variety of accommodation on offer, from luxury tented camps to eco-friendly tree houses.

Another Great Time to Travel

Dry Season: December – February

A dry season in Rwanda can run from the middle of December to the end of February, which makes it a great time to enjoy the country’s natural beauty and its wildlife. The temperature is mostly warm to hot during the day and then cooling off at night at this time of the year. It is a great time to enjoy the outdoor activities lake visiting Lake Kivu or birdwatching.

Lake Kivu, the largest lake in Africa, can be a fun place to visit in December through February. You can take boat tours around the area or swim in the clear water without worrying about a single hippo or Nile crocodile getting too close.

You can take boat tours on Lake Ihema to see those impressive animals if that is what you are looking for, and drift past giant hippos or basking crocodiles.

Another option is to hike one of the trails around Gishwati Nature Reserve. The trails are well-maintained, and there are plenty of signs posted along the way that help guide you. At Gishwati Nature Reserve, you can also find tours for guided chimp and monkey tracking, bird watching and a visit to the waterfalls.

December isn’t the ideal time to visit Rwanda for gorilla tracking, since the conditions are more likely to be wet and muddy, but it’s not prohibitive. The last two months of the year are considerably better: conditions are drier, and the number of showers falls off significantly.

Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virunga Mountains will be tough at this time of year; although the gorillas prefer temperate weather, the volcanoes are their home territory and climbing them involves some seriously rugged terrain.

The Best Time to Visit Rwanda For Great Weather

Rwanda is a beautiful country, but the climate there is not always ideal for tourists. If you are looking for the most amount of sunshine, you should plan your trip during the dry season, from June through August. 

If you are unable to book your trip during this time, then December through February are the next best months to visit. With a lower average temperature than during other times of the year and slightly less chance of rain, these months are a great time to view Rwanda’s wildlife or flora and fauna in their natural habitat.

The Rwandan people are warm and welcoming to visitors. They love showing off their country to those who will be sure to appreciate it. A simple internet search will reveal that Rwanda has become a popular tourist destination in recent years thanks to its incredible natural beauty and its lack of large-scale tourism infrastructure that would detract from the unspoiled landscape.

Regardless of when you go, be sure to come prepared with sturdy, comfortable walking shoes and a camera because there will be plenty to capture!