Travel Tips

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Best Time to Visit Rwanda: Festivals & Seasons Only Locals Celebrate

Planning a trip to Rwanda? You're in for a treat! This beautiful country, known as the land of a thousand hills, has so much to offer. From seeing the majestic mountain gorillas to exploring the vibrant city of Kigali, there's never a dull moment. But when's the best time to visit?

Tobi Miles
April 2, 2024
Best Time to Visit Rwanda: Festivals & Seasons Only Locals Celebrate

Well, it all depends on what you're looking for. Rwanda's weather is pretty cool, thanks to its high elevation. It's got two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. Each season brings something special. Whether you're into wildlife, hiking, or just soaking in the culture, picking the right time can make your trip unforgettable. Let's dive into the details and help you decide when to pack your bags for Rwanda.

Key Takeaways

  • Optimal Gorilla Trekking: The best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the dry seasons from June to September and December to February, offering favorable trekking conditions and higher visibility of gorillas due to less rainfall.
  • Hiking Conditions: For hiking enthusiasts, the prime times to visit are during the dry and cooler months of December to February and June to August, providing comfortable conditions for exploring Rwanda's diverse landscapes.
  • Exploring Kigali: Kigali is best visited in the dry seasons, particularly from June to August and December to February, when the weather is conducive to outdoor activities and city exploration without the worry of rain interruptions.
  • Witnessing the Great Migration: To experience the awe-inspiring great migration of wildebeest, plan your visit between July and September, the peak period for wildlife activity and visibility in the Serengeti migration corridor adjacent to Rwanda.
  • Cultural Festivities: Engage with Rwanda's rich culture and heritage by visiting during the summer months of June to August, when numerous festivals such as the Rwanda Cultural Day and Umuganura take place, celebrating the country's unity, culture, and achievements.
  • Seasonal Considerations: While Rwanda offers unique attractions year-round, choosing the right season based on your interests—whether it's wildlife, hiking, cultural experiences, or city touring—can significantly enhance your travel experience in the "land of a thousand hills."

Best Time to See Mountain Gorillas

Deciding when to visit Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas is a big part of planning your trip. The best time to visit these majestic creatures depends largely on the weather. Rwanda experiences two dry seasons and two rainy seasons annually, and each season offers a distinct experience.

During the dry seasons, from June to September and December to February, you'll find that trekking conditions are most favorable. The paths through the Volcanoes National Park, where these gorillas reside, are drier and less slippery, making your hike more manageable. Plus, gorillas tend to be easier to track as they roam less when the ground is dry.

However, it's the rainy seasons, from March to May and October to November, that truly bring out the lush beauty of their habitat. The forest is more vibrant, but trekking can be challenging due to muddy conditions. Yet, this is when the park is less crowded, offering a more intimate experience.



Trekking Conditions

Crowd Level


Jun-Sep, Dec-Feb




Mar-May, Oct-Nov



While gorilla sightings are almost guaranteed year-round thanks to the skilled guides, the best time of year to visit for gorilla trekking is during the drier months. Not only will the hiking be easier, but you'll also avoid the heavy rains that can occur during the wet seasons. Plus, gorilla permits are required and can be booked in advance, so planning your visit during the less rainy seasons ensures you'll get the most out of your experience.

Beyond the adventure of gorilla trekking, visiting during these months also means enjoying clearer skies and warmer temperatures, perfect for exploring other attractions in Rwanda. Whether it's wandering through the bustling city of Kigali, taking a safari in Akagera National Park, or relaxing by Lake Kivu, choosing the right season enriches your Rwandan journey.

Ideal Weather for Hiking

When planning your trip to Rwanda, you're probably wondering about the best time of year to visit for hiking adventures. Rwanda’s varying altitudes make it a year-round destination, but certain seasons offer more comfortable conditions for hiking than others.

Winter: December to February

Winter is one of the best times to visit Rwanda for hiking. The weather is typically dry, making trails easier to navigate. This is the peak season for visiting the mountain gorillas, so you'll want to book your permits well in advance. The average temperature hovers around 70°F (21°C), ideal for long treks.

Spring: March to May

Spring brings heavier rainfall, making trails a bit challenging but the landscape is stunningly lush, and waterfalls are at their peak. If you don't mind a little mud, this is a unique time to experience the vibrant life of Rwanda's forests. Hiking can still be enjoyable, especially in early March before the heaviest rains start.

Summer: June to August

Considered by many as the best time to visit, summer offers another dry season with clear skies and perfect hiking conditions. It’s also a great time to catch traditional festivals and explore other attractions without the worry of rain. Temperatures are comfortable, usually in the mid-70s°F (around 24°C).

Fall: September to November

Fall is another rainy season, but like spring, it has its own charm. Trails can be slippery, but the landscape is breathtaking with wildflowers and greenery. This season also offers a unique opportunity to see Rwanda’s wildlife, as animals are more active in cooler, wet conditions.

Knowing when to visit Rwanda for hiking depends on what you're looking for. For dry trails and the best visibility, aim for the winter or summer months. However, if you want to see the lush landscapes and don't mind a bit of mud, spring and fall can be incredibly rewarding. Regardless of when you choose, Rwanda's trails promise unforgettable adventures.

Exploring Kigali in Comfort

When planning your trip to Rwanda, figuring out the best time to visit Kigali is key to enjoying everything the city has to offer. Here’s a season-by-season breakdown to help you decide when to visit based on weather, festivals, and activities.

Winter (December to February)

Winter in Kigali is warm and dry, making it a great time for city tours and outdoor dining. With average temperatures ranging from 15°C to 28°C (59°F to 82°F), it's the perfect weather to explore Kigali's hilly landscape without the worry of rain. While it’s generally a quieter season for festivals, the clearer days provide stunning views over the city and beyond.

Spring (March to May)

Spring brings more rain, but don't let that deter you. This is when Kigali's landscapes turn lush and green, showing off the city’s natural beauty. Despite the occasional showers, temperatures stay comfortable between 16°C and 26°C (60°F to 78°F). This is also a great time to visit local markets, with fresh produce in abundance. Remember, rain often comes in short bursts and can be a refreshing break from the afternoon heat.

Summer (June to August)

Many consider summer the best time of year to visit Kigali. The weather stabilizes with less rain and temperatures averaging 17°C to 27°C (62°F to 80°F). The highlight of visiting during this period is the chance to experience vibrant cultural festivals and events showcasing Rwanda's traditions and hospitality. It’s also an ideal time for hiking and exploring the city's surrounding natural attractions.

Fall (September to November)

Fall is another fantastic season to visit Kigali, offering a mix of warm days and cool evenings with temperatures between 15°C and 28°C (59°F to 82°F). This period marks the end of the dry season and the beginning of short rains, making the landscapes stunningly green. It’s a great time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit nearby national parks and for those interested in agricultural tours, as it coincides with the coffee and tea harvesting season.

Witnessing the Great Migration of Wildebeest

When planning your trip to Rwanda, timing is everything, especially if you're hoping to catch the spectacular sight of the great migration of wildebeest. This natural wonder is not only a bucket-list experience but also a testament to the marvels of the natural world, right in Rwanda's backyard.

The best time to visit Rwanda for the great migration is between July and September. During these months, you'll have the opportunity to witness hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, alongside zebras and other animals, move in a massive, coordinated effort across the Serengeti towards the Maasai Mara in search of greener pastures. It's a sight that draws nature lovers from all over the globe, making it a highlight of Rwanda's natural attractions.

Why these months, you ask? Well, this period marks the dry season in the region, which not only makes the wildebeest more likely to migrate but also improves your chances of spotting them. The lack of rain means animals are more concentrated around water sources, and the vegetation is less dense, offering better visibility for unforgettable safari experiences.

If you're wondering when is the best time within this window, aim for late July to mid-August. This is when the migration reaches its peak, and you're more likely to witness dramatic river crossings - a key feature of the migration that showcases the raw, unedited beauty and brutality of nature.

Planning your visit around this time not only offers you the enchanting experience of the migration but also sets the stage for exploring Rwanda's other treasures. From tracking mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains to relaxing at Lake Kivu, timing your visit for the migration maximizes the adventure and cultural immersion of your Rwandan journey.

Remember, while the wildebeest migration is a must-see, Rwanda's allure stretches far beyond these months. Each season brings its own unique offerings, from vibrant cultural festivals to serene moments in the country's lush landscapes. So, whether you're drawn by the call of the wild or the warmth of Rwandan hospitality, the rainbow of experiences awaits your discovery.

Cultural Festivals and Events to Experience

In the heart of Africa, Rwanda bursts to life with vibrant cultural festivals and events. Knowing when to visit is key to experiencing the rich heritage and traditions that this country has to offer.

Winter isn't really a thing in Rwanda, given its equatorial location. However, the months of December to February are marked by cool, dry weather. This time is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who wish to explore the country's breathtaking landscapes without the hinderance of rain. While there might not be grand festivals during these months, the clear skies and lush surroundings create an ideal backdrop for the Umuganda community service, a nationwide clean-up day held on the last Saturday of each month. It's a unique aspect of Rwandan culture and offers deep insight into the country's community spirit.

Spring, from March to May, introduces the rainy season. While it might seem less ideal for travel, this period brings Rwanda to life with blooms and vibrant greenery - a sight to behold. April commemorates the Genocide against the Tutsi with the Kwibuka, a time for remembrance and peace-building activities across the country. It's a profound period for understanding Rwanda's journey towards peace and resilience.

As summer unfolds from June to August, Rwanda becomes a hive of activity. It's arguably the best time to visit if you're looking to immerse yourself in cultural festivities. The Rwanda Cultural Day in July celebrates the diverse cultural heritage through music, dance, and traditional crafts, showcasing the country's unity and pride. Following closely, the Umuganura festival in August is not to be missed. This ancient harvest festival transcends its agrarian roots to celebrate national achievements and unity.

Fall, spanning September to November, brings another rainy season, but that doesn't dampen the spirit of Rwandans. The Kigali International Art Festival in September brings together local and international artists, making it a colorful season to explore the capital's artistic offerings. Following in late October to early November is the Kwita Izina ceremony, the beloved gorilla naming tradition that draws visitors and conservationists worldwide.


Deciding when to visit Rwanda hinges on what you're looking to experience. Whether it's the cool, dry months perfect for outdoor adventures, the greenery and remembrance of the rainy season, the vibrant cultural celebrations in summer, or the artistic and conservationist events of fall, Rwanda offers a rich tapestry of experiences year-round. Each season brings its own unique flavor and opportunities to immerse in the country's heritage and natural beauty. So, pack your bags with these insights in mind and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the heart of Africa.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Rwanda for cultural festivals?

The best time to visit Rwanda for cultural festivals is from June to August when the country celebrates events like the Rwanda Cultural Day and Umuganura festival, showcasing its rich cultural heritage.

Can you enjoy outdoor activities in Rwanda year-round?

Yes, though the best time for outdoor activities is during the cool, dry weather from December to February, ideal for exploration and participating in Umuganda community service.

What happens in Rwanda during the rainy season?

During the rainy season from March to May, Rwanda becomes lush with vibrant greenery. It's also the period for Kwibuka in April, a solemn occasion for remembrance and reflection.

Are there any art-related events in Rwanda?

Yes, Rwanda hosts the Kigali International Art Festival in the fall, from September to November, presenting a platform for artists to showcase their work and celebrate Rwanda's artistic spirit.

What is the significance of the Kwita Izina ceremony?

The Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony, held in the fall, highlights Rwanda's commitment to conservation. It involves naming newborn gorillas, underscoring the country’s efforts in protecting these endangered species.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
April 2, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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