One of Africa's smallest countries, landlocked tiny Burundi is also one of Africa's poorest. Plagued for generations with an ethnic conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis (Tutsi), this strikingly scenic country is finally knowing peace, able at last to shed some of its dark and violent history. Situated between the two African giants of Tanzania and the Congo, Burundi is a land of mountains, golden plains, and lakeside villages. With peace talks looking successful, the rest of the world may finally get to see some of this nation's beauty. Already, a few intrepid travelers have started to trickle in.
Much of the southern part of the country is on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, including the capital city of Bujumbura. Just outside Bujumbura are some of the most gorgeous inland beaches in Africa. Most of the northern attractions are off limits to travelers since dangerous tribal conflict is still thought to go on there, but the southern regions are warm and welcoming. Here you’ll find the most southerly source of the River Nile, or the exact location where in 1871, Stanley found Dr. Livingstone—thought lost after so many years—living in a village called Ujiji. This is where Stanley uttered the famous words, "Dr. Livingstone I presume?"
The capital city of Bujumbura is known as Buj by locals. Stunningly located on Lake Tanganyika’s shores, Bujumbura also has soaring mountains surrounding the city. Buj is a mix of grand old colonial architecture, large white imposing public buildings and wide boulevards, along with crowded dusty streets and sprawling shanties so typical of African capitals. The city is a significant port on Lake Tanganyika.
The capital has a reputation for being free-wheeling with its drinking and dancing establishments. Not very safe at night, it’s a good idea to take taxis once it's dark. Although security is getting better with all the UN peacekeepers, there are still plenty of thefts. Not far out of the capital are sweeping inland beaches of white sand, beach bars and marine navy waters. You'll feel like you're in the Mediterranean.
Sadly, tribal conflict has devastated Burundi since its 1962 independence and some say it's a ticking time bomb. At any moment things might blow up again. This is a fresh and tentative peace, therefore it's crucial that travelers read as much recent news of the country as they can before setting off, and be sure to check for any updated government warnings.
For an excellent book on Burundi, read "Strength in What Remains" by Tracy Kidder.