Weather in Rwanda: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Cloudy skies above Mount Sabyinyo in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images

Despite its proximity to the equator, Rwanda has a much cooler climate than one might expect, due to its high altitude and mostly mountainous topography. Nevertheless, like most equatorial countries, local temperatures remain consistent all year round—although they may differ from one destination to the next depending on altitude. Instead of spring, summer, fall, and winter, Rwanda has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. 

The long dry season lasts from June to mid-September, and is typically considered the best time to travel for wildlife sightings and pleasant weather conditions. However, Rwanda’s most popular activities are possible year-round, including in the short rainy season from October to November, the short dry season from December to February, and the long rainy season from March to May. The wet months have certain benefits, including lower prices, fewer visitors, and less competition for trekking permits. Read on to determine which season suits your plans best. 

Breakdown by Region 

Weather in Kigali 

The Rwandan capital is located roughly in the center of the country at 5,000 feet above sea level. There are plenty of reasons to visit, from colorful markets and a thriving art scene, to museums and memorials that commemorate the victims of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Temperatures remain stable throughout the year, averaging between 80 and 82 degrees F during the daytime and falling to around 62 degrees F at night. Kigali receives 37.5 inches of rainfall annually, with July being the driest month (0.4 inches) and April being the wettest (6.1 inches).

Even in the dry season, however, sunshine hours are limited and at least partial cloud cover is the norm. In terms of when to travel, Kigali is absolutely a year-round destination. That said, the June to mid-September and December to February dry seasons are most pleasant for sightseeing. Accommodation is also at its most expensive and tends to book up quickly. Budget travelers may prefer to visit during the short rains (October to November). 

Weather in Volcanoes National Park 

Located in the far northwest of the country on the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s greatest attraction. This is due to its status as one of only four national parks in the world to offer encounters with the endangered mountain gorilla. The national park has the same wet and dry season pattern as Kigali; however, the long dry season is more pronounced than the short dry season. Due to the park’s high altitude, rain is possible in any season and average temperatures are generally lower. Expect highs of between 74 and 76 degrees during the day and lows of as little as 51 degrees at night. 

The best time to visit is during the dry season, when the gorilla trekking trails are easiest to navigate and conditions for photography are better. However, with only 96 permits issued per day in any season, high demand means you’ll need to book far in advance to travel at this time. If you don’t mind getting wet, the rainy seasons offer less competition, lower prices for accommodation, greener scenery, and often a shorter hike to spot the gorillas since they tend to stick to the lower slopes in wet weather.

Weather Around Lake Kivu and Nyungwe

There are two key attractions in southern Rwanda: Lake Kivu, the country’s largest body of water and a fantastic place for lakeside relaxation in between hiking expeditions, and Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to Rwanda’s habituated chimpanzee troops. This region's high altitude means cooler temperatures, with highs of around 68 degrees F and lows of around 50 degrees F. It’s also rainier, with the short dry season disappearing completely to be replaced by one mega wet season that lasts from September to May. The wettest months are October, November, and March, with 6.3, 6.5, and 6.7 inches of rain respectively. On the flip side, June and July are the driest months, with the latter recording an average of just 0.4 inches of rain. 

The dry season is the best time for unwinding at the lake, and for easy hiking conditions in the national park. However, more than anywhere else in Rwanda, Nyungwe offers plenty of reasons to visit during the rainy season. Chimpanzees are typically more sedentary and therefore easier to spot in wet weather and the park’s bird list increases dramatically at this time with the arrival of seasonal migrants from Asia and Europe. The best time to travel is a tough call to make and will depend entirely on your reason for visiting.

Weather in Akagera National Park 

Akagera National Park is situated in far eastern Rwanda, on the border with Tanzania. As Rwanda’s only savanna area, it’s also the only place in the country for a traditional safari experience complete with all members of the Big Five. The weather here tends to be warmer than in the mountains, with average daytime highs of 77 to 79 degrees F and nighttime lows of around 60 degrees F. The long dry season (June to mid-September) sees abundant sunshine and very little rain. Just 0.2 inches of rain was recorded on average in July, the driest month. This is the best time for navigable roads and premium wildlife sightings, since animals tend to congregate at water sources in the dry weather. 

The short wet season can also be a rewarding time, with verdant landscapes and an influx of migrant bird species. The long wet season is typically the least popular time to travel, with rain most days, cool nights, and muddy roads. April is the wettest month, with 6 inches of precipitation. 

Topside view of two fishing boats in Rwanda
Ibrahim Suha Derbent / Getty Images

Long Dry Season in Rwanda

Generally speaking, the long dry season in Rwanda lasts from June to mid-September. It is characterized by limited rainfall, with typically just one or two days of precipitation in July, the driest month. Across most of the country, cloud cover prevails; however, the eastern region sees plenty of sunshine at this time. Temperatures are the warmest of the year during this season, ranging from the high 60s to the low 80s F, depending on which part of the country you’re in. This is peak season for visitors, with inflated prices and high demand for accommodation and wildlife permits.

What to Pack: Pack layers, including thin, long-sleeved shirts and pants for protection against the sun and biting insects, a warm sweater for cool evenings, and lightweight waterproofs. Sturdy hiking boots and malaria medication are essential all year round. 

Short Rainy Season in Rwanda

The short rainy season lasts from October to November in most parts of Rwanda and generally sees less precipitation than the long rainy season. The exception to this rule is in the south around Lake Kivu and Nyungwe Forest National Park, where October and November are two of the wettest months. For travelers on a budget, it can be a good alternative to traveling during the peak dry seasons, since many hotels and tour companies offer reduced rates at this time. Birders will also appreciate the fact that this season coincides with the arrival of many migrant species. 

What to Pack: Layers will also be your friend this season. Bring long-sleeved shirts and pants that can dry quickly in between rain showers. Warm sweaters and coats will get you through chilly evenings. Bring at least two sets of waterproof shoes and gaiters for use with your hiking boots. 

Short Dry Season in Rwanda

Rwanda’s short dry season lasts from December to February, except in the south where it tends not to occur at all. The season is most defined in the center and east of the country. In Volcanoes National Park, it is drier than the wet seasons that bookend it but regular rainfall can still occur. This is a great time to travel for visitors who prioritize good weather, but can’t travel during the long dry season due to other commitments. However, be aware that in December especially, the festive season can cause high prices and booked out accommodation in popular areas. 

What to Pack: You'll want to take the same items as for the long dry season, with the addition of a few extra sweaters for colder evenings. 

Long Rainy Season in Rwanda 

The long rainy season lasts from March to May, with April being the wettest month of the year for most regions of Rwanda. Overall, most days see at least some rainfall, although downpours rarely last from morning to evening. This is generally considered the least popular time to travel since roads can become difficult to navigate, trails are slippery, and some wildlife species can be more difficult to spot. Nevertheless, rock bottom prices, greater availability of trekking permits, and lush landscapes make the wet weather worthwhile for some visitors. 

What to Pack: Pack the same items as for the short rainy season.