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Climate - Rwanda

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

See also the US version (°F - inches - feet)

Flag - Rwanda

Map - Rwanda

In Rwanda, the "land of a thousand hills", just south of the Equator, the climate is pleasantly warm all year round, with cool nights, due to the altitude. The majority of the country is located on a plateau, at around 1,500 metres above sea level. The altitude decreases below one thousand metres only in the western part, along the Rusizi River, which marks the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is therefore the only area where it can get very hot, with peaks of 35 °C.

Precipitation fluctuates depending on the area, from 1,000 to 1,400 millimetres per year, with a dry season from June to August (and July as the driest month), and a rainy season from September to May. On closer view, there would be two rainy seasons, related to the passages of the sun at its zenith, from March to May and September to November; however, from December to February the decrease in rainfall is small, and it's just more pronounced in the north, where it drops below 100 mm per month, so we cannot speak properly of dry season. Between the two rainy seasons, the more intense is the former, and the rainiest months are usually April and May, when precipitation reaches 150 mm per month, or even more.
The rains usually occur in the form of downpour or thunderstorm, but the amount of sunshine is never good, because the sky is often cloudy, although in the driest months, especially in June and July, the sun comes out more often.

The capital Kigali is located at the centre of the country, at 1,500 metres above sea level, and receives 950 mm of rain per year, with a maximum in April, and a minimum from June to August, when it almost never rains. From December to February, the rains are still quite frequent. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation Kigali
Kigali J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 75 90 115 155 90 20 10 30 70 105 115 75 950
Days 11 11 15 18 13 2 1 4 10 17 17 14 133

The daytime temperatures hover around 26/27 °C, while at night they are about 15/16 °C, all year round. Here are the average temperatures.
Kigali average temperatures
Kigali J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 16 16 16 16 16 15 15 16 16 16 16 16
Max (°C) 27 27 27 26 26 26 27 28 28 27 26 26

In the east, the Akagera National Park is located at around 1,300/1,400 metres above sea level. To the west, Lake Kivu is at 1,450 metres.
In the south, the decrease in rainfall from December to February is felt even less, so that in fact there is only one rainy season from September to April, as you can see from the precipitation of Cyangugu, on the southern shores of Lake Kivu.
Average precipitation Cyangugu
Cyangugu J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 136 133 171 149 92 28 11 45 104 159 164 126 1318
Days 19 16 20 20 15 5 2 6 14 22 22 21 182

In Rwanda there are also mountainous areas, in particular in the north where we find the Virunga Mountains, a volcanic chain whose highest peak is Mount Karisimbi, located in the Volcanoes National Park, 4,507 metres high. Along the mountain slopes, the sky is often covered by clouds; at medium-low altitude the cloud forest grows, while above 3,000 metres the climate is colder, the vegetation becomes sparser and the forest is replaced by shrubs, and at night the temperature can drop below freezing; finally at high altitude we find a cold desert.
South of the Virungas, the whole western area of the country is mountainous: in the west, in the Murambi province, the highest peaks reach 2,700 metres, while in the south-west, in the Nyungwe Forest National Park, they reach 2,500 metres. Above 2,000 metres at night it can get cold throughout the year.
In mountainous areas, rainfall is more abundant, and showers may occur all over the year.


When to go

The best time to visit Rwanda runs from June to August, being the driest. June and July are the best months, while usually from the second half of August the rains start to get a bit more frequent.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): spring/autumn clothes for the day, sweater and jacket for the evening, sun hat, hiking shoes. For the Virunga Mountains, warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves.
In the rest of the year: spring/autumn clothes for the day, sweatshirt, raincoat, hiking shoes. For the Virunga Mountains, warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves.

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Near countries:
Democratic Republic Congo

US version (°F)
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