Best time to visit Burkina Faso


Heat, dust, and roasting desert winds characterise Burkina Faso’s climate – and don’t expect A/C to ease the stupor. The best weather is in late Oct-Dec, when temperatures are slightly cooler and dusty harmattan winds from the Sahara at least stop it feeling too sticky. The wet season is not great for travel – but visiting shortly after you’ll find a refreshed landscape – and people. The best time to go to Burkina Faso is arguably during the mask festivals – the biggest celebrations take place in late Feb-early March in even numbered years, though smaller, local events take place outside this time.

Things to do in Burkina Faso


Things to do in
Burkina Faso...

Troupes from across West Africa gather in Dedougou every two years to participate in Burkina Faso’s most vibrant celebration, FESTIMA (The Festival of Masks and the Arts) complete with dancing wooden masks, pounding percussion, storytelling contests and market stalls. As well as the impressive wooden masks, which represent animals and spirits, costumes can be made of grass, colourful fabrics, leaves and raffia, making for a hypnotic, swirling spectacle. The footwork is incredible!
West Africa is rarely associated with wildlife – but that’s all the more reason to enjoy it when you can. Nazinga Game Reserve is no Serengeti – but within its compact boundaries are around 800 elephants – as well as monkeys warthogs and 500 buffalo, and knowing you’re one of very few visitors ever to set foot here makes it all the more special. What’s more, income derived from tourism deters local villagers from poaching, and ensures the protection of this reserve.
Explore the culture. Burkina Faso is a brilliant mix of tradition and modernity. To the north, nomadic Tuaregs trade with Bella merchants, crossing the desert with camels as they have done for centuries; in the south, exquisite mud villages appear to rise up from the earth. Traditional music – wooden marimbas, the calabash-based kora – is still widely played, but in the music capital of Bobo-Dioulassou, it is fused with more modern sounds, and the live performances are not to be missed. Ouagadougou is the capital of African film, with government support for local filmmakers, and theatre is both contemporary and participatory – a uniquely Burkinabé experience.

Things not to do in
Burkina Faso...

Pack skimpy clothes. It may be close to 40 degrees – but Burkina Faso is a conservative country and you should be covered from shoulders to knees, at a minimum. It’s a great idea to carry a light scarf/pashmina for throwing around your shoulders – it’ll keep the sun off, too.
Hand out cash. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, but indiscriminately handing out money or gifts is not the answer – it encourages begging and harassment of tourists, and can cause resentment in communities. Speak to your tour company and ask what you can bring or where you can donate – village elders or head teachers, for example, can then distribute items and money where it is most beneficial. Even better, buy items locally, such as clothes, books or pencils - that way you're supporting local traders and producers, too.
Get up close to hippos. Though many Burkinabé believe they are sacred and therefore unlikely to attack humans, they’re still one of the most deadly creatures in Africa. Keep well away.
Go with the asking price. Haggling is an intrinsic part of life here, so head into the markets and barter like a Burkinabé.
Ignore the warnings. Burkina Faso has long been a safe and peaceful nation, but its northern neighbours are passing through turbulent times. The FCO periodically warns against travel to the Sahel region due to issues in Mali – your tour company will keep up to date with any developments, and know which areas are safe to visit. Be aware that FCO travel warnings can invalidate your travel insurance; your holiday company will offer advice on this

Burkina Faso travel advice


Jim O’Brien, from our West Africa specialist supplier, Native Eye Travel, shares his Burkina Faso travel advice:

Going local

“Burkina’s a really lively country. There are lots of open air bars called maquis, and they’re a great place to just sit, have a beer, meet local people and watch the world go by. It’s quite an institution in Burkina Faso. Also go and check out some live music in Bobo-Dialassou. They have quite a few places that have live music, and predominantly a local crowd but you get tourists there. Mali dominates the West African music scene – Burkina's music is quite similar but you get modern performers as well.”

Culture & authenticity

“The FESTIMA Mask Festival happens once every two years, but we visit masked dances on other trips as well. They’re not quite as big but they are quite spectacular. The FESTIMA festival is something that would happen regardless of whether you’re there or not, but we arrange for some villages to come out and show us their masks. Some people get concerned that by arranging something it somehow becomes less authentic, but if you went to a Catholic priest and asked him to perform Mass for you, does that make it any less authentic because you’ve asked him to?”

Sahel tips

“The markets of the Sahel are a real crossroads of cultures. You’ve got people from the south and people from the north and that’s where they all mingle, so there’s a lot of diversity; you can see a lot of ethnic groups in one day. It’s not quite the Sahara but it’s getting that way, it’s a semi-arid region. Once a week all the ethnic groups from the different parts of the region come there to attend the market. So you’ve got Tuaregs riding in from the desert on their camels with their swords by their sides, you’ve got the Bella people, Songhai, it’s incredible atmospheric. There are cattle markets, with lots of long horned cattle standing round, many turbans, women in very brightly coloured dresses...”
If you'd like to chat about Burkina Faso or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team
01273 823 700
Photo credits: [Temp chart: TREEAID] [Going local: Christian COSTEAUX] [Sahel tips: TREEAID] [Helpdesk: Jeff Attaway]
Written by Vicki Brown
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