is a modest town located in southern Rwanda
and is known as the 'intellectual capital' of the country, largely because the main university is located here.
It is a pleasant enough town with one main boulevard, lined with local hotels, restaurants and businesses. There is an excellent historical and cultural museum in town, one of the best in East Africa in fact, well worth a visit.
Out on the Gikongoro Road is the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre
, a rather grim reminder of the massacre of a large part of the local community, who had sought shelter in the school. A visit to the centre can be quite a harrowing experience, with classrooms being filled with line upon line of skeletons. Photography is not usually permitted.
Further north in the area of the town of Nyanza is the King's Palace Museum, which comprises two parts. The first buildings make up the colonial style palace built for King Mutara III Rudahigwa in 1932. Alongside this is a reconstructed original palace in the style that Rwandan kings had used up to the 20th century. This offers a detailed look into the daily life of Rwanda's monarchy and is made entirely of traditional materials.
On the hillside opposite the colonial style palace is a second palace, designed in line with the wishes of the King. Constructed in 1957-59, the palace hosts an interesting array of traditional and contemporary Rwandan paintings and structures, with many being post genocide. Sadly the King never took up residence here as he died shortly before it was completed.
Also close to Butare is the national museum of Rwanda. This hugely informative and entertaining museum has several rooms showing exhibits from Rwandan history and culture. Displays include a full scale replica of a traditional hut, as well as original tools, decorations, implements and modes of transport. There is also a large range of traditional handicrafts for sale.
We tend to recommend this area only to people who are on a longer road trip around the country and are specifically interested in visiting genocide memorials.
Butare lies along the main road route between Nyungwe Forest
, so it makes for a convenient lunch stop. There is not usually a need to stay overnight.