Burkina Faso is a lesser-known landlocked country in western Africa. Made up of a Savanna that is grassy in the north and slowly gives way to sparse forests that define the country’s southern areas, this country is a former colony of France that did not gain independence until 1960 under the name of the Republic of Upper Volta.
After independence was achieved, any thoughts of an easy transition to freedom and prosperity quickly vaporized. Between the years of 1960 and 1983, the country went through 6 coups and counter-coups while the economy struggled to grow, that is until 1983 when a young captain with ambitious left-wing goals and military start Thomas Sankara grasped power.
Thomas Sankara would begin to transform the country in its most dramatic ways yet over the course of the next four years. He started by renaming the country to the current name of Burkina Faso, which means “Land of the Incorruptible.” With a new name and a fire to get things back on track, he began to restructure the economy to encourage policies of self-reliance in rural areas, went on massive anti-corruption crackdowns and was a staunch supporter of woman’s rights. However, his grip on power and lack of understanding of those who did not share his policies and ideals would plague him and lead to his downfall in 1987 when officers of his junior seized power and killed him.
The new leadership now had Captain Blaise Compaore at the helm, a former friend of Thomas Sankara, and in late 1991 he was officially elected as the president as the sole candidate with meagre voter turnout and the assassination of his most popular opposition figure Clément Ouédraogo a few weeks after the election his legitimacy was quite weak.
In order to make a break with Sankara, massive U-Turns on almost every element of his predecessor’s policy was orchestrated. Compaoré would win reelection three times in 1998, 2005 and 2010, gaining more than 80% of the vote in each election.
Beginning in 2013, things started to head south for Compaoré when demonstrators began to take to the streets to protest against plans of r Compaoré extending his time in office, which culminated in October 2014 with a mass uprising which saw him ousted from power and a provisional government being formed.
Since then, the situation in government has mostly stabilized, and while there are other security-related concerns to travelling here with the right local contacts and planning an amazing untouched destination is waiting to be explored.
The country is home to a fascinating, mostly undiscovered cultural scene with the nation’s two largest cities Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, being renowned for stunning handicrafts and musical traditions. There is also a darker to the cities and country due to the turbulent history of the nation. We can take you on a deep dive into this history, taking you to sites such as the birthplace of Thomas Sankara and Dafra, a sacrificial site with immense importance in the region
Truly a touristic backwater when compared to neighbours such as Togo and Ghana. The infrastructure for tourists, especially where the true gems of the country lie in the remoter areas, is almost non-existent, further adding to this country’s mystery and intrigue. For the genuinely adventurous and those with the spirit of pioneering unexplored places, the stunning beauty and remoteness of the rolling savannah, the fascinating geology features, undiscovered villages and culture all topped off with the warm hospitality and culture of the Burkinabé make this a place worth exploring.
If you want to truly get the most out of your trip to Burkina Faso, you need to have reliable, organized and trusted local contacts on the ground. Below is a list of services we offer for those wanting to travel to Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso Tour Guide Services
Having a trusted and professional guide in Burkina Faso is essential whether you just plan on visiting Ouagadougou or plan to venture deeper into the countryside.
We entrust our clients in the hands of some of the best local guides in the country. Not only are they some of the most knowledgable people in the country regarding the security situation on the ground, with safety always the number one priority, but they are also unique in their ability and willingness to share the history and their own personal experiences in Burkina Faso with unrelenting passion.
Whether you need a guide for city tours or want to cover vast amounts of the country, we can set you up the best guides for the best prices.
Vehicle Hire in Burkina Faso
Having a reliable driver and vehicle is another essential of travelling in Burkina Faso. From small cars to buses for medium-large sized groups and capable 4×4’s that can handle anything the African wilderness throws at them and take you to the most remote camping sites in the country, we have you covered.
Vehicles in Burkina Faso can be booked with or without a guide, with or without a package and can be rented for travel throughout the country.
Top Things to Do in Burkina Faso
A dusty mix of concrete and dirt roads with 1000’s of mopeds, vendors and general chaos making up the heart of the city, diving a little bit deeper will reveal one of Africas best electric arts hubs full of clubs, bars, theatre halls and a vibrant live music scene that is totally unique to the city.
In addition to exploring those aspects of the city, our guides can get you well off the beaten path to trace down the memory of Thomas Sankara, who is still very much alive in the memory of the people of the city, including a visit to his brand new statue and the roundabout of the Second of October – commemorating the day Sankara announced the revolution.
Bobo-Dioulasso or Bobo as it is affectionately known to the locals as is the countries second-largest city with a distinctive small-town charm to it. The vibrant restaurant and bar scene, mixed with a well preserved old town, giving visitors an insight into the old Burkina Faso to the streets lined with trees giving the city a tropical atmosphere make this a great place to kick back for a few days.
From here, we can also arrange visits to the birthplace of Thomas Sankara and hear first hand from the locals but how they remember his time in power, the legacy he left behind and how they feel about the current state of the country
Another popular activity is a drive and short hike to Dafra, a sacrificial site located at the source of the river Houet populated by catfish. Dafra is a place rich in lore for the local community and is known as a place of extreme power where vows can confirm wishes being made that will be fulfilled. People who are suffering from illness, personal or professional failures in life, infertility, to name a few, flock here from all over Burkina Faso, neighbouring countries and even a few from across the globe. Practises at the site include killing chickens and feeding their guts to the hungry fish in the river depths below. This is one of the most intense experiences available in Burkina Faso and will transport you into the hear of a culture very few have the opportunity to see first hand.
During your stay here, we can also arrange a visit to a maternity clinic where the doctors on hand are eager to educate, explain the realities and the challenges that lay ahead in developing a system where everyone will be able to access a sufficient level of healthcare in the region.
To really get the most out of your stay here, we recommend the option of ditching your vehicle and instead heading into the Burkina Faso countryside via horseback for a night of camping in the backcountry with your guides. The journey itself is memorable, passing through gorgeous natural scenery with unique wildlife to the area galore. Upon arriving at our secret campsite in the bush, the camp will be constructed, and an authentic mouth-watering Burkina Faso bush meal will be whipped up, certainly one of the most memorable culinary experiences in the country.
A dazzling work of art by mother nature, the alien-like rock formations of Sindou Peaks, are truly an incredible sight to witness and also Burkina Faso’s highest point. We can organize trekking trips, and our local guides know this area like the back of their hands and will be able to introduce you to hidden spots to get you the best photo opportunities and explain the stories of the rock formations in astonishing detail. After a day of hiking, we can spend the night nearby in traditional style huts accompanied by bonafide local grub.
This area is also famous for a nearby local pottery village known as Kawara. The potters are renowned for their pottery craftsmanship and the unique pottery influenced dance they put on for the few visitors who make it to their village.
A quiet town is one of the most aesthetically pleasing regions of the country. There is a lot more to do here than meets the eye at first glance. This town is the perfect spot to set up your base of operations for exploring everything the surrounding countryside has to offer.
Located close to the town is the Fabedougou Domes, which date back around 1.8 billion years. At one point, this whole area was under a massive ocean jammed to the brim with free-flowing sediments that over millennia settled to film rocks of various thicknesses. Through time they have been exposed to the processes of weathering and fracturing, moulding them into uniquely shaped crag fingers and domes pointing towards the sky. This is a great place now for photo opportunities of nature’s unique architecture and also a popular place with climbers.
Around 11km northwest of the town is the Karfiguéla Waterfalls. This is a great place to take a dip and enjoy a picnic for a nice break from sightseeing.
Perhaps the real highlight of Banfora however, especially for outdoor enthusiasts, is the chance to go hippo watching on Lake Tengrela. Most active in the early morning and late evening, board a boat and observe the local community of these wild animals going about their daily rituals and routines.
Réserve de Nazinga
A 97,000-hectare wildlife reserve located around 40 Kilometres from the Ghana border, this place is a nature lovers dream with a wide array of animals inhabiting the area, including antelope, monkeys, warthogs, crocodiles, 100’s of species of birds and elephants.
Guided tours to Burkina Faso
Once a year, we run a group tour that takes in all of our favourites of Burkina Faso in a compact and fluid schedule. We think this itinerary is a great place to begin planning your trip, so the itinerary is provided below.
Day 1 – Bobo Dioulasso
- Meet your local guides in Bobo Dioulasso and head out for an introductory dinner with them of local delights.
- Visit the maquis, typical Burkinabe open-air bars that turn into nightclubs
- Overnight in Bobo Dioulasso
Day 2– Bobo Dioulasso
- Breakfast in town
- Explore the old neighbourhood and grasp the feeling of what life was like in old Burkina Faso, or as it was known during the colonial times – the Upper Volta.
- Followed by a short drive and a 1km hike to Dafra – known for the famous pilgrimage site in Burkina Faso where people come from far to sacrifice animals to the local catfish. Things get very real as we get up close to those animist rituals. Please note that it is taboo to wear red clothes and take photos on this site.
- Visit the Sudanese-style mosque
- Lunch in town and begin our horseback journey to the countryside. If prefer the comfort of our 4WD this option is still available.
- Set up our camping site in the bush.
- Delicious dinner is arranged here on our very own campfire – you’ll be surprised what our local friends can whip up on a campfire and drinks are included.
- Overnight camping
Day 3 – Bobo Dioulasso – Sindou
- Enjoy a bush breakfast
- Visit the nearby maternity clinic where a local doctor will introduce the healthcare situation in Burkina Faso
- Ride your horse back into town and hop into your 4WD to head to Sindou – 3 hours
- Once arriving in Sindou we’ll have lunch and check into your hut to refresh
- Drive out of Sindou and visit Kawara – a village of potters known for performing a traditional pottery dance.
- Return to Sindou and explore the village and the impressive rock formations for which it is renowned for. It is the highest point of Burkina Faso. People used to live here as it was an easy to defend location. Each rock formation has a story which our local guide will share whilst we enjoy the sunset.
- Dinner arranged by our local contacts
- Overnight in huts
Day 4 – Sindou – Banfora
- Breakfast in town
- Begin driving journey to Banfora – here you’ll visit the Fabedougou Domes. The natural rock formations which have to be seen to be believed. This area was used to hide from neighbouring tribes.
- Hike 1.5km to the Karfiguela Falls
- Picnic lunch by the falls and a dip in the refreshing water
- Board a boat to go hippo spotting. Although hippos are known for being dangerous and territorial, here the hippos are sacred animals and the locals live in harmony with these large wild animals. It’s possible to get close and have a real close encounter with a few!
- Head back to Banfora
- Dinner in town with plenty of options from local maquis to nice and cozy French restaurants
- Overnight in Banfora
Day 5 – Banfora – Ouagadougou
- Breakfast in town and begin our largest road trip yet of expected time of 7 hours.
- We’ll make scenic stops and a lunch break along the way to stretch our legs including the last stop in Bazoule – a sacred crocodile pond. Here the locals are at peace with the crocs. The crocodiles are never hunted, harmed or killed. In exchange, the crocs do not eat the locals. As crazy as this sounds it is possible to play with the crocodiles.
- Arrive in Ouagadougou – the capital of Burkina Faso.
- Trip highlight – While its successors have tried to erase any trace of him, the memory of Thomas Sankara is still very much alive in the people of the city, this is why we’ll spend the day touring the city along with friends and relatives of Thomas Sankara, who will be there to tell us about the man himself. We’ll also make sure to visit his brand new statue.
- Explore Ouaga 2000 – the weird futuristic city project where you’ll visit two monuments of great importance: the Monument to National Heroes and the Monument to the Martyrs. If you’ve visited North Korea, you’d feel that these monuments would fit right into Pyongyang.
- Visit the roundabout of the Second of October – commemorating the day Sankara announced the revolution
- Farewell dinner at a phenomenal restaurant and experience the nightlife of the city’s busiest maquis
- Overnight in Ouagadougou
Day 6 – Ouagadougou
- Tour concludes with airport drop-off arranged according to your flight details – YPT is also able to arrange post-tour accommodation or advice for flights. For those departing later, YPT can arrange visits to the National Museum, Music Museum and handicraft market of Ouagadougou.
Of course, this is just a starting point; please get in touch with us for more sample itineraries or to fully customize one on your own. Whatever your Burkina Faso requests may be, we can make them happen.
For information on pricing, please get in touch with us, and we will tailor a quote based on requests and requirements.
Extending Your Travels in the Region
Burkina Faso is surrounded by a plethora of neighbouring countries that, while having some differences, also have stark differences in local cultures and serve as great places to continue your trip around Africa. We can arrange overland tours to or from the neighbouring countries of Mali, Benin, Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, taking care of border crossing formalities and making sure you are well prepared for travel in what can be a tricky part of the world to maneuver around.
Arranging a Visa for Burkina Faso
Most nationalities will require a visa for Burkina Faso, but picking Young Pioneer Tours to facilitate your travel to Burkina Faso will eliminate all the headaches associated with this process. We are experts in this process and, during your booking process, will explain to you in detail what needs to be done to recieve an approved Burkina Faso visa.
Furthermore, if you are planning on travelling to Mali before Burkina Faso, we can provide guidance on having a visa issued in Mali before entering Burkina Faso.
Security in Burkina Faso
While Burkina Faso is an incredible country and one of our favourite travel destinations in Africa, it must be noted that there are serious security concerns in some regions of the country, especially the following provinces along the borders with Mali, Niger, Benin and Togo, due to terrorist threats as well as the risk of banditry and kidnapping:
- the province of Léraba, in the Cascades Region
- the province of Kénédougou, in the Hauts-Bassins Region
- the province of Houet, in the Hauts-Bassins Region, within 80 km from the border with Mali
- the provinces of Banwa, Kossi, Nayala and Sourou, in the Boucle du Mouhoun Region
- the provinces of Lorum, Passore, Yatenga and Zondoma, in the North Region
- the provinces of Bam, Sanmatenga and Namentenga, in the Centre-North Region
- the provinces of Oudalan, Séno, Soum and Yagha, in the Sahel Region
- the province of Koulpélogo, in the Centre East Region
- the provinces of Gnagna, Gourma, Komandjari, Kompienga and Tapoa, in the East Region
Our local partners and contacts in the country always stay abreast with the current situation on the ground and work closely with local embassies and security agencies to ensure a smooth travel experience and your personal safety. That being said, however, we highly recommend checking your own countries travel warning and guidelines for Burkina Faso when making the decision to travel here.