The country is noted for its stunning hills, volcanoes, mountain gorillas, and attractive people. Following the genocide, President Kagame’s great administration and leadership undertook the challenging work of bringing the country’s people together for reconstruction, healing, and reconciliation.
Today, Rwanda is regarded as an example of how other African nations can effectively organize their populations, combat corruption, and establish effective systems while having few resources.
The tourism industry in Rwanda is one of the most notable accomplishments of the current administration. Rwanda has a lot to offer visitors in terms of natural beauty, great weather, infinite hills, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and wildlife.
The government has made significant efforts to promote tourism. The national parks are managed by devoted and patriotic citizens, while the tourism infrastructure, such as roads and hotels, is of the highest caliber.
The capital Kigali is regarded as the cleanest in Africa, and Rwanda is one of the safest nations in the world to travel to. The people of Rwanda are kind and welcoming, and the country boasts excellent regional food.
Let’s Explore the best places to visit in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park for Gorilla Trekking
The most popular Rwandan location for animal protection is undoubtedly the Volcanoes National Park. Along with participating in other popular park activities, hundreds of foreign tourists visit the park each year to witness the mountain gorillas.
Only eight persons can track one of the 10 habituated gorilla groups in the park per day. A briefing from the park office in Kinigi at 7 am kicks off gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park. In the presence of armed Guides, visitors are then led outside to follow one of the gorilla groups.
One of the most remarkable experiences when traveling to Africa is going on a gorilla hike. Why? because it includes coming across organisms that are similar to us. Rwanda charges $1500 per person for a gorilla permit.
Visiting Dian Fossey Tomb
The 20th century produced some of the best primatologists, including Dian Fossey. Having received financing from the National Geographic, she was a pioneer in gorilla research and conservation. Over the course of 18 years, Fossey conducted considerable research on mountain gorilla behavior and learned a great deal about them, including how to accustom them.
Without her discoveries, gorilla trekking and habituation as we know them now would not be feasible.
As time went on, Fossey shifted her attention from gorilla study to gorilla conservation in an effort to safeguard the primates from widespread poaching. She gained many enemies as a result, and one morning her body was discovered in her room (1985). Her killers have never been found as of now.
Many people opt to honor her by visiting her former research facility and burial on the slopes of two volcanoes, Karisimbi and Bisoke, after tracking gorillas. Because of the required mountain hiking to reach the tomb, some level of fitness is required.
Additionally, you should be ready to contend with muddy trails, particularly during the rainy season. Permits for the Dian Fossey Hike are available for $80 each.
One benefit of taking the Dian Fossey climb is the chance of meeting a group of mountain gorillas without having to pay extra. You can visit the new Karisoke Research Center in Musanze after seeing her mausoleum and the former Karisoke Center. Her work is still being done at these premises, which also house the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Center
You should probably visit the Genocide Memorial Center in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, before venturing out to one of the country’s well-known national parks. About 250,000 people’s corpses who were cruelly slaughtered by the Interahamwe are kept in the museum (Hutu extremists).
The facility is organized into three sections: one for children who perished in a genocide, one for adults, and one for genocides that have taken place throughout the world.
You can discover a lot about the events leading up to, during, and following the 1994 genocide by visiting the site. You can either listen to what the local Guides have to say or view brief movies about the unfortunate incident.
Even though it may be upsetting, the major goal of the exhibits is to educate the public—especially the next generation—about the atrocities of genocides so that they never again occur.
Nyungwe National Park for Chimpanzee Trekking
Rwanda is home to one of Africa’s oldest afro-montane forests, Nyungwe forest. There are 13 kinds of primates living in this forest, which is located in the South Western region of the nation, including chimpanzees.
The Angola Colobus and Golden Monkeys still have some remaining habitat in Nyungwe Forest. Visitors can choose from more than 15 pathways for a nature stroll while exploring the forest. If nature hikes aren’t your style, you may go chimpanzee tracking in the Nyungwe forest or do the very well-liked canopy walk.
You will be rewarded with incredible sights of birds (310 species), primates (13 species), butterflies (120 species), flora (over 1,000 species), amphibians (32 species), and reptiles (38 species), regardless of the specific activity you sign up for.
Akagera National Park
It is simple to forget that Rwanda is fantastic for game drives and typical wildlife safaris when all the attention is on the mountain gorillas. With a land size of 1,085 square kilometers, Akagera is Rwanda’s sole savannah park. Even though the park was founded in 1934, the 1994 genocide caused a huge loss of animals.
The park served as a route of escape for thousands of evacuating citizens looking for refuge in nearby nations. Many people who had fled the genocide decided to reside in some areas of the park, which resulted in unchecked poaching and encroachments.
The number of animals rose and extinct species were reintroduced when the African Parks Network and the government joined together to manage the park. Swamps, savannah plains, woods, lakes, rivers, and terraced hills can all be found in Akagera National Park.
In addition to other activities like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking, cultural encounters, and mountain climbing, it is now home to all of the Big 5 animals, including lions, rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, and leopards. This gives tourists the chance to experience a full wildlife safari in Rwanda.
Olive baboons, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, hyenas, leopards, and hippos are just a few of the other animals that may be seen at Akagera. Akagera is a great place for birding, natural hikes, and sport fishing in Lake Shakani in addition to regular game drives.
The afternoon boat excursion along Lake Ihema is also particularly well-liked and rewards visitors with stunning scenery and encounters with crocodiles, hippos, antelopes, and aquatic birds.
Golden Monkey Tracking
One of the final refuges for golden monkeys is Rwanda. The Virunga Mountains (Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Kahuzi Biega National Park are home to these stunning monkeys. Due to their endangered status, golden monkeys are subject to strict protection.
Although they are eagles’ natural prey, people pose the greatest threat to them. Golden monkeys are popular with tourists due to their charming gold coats and amusing personalities.
The Rwandan Golden Monkey tracking day begins with a briefing at 7:30am. Due to the monkeys’ limited foraging range in the bush, it is less demanding than going gorilla trekking. Rwanda charges $100 for permits for golden monkeys.
With over 640 kinds of birds, including 30 indigenous to Rwanda, the country is a great place to go bird watching. The Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park, and the area around Lake Kivu all have organized birding events.
Kigali’s suburbs, as well as various smaller waterbodies, wetlands/swamps, marshlands, and agricultural plantations, are additional places to go birding. The primary species to keep an eye out for are those that are unique to the Albertine Rift and the Virunga ranges. In Akagera’s marshes and wetlands, you can also see the fascinating Shoebill stork.
Visit Nyungwe forest for Canopy Walk
In addition to chimpanzee trekking and wildlife hikes, Nyungwe Forest hosts one of the best canopy walk pathways. In an effort to diversify the nation’s tourism industry, this activity was created in 2010. The canopy walkway is 50 meters high, providing a bird’s-eye perspective of the forest and its inhabitants.
To complete the walk, which veers left and right as one advances from one place to another, takes some confidence. If you are afraid of heights, you need to be informed beforehand.
Local Dance Performances
Watching a performance by one of the Intore Dance Troupes is one of the quickest ways to grasp the culture and traditions of the people of Rwanda. All reputable hotels schedule evening dance performances for patrons to enjoy while they unwind and finish the day.
The performer’s enthusiasm, vigor, and grace are indicators of how well the Intore Dance is performed. Folktales or other narratings pertaining to Kinyarwanda culture may break up the dance. At some point, observers are always invited to participate.
Visiting a new place’s main central market is one of the quickest ways to learn about the way of life of the locals. Everyone shops in Kimironko Market for low-cost, fresh produce, meals, and fruits. Customers can choose from a variety of things by visiting the many stalls and selecting what appeals to them the most.
An extension of the market focuses on high-quality pre-owned apparel, including suits, purses, shoes, and clothing. Kimironko is the place to go if you’re wondering where to find high-quality regional fabrics like Kitenge at a reasonable price.
Inema Art Center
To encourage and promote regional artists, two brothers founded this art center. The Center carries some of the top modern artisan goods in the nation. There are exhibits by some of the best artists in the nation and beyond. For aspiring artists, especially those who are less fortunate, such orphans, the institution organizes workshops and training sessions.
Tourists are typically shown around the facilities while they browse the many galleries for souvenirs during a visit. A local Intore cultural group that performs dances is also present.
While you wait for delivery, you can purchase the artwork at the Inema Art Centre online. You might want to visit the Ivuka Arts Centre after visiting Inema to learn about their community initiatives and browse their collection of additional artwork.
State House Museum
The former presidential residence is now the State House Museum. Its most recent leader was Habyarimana. After being shot at, Habyarimana’s plane crashed inside the royal grounds. A genocide that had been planned but not fully carried out was started when the presidential plane was shot down.
Visitors can now tour the palace to learn more about the genocide’s precursors and the president Habyarimana’s lifestyle there. The plane’s debris is still visible inside the complex.
Volunteer during Umuganda
The monthly “umuganda” and a government ban on reckless disposal of plastic bags are two factors in the capital Kigali’s extraordinary cleanliness. All country residents are required to participate in umuganda, or community service. The president participates and it is organized on the last Saturday of each month.
What to work on each month is decided by organized committees from each neighborhood. One can be asked to clean up any trash on the streets, trim any overgrown plants or grass, or fix any damaged public facilities.
After work is over, everyone congregates to talk about any other issues that might be harming the neighborhood. The people of Rwanda now have a stronger sense of unity and patriotism because of Umuganda, which is crucial yet still absent in many African nations.
You can participate as a volunteer and work to maintain a road, fix a house, school, or medical facility.
King’s Palace Museum
The last two kings to reign Rwanda were King Rudahigwa Mutara III and King Musinga Yuhi V. Conflicts with Belgium invaders and lack of support from all tribe groupings caused the kingdoms to be abolished. The Nyanza palace is presently all that is left. The palace has been transformed into a museum for guests who want to learn about the history of the nation.
While King Rudahigwa Mutara III was in power, the palace was constructed with assistance from the Belgian government. Make sure to stop at the Museum if you are in the southern region of Rwanda or your route to Nyungwe National Park.
The Museum has items and data that date back more than 200 years. Unfortunately, during the genocide in 1994, many of these were taken or destroyed. On a hill near the Museum, King Mutara and his wife Rosalie Gicanda (who were killed during the genocide), are interred.
Do you want to know where you can see Kigali the best? Mount Kigali is the only place to start. It is a notable hill with one of the highest points in the nation, not really a mountain. You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city as you climb to the hill’s summit.
Hikers will also be rewarded with stunning views throughout the path to the hill’s summit. Visitors can also stop by the recreational facilities, which include pubs and restaurants, while at the summit of Mount Kigali.
Hotel des Mille Collines
The 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda” helped to make this 5-star hotel well-known. The movie is based on the actual account of a hotel manager who during the 1994 genocide concealed more than 1200 individuals in hotel rooms.
Visitors adore staying at the prominent hotel not only because of its part in the Holocaust but also because of the high caliber of amenities provided. It offers 112 opulent rooms, a restaurant, a fitness facility, and more. Visit the hotel and add your name to the list of people who have been to Rwanda’s most renowned hotel.
Cattle raising has a long tradition among the Banyarwanda. Their long-horned livestock resembles those in Ankole (Uganda). In Rwanda, drinking fresh milk for breakfast is highly common, and some people even contend that it is the reason the country has so many attractive women.
Everywhere across the nation there are milk bars. Cow farms in rural and suburban areas of cities supply the milk. For those who prefer their milk hot or fresh, Kigali Milk Bar is a great option.
Kigali Convention Center
One of Kigali’s most well-known structures is the Center. Although its design is quite magnificent, what makes it well-known is that it is where the majority of significant conferences and meetings are held.
The complex also houses a 5-star hotel called Radisson Blue as well as sizable commercial malls in addition to the meeting room. The Kigali Convention Center is a great area to shop, eat lunch, and take pictures. The Center transforms into a nighttime structure unlike any other in the nation.
Akagera aviation for Helicopter Tour
For those who want to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Kigali and the surrounding area, Akagera aviation organizes helicopter excursions in Kigali. The price of a helicopter tour can range from $500 to $4500 depending on the route. Regardless of the path you select, you can count on enjoying stunning views of Rwanda’s 1,000 hills and the towering Virunga volcanoes.
Additionally, Nyungwe National Park may be reached through helicopter excursions for breathtaking views of the immense forest and the vast Virunga hills that stretch all the way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kigali is where all flights begin and end.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park for Nature Walk, birding and Primates tracking
Rwanda’s newest national park is Gishwat-Mukura. The two forests of Gishwati and Mukura were joined to create it. A great example of Rwanda’s conservation efforts is the park, which is located close to Lake Kivu. Refugees encroached on forested area both during and after the genocide, which severely degraded the terrain.
The two forests’ entire terrain has been revitalized by the government, with assistance from partners like the World Bank, by replanting trees and relocating encroachers to other areas. Visitors can take nature strolls, see birds, and search for primates like chimpanzees or L’Hoest’s monkeys at the park.
Coffee & Tea Plantations
Some of Africa’s best tea and coffee are exported from Rwanda. In truth, coffee’s quality has received numerous international prizes, but the country’s top export is tea. The country’s abundant volcanic soils, high altitude, and favorable climate help the production of coffee and tea.
Tourists who are interested in learning about the two cash crops’ cultivation and processing can arrange tours of coffee and tea plantations. During the excursions, visitors may see how the crop is planted, harvested, selected, cleaned, dried, and transformed into finished goods that are fit for human use.
Drinking locally made coffee, sometimes referred to as African tea, which is coffee or tea blended with milk and various flavors, should be the final activity on every tour. If you’re interested in taking one of their trips, get in touch with Dav Safaris.
Outside of Volcanoes National Park, in the Musanze area, are these historic caverns. After undergoing renovation, which included constructing staircases and paved trails/paths, the caves were finally made accessible to tourists in 2013. The East African Rift Valley and the caves, which are roughly 2 kilometers long and built by lava flows around 60 million years ago, both originated at the same period.
With the main entrance being about 10 kilometers wide, there are roughly 32 entrances. Geology and adventure enthusiasts both like visiting the Musanze caverns. The Batwa pygmies and other local tribal groups used to hide out in the bat-filled caverns.
Hiking Mount Karisimbi
One of Africa’s tallest mountains is Mount Karisimbi. It can be found in Volcanoes National Park and is over 4,500 meters high. The mountain is one of the eight volcanoes that make up the larger Virunga mountain ranges in Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. It takes two days to hike Mount Karisimbi.
Although difficult, the hike rewards participants with stunning vistas of the Virunga hills, the lava-emitting Nyiragongo volcano, and national parks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the Volcanoes National Park, climbing Mount Karisimbi frequently takes place with treks to see gorillas and golden monkeys.
Although Mount Bisoke is the tallest volcano in Rwanda, it only rises 3,711 meters. Its easy climb makes it the most well-known of all the volcanoes. The journey to the summit and return takes just one day. Hikers are rewarded after reaching the top with the chance to explore a sizable crater and enjoy views of the other Virunga volcanoes and the volcanoes National Park.
As you ascend the lower slopes of the mountain, if you’re fortunate, you might come across a gorilla or a group of golden monkeys.
Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest body of water, with an area of more than 2,700 square kilometers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the farthest point that this lake, which is the sixth largest in Africa, reaches. Due of the stunning shorelines, resorts, and islands, visitors enjoy exploring the lake.
Swimming, birding, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, windsurfing, and other water sports are all great activities on Lake Kivu. The Congo Nile track was constructed alongside the lake’s coast, giving cyclists the opportunity to explore Rwanda’s countryside on foot or a mountain bike. In Lake Kivu, neither hippos nor crocodiles exist.
National Museum of Rwanda
It was constructed in 1989 and is now known as the Ethnographic Museum. Butare, a village located 80 kilometers from Kigali, the capital, is where the site is located. Visitors to Nyungwe Forest National Park often make it their first stop. Learning about Banyarwanda culture is possible at the Museum.
The museum’s seven galleries display antiquities, photographs, cultural items, and antiquity-dated pottery, musical instruments, traditional garb, and woodwork. You can view Intore dancers entertaining guests after looking over the gallery’s exhibits.
Congo Nile Trail
The Rwandan government has recently expanded the country’s tourist attractions by adding the Congo Nile route. There are three ways to travel the 140-mile Congo Nile trail: on foot, on bike, or by motorbike. To complete the full trail on foot might take ten days.
The Congo Nile Trail is one of East Africa’s top riding routes. The trail rewards cyclists with breathtaking scenery and all that is wonderful about the Rwandan countryside, including lovely rolling hills, tea plantations, small towns, Lake Kivu, and Nyungwe National Park.
After finishing the trek, one would have a better knowledge of how the natives live their life.
The availability of lodging along the trip is not an issue due to the large selection of hotels and campgrounds. You could even move with your own tent and erect it outside of temples or educational institutions. From a tour operator, you can rent a bike and an assistant.
Even if Rwandan cuisine may not rank among the top tourist attractions in the nation, it is nonetheless important to mention. The finest of what East Africa has to offer is combined in the widely consumed native cuisine. In addition to the fresh cow’s milk already mentioned, you can also try grilled beef, Isombe, somboza, akabanga, and a variety of regional brochettes.
After work or on the weekends, the residents enjoy urwagwa, a popular variety of banana beer. All of the upscale hotels and eateries serve regional cuisine, but Repub Lounge is a locals’ favorite among foreigners.
Lake Burera & Ruhondo
Located in the Volcanoes National Park are these lovely twin lakes. After participating in park activities like gorilla trekking, most visitors to the lake arrive in the late afternoon or early evening. Birds and a remarkable plant variety live in the lush environment.
Wandering through nature, kayaking, birdwatching, camping, and visiting the neighborhood fisherman are all options. Following the strenuous activities at the Volcanoes National Park, honeymooners and couples will find the lovely environment to be quite calming and refreshing.
You must go to this church if you want to find out more about what happened before, during, and after the genocide in Rwanda. About 10,000 Tutsis sought refuge in the church in the hopes that they would be safe, but the ruthless Interahamwe massacred them all. The Hutu fanatics opened the church doors with grenades before slaughtering everyone inside.
Human remains, blood-stained clothing, and gunshot holes in the church are still visible to site visitors. Outside of the church, a mass grave contains the remains of about 50,000 people.
Gorilla Guardians Village
Previously known as the Ibyiwacu Cultural Village, the Center was established by Edwin Sabuhoro, a former warden at the Volcanoes National Park, to highlight everything wonderful about the Kinyarwanda Culture and to give ex-poachers a job.
Before watching traditional dances, learning how to make regional cuisine, or going on a hunt like the Batwa people, visitors are given a tour of the Center. You might be given the chance to dress in the royal attire of the time and understand what it was like to be a figurehead.
Do you have any questions about where to go out in Kigali for the evening or at night? The Mamba Club is a well-liked hangout for middle- and upper-class Kigalians looking to have some fun and mingle. They plan a variety of leisure activities, including swimming, ping-pong, volleyball, foosball, and pool. The lone bowling alley in the city is at the Mamba Club.
Visit Mamba Club with your loved ones, coworkers, or friends and have a blast there well into the night. Excellent cuisine and drinks are served at a bar that is well-stocked.
Nyamirambo Women’s Center
The district of Nyamirambo is home to this nonprofit organization. It was established to educate women in order for them to get the necessary skills to start their own businesses or find gainful employment. The ladies at the center are instructed in the use of local textiles to make high-quality garments.
The women also manufacture lovely beads, home décor items, and other trinkets. For guests who want to interact with the neighborhood residents, the center also arranges walking tours of the area. Make sure to buy something to support the women when you visit this center.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dav Safaris