Rwanda is known as a land of a thousand hills due to the many beautiful scenery of mountains and hills including the Virunga volcanoes, a habitat for the mountain gorillas. The country’s culture and history is fascinating. Having faced the genocide against Tutsi in 1994, today after 25 years, the capital Kigali one of the green and clean cities is a world class destination and Rwanda is popular for adventures especially gorilla trekking. Gorillas are the main tourist attractions but Rwanda has got so many things to do and see
The country is filled with tropical rain forests in its southwestern part which are home to chimps and lots of primates. in the eastern side along the border with Tanzania, the savannah of Akagera National Park provide big game wildlife viewing while Lake Kivu in the west is a place to relax and chill on the beaches. On your holiday to Rwanda, which attractions are you looking forward to visit and enjoy the culture and history of the country?
Mountain Gorillas -Volcanoes National Park
Rwanda’s main tourist attractions are the mountain gorillas which are found in Volcanoes national park. Spanning an area of 160 sq km; this park one of the few destinations in the world to see mountain gorillas and is also home to Rwanda’s tallest mountain range, Mount Karisimbi which is part of the Virunga massifs.
Volcanoes national park is home to over 200 mountain gorillas including 10 gorilla families that have been habituated for tourism. The park lies in Ruhengeri district Northern Province about 2 hours drive from Kigali international airport allowing visitors to plan 1 or 2 days gorilla trekking safari. Most gorilla treks start at kinigi the main visitor center and offer tourists with the chance to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Tourists can book a gorilla trekking safari best done in dry season December to February and June to September through Rwandan development board or registered tour operator. Visitors are guided by rangers to explore the forest on foot in search of the gorillas. Hiking boots and physical fitness is required for those wanting to trek gorillas.
Volcanoes national park is also home to golden monkeys. These beautiful primates have also been habituated to offer golden monkey tracking safaris.
There are three dormant volcanoes which are Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, and Mount Muhabura. The best way to explore the spectacular Virunga massif is by arranging a hiking excursion. Camping on the volcano is available for those hiking Mount Karisimbi.
People talk about how fast Rwanda is growing economically. Indeed the capital Kigali is completely different than it was 20 years ago after the genocide against Tutsi in 1994. Today Kigali is one of the top clean and green cities in Africa. The city has with modern infrastructure, and digital technology makes it easier for smart travelling around the city. The roads are best for cycling tours. Several African craft markets, recreational golf course centers, shopping centers, numerous restaurants, bars and night clubs, have turned Kigali into a place to enjoy recreational activities such as cycling, golfing, hiking, and amazing nightlife.
As the biggest tragedy in the history of Rwanda, genocide museums are top attractions for commemorating the genocide against Tutsi on 7 April every year. The main genocide memorial is Gisozi Memorial Center in Kigali city while other numerous memorials can be found outside the city such as Nyamata and Ntarama churches, presidential palace memorial, the Rebero memorial, camp Kigali.
Kigali is also an innovative city with several economic trade zones including Volkswagen car assembling plants, Kigali has also boomed as East Africa’s business hub for MICE tourism. The Kigali convention center along with 5 star Radisson Blue and Marriot international hotel chain brands are venues for world class events. Some of those hosted include the world economic forum.
Akagera National Park
Akagera national park is the only place in Rwanda for big game viewing safaris. So if you are planning a safari to Rwanda, you should be keen to visit this park where the big five mammals can be spotted. Black rhinos and lions were brought back in 2015 in addition to the native leopard, elephant and buffalo. Once again, visitors can experience big game wildlife safari in Akagera national park.
The park was named after Akagera River which meanders through the park which forms a large wetland with several swamp fringed lakes home to hippos and Nile crocodiles. The wetlands and savannah habitats provide home to several mammals including giraffes, zebras, and 8 species of antelopes such as impala, topi, eland, duiker, bushbuck, and klipspringer.
Not only does Akagera have the big five, it is undoubtedly the best place for bird watching. The park is home to 500 species of birds including the shoebill stork, papyrus gonelock, african fish eagles, giant kingfishers. Lots of activities can be done such as game drive safari, boat cruises, birding, and nature walks. Accommodations in the park are limited with only mid range and luxury lodges. The park is located in western Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. It is only 3 hours drive from Kigali.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest national park is the top nature destination in Rwanda. The 1.3 million years old tropical montane rainforest supports an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, making it one of the richest ecosystems in east Africa. It is the perfect place if you nature walks and primates. The chimpanzees are the main attractions in the park.
Nyungwe forest national park encompasses 1000 sq km of dense tropical rainforests. It is home to chimpanzees, 12 species of primates including a troop of 300 black and white colobus monkeys. There are over 400 species of birds, lots of butterflies, insects. The most popular activities in the park are chimpanzee trekking and canopy walks.
Experience guided chimpanzee trekking through the rainforest searching for chimpanzees and other species of primates such as colobus monkeys. Walk on the biggest canopy walk bridges in East Africa. The canopy walk in Nyungwe forest is a must see offering aerial breathtaking views of the entire park and wildlife in the canopy.
Visit the largest tea plantations in Rwanda; take nature walks to Kamiranzovu waterfalls, the furthest source of the Nile, hiking the mountains and spot birds, butterflies.
There are lots of outdoor activities such as waterfall walks, hiking, and bird watching, visiting the tea estates. A 3 days safari is the best to give you enough time to explore wildlife and local tea growing communities in Nyungwe forest national park.
Nyungwe forest is located in southwestern Rwanda; about 6 hours drive from Kigali city. Tours to Nyungwe forest national park can start from Kigali city but if you are on Lake Kivu getting to Nyungwe would take only 3 hours drive.
Lake Kivu is known as the largest fresh water lake in Rwanda which is home to beautiful white sand beaches. Kivu has a serene environment, blue waters for swimming, beautiful islands home to birds. The resort town of Gisenyi on the shores has a wide range of restaurants and bars to hang out on a weekend as well as accommodation from campsites to five star hotels like Kivu Serena, where you can stay overnight. Lake Kivu offers recreational activities and spot activities such as swimming, boat cruise, visiting the Idwiji islands, kayaking. You can explore the surrounding hills by cycling along the Congo Nile trails and sightseeing in Gisenyi town.
Iby’iwacu Cultural Village
Iby’Iwacu cultural village was set up to preserve and showcase Rwandan cultural heritage. Located just outside Volcanoes national park, it is a perfect place to visit after gorilla trekking and get introduced to the local Rwandan traditional culture and lifestyles. The local people including the BaTwa pygmies living in the village demonstrate traditional activities such as how to dress and king and queen, making of handicrafts, preparing local food. They will also perform the Intore dance to the visitors.
The locals also give you information on the various Rwandan traditions and customs. Visitors are taken around to see Imigongo cow dung art paintings, wood carving, and weaving the Ageseke baskets and huts built in the same shape of the baskets, the iron smith and herbalist.
The iby’iwacu cultural village has traditional hut accommodation, restaurant and handicraft shop. Visitors can stay overnight to fully enjoy the place and in the evening locals will put on their traditional costumes to dance for the guests around the campfire.
Museums and genocide memorials
Rwanda has many museums which showcase the country’s history, culture and heritage. As a destination you are visiting, you need to get some information about Rwanda by taking a tour of at least 1 or 2 museums. Some of the top 8 museums to visit include
- The natural history museum
- Campaign against genocide museum at Kigali parliament
- Museum of environment at Karongi
- Rwanda art museum Kigali kanombe
- Ethnographic museum Huye district
- National art gallery in Nyanza
- King’s Palace museum at Nyanza