Top Things To Do In Rwanda

The Top 10 Things to Do & Tourist Attractions in Rwanda Nearly every guests to Rwanda take priority to go gorilla trekking as one of their top activities to do while in there. Travelers from all over the world are captivated by the mystery of getting up close to animals that share % of our DNA, and Rwanda is the perfect setting to do so. To protect the animals, the nation has made significant wildlife protection progress.

Rwanda has a lot to offer, but the opportunity to see these gentle giants is just the beginning. The 1994 Rwandan genocide left the nation in rubble, but it has recovered remarkably well in recent years to become a peaceful travel destination with lots to do. Top 10 Rwandan Attractions & Activities for Visitors

Nature enthusiasts can go on safari in Akagera National Park and take a canopy walk to get a bird’s-eye view of Nyungwe Forest.

Visit Rwanda’s Ethnographic Museum to see the fascinating showcases on local traditions if you’re interested in culture.

The King’s Palace Museum’s royal cows (and the singers who croon to them) are never to be overlooked.

1. Volcanoes National Park - Things to Do in Rwanda

The best thing to do in Rwanda is unquestionably going gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. This national park in Rwanda, that also shares a border with Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla National Park and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, is a famous home to a number of of critically endangered mountain gorillas. A significant increase from the 240–250 gorillas at the moment in the park in 1981, experts estimate that there are now about 500 gorillas in Rwanda.

In order to see gorillas, you will need to pay an amount of $1,500 for one for a gorilla trekking permit, these dont include accomodation and transpotation to the park but allows you to access one of the 18 mountain gorilla families that have been habituated to people . The most common and easy way to go for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is through a reputable tour operator, who can also arrange transportation from Kigali to the National park.

Gorilla trekking usually lasts between 1 to eight hours, the trek includes hiking through mysterious bamboo forests, untamed meadows, and swampy terrain. One of the habituated gorilla families will eventually be managed to reach with help of national park service guides. You’ll spend an hour observing the gorillas as they eat, take a glance after their young, and engage in social relations.

In Rwanda, to go gorilla trekking in seek of apes is normally considered as a safe activity. Most gorillas are unwilling to engage in the presence of humans.  Armed guides are available throughout the trek and they help to keep the guests safe, they use clicking and moaning sounds to communicate with the gorillas and we guarantee that this will be an humbling experience that you’ll never forget.

Are you interested in knowing more about mountain gorillas? check out Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Karisoke Research Center that is located in the nearby district of Musanze after your gorilla trekking adventure. It has a compact but well-stocked museum dedicated to mountain gorillas and the work of Dian Fossey, a conservationist whose work to protect gorillas was made famous by the 1988 drama Gorillas in the Mist.

Kigali Genocide Memorial

It’s hard to believe that less than two decades ago, Rwanda was undergoing a horrific genocide that took the lives of more than 800,000 people in just 100 days. Even though the nation has made good advances since the horrifying massacre, the legacy of this relatively recent history will continue to influence present-day people and future generations.

The Museum has Children’s Room commemorating the youngest genocide victims. Through oversized portraits of the kids, some of whom were still infants when they died, and private details about the victims, like their nicknames and favorite books, it preserves their memory. Even if going to the Kigali genocide memorial is painful it is also critical element of being a responsible visitor in Rwanda. Give yourself some time to reflect on the experience and take a moment of silence for the 250,000 victims laid to rest here in the Gardens of Reflection of the memorial.

Address: KG 14 Ave., Kigali

Official site: https://www.kgm.rw/

3. Nyungwe Forest National Park

In addition to 1,068 plant species, 322 bird species, and 75 various kinds of mammals, Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the most significant forest conservation areas in all of Africa. The majority of visitors to this rainforest come to trek the chimpanzees, that have been habituated to become accustomed to people. Although less costly than going gorilla trekking, this animal encounter is just as memorable.

There are other activities other than hanging out with primates in Nyungwe. Nyungwe National Park is also home to the a canopy walk adventure. It takes about 2 hours to hike from hike from the Uwinka Visitor Center. Do you fear heights? If you are an adrenaline junkie looking for adventure in the forest this is for you! but should you be scared of heights, its possible to skip the canopy walk and go for a walk along one of the park’s 15 hiking trails

Address: KN6, Rusizi

Nyungwe National Park Canopy Walk

4 Kings Palace Museum

If Rwandans’ fervent conservation efforts were not enough to persuade you of their love for animals, a trip to the King’s Palace Museum will. The inyambo (sacred cows) and their obscenely large horns are the museum’s main draw. Its one of Rwanda’s main museum. A ritual unique to Rwanda involves traditional singers comforting the cows throughout the day by belting out poems. The museum exhibits a recreation of a 15th-century king’s palace with a grass roof, a royal hut, and a fresh milk hut that is usually run by a woman who is not married.

The colonial-style residence that served as King Mutara III Rudahigwa’s palace in the middle of the 20th century is also open to visitors. The interior decor is especially striking, fusing Rwandan patterns  known as Emegogo style

Address: Nyanza Road, Nyanza District, Southern Province

Official site: https://museum.gov.rw/index.php?id=69

Rwanda_Kings_palace_Laba_Africa

5. Akagera National Park

No trip to Africa is complete without a game drive. Tourists can scratch the itch to go on safari just two-and-a-half hours away from Kigali at Akagera National Park. Managed by the African Parks organization, Akagera and its biodiversity have made an incredible recovery from near decimation after the Rwandan genocide. The 1,140-square-kilometer expanse (one of Central Africa’s largest protected wetlands) now boasts all of the Big Five animals, along with an abundance of birds and antelope.

You’ll need to have a lot of luck to spot a lion or rhino—conservationists are still working on boosting their populations, and for now, there aren’t that many at Akagera. However, you’ll have no trouble spotting zebras, hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants, and giraffes on a self-drive safari.

The landscape itself is just as spectacular as the animals that live here. You’ll see the environment make a glorious shift from savannah plains to wetlands and lakes.

Hire one of the helpful guides at the park visitor center. They have insider’s knowledge of where to find the animals.

Uganda tour safari - How much does African safari cost

6. Lake Kivu

After all your outdoor adventures, you’ll be ready to kick up your feet—and there’s no better place to relax in Rwanda than at Lake Kivu. The 2,700-square-kilometer, emerald-green oasis, surrounded by misty mountains, is Rwanda’s largest lake.

Soak it all up from Rubavu, a resort town on the northern tip of Lake Kivu. It has a lively waterfront, sandy beach, and stunning resorts (including the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel). A few days in this peaceful town will leave you restored.

Get even closer to the landscape with Kingfisher Journeys. The tour operator can arrange a stunning sunset kayak trip with singing fisherman on Lake Kivu, as well as multi-day paddling adventures that will leave you in awe.

7. Kigali City

Like the majority of travelers to Rwanda, we began our journey in the capital, Kigali. The city, relatively small, is however worth visiting and spending some days. Very different from its East African counterparts, Kigali surprises with its calm, its organization, its modernity and its cleanliness. It is also one of the safest cities in the world, making it an ideal destination for solo travelers, especially women. We were particularly seduced by the many museums, art galleries, and welcoming cafes. Some neighborhoods are not very popular with tourists but yet very pleasant to walk around and also very photogenic. Kigali is also home to many markets and craft markets. We are sure you’re going to love the Rwandan capital, which is for sure very pleasant for travelers because of its organization and cleanliness

Our top 10 things to do in Kigali

  1. Genocide Memorial to learn more about the country’s painful past and pay tribute to the victims of the genocide
  2. . Rwanda Art Gallery: located in the former presidential residence, this museum offers a selection of paintings and sculptures mainly made by Rwandan artists. A guide will accompany you during the visit, to help you to interpret the works, often related to the genocide.
  3. Explore the neighborhoods, since Kigali is not a very big city and it is pleasant and safe to walk there. We particularly recommend Kimihurura or Kiyovu.

    1. Kigali is full of talents and many different arts can be found there. During your stay, you can try your hand at traditional dancing, painting, music, etc. At Laba Africa Expeditions, we tested (and largely approved!) a photo session in the city, with a professional who works for the New York Times among others. An unforgettable cultural and artistic moment!
    2. Take a break in a café to taste the succulent Rwandan coffee, a tea, or even a milkshake. We recommend KG Craft coffee, for a charming decor, good cuisine and above all a pottery shop where you will find magnificent artisanal cups and tableware.

    3. Go shopping in one of the city’s many art galleries, such as the famous Inema Art Gallery.
    4. . Shopping – Rwandan handicrafts are absolutely stunning, and there is something for everyone! The Caplaki Craft Village craft market offers an impressive choice, in an orderly and pleasant setting.
    5. . Try local food. If Kigali has become very international in terms of restaurants, we advise you not to leave the city without tasting the local specialties. Go for a buffet to taste several things, such as the Afrika Bite restaurant which offers a buffet for lunch. You can also savor the local street food: skewers (usually goat or beef) and grilled potatoes
    6. Take a trip to the Kimironko market, where just about everything is sold!
    7. Take a tour of the city in a motorcycle taxi, this mode of transport widely used by locals. The rides are pleasant, since the traffic rules are respected and the traffic is moderate. It also allows you to observe different neighborhoods, see how the locals live, etc. without getting too tired.

  

8. Ruhondo

Go off the beaten path to Ruhondo. Most people who visit Rwanda dont even know this place exists.

Located in the Northwest part of the country and more particularly Lake Ruhondo. Since it is located next to Lake Bulera, the two lakes are often referred to as the “twin lakes” of Rwanda.

We stayed at the Ruhondo Beach Resort, which we highly recommend! The hotel has direct access to the lake and a huge green/relaxation area. It offers some rooms and also tents, for a total immersion in the nature. Very quiet, the beautiful place is perfect for relaxation. Activities like swimming, canoeing, boat tripping or bird watching can also easily be organised. Whatever your choice, you will certainly be as charmed as we are by Lake Ruhondo, thanks to the beauty of the landscapes, with the Virunga volcanoes in the background.

Usually not crowded and not on the itinerary of most tourists, Ruhondo gave us the impression of being alone in the world on a little piece of paradise, surrounded by crystal clear water, green hills and volcanoes. Quite magic! The calm of the place and the comfort of the tents offered us a great moment of relaxation and some precious rest. Special mention for the resort’s excellent breakfast, served by the lake with a breathtaking view and gentle sunshine. Once night falls (around 6 p.m.), you can warm up by the fire – with a beer and grilled fish for us, just to end the day as perfectly as it started.

How to get to Ruhondo? To get to our destination, it took us about 3 hours by road from Kigali – which we did by car but can be done by bus – and 10 minutes by boat (taken from Ruhondo pier).

9. Mount Bisoke

Hike Mount Bisoke (or Visoke) volcano. Culminating at 3,711 meters above sea level, the summit of the volcano has a crater lake with a diameter of about 400 meters. The last eruption of the volcano was in 1957. A hike to the top can be done in a few hours, so this is a day trip.

The adventure starts with a meeting between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters, located about thirty minutes from Musanze (easily accessible by car or even by motorbike). After a rapid COVID test and the registration formalities to obtain our hiking permit (which costs 70 USD), we receive a succulent welcome coffee and a briefing from our guide. Today, only one other traveler will join us. We leave the headquarters at 8 am, for the start of the hike, at the foot of the volcano. The trip to get there is done with your own vehicle, and the guide comes with you. Armed with our walking stick, we start the hike around 8:30 am! The starting point is around 2,700 meters above sea level. So, we have a 1,000-meter climb ahead of us.

The walk begins with a climb of a good thirty minutes out of the forest – a perfect warm-up. At the entrance to the forest, we meet some armed soldiers who will join us for the rest of the trek, to ensure our safety; it is not impossible to come across a gorilla, a buffalo or even a forest elephant. The ascent continues, a little steeper and on fairly muddy terrain – even if it is dry season. Yet affordable, the hike is a great challenge! The vegetation is lush and changing as we climb. We felt in another world, alone, and more than ever connected to nature. A real moment of happiness, despite the sometimes intense effort. 2h30 later, we reach the top! There is a lot of fog, so unfortunately, we will not see the crater lake. But that does not detract from the amazing experience and the beauty of the landscapes. After a short break of 10 minutes (it’s really not warm here), we begin the descent, which will take us about 1h30. The rain started, making the path even muddier than it already was. The return is also a challenge, but the views of the opposite mountains and the valley are definitely worth it! 4 hours later, we are back in our car, proud of ourselves and captivated by the beauty of the landscapes and the mystical side of the volcano.

How to get to Mount Bisoke ?

From Kigali, buses leave every 30 minutes from the bus station. We recommend the Ritco company, which offers comfortable and generally direct buses. The duration is about 2h30, at a cost of around 2 USD.

Those travelling from Uganda can take a bus to Cyanika and then a small taxi to Mount Bisoke.

How long is Mount Bisoke Hike ?

On average, it takes around 6 hours to complete the circuit. While some do it all in 3 hours, others can take up to 9 hours. This of course depends on the physical condition and the pace of the group, but also on the weather conditions. The path being very earthy and steep, the rains can really complicate your ascent… For this reason, we recommend that you climb Mount Bisoke during dry season (from June to the end of August and from December to mid-March).

What does the $70 permit cost include?

If the cost may seem high at first glance, you should not forget that it is a protected area, and that the profits generated by the permits are therefore largely allocated to the protection and maintenance of the area. Also, 10% of the profits are directly donated to the local communities, who therefore benefit directly from the tourist flow. Also, to ensure your safety (against wild animals in particular), you will hike with about 5 soldiers, in addition to your guide who will accompany you throughout the walk. Finally, you can hire a porter to support you in case of difficulty (for an additional cost of 10 USD).

What to park for Mount Bisoke Hike

Of course, good hiking shoes (ideally high). Comfortable hiking clothes (long pants, preferably long-sleeved t-shirt) and also a warm/waterproof jacket for the summit or in case of rain. A walking stick will be lent to you (free of charge). Take enough water (1.5 to 2 liters) and some snacks (banana, nuts, energy bars, etc.). Don’t forget your camera or smartphone, and maybe sunglasses and sunscreen.

What to do in Musanze besides Bisoke

Not a hiking fan? Don’t worry, Musanze offers many other activities! From here, you can trek the mountain gorillas, visit caves, take a bike ride to observe the beauty of the volcanic chain, go to Ruhondo, Burera or Karago lakes, etc.

 

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10. Kibuye

After the sportive hike in Musanze, we head for Kibuye where a few days of relaxation await us.

Located on the edge of Lake Kivu, which is shared between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the small town of Kibuye is relatively unfrequented by tourists. It is more of a popular destination for locals, who escape from Kigali for weekend trips. Even if quite unpopular, Kibuye is simply magical! It feels so good there, the climate is ideal, the landscapes breathtaking, the views of Lake Kivu impressive and the activities numerous.

Since tourism is not very developed here, the offer in terms of hotels and restaurants is not very extensive. We stayed at Rwiza Village, which we recommend 200%! Mid-range, this hotel is made up of small, simple but very comfortable cottages with a breathtaking view of the garden and Lake Kivu. You will also have direct and private access to the lake, with a small pier from which you can watch the fishermen, swim, read, or just relax. The place will offer you a unique haven of peace, ideal for resting after some adventures.

In Kibuye, you can find activities for all tastes! Hike or bike the famous Congo Trail, boat tour, kayaking, bird watching, fishing, etc. For our part, we opted for a boat trip of about 3 hours. Our guide first took us to Napoleon Island (taken its name of its shape, remanding Napoleon’s hat), for a short hike to the top – much lighter than Bisoke, don’t panic. From there, a breathtaking 360° view of Kibuye, Lake Kivue and the surrounding islands. The landscape is truly magnificent; it is somewhat reminding us of Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. Next, we head to Monkey Island, where we saw vervet monkeys. On the way back, we observed that the lake water had slightly changed color, from blue to emerald green. Back on dry land, we had lunch break with a breathtaking view of the lake and a good grilled fish. The afternoon was devoted to relaxation at our hotel, a short swim and a magnificent sunset.

How to get to Kibuye

From Musanze, we took a bus from Musanze bus station to Gysenyi (town bordering Congo). The trip takes about 2 hours, costing less than 2 USD. In Gysenyi, we took a minibus for Kibuye (2.5 USD). Multiple stops and 3 hours later, we arrived in this beautiful little town. The journey was well worth it!

For our return to Kigali, we took a bus from the Karongi station (Karongi bus park) to Kigali. The trip takes about 4 hours, for 2.8 USD. From Kibuye, you can also go to Rusizi by bus, close to Nyungwe National Park.

Of course, Kibuye can also be reached directly from Kigali (bus station), with bus companies such as Ritco or Virunga.