Cultural Tours in Rwanda

Rwanda is home to three different ethnic groups which include the Tutsi who were originally pastoralists, the Hutu who were predominantly the cultivators of land and the Twa, also known as the African pygmies and hunter-gatherers.

Cultural Tours in Rwanda : Aside from being a popular East African destination for luxury gorilla trekking safaris, Rwanda also offers enthralling cultural tours. Rwanda is a country of great diversity rich in not only adventure, wildlife, hiking, and gorilla tours, among others, but also fascinating cultural tours. Rwanda’s culture is not as diverse as other countries especially her neighbors like Uganda and DR Congo; nonetheless, the country’s culture is so unique and worth exploring. Rwanda is home to three different ethnic groups which include the Tutsi who were originally pastoralists, the Hutu who were predominantly the cultivators of land and the Twa, also known as the African pygmies and hunter-gatherers.

In the past, before the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, these groups were often compared against each other based on their looks, traditions, and lifestyles, and numerous differences were created by colonial governments that turned these groups against each other: thus the result of the Genocide. However, it is clear that these groups are the same and are related in a wide variety of ways. From the beginning of time, cultural norms, traditions, and practices have often been passed on from generation to generation through traditional stories, ceremonies, languages, dressing styles, and kingdoms; though these were abolished.

Cultural Tours in Rwanda

More so, the emergency of Western culture and intermarriages has greatly affected Rwanda’s culture since most of the Rwandese now live a mixed lifestyle.  However, the Rwandan government has outdone itself to ensure that Rwanda’s cultural heritage is preserved. With additional efforts from private entities and individuals, a variety of cultural and historical sites have been established in Rwanda to uphold the cultural values of the people.  

On Cultural Tours in Rwanda , immerse yourself in Rwanda’s cultural authenticity as you explore various traditional villages to interact with the Rwandese natives while learning about their customs and beliefs. Visit several museums and cultural sites to have a glimpse of Rwanda’s incredible history, cultural heritage, and art. Here are Rwanda’s best cultural sites and attractions that a worth a visit while on Cultural Tours in Rwanda;

Kigali Genocide Memorial

Commemorating the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial is no doubt the most attractive cultural and historical site in Rwanda. The site was instated in 2004 in Gishozi, about a 10-minute drive from Kigali City Center to remember every individual that lost their life during this dark period. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for the 250,000 people that died during the Rwandan Genocide. The site is operated by AEGIS, a UK-based non-governmental organization dedicated to preventing genocides across the globe.

The museum features three distinctive areas: one is dedicated to the memory of the children that died during the genocide, another one is in memory of the adults, and the third one is dedicated to the memory of other genocides that occurred across the globe. A range of exhibit areas, including room for survivors’ skulls and personal possessions, images of survivors, reconciliation attempts, and genocide perpetrators can are all portrayed here. Visitors to the museum will get to learn and understand everything they need to know about the genocide and the impact it made. Moreover, the Museum also focuses on demonstrating that this is a global issue that should never be repeated. Outside the structure, there is a park and other mass graves where survivors and those who have lost loved ones can gather to “re-connect.”

The Iby’iwacu Cultural Village

This village is also another popular cultural site in Rwanda and with its proximity to where tourists can spot mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, the site makes it a must-visit location in Rwanda. Designed to offer plenty of fascinating activities while at the same time interacting with the locals and immersing in local culture. Found by a former warden in the Volcanoes National Park, the cultural site was aimed at improving the livelihoods of former poachers by offering employment to them. In addition, the warden wanted a cultural site where tourists would enjoy and understand the culture of the natives.

While at the cultural center, tourists are taken to visit local homesteads where they will get to interact and share with the different communities. Among these is the Gorilla Guardians Village, the best place in Rwanda to immerse in the Kinyarwanda cultural heritage. Travelers are allowed to enter the locals’ traditional grass-thatched homes and learn about their lifestyles, ancient stories of Rwanda and her history, and also learn how to prepare traditional Rwandese meals. Many traditional practices such as grinding millet on stone, dressing like a king or queen, traditional dances, and songs will also be portrayed. For instance, visitors are welcomed to the village with loud drumming at the main gate to show hospitality. 

Rwanda Cultural Festivals

The people of Rwanda tend to be great celebrants of culture and heritage and as a result, the country features several festivals that help connect the Rwandese people; these festivals occur at specific times of the year. Umuganda is one of the popular Rwandese festivals, where citizens are required to clean their city. On every last Saturday of the month, all citizens, including residents engage in cleaning the streets of Kigali from morning to midnight. On this day, all movements are restricted and offices closed as Rwandese will be cleaning their gorgeous city and tourists are also welcome to join in. It is truly a gratifying experience.

The “Kwita Izina” festival is also another fascinating festival in Rwanda and very travelers are such fans of this festival. Operated in the Volcanoes National Park, the Kwita Izina festival involves naming newly born mountain gorillas. Every year in October, a group of tourists, celebrities, politicians, environmentalists, and sometimes the president attend this adventurous and amazing experience of giving names to gorillas. Another popular festival in Rwanda is the “Ukwibuka” festival: this festival is not just celebrated in Rwanda but everywhere else around the world.  Every year in April, the Rwandese come together to remember all those that died in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Tourists can visit the Rwandese Embassy and get all information on how to engage. Other festivals in Rwanda include the Rwanda Fashion Week, Rwanda Cultural Fashion Week, Kigali Film Festival, etc. 

Cultural Tours in Rwanda
Bugesera Reconciliation Village

Following the prolonged differences and hatred between the Tutsis and Hutus, even after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the government of Rwanda came up with an idea to help bring the Rwandese people together, reconcile, and unify. As a result, the government created the Bugesera Reconciliation. People still holding grudges against others would come to the village, reconcile and forgive earth other. And even today, people still come to the village to settle their grudges and hatred for each other. Moreover, this is the best place for tourists to interact with some of the people that experienced the genocide firsthand and understand what happened. If you want to learn the power of reconciliation, Bugesera Reconciliation Village is the place to go.

The Ethnographic Museum

Located in Rwanda’s Butera, this museum features one of Africa’s best ethnographic collections. Managed by the Institution of National Museums of Rwanda, this museum was established in the late 1980s as a gift from the king of Belgium at the time – King Badouin, and was formally known as the National Museum of Rwanda. The Ethnographic Museum features seven galleries that display the historical, artistic, archeological, and ethnographic artifacts of Rwanda. Tourists to the Museum are captivated by the several exhibitions of visual aids of geographical and geological displays that give a rich perception of Rwanda’s heritage.

Several items for hunting, woodwork, agriculture, weaving, pottery, and animal husbandry are all displayed at the Ethnographic Museum. All Rwandan traditional components including architectural methods, traditional dressing, customs, beliefs, history, poetry, and cosmology are all portrayed here.   

Cultural Tours in Rwanda
The King’s Palace in Nyanza

Nyanza is a town located in the Nyanza district in southern Rwanda and is the capital of the southern province of Rwanda. Nyanza was formerly the Rwanda Kingdom’s capital from 1958 to 1962. During colonial times, Rwanda was a kingdom and had one cultural leader, the king. However, the kingdom was later demolished with the last king going into exile. Towards the end of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, there was an altercation between the Rwanda Patriotic Front and the Rwandan Armed Forces at Nyanza that lasted many days, leaving the town in shambles.

Later, the new government then turned the palace into a museum, establishing new structures and traditional artifacts, including the “Inyambo.” This refers to the long-horned cattle that were owned by Rwandese kings: the cattle portrayed the kingdom’s pride and the kings used to win thousands of them. The Inyambo can still be seen in many regions of Rwanda. While at the palace, visitors on Rwanda cultural tours may visit the palace milk house, the royal brewers’ hut, and the burial grounds for the royal family.

Kitabi Cultural Center 

Located at the main gate of Nyungwe Forest National Park, Kitabi Cultural Center is the ideal spot to enjoy a Rwanda cultural tour, especially for tourists on chimpanzee trekking safaris in Nyungwe. Moreover, Kitabi’s proximity to the park makes it a perfect spot for tourists to also enjoy bird watching, sightseeing, hiking, cycling, and nature walks among other tourist activities. Kitabi Cultural Center was built by the last king of Rwanda and during the cultural tour visitors are given a tour through several huts and the king’s palace, to explore how the kingdom was structured.

At the entrance, visitors are welcomed by guards dressed traditionally and taken through the park to Kitabi Cultural Village. Immerse yourself in numerous traditional practices including extraction of herbs, honey, and traditional cooking styles.

Banda Cultural Village

Also located inside Nyugwe Forest National Park, Banda Village is another worthwhile cultural village in Rwanda. The village lies close to the park headquarters in Uwinka and besides being ideal for chimpanzee trekking trips, the village is also the epicenter for Nyungwe Forest Canopy Walks. Along with an expert guide, visitors spend the day engaging with the people of Banda village and learning how they live. Take time to enjoy their traditional food delicacies, explore their homesteads, and share personal moments with them. Moreover, on arrival at Banda Village, visitors are welcomed by captivating performances from the local Intore dancers: this is one of the highlights of Rwanda cultural tours.

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