5 Best Places to Visit in Rwanda
Rwanda might be one of Africa’s smallest nations, but it is proudly home to an abundance of excellent wildlife diversity. Its modest size means that getting between places of interest is relatively quick and simple, which is just as well given the vast array of spectacular places to visit in Rwanda. Despite the country’s small size, Rwanda’s breath-taking environment and kind, welcoming people provide one-of-a-kind experiences. With incredible species inhabiting its volcanoes, highland rainforests, and wide plains, you will be sure to encounter many endemic animals on safari tours in Rwanda.
Rwanda is 1.5 times the size of South Africa’s Kruger National Park and almost all points of interest are about a 4-hour drive from Kigali. You can expect to hike with endangered mountain gorillas, climb to the tops of towering volcanoes, and relax by the enchanting and timeless Lake Kivu. You may find some Rwanda tourist attractions that can help you better plan your dream itinerary to this remarkable East African country.
1. Kigali: Gateway to the Gorillas
The capital city of Kigali is the country’s entry and exit point for prime gorilla trekking in Rwanda. You will fly in from East Africa’s logistics hubs such as Entebbe or Nairobi and, depending on your itinerary, will either transfer straight to the Volcanoes National Park or overnight in this compact and safe city for immersive and captivating Kigali tours and safaris on offer. Your other option is to fly direct from Johannesburg in South Africa, which means it is easy to add a gorilla trek onto a Kruger, Cape Town or Victoria Falls holiday. There are also regular connections from Lusaka in Zambia; perfect for if you have been visiting the Lower Zambezi or on a walking safari in South Luangwa National Park.
Kigali is both safe and clean, as once a month residents undertake ‘Umuganda Day’ when they engage in compulsory cleaning of all aspects of the city. It is taken seriously, and Rwandans are justifiably proud of their capital. As a means of combatting litter and pollution, all forms of plastic bags are prohibited in the country. A full day in Kigali (i.e. two nights) will allow you time to visit the Genocide Memorial, which is both moving and inspiring, and to see the ‘old’ and ‘new’ parts of the capital – a notable and rewarding, must-visit tourist attraction in Rwanda.
2. Volcanoes National Park: Gorilla Treks & Bird Watching
Gorilla trekking is Rwanda’s unrivalled main attraction, and the Volcanoes National Park is where to stay in Rwanda to do it. Its mountainous terrain and dense forests make for tough walking conditions, but the rewards are matchless: butterflies, birds and primates, headlined of course by families of habituated mountain gorillas. If you’re aiming to seek out one of these majestic creatures, we recommend visiting over the dry months – the best time to see gorillas in Rwanda.
Volcanoes National Park is the site of primatologist Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Station, where she led a team to study gorillas in the wild. You can undertake about a 2-hour hike to her tomb, which is – like so much in Rwanda – both moving and inspiring, or discover more about the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The hike is considered one of the best, most intimate tours in Rwanda, and offers a great opportunity to look out for primates, hogs, forest elephants and a plethora of bird species. There are a few troops of habituated golden monkeys, whose antics are great fun to watch. Golden monkeys are endangered, and permits are required for trekking.
It is always worth understanding more about the indigenous culture of the area you are visiting. If you’re wondering where to go in Rwanda, take a guided community walk to Iby’Iwacu village where you can experience traditional dancing, discover beer brewed from bananas, and visit a local healer.
3. Nyungwe Forest National Park: Chimps, Primates & Birds
Protecting the largest single tract of montane forest in both East and Central Africa, Nyungwe Forest National Park is the best reason you need to further explore Rwanda after your memorable bout of gorilla trekking in Rwanda. One of the oldest rainforests in Africa, Nyungwe is home to an abundance of birds, rare butterflies and beautiful orchids.
However, the stars of the show are the 13 species of primate – including chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkey, owl-faced monkey, and the black and white colobus – that make the park their playground. In addition to excellent hiking trails and spectacular vistas, the forest canopy walk is an excellent way of spotting blue monkeys living in the treetops. Regardless of whether you’re after an immersive stay in magical scenery, or have been dreaming of spotting a chimp, Nyungwe is where to stay in Rwanda for an all encompassing African experience.
4. Akagera National Park: Savannah Game Viewing
Located in low lying eastern Rwanda, Akagera is where the tropical forests of Central Africa give way to the dry savannahs of East Africa. An appealing mix of wetlands and rolling wooded grasslands, Akagera National Park is where to stay in Rwanda for the chance to spot classic African animals including elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, leopard and many antelope species. This is a relatively small park and is roughly a 3-hour drive from Kigali. In addition to guided Big 5 game drives, Akagera also offers private boat trips, sunset cruises, and night drives – activities to enjoy the most prominent wildlife-rich Rwanda destinations.
5. Lake Kivu
Located on the western border of Rwanda, Lake Kivu is a massive expanse of water ringed by verdant hills that offer excellent hiking, chimp trekking, bird watching and canopy walks. Lake Kivu has also become a benchmark for the unparalleled scenery you will encounter at the top Rwanda tourist attractions. Here you will stay at Gisenyi, a small town on the northern shore from which you can go kayaking or boating. Kivu is a tranquil place to get over jetlag from a long-haul flight or to relax after the rigours of gorilla trekking and the many other incredible tours in Rwanda.