Things to do in Rwanda, Top tourist attractions in Rwanda, Best Things to do in Rwanda
January 28, 2022
Top Things to do in Rwanda, Best Safari Destinations & Activities in Rwanda.
Rwanda is a small country in East Africa, nestled between Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda sits on 10,169 square miles with more than 12 million inhabitants. When it comes to things to do in Rwanda, There is more than its dark horrific crimes committed in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide a sad event that has left deep marks in society and is a top activity nearly for every tourist visiting Rwanda. The country has made an impressive amount of progress in recent decades, becoming a Safe, peaceful, welcoming and blossoming destination with very good infrastructure with plenty to do on a Rwanda Safari Tour. The tropical green Country filled with seemingly endless hilly terrain earned it the description of the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. Rwanda is diverse when it comes to landscape and nature with volcanic mountains, savanna plains, rainforests, thus an eye-catcher to Nature lovers who can go on a Wildlife safari in Akagera National Park, A Canopy Walk and get a bird’s eye view of Nyungwe Forest one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, a once in a Lifetime Gorilla Trekking experience in Rwanda’s rich Rain Forest landscape the Volcanoes National Park. It lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. It is the most popular park in Rwanda and is the oldest national park in all of Africa, dominated by the 8 Virunga volcanoes. This is the habitat of the most endangered but incredible animals on the planet the mountain gorillas and the golden monkeys. Here you can also hike to the grave of Diane Fossey, who studied and protected gorillas for 18 years. Unpack the warm culture by checking out the fascinating exhibits on traditional customs and beliefs at Rwanda’s Ethnographic Museum. Don’t miss the royal cows and the singers who croon to them at the King’s Palace Museum, Unwind and relax at the Lake Kivu. These and Many More Activities Make Rwanda a perfect and interesting destination to travel to with some of the friendliest people of all. You can make the most of your experience with a list of top attractions and things to do on your Rwanda Safaris Tour.
1. Gorilla trekking experience in Volcanoes National Park
A once in a lifetime experience that captivates travellers from around the World. Gorilla trekking is the number one thing to do in Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park, a mystique of getting up close to creatures who share 99 percent of our DNA thus our closest relatives! Rwanda has made serious strides in conservation to protect the animals. With about 1000 mountain Gorillas left in the entire world, Experts estimate that there are about 700 gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, a significant increase from around 240-250 individuals in 1981. There are only three places where the Mountain Gorillas can be found and Rwanda is one of them. Sharing a border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda is Home to the Growing Number of critically endangered species boosting 18 habituated Mountain gorilla families all of which are found in Volcanoes National Park. Each trekking group can only have a maximum of 8 people who need to obtain one of the limited numbers of daily trekking Gorilla Permits for $1,500. While really expensive, it is one of those lifetime opportunities you can’t afford to miss out on when in this part of the world. Guides from the national park service will eventually lead you to one of the habituated gorilla Families, This trekking experience typically lasts between four and eight hours, most of which is spent hiking through the stunning scenery of the mystical bamboo forests, wild meadows, and swampy areas with only one hour spent observing the creatures as they eat, care for their babies, and interact with one another after sighting. Participating in Mountain Gorilla Trekking would crown your ultimate experience and the chance to see these gentle giants. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is largely considered a safe activity. The gorillas are mostly apathetic to their human visitors. Armed guides, who use clicking sounds to communicate with the gorillas, keep guests safe from potential dangers, making the experience one that you’ll never forget. Porters are available at the base of the trails in Volcanoes National Park. It’s worth hiring one for the day as they will carry your bags and help you avoid slipping down the muddy paths. If you Want to learn more about mountain gorillas, After your trekking adventure, head to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Karisoke Research Center in the nearby town of Musanze. It contains a small, yet robust museum all about mountain gorillas and the work of conservationist Dian Fossey, who worked tirelessly to safeguard the gorillas from extinction and whose efforts to protect gorillas were made famous by the 1988 drama, Gorillas in the Mist. There are still only around 700 of these animals in the park, which is also home to Dian Fossey’s grave. The easiest way to do the Gorilla trekking is through a reputable tour operator, who can also arrange transportation from Kigali to the park headquarters.
2. Immerse yourself in a Rwandan culture at Gorilla Guardians Village
Volcanoes National Park isn’t just a place to see gorillas. It is also a prime spot to immerse yourself in Rwandan culture at Gorilla Guardians Village which is Run by reformed poachers, the non-profit cultural village gives tourists the chance to try their hand at Rwanda’s most famous crafts and activities. You’ll learn how to carry a basket on your head like the Rwandan women do, weave your own baskets, shoot an arrow, and grind grains with a heavy grinding stone. The enthusiastic guides make the entire experience feel like a big party. It’s worth sticking around for the intore dance recitals at Gorilla Guardians Village. The traditional dancers, decked out with long straw wigs and skirts, put on an exciting show to the beat of rhythmic drumming. You’ll be up and dancing with them before you know it.
3. Chimpanzee tracking and Hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the oldest and most important forest conservation areas in all of Africa. The Park is the largest remaining afro-montane rainforest in East and Central Africa. The Forest contains a spectacular array of biodiversity, including 1,068 plant species, 120 butterfly species, 100 different orchids, 322 species of birds, 32 amphibians, 38 reptiles, 86 mammals and 13 Primate Species. Most tourists come to this rainforest to track chimpanzees, which have been habituated to humans by park rangers. However hanging out with the Primates isn’t the only thing to do, the park is also home to the only canopy walk in East Africa, The Canopy Tour is roughly a 90-minute hike from the Uwinka Visitor Center. You will walk across a 91-meter-long suspension bridge dangling more than 50 meters above the verdant rainforest, getting a dizzying bird’s eye view of the treetops and mountains in the distance. Nyungwe Forest is also ideal for hiking, Walk along one of the Park’s 15 hiking trails that’s over 130 Km of Trails for an invigorating Adventure, A Hike to the Isumo Trail takes you through a beautiful 5-hour hike where you pass tea plantations traversing through the ancient and stunning rainforest, waterfalls and local villages also get to enjoy bird Watching. A reasonable level of Fitness to tackle most of the trials is required.
4. Wildlife Safari in Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park Rwanda’s only Savannah national park is a must-see while on safari in Rwanda. It sits on a whole 1,140-square-kilometer expanse and is located two and a half hours drive away from Kigali City and close to Rwanda’s border with Tanzania. Akagera National Park is managed by the African Parks Organization, its biodiversity has made an incredible recovery from near decimation after the Rwandan genocide making it a safari paradise one of Central Africa’s largest protected wetlands. The Park has a great diversity of landscape and vegetation such as swamps, lakes, savannah plains mountain scenery, lakes, golden savannas and many grasslands and is nestled amidst neatly terraced hills. From day and night game safari drives and birding to fishing at Lake Shakani and boat Safari rides on Lake Ihema you will not run out of activity while at this park. It is home to several birds, mammals, insects, amphibians etc. and was recently restocked with Rhinos and Lions making the Big 5 list complete. However you will need to have a lot of luck to spot a lion or rhino as conservationists are still working on boosting their populations, and for now, there aren’t that many at Akagera National Park. A big five classification is what makes a safari legit. During a Game drive safari, you will have no trouble spotting Cape buffalo, Hyenas, Zebras, antelopes, hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants, Baboons, giraffes you may also encounter the African leopard and hundreds of bird species. The north of the Akagera National park can only be visited in the dry months of the year, June to August and December to February.
5. A city tour of Kigali Rwanda’s Capital
Kigali is a vibrant, tidy, green African city with an impressive skyline with office buildings, shopping malls, luxury hotels and is the cleanest city in Africa encircled by hills and filled with friendly people. The fight against pollution and (plastic) waste is a top priority for the government. Kigali has been the capital since 1962 when Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium. The majority of people visiting Rwanda spend only a night in Kigali before taking on a gorilla trekking safari, missing out on the vibrant culture, cuisine, and sightseeing on a city tour of Kigali Rwanda’s capital. Plan to spend at least a few days here at the beginning or end of your trip to enjoy what the city has to offer like the Vibrant culture and creative scene that can be enjoyed at the Inema Art Centre a gallery that showcases the works of up to 10 local artists in residence, Niyo Art Gallery, the Ivuka Art Centre, stock up on souvenirs at the Caplaki Craft Market, the Nyamirambo neighbourhood that teems with crafts and art. Stock up on bespoke clothes from swirling patterned textiles and experience the energetic atmosphere at Kimironko Market, Kigali’s largest marketplace. The warehouse space is like a maze, with surprises around every corner. Make your way to the Rwanda Art Museum at the former Presidential Palace that displays some of the finest contemporary pieces from Rwanda and nearby regions. You can also see debris from the presidential aircraft that crashed in 1994, Belgium camp and perhaps visit a home to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Those who want to dive into Rwandan history should definitely visit the Genocide Museum. While heartbreaking, visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial is an important part of being a responsible tourist in Rwanda. Give yourself time to contemplate the experience and have a moment of silence for the 250,000 victims interred at this site at the memorial’s Gardens of Reflection. The haunting museum dives into the timeline that led to the 1994 genocide, bringing the horrors to life through halls of photographs, artefacts, and information. The main exhibit hall wraps around poignant sculptures and features stained-glass windows that cast a hopeful glow on the space. When you are ready to refuel, savour an authentic Rwandan cup of joe at Question Coffee Cafe. Check out the cafe’s specials menu to see what experimental caffeinated concoctions the baristas have recently come up with. They are known to infuse some coffee beverages with unexpected local ingredients, like tree tomato. Finally, wind down with a succulent meal at one of Kigali’s great restaurants Le Panorama Restaurant at Hotel des Mille Collines as you enjoy dazzling views of the city, along with a diverse menu of local and international favourites. For an even more romantic setting, head to Fusion Restaurant’s al fresco dining room at The Retreat by Heaven Boutique hotel. It overlooks a twinkling pool and serves up homemade kinds of pasta, flavorful starters, and fresh seafood.
6. Mountain Biking
Rwanda with its ‘a thousand hills’ offers the perfect trails for mountain biking. You have an opportunity to explore and enjoy the sights of Rwanda on your cycle seat. There are trained guides and bicycle mechanics specifically for tourists exploring Rwanda through Mountain biking. Even with the guides in place, there are clear signposts and secure camping sites where you can unwind along the cycling trails. There are bicycles for hire just in case you did not travel with your own.
- A tour to the King’s Palace Museum
The King’s Palace Museum is found in the southern province of Rwanda in Nyanza District. Rwanda’s cultural history was an organised Society under Kingdoms. There are 2 ‘palaces’ one built by King Musinga Yuhi V and another constructed under King Rudahigwa Mutara III’s reign. explore the colonial-style home that was once the royal residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa in the mid-20th century. The interior design is particularly striking, blending Rwandan patterns with European-style furniture some of which was owned by the king. The star attraction at the museum is one of Rwanda’s eight national museums are the inyambo (sacred cows) and their staggeringly large horns. Throughout the day, traditional singers lull the cows into a mellow state by belting poems a ritual that’s unique to Rwanda. The museum itself showcases a replica of a king’s palace from the 15th century with a thatched roof, royal hut, and fresh milk hut traditionally run by an unmarried woman. These 2 shelter artefacts have been revamped to form the present-day King’s Palace Museum.
8. Rwanda Birding Safari
Rwanda bird watching Safaris can be done anywhere and any time of the year. The diversity in the country’s vegetation creates a habitat for birds almost everywhere. There are Albertine Rift Endemics, the Rwenzori and Virunga Endemics and many other species to make up the total number of 650 bird species in Rwanda. For one setting out on a birding safari, the parks such as Nyungwe National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park, marshlands, wetlands and agricultural lands are some of the places to visit for the best birding experience in Rwanda.
9. Hiking, Climbing and Visiting Local Villages in Rwanda
Rwanda’s epic scenery, pleasant climate and magnificent wildlife make the ‘land of a thousand Hills’ a remarkable place to explore on foot. With its great landscape are some of the best hiking and walking experiences. The shortest hike is to Lake Ngezi, a scenic little lake nestled in a volcanic depression at the foot of Mount Bisoke. It takes about three hours in total and is relatively easygoing, with the possibility of encountering wildlife along the way as well as gaze across to the Congolese forests. For those keen to summit a day hike to explore Mount Bisoke, a crater lake awaits at the top, which lies at 3,700m. This trail takes anything from five hours to a whole day.
The highest peak in Rwanda is Mount Karisimbi, which translates as white shell, referring to the frequently white-capped cloud cover at the summit. At 4,507m it is a strenuous yet rewarding hike, which takes two days, camping along the way. As this is the territory of gorillas, other primates and many bird species, hikers could be blessed with a chance meeting along the way.
Other hikes include Mount Muhubura, a demanding full-day climb up to 4,127m, and the scenic twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. It is possible to reach a viewpoint over the lakes by car, so hikers shouldn’t expect to be alone. For those keen to change it up a bit, it is possible to hire a boat for a scenic lake cruise.
The Buhanga Eco-Park offers more of a wander than a hike but is nevertheless worth considering. Paths crafted from lava stones form an interconnecting network between observation platforms, sometimes running between ancient ficus trees with creepers clinging to their trunks. Rwandan kings of old were crowned in the caves in the Buhanga sacred forest, which translates as creation. Alongside its cultural significance, it is also quite beautiful, with rare orchids and butterflies. All of the above require a permit and a guide. Conversely, Mount Kabuye can be accessed freely, lying out with the Volcanoes National Park to the southeast. It is popular with volunteers working within Rwanda and takes about five hours to reach the top, lying at an altitude of 2,700m.
10. Guided tour to underground Caves, Visit the Bat Cave
Musanze’s strategic location in the foothills of the Virunga Massif is attractive to tourism. Musanze city is a convenient base for gorilla tracking, with Kinigi headquarters 13km away. The Musanze Cave is 2km long and the most frequently visited. The Caves lie in the volcanic region dating back 65 million years, where the lava flows contributed to the Albertine Rift Valley. The cave is part of the lava basaltic layers from the Bisoke and Sabinyo volcanoes. The cave has 31 entrances, most being roof collapses. The main cave has an entrance the size of a cathedral and is home to a sizeable bat colony. The collapses create an incredible array of coloured shafts of light shining into the cave. Musanze Cave has been used as a shelter during wartime for many centuries and was the site of a massacre during the genocide. It continues to hold considerable significance to local people, so visitors are requested to be respectful when exploring. The site is formally protected and access is limited to guided tours, which last two and a half hours. The Busasamana Cave is 1 km long and links to a system of several other caves – the Kanzeze, Mubende and Busasamana sectors, which in turn lead to the Mugongo, the Bwezi and the Kabari caves. There are 52 caves in the Northern Province with 15.2km of cave passages, most of which are developed from Cenozoic volcanic rocks. The longest cave in Rwanda is called Ubuvumo Bwibihonga, a multi-level system of parallel lava tubes. Access to the caves can be arranged at any RDB office, through a tour operator as taking a guide is highly recommended.
11. Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu is shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is one of Africa’s great lakes. The 2,700 square Kilometer emerald green oasis lake is situated at 1460m above sea level. Surrounded by misty mountains, the freshwater Lake Kivu is famous for its boat rides which allow you to enjoy the many small different islands located within it and its stunning clear views of the Congo, which is a bit nerve-wracking considering its reputation for danger! But all is calm and peaceful on the Rwandan side. Enjoy clear views of the Lake from one of the Hotels you choose to spend the night and Enjoy Stunning Sunsets at the Lake especially when the sky and sea melt into one. Chilling on the beach or swimming are hard to resist making Lake Kivu a top activity on things to do in Rwanda for one to relax.
There are also numerous opportunities for kayaking on lake Kivu and the twin lakes in the northern parts of Rwanda. Get even closer to the landscape with a stunning sunset kayak trip with singing fishermen on Lake Kivu, as well as multi-day paddling adventures that will leave you in awe. You can also choose to do boarding or get even closer to the landscape with stunning sunset kayak trips, as well as multi-day paddling adventures that will leave you in awe.
Alongside Lake Kivu, the Congo Nile Trail is popular for both cyclists and hikers, traversing rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests. At 227km from one end to the other, it takes 10 days to complete on foot, although it is possible to do in single sections. The trail is a wonderful way to soak up daily life in traditional villages, tour a historic church, swim and paddle on the lakeshore or sip coffee where it’s made. With twelve coffee-washing stations, three tea plantations, three cities, dozens of villages, and innumerable beaches, caves, waterfalls, valleys and vistas, the winding path of the Congo Nile Trail offers some of the finest hiking to be had anywhere in east and central Africa. Winding its way along the fringes of the lake via the peaks of Rwanda’s green hills, the Congo Nile Trail is as challenging as it is rewarding. With a peak elevation of 2630m, it’s a serious workout to boot.
12. Ethnographic Museum
The Ethnographic Museum houses one of Africa’s finest ethnographic and archaeological collections. It is located about 130 kilometres south of Kigali in Butare in the district of Huye. A gift from Belgium’s King Badouin in the late 1980s in honour of the 25th anniversary of Rwanda’s Independence, The Ethnographic Museum is one of the six museums that make up the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda. The Seven galleries display historical, ethnographic, artistic and archaeological artefacts accompanied by visual aides, giving visitors a rich insight into the Rwandan culture. The exhibits open with geographical and geological displays, moving on to items used in hunting, agriculture, animal husbandry, pottery, weaving and woodwork. Traditional clothing and architectural methods are also illustrated, as well as the social importance of cattle. Descendants of the royal herd can be seen to this day at the King’s Palace in nearby Nyanza. The final room reveals traditional customs and beliefs, history, culture, poetry, oral tradition and cosmology. You will see an impressive collection of woven baskets, traditional garments made from animal hides and woven grass, spears and bows, musical drums from hundreds of years ago, and old farming tools. Step inside an authentic royal home and learn how it was constructed. The museum also hosts live handicraft demonstrations. The Museum opens daily from 8 am to 6 pm and closed on 7th April, and 11 am to 6 pm on Umuganda days (the last Saturday of the month).
13. Gishwati Mukura National Park
Gishwati Mukura National Park is Rwanda’s Fourth and Newest National Park after Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park. The conservation area, gazetted in 2016, the 35km² Gishwati Mukura National Park protects two relict patches of the vast tract of montane rainforest that once covered the Rift Valley escarpment south of Nyungwe Forest. The park is composed of two separate Forests, the larger Gishwati Forest to the north and the smaller Mukura Forest to the south, the former of which suffered huge deforestation following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when refugees began to clear the forest to make way for farms. The much smaller Mukura Forest was officially protected as a wildlife reserve for over half a century prior to its elevation to national park status, but its area was still reduced by almost 50% during this time as a result of illegal mining and the aforementioned refugee crisis. The forests sit on the ridge which divides the Congo and Nile water catchment areas, along the incredibly biodiverse Albertine Rift in the west of the country. It is made up of 60 species of tree, including indigenous hardwoods and bamboo.
Gishwati is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees who live alongside golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s and Blue Monkeys. Birds are well represented too, 232 species have been seen at Gishwati and 163 at Mukura, among them Albertine Rift Endemic species and forest specialists. The park is currently part of an ambitious landscape restoration program. Activities in the park are due to begin and include a guided nature hike, guided chimpanzee and monkey tracking, bird watching and a visit to the waterfalls. Mukura Forest is of particular interest to birdwatchers, with more than 150 recorded species, of which 17 are endemic to the Albertine Rift.
With an average altitude of 2,600m, Mukura is a true montane rainforest a term used to describe forests in mountainous regions in the tropical belt. The area was granted National Park status in 2015. The area was nearly depleted largely due to resettlement, illegal mining in the mineral-rich forest and livestock farming. The formalisation of its National Park status in 2015 aims to help redress the balance, to increase the number of trees to improve soil fertility, stabilise slopes and regulate streamflow.
It will also contribute to improving the livelihoods of the population living in the surrounding areas, which in turn offers the forest a better chance of regeneration in tandem with the potential to raise living standards in the longer term. Community-based activities include a farm stay, a live cultural dance, making handicrafts, beekeeping, a tea plantation tour and the chance to learn from traditional healers, who use natural plants to support modern medicine and synthesized drugs. This great effort put forth by the government of Rwanda to position the country as a leading tourism destination in East and Central Africa continues to grow Rwanda’s tourism sector.
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