Travel & Tourism
Rwanda offers a surprising variety of stunning sights: the low rolling green mountains in the center of the country have lent Rwanda the nickname “land of a thousand hills,” and roads radiating out from the capital of Kigali lead in just a few hours to widely differing experiences.
While most of what the international public knows of Rwanda is reflective of the country’s darker days, Rwanda has made significant progress and achieved a political and societal cohesion that required a great deal of work, effort, and heart. Come and explore “the land of a thousand hills,” and experience Rwanda’s fascinating culture, history, and scenery.
What to Do in Rwanda
1. Volcano National Park: Only in Rwanda can you combine two awesome activities: gorilla trekking and volcano exploration. Six volcanoes, located in the Virunga valley, are situated amid sites where the country’s famous mountain gorillas live and thrive.
2. Kigali: This vibrant commercial center, the country’s capital, offers plenty in the way of open-air markets, walking tours, and history-focused museums and memorials. Plan to spend at least two days exploring this rising metropolis.
3. Rwanda’s Lakes: Have a magnificent beach day and visit Lake Kivu, the largest freshwater lake in Rwanda. Enjoy water sports, local fun, and even a boat ride along the western shoreline via the towns of either Kibuye or Gisenyi.
4. Primate Tour: The forests of Rwanda provide plenty of opportunities for animal investigation. We highly recommend finding a guide to take you around, as maps are not always readily available or accurate.
5. National Museum: Showcasing important historical and cultural landmarks of the country, this museum, located in the southern town of Butare (now called “Huye”), also offers live traditional music.
6. Akagera National Park: This National Park is located in the Northeastern part of Rwanda at the border with Tanzania. It covers an area of about 1,122 square kilometers. It is located around 135 km from Kigali town (2 hours 30 minutes away). The fascinating attractions that are worth visiting in this park include a network of lakes including Lake Ihema.
7. Nyungwe forest National Park: Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in South-western edge of Rwanda, bordered by Burundi in the South and DRC in the West and covers a total area of 1020 square kilometers. It was established in 2004 to diversify Rwanda’s tourism from over relying on gorilla tourism.
8. Genocide Sites: Following the 1994 Rwandan genocide whereby over 800,000 Rwandan people lost their dear lives, some specific sites were used as their resting places to commemorate the 100 days of trauma. Currently eight (8) Genocide Memorial Sites exist in Rwanda for this cause.
9. Iby’iwacu cultural village: This cultural village is located in Musanze district around Volcanoes National Park. Iby’iwacu is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “Treasure of our home” the cultural village exhibits cultural practices of the three tribes of Rwanda that is Hutu, Tutsi and the Batwa.
10. The Congo-Nile Trail: One of the most impressive ways to experience Rwanda is through hiking. The Congo-Nile Trail is a famous passage that winds alongside the country’s most famous stretch of crystal water, Lake Kivu, and offers participants dramatic vistas, thick vegetation and of course, the rolling hills from which Rwanda earns its affectionate nickname.
When to Go
The weather in Rwanda is fairly stable all year long, with the exception of the upper slopes, which tend to be cooler. The temperature is usually around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius) during the day and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius) by night.
While the sun can be quite strong during Rwanda’s dry seasons due to high altitude, the rainy seasons (roughly April through May and October through December) offer some welcome and cool relief for those who do not mind waiting out a brief downpour every day or two. The best time for gorilla trekking is between July and September, when the land tends to be dryer.
Getting In and Around
Visas: American citizens are not required to have visas to enter Rwanda if they are staying for under 90 days. For country-specific visa requirements, we recommend you check with your local embassy.
Transportation: International flights fly into Kigali International Airport. Travel around Rwanda is actually much easier than in other East African countries, and the country has some of the best roads in East Africa as well. Local and luxury bus services are accessible, although some people still opt for private-hire cars and taxis. Public transportation is definitely an option.
Mobile Phones: Rwanda has a very strong communications network, and making calls internationally is quite easy. You can either take a GSM phone or purchase a SIM card or a cell phone at most places in Kigali.
Safety and Security
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Rwanda? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Rwanda:
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Rwanda, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Rwanda.
1. Kinyarwanda is the official language of Rwanda. While English is prevalent in official settings, French is slowly losing popularity. That being said, there are still a number of people that speak French, so if you know a few phrases, it will help during your travels.
2. If you are planning to go on a gorilla trek, pack clothes to protect you from stinging nettles and forest critters.