Rwanda travel guide

Visiting Rwanda is a bit like doing a triathlon. It’s challenging, exciting, tiring and emotional. It also has three important aspects: people and culture, national parks and gorilla watching. It is most celebrated for its gorilla populations and strictly managed safaris in Volcanoes National Park. However, Rwanda’s other two national parks are also habitat havens. Nyungwe boasts chimps and other primates, and Akagera is a veritable ark.
The last thing you expect to see at Rwanda airport is a sign saying that all plastic bags will be confiscated. They have a countrywide ban. Rwanda is full of surprises.
It is the people, their history and culture that will make your heart skip a beat or two, however. As you find out not only in the beyond moving genocide memorials, but also by immersing yourself in the infectiously life-affirming culture. Dancing in Kigale’s music hotspots or taking a walking tour in its Nyamirambo Muslim quarter. Head out on a night trip with the fishermen of Lake Kivu, listen to their "ekiovu" songs echoing across this mountain enveloped waterscape, and you’ll get a medal if you aren’t moved to tears.
Our Rwanda travel guide has more details.

Rwanda is…

reborn. And you will feel that way too after visiting it.

Rwanda isn’t…

just about gorillas.

Our top Rwanda Vacation

Tailor made safari, gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar

Tailor made safari, gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar

Mountain gorilla trekking, Masai Mara safari and Zanzibar

From £3950 to £6000 11 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Hello. If you'd like to chat about Rwanda or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Rwanda map & highlights

This landlocked East African country is not much bigger than Wales, yet has one of the largest rainforest national parks in Africa, one of its Great Lakes and one of the world’s most prolific populations of mountain gorillas. Despite also having one of the world’s most pioneering and progressive wildlife conservation management systems for gorilla safaris, infrastructure is still lagging behind some other African tourist favourites, but this is part of its beauty. Be sure to get off the tourist trail from time to time. Best way is to hop on one of Kigali’s motorbike taxis and see what the city and nearby mountains have to offer. Coffee, chat and great local cuisine. All accompanied by Rwandans’ infectious charm and charisma.
1. Akagera National Park
2. Genocide memorials
3. Gorilla safaris
4. Kigali
5. Lake Kivu
6. Nyungwe National Park
7. Volcanoes National Park
Akagera National Park

1. Akagera National Park

On the border with Tanzania, this is game drive central although without the crowds of other East African parks. With open savanna on one side, mountains on the other and wetlands in between, the park is habitat heaven for giraffe, zebra, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and impala, with a few shy lions and elephants. The lakes and marshes make for superb bird watching too.
Genocide memorials

2. Genocide memorials

The first or last stop for many visitors is Kigali Genocide Museum and Memorial, en route to or from the airport. Best not make it your first stop though, but take time to absorb the country’s beauty and rebirth first. The Nyamata and Ntarama Genocide Memorials, both under an hour from Kigali, are also must visits, once churches where thousands were massacred during the 1994 genocide when over a million Rwandans were killed.
Gorilla safaris

3. Gorilla safaris

Volcanoes National Park is part of a magnificent massif that minds mountain gorillas. Always book through a specialist wildlife tour operator, as you need to get a permit (from $750 to $1,500) to grant a visit with a chosen ‘family’. Supervised by highly trained guides, you can stay in their presence for up to one hour. Rwanda knows that gorillas are like godfathers; elusive and alluring, protection money don’t come cheap. Because family always comes first.
Kigali

4. Kigali

A busy metropolis set among lush valleys, Kigali, often left off travel itineraries, is kickin’. Jump on the back of a motorbike taxi and visit Kimironko market at dawn, the famous Panorama Ten to Two shack for lunch, go for a walking tour in the Nyamirambo Muslim quarter in the afternoon, and enjoy the music at one of the city’s various music spots, be it Rwandan rap or Congolese Rhumba, throughout the night.
Lake Kivu

5. Lake Kivu

One of the African Great Lakes straddling the border with DR Congo. Take a day trip out on the water and bask in the views of the enveloping Virunga massif. Even better, ask your tour operator to organise a night time fishing trip with the Lake Kivu fishermen in Kibuye, who light up the lake with lanterns hanging off their handmade elegant wooden boats, to attract the small sambaza fish (a Rwandan fried specialty).
Nyungwe National Park

6. Nyungwe National Park

The largest swathe of tropical rainforest in East Africa, this is over 1,000km² of primate paradise, with a colossal collection of chimpanzees, plus Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys. It also has 130km of hiking trails of varying lengths. The shortest one, the Igishigishigi Trail, takes in East Africa’s highest canopy walk, and the longer Bigugu Trail leads you to the park’s eponymous highest mountain at 2,950m.
Volcanoes National Park

7. Volcanoes National Park

Dramatically beautiful, with six active and three extinct volcanoes, and home to the far from extinct mountain gorilla. The latter is the park’s biggest pull, however this Rwandan section of the Virunga Massif that straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo, has many other hiking trails to explore, without going in search of gorillas. Seek them out and you might spot endemic golden monkeys, forest elephants or buffalo.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ryan M. Bolton] [Is/Isn't: Henrik Palm] [Map intro: configmanager] [Akagera National Park: Mugisha Don de Dieu] [Genocide memorials: Trocaire] [Gorilla safaris: Hjalmar Gislason] [Kigali: Katie Taylor] [Lake Kivu: Martijn.Munneke] [Nyungwe National Park: lucianf] [Volcanoes National Park: John Cooke]
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