With a population of about 13 million people and covering an area of 26,338 square kilometers, Rwanda is the smallest country in East Africa. Rwanda’s neighbors include Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like many other African countries, Rwanda has suffered a dark political past that claimed the lives of many, and as such, many will remember the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that followed the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana. Despite this dark history, the country has since picked itself up from the ruins of bloodshed and death, to growth under the leadership of President Paul Kagame.
This growth has been noticed in many sectors including tourism. Many will agree that despite its small size, Rwanda has done tremendously well in as far as promoting the tourism sector is concerned. Many international tourists know that Rwanda is home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas but she is also famous for her exhilarating hills, weather, volcanoes, and one of Africa’s cleanest capitals.
Rwanda has experienced great transformation under the stewardship of Kagame. This transformation was only possible by reconciling and healing the deep wounds of the divide that was prevalent before and after the genocide. Peace and unity meant that citizens could concentrate on rebuilding the country to where it is today. As I write this Rwanda has set a benchmark on how to curb corruption and set efficient systems even with few resources.
This article seeks to delve more in the country that is Rwanda. The endowment in nature and wildlife, the culture, and must-do activities across the country, as laid out below;
Tourist Attractions in Rwanda
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Let us discuss some wildlife now because as earlier noted, Rwanda is blessed with incredible biodiversity. There is so much to check out. Rwanda is lucky to be one of the only three homes for Mountain gorillas, the other two being Uganda and Congo.
Because of this, therefore, Volcanoes National Park is a favorite destination for many tourists who visit Rwanda. This particular park is home to 10 habituated gorilla groups, which makes it excellent for gorilla trekking. Only 8 people are allowed to take on a particular group of gorillas a day. Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda starts with a briefing as early as 7:00 am. Participants will then proceed to the forest to start tracking a particular group of mountain gorillas with the help of a guide. The experience is such a thrill, one that will get you telling stories when you go back home. To access the gorillas, you first of all need a Gorilla permit that usually costs $1500 per person.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Center
If there is nothing much you have heard about Rwanda, then at least you should be aware of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, an unfortunate tribal-political war that claimed hundreds or thousands of lives of the Hutu and Tutsi monitory groups. This 100-day incident still brings back fresh ugly memories to the people of Rwanda and across the world.
To keep the memories of the dead alive, the government of Rwanda put in place a memorial center named Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. The museum located in the capital Kigali is now home to the remains of over 250,000 bodies, out of the close to 800,000 people that are believed to have been massacred by militias during the war.
If you have not been told a story about this genocide before by a Rwandese who survived, or at least watched a movie about the same, visiting the museum will come in handy for you because you will be privy to every slight detail of what exactly happened, with narration from the guides. Sadly, so, the museum has a section of the young school-going children who got killed in the genocide, too, and this, if not strong enough, may make you shed a tear.
Hotel des Mille Collines
This is the most famous Hotel in Rwanda and the reason is simple; it was part of the history of the Rwanda Genocide for having provided refuge to over 1000 people, hiding them from the state-sponsored militia. This war story was brought to life through one of the bestselling genocide movies – Hotel Rwanda.
While at the hotel, visitors can book and enjoy staying in luxury rooms, the swimming pool area, bar and restaurants. Hotel staff will be more than willing to share information about the hotel and its role during the genocide.
State House Museum
Talking about the genocide, there is definitely something that sparked it off and that is the sudden killing of the then President of Rwanda – Juvenal Habyarimana. Habyarimana’s plane was sent crashing down in the compound of his presidential palace after a shooting, leading to his death on April 6, 1994.
This consequently led to a civil war that bred the infamous genocide which sparked off the following day, April 7. This incident was one to remember, hence turning the palace into a museum.
This museum also has stories about the genocide, but also memories of President Habyarimana’s days as President of Rwanda, and the wreckage of his plane which still lays in the compound, 27 years later.
A visit to the National Museum
Like you have already noticed earlier, Rwanda is a country with quite a rich history. This led to the establishment of the National Museum of Rwanda in 1989 to preserve this rich history and culture.
This museum sums up the stories, past events, artifacts, portraits, traditional regalia among others, concerning the Rwandan heritage. For those visiting the Nyungwe Forest National Park, it would be recommended to make a stopover at the museum to crown your trip in style.
Visiting King Rudahigwa Palace Museum
Like many other African countries before colonization, leadership was centered on Kingdoms and Chiefdoms. Rwanda’s case was never different. However, because of interference from Belgian colonizers, the kingdom was abolished to this day.
Fortunately, all is not lost. The stories and memories about past Kings like King Rudahigwa Mutara III and his successor King Musinga Yuhi V are kept alive in the Palace Museum located in Nyanza town. The palace, despite having suffered attacks and destruction during the genocide, still attracts tourists from various parts of the world.
Tourists can also visit the graveyard of King Mutara and his wife, just next to the museum. The story around their death is sad, having been killed in the Genocide.
Away from the sad memories, Rwanda, being an African country, is a hub of diverse cultures and traditions, best exhibited through folk songs and dances. You can never get tired of enjoying the performances when you visit some of the communities that have some of the best cultural dancers in the land, like Intore Dance Troupe.
As the dance goes on, you may be lured into wanting to join the dancers, but while you do this, be ready to apply some energy, if you are to match the dancers and enjoy. Each dance routine will be accompanied by an ancient story to give it meaning and background, something that makes the experience exhilarating.
Inema Art Center
Still talking art and culture, one of the most eye-catching destinations of Rwanda’s art, and worth paying a visit is the Inema Art Center. The center is home to customized Rwandan art pieces crafted by local artists.
When you visit the center during your Rwanda safari, you will be taken around to check out some of the art pieces available to buy as souvenirs. The tour of the place is always amazing because it is spiced up with entertainment from cultural dancers.
A taste of the local food
What is a trip to Rwanda, or any other East African country with tasting their food? Certainly not a fulfilling one. In the various places where you may step foot, there is quite a variety of dishes that you can pick from and devour to satisfaction.
From the signature fresh cow milk that is always prepared with lots of skill, Rwandan communities also have amazing delicacies that will leave you licking your fingers. From the Isombe, Akabanga, to somboza, these dishes be further washed down with a local brew such as Uragwa.
Away from Gorilla trekking, Rwanda is also synonymous with Chimpanzee trekking, especially in Nyungwe National Park, located in South Western Rwanda. With 13 species of primates in the Nyungwe forest, tourists are likely to watch several chimpanzees at close range.
Besides the Chimpanzees, you can also check out the various bird species, butterflies, reptiles, and plants among others.
With over 640 bird species, you definitely want to visit Rwanda, especially if you are an ardent birder. For first-timers in Rwanda, you will be interested to know that the most prominent destinations for birding in Rwanda are Nyungwe National Park, Lake Kivu and Akagera National Park. Some tourists may be interested in the 30 endemic species of birds, mainly found in the Albertine rift and Virunga ranges.
Kigali is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the region, attracting thousands of tourists to savor the beauty. With the amazement of the city, one would love to be at the best view, just so they don’t miss a thing.
To achieve this, Mount Kigali is the best viewpoint, being one of the highest points of the city. Atop the hill, tourists have an array of activities including enjoying the scenic view of the hill itself. The mode of reaching the top is by hiking, and this alone is such a thrilling activity.
Kigali Convention Center
You probably watched how viral this structure went on social media, a couple of years ago, for all reasons magnificence. The Kigali Convention Center is such a marvel, especially for those setting eyes on it for the first time.
Home to influential conferences across the continent, the center brings in a number of tourists every year, because of the spectacular views and facilities like the Radisson Blue hotel, and several shopping malls. The building’s glow at night will leave you jaw-dropping, and for photography enthusiasts, this is the perfect spot.
A visit to Dian Fossey’s Tomb
You may recall that in this article, we mentioned Volcanoes National Park, with quite a number of features, activities that make it unique. Among those activities, undoubtedly, is visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey.
A conservationist and researcher, Fossey settled in the park in 1967, with her emphasis mainly on the study of mountain gorillas and how to ensure that they conserved and protect against extinction. Fossey’s work, therefore, played a huge role in ensuring that hundreds of years later, humans would still be able to visit the gorillas, and till today, this dream is still alive.
Unfortunately, despite her well-intentioned initiatives, Fossey was killed by unknown people in 1985. Her research center has since become an attraction. After gorilla trekking, some tourists wish to know more about the person who played a big role in protecting the primates.
The tomb is located on the slopes of Karisimbi and Bisoke volcanoes, and to get a permit to hike to the tomb, one pays $80.
Visiting Coffee and Tea plantations
With coffee and tea being the leading exports from Rwanda, there is a flurry of plantations in the country worth visiting. Unlike other attractions like wildlife, this is mainly for tourists who are interested in learning more about the planting and processing of coffee and tea.
The tours of these plantations involve watching the picking, selecting, washing and drying processes by the workers, and more thrilling is that tourists can also get involved in the process. This creates stories worth telling back home. And at the end of the process, tourists can taste some of the finely made coffee, mixed with milk and other spices.
A Hike to Mount Karisimbi
Located in the Volcanoes National Park, Mountain Karisimbi is one of those that require you to not only take a look but do some hiking as well. The mountain is one of the tallest in Africa (4500 meters high), something that makes it even more interesting.
The mountain is so high that hiking it will take you a maximum of two days. However, this exercise is worth it, especially with the experience you get when you are finally at the summit. The view of the Virunga ranges, an oversight view of Uganda’s nature and more is such a thrilling reward for reaching the top.
Climbing Mount Bisoke
Like Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke is such a thrilling mountain to climb. A bit lower than Karisimbi, Bisoke will give you a less tiring hike, and within just one day, you will be at the summit of the mountain.
Along the hike, there are high chances of spotting some wildlife like mountain gorillas or other primates. Atop the mountain, your eyes will be treated to the thrilling view of the Volcanoes National Park and other features.
The Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile Trail, newly set up by, is one that will interest you in completing 227km on a bike, motorcycle or foot. The activity is quite a hectic one, but quite amazing. Using your bike, it will take you 5 days and 10 days if you are on foot, to complete the trail at the end in Gisenyi.
Along the trail, participants are treated to amazing sceneries of Lake Kivu and other features like Nyungwe National Park. In the villages, you will enjoy the ambiance and joyful reception from the locals, who will even entertain you with some local dances and fun-filled folk songs.
The Nyamata church visit
If you have watched some of the genocide movies done before, you then remember the church that provided refuge to over 10,000 Tutsi people. This church is known as Nyamata church, the Tutsi who were running for their lives decided to hide there on the assumption that the house of God would never be attacked by the assailants. Unfortunately, none of them survived, despite hiding there. They were all shot dead by the Interahamwe. The church has since been turned into a museum for tourists to have a feel of what happened there. The scene still looks real, with original bullet holes, blood stains and more evidence of the massacre.
Relaxing at Lake Burera and Ruhondo
For those who have read a bit about Rwanda’s tourism, Lake Burera and Ruhondo are quite remarkable features, found in the Volcanoes National Park. After a wearisome trek in the park, with all the activities involved, taking a chill at these magnificent lakes is so rewarding.
While there, you are treated to the sound and view of various birds and they fly above the lakes or even rest on the shores. It is a perfect destination for lovebirds, who may even choose to take a walk the neighboring communities for a visit.
Visiting Gorilla Guardians Village
The place is basically a collection of some of Rwanda’s dearly kept cultural heritage. While at the Village, you can participate in cultural dances, preparing local food, folk songs, hunting like the Batwa people among other activities. Visitors can get involved in these activities because that is how maximum fun can be derived. The center was founded by Edwin Sabuhoro, formerly a warden at Volcanoes National Park.
Mamba Club in Kigali
And when you are done with such a memorable voyage in the land of the Banyarwanda, done with the touring and fun in the different parts of the country, then you might want to crown it all by checking out the Mamba Club in Kigali city.
The club is filled with all sorts of thrilling activities like sports and games which include swimming, football, volleyball and Ping-pong among others. This would be a great way to unwind the day, and with a fully stocked bar, you are surely in for a treat.