Top 10 Things to do in Remarkable Rwanda
Updated: Oct 3
The first and the most important thing you should know about Rwanda is that it is remarkable in every sense, both literally and figuratively. Another interesting fact about Rwanda is that it is landlocked, but that doesn't take anything away from it. In fact, it adds to its beauty. In addition to lush green parks, rich wildlife, stunning and scenic landscapes, Rwanda is overlooked by breathtaking hills and mountains, no wonder it's also famously known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. To make good things even better, the people of Rwanda are a bunch of beautiful and friendly souls full of warmth, charm and laughter.
Often times when we hear about Rwanda, what comes to mind is the Rwandan genocide. Although, it's yet to completely heal from the genocide that annihilated an entire people, Rwanda has gone ahead to successfully write its name on the global tourism map. This remarkable East African country is, in fact, setting the stage for an ecotourism revolution in Africa. While Kigali is the largest and the most cosmopolitan city in Rwanda, there are other cities and towns that are equally or even more enchanting than Kigali. And with a beautiful all year round weather, exciting tourist attractions, rich cultural heritage and exciting cuisine, Rwanda is a haven for the itchy feet. So, if you’re visiting Rwanda for whatever reasons, these are the top 10 things you should do in the Land of a Thousand Hills. Please don’t forget your camera. You'll definitely need it.
1. Visit Kigali Genocide Memorial
There is much more to discover in Rwanda outside the metropolis of Kigali. But before you head out, be sure to put the history of Rwanda into perspective by visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi where the remains of over 250,000 victims were buried. At the Kigali Genocide Memorial, you’ll take the video and audio tour of the Museum and learn how countless Rwandans were murdered by Hutu extremists, who terrorized the country in an attempt to wipe out the Tutsi population. It'll be difficult for you not to stir up some emotions here. If you're particularly interested in knowing how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and place, the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a must-visit.
2. Break Fast at Milk Bar
Kuruhimbi: One of the many Milk Bars in Kigali
Your trip to Kigali would not be complete without a visit to one of the many Milk Bars that dot the city. Don't get it twisted, there are no cows in Kigali, but there is plenty of fresh milk. Amazing. Isn’t it? Well, the Kigali Milk Bars source their milk fresh and direct from cows in the dairy farms located in the neighbouring towns. Whether you want to savor it hot and fresh or go for the fermented products, a Kigali Milk Bar will be the perfect place to kickstart your day with a hearty breakfast. After all, you'll need a healthy protein shake to put you in the mood for your next adventure.
3. Reflect on Mount Kigali
Located on the southwest edge of Kigali metropolis, Mount Kigali is one of the highest points in Rwanda. From stunning and breathtaking views of the city to chilly thoughtful moments, Mount Kigali has something for everyone, whether you're a regular or a first time visitor. There are several scenic routes to the mountain top, and you don't have to be an award winning hiker to find your way to the peak. Once on the top, set yourself on the loose and amass, as much as you can, a refreshing beauty that'll make an eternal impression on you. You can go the extra mile and put your courage to the test and take a thrilling and adrenaline-pumping expedition as you fly through the air on a zip line atop of the Mountain.
4. Explore Nyungwe National Park
Sunset over Nyungwe National Park. Photo credit: Cyril Ndegeya
A trip to Nyungwe National Park in the South Western region of Rwanda will afford you the opportunity to explore one of the oldest rainforests in Africa. With 15 trails along with various other activities including primate tracking, you can choose to sample the delights of the forest or indulge yourself for a week or more in one of Africa’s most stunning forests. You’ll get to see 13 primate species, hundreds of unique bird species and more while taking a breathtaking walk on the impressive Canopy Walkway suspended above a ravine in the lush montane rainforest of the Park.
5. Join Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking is a big deal, not only in East Africa, but across the world. If this is your sort of thing (and I guess it is), you should head north to the buzzing town of Musanze which, apart from being the base for gorilla trekking, has a vibrant nightlife with plenty of choice for dining. To join one of the 12 gorilla trekking groups, you should be at the Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi as early as 7am. You’ll be allocated a family group according to your fitness levels. If you can, time your trip to Rwanda to coincide with the annual Kwita Izina gorilla-naming ceremony, you’ll love it in no small measures. In the last 15 years, more than 300 mountain gorillas have ceremoniously been named.
6. Explore Akagera National Park
Perhaps, you’ve heard a lot about the popular ‘Big 5’ which, in the African context, includes the African elephant, African buffalo, Rhinoceros, African leopard, and the lion. In Rwanda, the Big 5 can only be seen in the Akagera National Park located in the Kibungu district in the northeastern part of Rwanda. Akagera National Park is the largest protected wetland in Central Africa as well as the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda. The park is the only home to the big 5 animals in Rwanda. In addition to seeing the Big 5 on a safari drive, Akagera national Park offers a lot of other adventures which include nature walk, bird watching, nocturnal game drive, boat ride on Lake Ihema, and fishing in Akagera Lake Shakani.
7. Hike on Mount Karisimbi
If you’ve got some adrenaline, why not head to Mount Karisimbi and put your courage to the test? At over 4,500m, Mount Karisimbi is the highest peak in Rwanda. It is located in the Virunga Mountains in the volcanoes national park on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Karisimbi is perhaps, the most natural habitat for gorillas and is known for its exotic vegetation, from the dense forest at its base to the barren volcanic core. Activities at the Mount Karisimbi include hiking which is very challenging, but rewarding. Apart from hiking here, which is not a mean fit, you can go all the way and spend a night or two while camping.
8. Unwind at Lake Kivu
If you're looking for a great place to unwind, soak up the tranquil vibe, watch the birds and enjoy various water sports, head to Rubavu Town, a waterfront town on the shores of Lake Kivu with sandy beaches, warm water and an easygoing character. Covering a surface area of 2,700 km2, Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake and the sixth largest in Africa. Lake Kivu is dotted with islands and inlets along its shoreline, with charming beach resorts, spectacular vistas and plenty of opportunities for hiking and cycling along the shores. In addition to swimming and cruising, you can also take a kayaking tour on Lake Kivu.
9. Sample Local Cuisine
While in Rwanda, don't miss any opportunity to dive into and immerse yourself in the local cuisine and gastronomy. Rwanda has a simple but exciting mix of East African and local delicacies that can titillate and satisfy the curious taste buds. You should savor the grilled Big Fish, delight yourself with Isombe or fill yourself up with Brochettes after a starter of Sambaza, that is. And if you love it spicy, then Akabanga should do the magic for you. Don’t forget to wash it down with Urwagwa – the Banana beer.
10. Watch Intore Dance Troupe
If you love music and dance, then you will love Rwanda even more. Those two elements are inseparably integrated into Rwanda’s culture and tradition. While the recorded music is cool and harmonious, the dance is energetic, exciting and well choreographed. If you have the opportunity, watch the popular Intore Dance Troupe as they display the finest of Rwanda’s dynamic traditional musical and dance styles. As the traditional drums roll rhythmically, watch in admiration as the women perform the ballet or stand speechless as the men perform the heroes’ dance. You might even want to show the locals some of your own dance steps.
Don't let Rwanda's size deceive you. This small East African country actually has more to offer than it's given credit for. With exotic destinations and very scenic views, Rwanda is definitely a country worth visiting. Visit Remarkable Rwanda today Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel can arrange an affordable bespoke tour package for you. RwandAir takes you there.
Some Practical Information About Rwanda
Nationals of all countries receive a visa on arrival at the Kigali International Airport and at all land borders. A single entry tourist visa costs $50 and is valid for 30 days (exclusions apply for select countries )
Currency and currency exchange
The Rwandan franc (Rfr) is the principal currency, although US dollars are widely accepted. Cash can be exchanged at banks and private forex bureaux (bureau de change), both of which are closed on Sundays and public holidays. ATMs can be found in Kigali and nearly all major cities.
Tipping is discretionary and appreciated. Cash is usually preferred. As a rough guide, you can tip professional guides and drivers US $10 per day, and trekking porters US $2.
Rwanda has an excellent mobile phone network covering almost the entire country, and international calls can be made easily. The country is among the top three African countries in terms of internet connectivity, with an ever-growing fibre optic network.
Rwanda's time is GMT+2 all year round. There are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes.
Rwanda is fractionally south of the Equator and with much of the country lying at altitude, Rwanda enjoys a clement tropical highland climate. The average daily temperature in Kigali is 21°C (70°F).
Much of Rwanda lies at elevations between 1,500m and 2,500m. The highest peak is Mount Karisimbi at 4,507m and the lowest point is the Rusizi river at 950m above sea level. The terrain is often uneven and sensible shoes are essential.
What to Wear
Daytime temperatures are generally warm, so bring lots of light clothing. For sun protection, a hat and sunglasses are recommended. The evenings tend to be cool, and you may need a light sweater.
Travellers should ensure they are up to date with vaccinations, following the advice of their local healthcare provider. A certificate of yellow-fever vaccination is required. Travel information about COVID-19 can be found here.
The standard voltage in Rwanda is 230 volts. You can use your electric appliances in Rwanda, if the standard voltage in your country is between 220 - 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa).
Chidozie Uzoezie is a Travel and Tourism Content Creator and a Freelance Writer. You can reach him via WhatsApp: +234(0)8178379876; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @ChidozieMario