The Best Places to visit in Rwanda

Rwanda’s stunning scenery wrapped with friendly people gives the country popularly known as the land of a thousand hills its unique  signature that keeps travellers coming from far and wide streaming in time and again in search of relentless experiences that the country has to offer.

The country is blessed with extraordinary biodiversity, with unimaginable wildlife living throughout its volcanoes, montane rainforest and sweeping plains.

Rwanda for a long time has been committed to safeguarding their existence within the four National Parks. Always working to ensure its citizens and of course its visitors live in a sustainable harmony with our environment, with a clean and green mindset. The banning of plastic bags in 2008 was one of the biggest achievement in this angle thereby ranking the land as possibly the cleanest in Africa thanks to the communities that complied positively. This eventually translated in increased tourist attraction to the country in addition the magnificent views and attractions in the country.

The most interesting of all is 10% of the income derived from gorilla, safari and other tourist permits, as well as park fees, is spent in partnership with local communities to change lives for the better.

The major attractions in the country include;

Gorilla trekking

There is no life changing experience like seeing for yourself gorillas in their natural habitat. Watching them go about their daily lives of course being accompanied with expert trackers and guides leading you in small groups of up bamboo-covered slopes to spend a precious and awe-inspiring hour just a few feet away from the gentle creatures.

Gorillas are spread across much of the equatorial African rainforest and they are split into lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas. This African rainforest is found in the volcanic ranges which spans Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is safe and relatively accessible.

There is approximately 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, with 604 in the Virungas itself. The good news is the population is slowly increasing, thanks to the concerted efforts between government, communities as well as NGOs. These gorillas are grouped into families and there are twelve gorilla families living in the Volcanoes National Park, which are fully habituated, with a few others habituated solely for scientific research. The families consist of at least one silverback along with several females and youngsters and they tend to stick to a preferred area. They are constantly monitored and protected by park rangers, with each group coming into contact with tourists for a strictly maximum of one hour per day therefore only 8 tracking permits are issued per family per day.

Visitors gather at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi as early as 7am in the morning, and are allocated a family group on the day according to fitness levels, as well as being briefed on protocols and rules for visiting the gorillas. The families are known as Karisimbi,Susa, Igisha,  Sabyinyo, Kwitonda, Amahoro, Agashya,  Umubano,  Bwenge, Ugyenda, Hirwa, and Muhoza.

The cost of the permit is $1500 per person per day with the minimum age of gorilla trackers being 15 years of age. You are encouraged or advised to wear solid walking shoes with gaiters, sturdy clothing to protect against stinging nettles as well as a lightweight waterproof as it could rain while out there.

Culture and heritage

Africa is known for its strong cultural beliefs and values and Rwanda is not void of this, no wonder Culture and heritage is one of the key things that attracts tourists here.

The King’s Palace is a beautifully-crafted thatched dwelling shaped like a beehive sitting in Nyanza a place that was once the heart of Rwanda.The capital of the kingdom has as many as 2,000 inhabitants, whose huts are built with the same methods as seen. At the back live a few long-horned Inyambo cattle that descended from the king’s herd, whose keepers  tend and sing to them carefully thereby keeping alive a unique tradition.

The elegant cows which are derived from the wider Ankole breed, played an important role during ceremonies in honour of the king in the past . They were decorated with rich jewellery, and were taught to listen to a trainer’s songs and follow his movements in a stately parade. When Rwanda gained its independence from colonial rule in 1962, it ceased to be a monarchy. However, the breeding and grooming of Inyambo is still carried out under the Rwanda Agriculture Board. And The nearby ethnographic museum in Huye houses which is one of Africa’s finest ethnographic collections makes a good combination with the King’s Palace for visiting.

Sport and adventure

For those looking for an experience in the line of sport and adventure, look no further than Rwanda. It has a lot to offer.

  • Canopy walk

Have you ever imagined yourself walking high above the ground but this time in the forest walking to the tune of wild filled music? Suspended high above an abyss in the lush montane rainforest of Nyungwe National park, the canopy walk offers a thrilling perspective on the giant treetops and wildlife. It is a 200m long suspension bridge that is accessed as part of a guided tour along the Igishigishigi trail and not for the faint hearted. Those hiking the Umuyove or Imbaraga trails can as well access it.

Nyungwe forest is a hotbed of biodiversity having escaped the last ice age. Countless colorful butterflies can be seen not forgetting the collection of birds as well as orchids.

The canopy walk will cost you $60 per person and the minimum age of people to participate is 6 years who must be accompanied by adults.

  • Hiking

The epic scenery, incredible wildlife and a climate to die for that Rwanda offers makes the land a remarkable place to explore on foot. You can enjoy the best hiking here all the way from Volcanoes National Park in the north, along the fringes of Lake Kivu in the west and down to Nyungwe National Park in the south. The shortest hike is to Lake Ngezi, a scenic little lake nestled in a volcanic depression at the foot of Mount Bisoke which takes you  about three hours in total and is relatively easy going, with the possibility of encountering wildlife along the way as well as gaze across to the Congolese forests. The longest hike is to the peak of Mount Karisimbi which is the highest peak in Rwanda. It is often referred to as white shell which majorly refers to the frequently white-capped cloud cover at the summit. At 4,507m it is a strenuous yet rewarding hike, which can take you two days for those who know what hiking is, therefore camping is one thing that will be part of your hike thus increasing your adventure. As this is the territory of gorillas, you will be rewarded with sights of other primates and many bird species along the way.

Other hikes include Mount Muhubura. This is a demanding full day climb up to 4,127m, and the scenic twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. Hikers shouldn’t expect to be alone as it is possible to reach a viewpoint over the lakes by car. You can couple this with a scenic lake cruise by hiring a boat. The Congo Nile Trail is popular for both cyclists and hikers alongside Lake Kivu traversing rainforests, bamboo forests and bracken fields. This is a 227km from one end to the other, so it can take you 10 days to complete on foot, although it is possible to do in single sections.

Where to stay in Rwanda

Rwanda has a collection of accommodation facilities that cater for all walks of life from luxury to budget range but all crafted with utmost care and beauty. Each park has a fleet of accommodation facilities that overlook stunning views and each of them takes pride in caring for its guests the most executive way possible. Some of these facilities include Bisate lodge a luxury lodge in Volcanoes national park,  Nyungwe house a luxury accommodation in Nyungwe National park, Virunga lodge a luxury lodge in Volcanoes national park, Comoran lodge a classic one found around Lake Kivu, Hotel des Miles Collines a classy hotel in Kigali to mention but a few. So be assured of a home away from home with these incredible facilities.