Rwanda, also referred to as a country of a thousand hill is a small country in Eastern Africa, that attracts tourists from all over the world, primarily for gorilla trekking. Though widely renowned with the 1994 genocide, Rwanda is an upcoming destination that is rapidly changing to being a land of the gorillas! Apart from the gorillas, there is much to see on a safari in Rwanda; from wild chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National park, golden monkeys in PNV to interesting cultural sites, there is a lot to see in Rwanda. The memorial museums and genocide sites in Kigali are a “must-see” while in Rwanda, yet gorilla trekking remains the top adventure to take in Rwanda.
Rwanda at a Glance
Location: Rwanda is in East/Central Africa, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Uganda to its north and Burundi to the south. Rwanda also shares its eastern border with Tanzania. (the country is part of the East African Community)
Area: Rwanda covers 26,338 sq km, slightly smaller than Maryland, US.
Capital City: Kigali
Population: Almost 10 million (Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country).
Languages: Kinyarwanda, French, English, Kiswahili
Religion: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%
Climate: Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to April and November to January. Click here for daily temperatures.
When to Go: June – September (during the dry season).
Currency: Rwandan Franc (click here for a currency converter)
Attractions in Rwanda
Rwanda has some of the most inspiring touristic attractions on the African continent. From the rare mountain gorillas to unique cultural experiences, a single visit to Rwanda is not enough to explore this amazing tiny country in Central Africa.
Rwanda is a hidden gem of flora and fauna as a few people know about it but whoever visits this amazing country only has special remarks for it.
Below are some of the major attractions for travelers to Rwanda including some of the best natural, historical, cultural and adventure sites in the country. These include all of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Rwanda which represent the best of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
The Mountain Gorillas
For starters, Rwanda is a home to the endangered species of mountain gorillas which are located in the forested Virunga ranges in the north eastern part. It has a third of the population of mountain gorillas in the world. The world has less than 900 mountain gorillas and Rwanda has about 320. The mountain gorillas are one of the most popular tourism products in the world due to the lifetime experience one cultivated on the encounter. These animals are so special as they are so intelligent and one may thinks that they are real humans the way they relate socially within their families. They have so much respect for the silver back the alpha male gorillas and everything around the family rotates around him. They also have the ability to use tools like tree branches and leaves to build their homes and also gather food. Words cannot explain the real gorilla safari experience unless someone physically visits the mountain gorillas in the bamboo forests of the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda.
Moving away from the gorillas, Rwanda has the largest montane forest in East Africa Nyungwe forest. This a forest that inhabits 13 different species of primates the most notable ones are chimpanzees, red tailed monkey, black and white monkeys and grey cheeked mangabey. These primates are amazing to track as they are so playful and also very intelligent in the way they do their day to day activities the chimpanzees in particular. While in this amazing forest, the visitor is able to encounter beautiful bird species and butterflies that color up the sky. Another unique attraction in this forest is the canopy walk, here the visitor trek around the forest on an 50 meter elevated trail from the ground and have the opportunity to have a good aerial view of the forest.
Rwanda’s authentic traditional culture is worth to experience. This can be encountered by visiting the different traditional and historical sites of Rwanda like the genocide memorial centre, the market place, the presidential palace, museums and also the cultural villages like Iby’iwacu. Getting to know more about Rwanda and mix and mingle with the traditional cultural of Rwanda gets one close to nature. With meeting the mountain gorillas, the primates in Nyungwe and mixing and mingling with traditional culture one gets to know mama nature more.
Places to Visit in Rwanda
There are several amazing destinations to visit in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.
Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is a forested area in the Virunga Mountains that border Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is Rwanda’s top tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virungas. Being one of only three locations in the world where you can track mountain gorillas, this part attracts tourists all year round who are interested in gorilla tours. It was this park that Dian Fossey lived and died studying and protecting the gorillas, her efforts made famous in the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.
Huye / Butare
The southern city of Huye, formerly known as Butare, is the intellectual capital of Rwanda. It is home to the National University, the Institute of Scientific Research and the National Museum which contains some excellent ethnographic collections and provides insights into Rwandan culture and history.
Nyungwe Forest covers some 1000 km² in the southwest of Rwanda and is an area of huge biodiversity. Primates are the main attraction here, with some 13 species identified, including some habituated groups of chimpanzees and colobus monkeys that can be viewed on guided treks through the park. Other primates include L’Hoest’s monkey, owl-faced monkey, silver monkey and red-tailed monkey.
Enjoy lakeside sports at Lake Kivu – Rwanda’s coastal adventure hub! Wind-surfing, swimming, or boating.
If you’re surprised that Rwanda has a beach – you’re not alone. Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi) is a waterfront town located on the shores of Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great bodies of water. At only an hour away from Volcanoes National Park, Rubavu is a great way to unwind after trekking with the gorillas and golden monkeys.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
Kigali is the dynamic capital at the heart of Rwanda.
The people of Rwanda embrace peace and reconciliation. They are committed to fight the ideology of genocide. The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the people who lost their lives. Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried. This memorial also serves to educate how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century.
Akagera National Park
A stunning National Park where the past has been revived.
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. It is named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. The forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands combine to make Akagera amongst the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Things to Do in Rwanda
Gorilla tracking is the most popular adventure activity on a Rwanda gorilla safari that can be done in a year in and year out. Imagine standing just a few meters from man’s distant cousins, the mountain gorillas and observe them through their activities. Watch them eat, rest, play and bond with their young. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is a humbling experience that can be taken during your holiday in Rwanda. Currently, seven of the park’s gorilla groups are habituated to tourists with eight permits available for each group every day.
Chimpanzee Tracking is another adventure activity that can be taken in Rwanda. This activity can be carried out in Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to various primates, birds and wildlife. Other popular activities in this park are canopy walk, bird watching, forest walks etc.
Cultural Tours – A holiday in Rwanda cannot be complete without taking a cultural visit to the different cultural sites in Rwanda. These sites include genocide memorial sites, museums, Palaces etc.