Let me introduce you to Rwanda, nicknamed the country of a Thousand Hills! This is because of its hills (obviously), mountains and volcanoes in the west of the country. When Rwanda was a Kingdom, its royal capital was Le Nyanza. Today its capital is Kigali, the Silicon Valley of Africa!
Travelling in Rwanda is a connected experience; technology is everywhere you go, especially in transport. We don’t use Uber here, it’s all about YegoMoto, YegoCabs and VWMove! Motorcycles are always a good option (easiest way to get around quickly, but don’t forget to wear a helmet!). I would suggest getting a Tap&Go card for public transport on buses or coasters, especially in the capital.
Here are 10 things you shouldn’t miss doing in Rwanda: unforgettable experiences and memories, beautiful stories to tell, thrilling adventures to experience and stunning photographs to bring back.
1. Visit a Rwandan Village
For a local touristic experience in Rwanda, you’ll need to spend some time in a village, connect with the people there and discover their local heritage. Their agricultural heritage will include rice fields, banana plantations, coffee or tea fields. You’ll be running into many cow herds, awesome if you’re thirst for a fresh glass of milk! Lastly, make sure you get a chance to cook and eat traditional meals.
2. Travel Along the Congo Nile Trail
A trip that takes 3 days by car, 8 days on foot, 5 days by bike and 10 days by boat along the Lake Kivu coastline. This is the most thrilling adventure in the country, up to you to choose how you’ll embark on it. The highest point of the Congo-Nile divide in the Rutsiro district is a beautiful discovery.
3. Visit the Museums
Rwanda is a country rich in history, culture, and tradition. Visiting the national museums and seeing the heritage preserved for future generations is a must. Kigali is home to three museums and the country’s first museum in Huye, a city in the southern region of the country, was established in 1989. You can usually catch traditional Rwandan dance shows there.
4. Climbing Rwanda’s Hills
Hiking lovers will love what’s in store for them. Rwanda’s hills are perfect for climbing excursions. I recommend Ndiza mountain or Kabuye hill, the highest hill in Rwanda, to get up close and personal with the country’s volcanoes.
5. Visit the Gorillas at Volcanoes National Park
Did you know that Mountain gorillas share more than 90% of their DNA with humans? Visit them in their natural habitat and learn more about these majestic creatures. These gorillas live in volcanoes in the north of the country between the DRC and Uganda border. There are 5 volcanoes in Rwanda: Karisimbi (the highest at 4507 m), Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Bisoke and Gahinga.
6. Kayaking or Canoeing
You may have already heard about the fact that the source of the Nile is actually in Rwanda! From kayaking in Lake Kivu, the largest lake in Rwanda, to canoeing in the Mukungwa River which meanders past volcanoes, Rwanda’s many rivers and lakes are great for the outdoorsy types.
7. Nyungwe National Park Canopy Walk
Discover the natural beauty of Nyungwe National Park where one of the oldest forest in Africa is located. It’s home to more than 1058 plant species and more than 310 species of birds and other animals like chimpanzees. You can also visit the tea plantations in the park’s surroundings.
8. Visit Akagera National Park
This park is in East Rwanda and is another amazing location to spot cool wildlife. The many lakes here make it a great spot for camping trips.
9. Visit the Genocide Memorial Site
Rwanda is a country that has experienced terrible moments in its history, notably the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis in 1994. To preserve its history, a Genocide Memorial in Kigali was established. Four sites at the national level are on UNESCO’s waiting list for World Heritage status. Visiting them it is free but donations are always encouraged.
10. Going Bar Hopping
Drink the national beer! Rwandans don’t typically dine out as much as they go out for a drink or Gufata Kamwe as they say! After work, it’s off to the bar to meet up with friends or go on a family outing. Enjoy a night out in Kigali and and check out the city’s hotspots like Nyamirambo, Kacyiru, Kimihurura, Nyarutarama and Remera.
So what local beer have you ever heard of? Skol, Mütsing, Primus or Heineken are all brewed in Rwanda!
There are so many of things to do, discover and visit in this country! Don’t forget to get great souvenirs wherever you go. You’ll have your pick of coffee, tea, Gitenge, T-Shirt, objets d’art, books… etc…
Last but not least, take awesome pictures and say Murakoze = Thank you!
This article is part of a series dedicated to Rwanda, in partnership with ONOMO HOTEL, Journal RW, Rwanda Development Board and Fly Rwandair.