To help inspire or plan your trip to Rwanda, some of its major attractions
for travellers are shown below, 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.
Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
|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 premier tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virungas being one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas (the other is Bwindi National Park in Uganda). It was here that Dian Fossey lived and died studying and protecting the gorillas, her efforts made famous in the film 'Gorillas in the Mist'. The opportunity to trek to a gorilla family and spend an hour in close proximity observing these remarkable creatures is one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences on Earth. Currently seven of the park's gorilla groups are habituated to tourists with eight permits available for each group every day. The park is also home to 75 other mammal species including elephant, buffalo and the endangered endemic Golden Monkey, a troop of which has also been habituated and can be tracked in the bamboo forests on the lower volcano slopes.
|Akagera National Park|
Akagera National Park provides a traditional East African safari in a Rwandan setting, located in the savannah landscape along Rwanda's eastern border with Tanzania. Though quite a small park (and not in the same league as the famous East African reserves), it has populations of many of the African mammals of interest including elephant, buffalo, giraffe and hippos, as well as small numbers of leopards and lions. There are also excellent bird watching opportunities with some 530 species noted such as shoebills and red-faced barbets.
|Huye / Butare|
The southern city of Huye, formerly known as Butare, is the intellectual capital of Rwanda, being 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. Once the largest colonial settlement in Rwanda, today it is a sleepy, attractive town renowned for its colonial buildings and terrace cafes.
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. It is also an excellent place for bird watching with some 270 species found here. There are many walking trails throughout Nyungwe Forest which can be explored on guided tours. Several of these depart from the Uwinka reception centre which include the chance to walk along the new 200 metre canopy walkway which offers spectacular views of the forest. The longest trek in Nyungwe is the Congo-Nile Divide Trail, a 3-4 day trek along a ridge that forms the continental divide between the Congo and Nile watersheds.
Lake Kivu runs for 100km along Rwanda's western border with the Congo and is Africa's highest lake at 1460m. There are three main port towns on the Rwandan lakefront - Rubavu (formerly Gisenyi) on the northern shores with beaches on the lake and stunning views of the Virunga volcanoes is the most developed town for tourists, Karongi (formerly Kibuye) towards the centre of the lake is the most beautiful of the lake ports and easily reached on a good quality road from Kigali while Rusizi (formerly Cyangugu) in the south is the most remote and least visited. Lake Kivu is an excellent place for relaxation for a few days between gorilla tracking, safaris and trekking or simply to escape the big city of Kigali.
Rwanda has made remarkable progress since the 1994 genocide but it's important for both Rwandans and visitors alike to learn about what happened and remember the victims. The Kigali Memorial Centre, developed in association with the UK-based Aegis Trust, is a museum dedicated to telling the story genocide. It is an excellent but harrowing portrayal of the horrific events and a must see on any trip to Rwanda. The site at Gisozi is also the burial place for 250,000 genocide victims with several gardens and a Wall of Names also under construction. The churches at Nyamata and Ntarama south if Kigali were the sites of horrific massacres and are today disturbing memorials which contain the remains and possessions of thousands of the victims. Murambi near Gikongoro in southern Rwanda is perhaps the most disturbing of all the memorials - the school rooms which were the site of the slaughter of tens of thousands of Rwandans now contain hundreds of preserved bodies which were exhumed from mass graves at the site. An excellent new museum display at the site tells the story of the genocide, its build-up and victims.
|Trekking in the Virunga Mountains|
The main attraction for visitors to the Virunga Volcanoes is the chance to track mountain gorillas. However there are also several excellent trekking options here with several of the volcanoes being opened to hikes. Mount Visoke at 3711 metres is topped by a beautiful crater lake with a trek to the top and back taking 6-8 hours. Further west on the border with the DRC is Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda's highest mountain at 4507 metres, a tough overnight trek through several vegetation zones. Between these two volcanoes lies the ruins of the Karisoke Research Centre, the research site and burial place of Dian Fossey and some of her favourite gorillas. Further south just across the border from Rubavu/Gisenyi in the DRC lies the active volcano of Nyiragongo, a challenging overnight trek which offers the chance to walk along the volcano rim staring at the huge lava pot below. Treks can be arranged though tour companies in Kigali or Musanze/Ruhengeri.
Rwanda's capital city doesn't have much in the way of tourist attractions but is an attractive city and its central location makes it a great base from which to explore the rest of the country. Built across several of Rwanda's thousand hills, Kigali is a modern and scrupulously clean city with many fine cafes, bars and restaurants as well as markets and handicrafts shops. In addition to the Genocide Memorial, Kigali's other attractions include Nyarytarama Lake and the bohemian Nyamirambo district.