Kigali is a thriving African city immediately notable for its cleanliness, orderliness, and hospitality. It is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda journey as it’s conveniently located in the geographic center of the country.
The city is clean and safe, with extremely welcoming people. Travelers will enjoy exploring the great cultural activities – including several award-winning museums, burgeoning music scene, and some of East Africa’s most memorable dining experiences.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
After the 1994 genocide incident, the people of Rwanda embraced peace and reconciliation and 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 about how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century.
Camp Kigali Belgian Monument
A small museum in Kigali City lies at the site of the massacre of 10 Belgian UN Blue Beret. At the onset of Genocide under the command of General Dallaire, these Belgian were deployed to guard the house of Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. When the genocide started, Presidential Guard soldiers invaded the home, disarmed the Belgians and transported them to Camp Kigali where they killed them. The ten stone pillars memorialize the ten soldiers killed.
The Presidential Palace, residence of the former president of Rwanda, President J. Habyarimana is near the airport on the eastern outskirts of Kigali.
Habyarimana was the president whose plane was shot down on the 6th April 1994, the event that some say triggered the Rwandan Genocide.
The former state house is now a museum that gives an overview of Rwanda’s history and a visit to the remains of the Falcon 60 presidential jet that are housed in a walled garden on the property.
Volcanoes National park
The park lies along the Virunga Mountains, with 8 ancient volcanoes, which are shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Accessible within 2 hours drive from the capital of Kigali, the park is a central location for exploring some distinctly Rwandan experiences. It is known for primates tracking and hiking.
Other surrounding attractions include;
Buhanga Eco park
This serene forest packs a great deal of towering trees that are a home to a variety of birds and butterfly species. The location is built on an ancient sacred site that was used for coronation rituals of Rwandan kings.
Iby’Iwacu Cultural village
The living museum inset highlights aspects of traditional Rwanda society. Visitors can expect to be greeted by thunderous drumming, joyful dancing, and the kind of hospitality that has permeated Rwandan society for centuries. The village features hands-on activities related to the rituals and ways of life in the ancient Rwandan kingdom.
Nyungwe National Park
Covering over 1000 square kilomtres, Nyungwe is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests.
Home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates species (including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus), it’s also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species, including 16 endemics, and is home to 75 different species of mammal.
The major activities include hiking or even biking the beautiful terrain, tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds, and relaxing by waterfalls.
The National Park is home to roughly 310 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Visitors to Nyungwe National Park can experience the rainforest through the Canopy Walkway.
Hanging 60 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers, East Africa’s only Canopy Walkway provides a stunning view of the park’s amazing wildlife and nature.
The Walkway is accessible as part of a specialized guided tour along the Igishigishigi trail or if you’re not part of a tour, hiking the Imbaraga or Umuyove trails.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Akagera combines well with Nyungwe and the Volcanoes NP to offer a great safari element as it is home to many large plains game species as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps such as the Sitatunga and the sought-after Shoebill Stork.
Notable plains game include elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland. Other antelope are duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. Of the primates, olive baboons, vervets and the secretive blue monkey are seen during the day, with bushbabies often seen on night drives.
It also includes the leopard, hyena, the side-striped jackal and lion. Due to its wide variety of habitats, Akagera is a home to nearly 500 bird species.
The rare and elusive shoebill shares the papyrus with other rarities such as the exquisite papyrus gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands in large numbers. Birding is another popular activity with more than 500 species.
Lake Kivu and Rubavu
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 adventures.
Rubavu marks the beginning of the Congo Nile Trail, which extends 227 km to Rusizi, and has plenty of biking and hiking trails to fulfill those who crave the some more adventure.
Rubavu is also known for its agrotourism experiences, with many tea and coffee plantations nearby.
Surrounded by magnificent mountains, L. Kivu has deep emerald green waters. The lake covers a total surface area of 2,700 km and stands at a height of 1,460 meters above sea level.
It is a beautiful lake and an incredible place to visit. With no hippos or crocodiles and crystal clear, clean water, it is also one of the safest lakes in Africa.
Karongi is one of the most relaxing and romantic places in Rwanda, and is an ideal place to enjoy lakeside recreation. A picturesque lakeside resort town, there are ample beaches with crystal clear water.
Activities include an adventure at Karongi with opportunities to hike and bike the Congo Nile Trail, visit the Congo Nile Divide watershed, have a taste of the ‘crop to cup’ coffee and tea experiences within the local community, or visit the moving Bisesero Genocide Memorial with breathtaking views of the lake
Amahoro Island is also accessible on a boat trip and is a wonderful place to relax. There is a restaurant on the island and it’s possible to swim, play volleyball and camp, or talk a walk around the rocky northern part of the island. Alternatively, a boat ride to Napolean’s Island will reveal a colony of thousands of fruit bats and a large number of birds.
One of the most moving and evocative of Rwanda’s genocide memorials, at Bisesero nine small buildings represent the nine communities that made up the province of Kibuye. This area is said to have heard the greatest resistance to the genocide forces.