Rwanda Destinations – The Land of 1000 Hills

Rwanda - Kigali City

Kigali City Tower is a mixed use high rise office and retail building

Rwanda Travel Destinations “Land of a thousand hills”

Rwanda is a landlocked East African country whose green, mountainous landscape has earned it the nickname “Land of a Thousand Hills.” Its renowned Volcanoes National Park is home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Bordering Congo and Uganda, the park encompasses 4,507m-tall Mt. Karisimbi and 4 other forested volcanoes. Kigali, the nation’s sprawling capital, has a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene.

Tourist Attractions in Rwanda

Rwanda is mostly covered by steep hills and deep valleys with its highest point being Karisimbi (14,187 ft; 4,324 m) in the Virunga mountains. Although well known for the horrible history of the genocide, Rwanda is a nice country, with magnificent people, amazing lakes, mountains, a great climate, good roads, a nice standard of living with cheap things ranging from food to accommodation and lots ofother things. Rwanda is a small country and almost all its attractions of nice places are next to each other. Tourists’ top attractions are found in the following places in Rwanda.

1.  The Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains

The Rwanda gorillas in the Virunga mountains are shared with countries like the Uganda and Democratic republic of Congo. These three countries share the few remaining gorillas in the world. People frequent Parc National Des Volcans to track these humble giants that have endured civil and world wars. People come from all over the world to spend one hour with these great apes. Looking through the eyes of these humble giants (Gorilla), gives you a feeling that triggers a question in your mind that goes “Why, why, why, not protect” they are really exhilarating.

2.   Genocide memorials

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. There are two genocide memorials outside Kigali. One is Ntarama church that is about 5 km down a right-hand fork that branches off the Nyamata road, roughly 20 km outside Kigali. This church has been left empty just as it was after removing the bodies with scraps of personal items like clothes on the floor. Next to this church is a building where other people seeking safety were massacred. The other church is just is at Nyamata 30 km from Kigali which was a site of horrible massacres. The bodies were also removed although blood stains remain on the walls. A courtyard was dug outside the underground chamber and that’s where the skulls of many victims are being displayed.

3. Kabgayi Church museum

3 km from Gitarama along Butare road lays the massive cathedral of Kabgayi. This is the oldest in the country dating back in 1925. This was the first settlement area of the Catholic Bishop. With a huge size and peaceful interior the church is worth a visit and there is a small museum beside it.

4. Akagera National Park

Named after the Akagera River running along its eastern boundary, Akagera National Park is warm and low-lying with undulating plains supporting a cover of dense broad leafed trees with acacia woodlands and grasslands.
The park harbours over 20 mammal species. The eastern side is wet and it is known to harbour almost the largest number of hippos is Africa. Other animals to view on the lakes on the eastern side are crocodiles, Lions, leopards and black rhinos which are present in small numbers. You can go for boat trips on Lake Ihema to view some of these animals. For birders this is another paradise on earth, the birdlife is extraordinary: not only the rarities that will have passionate birdwatchers in ecstasy but also Africa’s most inspiring concentration of big waterbirds. A visit in this park is truly rewarding.

 5. Nyungwe Forest

It is a montane forest that is remarkably rich in biodiversity with 75 mammal species, 120 butterflies, 275 birds and over 100 varieties of orchids. The forest is well known for its primates and chimpanzee tracking can be arranged at a short notice and at a small fee. Other primates in this forest include several other varieties of monkeys. The roads to the forest are good and with excellent rent houses and campsites to provide the necessary services to you while in the forest. A nature walk through this forest can be truly rewarding.

6. Musanze cave

Formed by centuries of geologic activity centered around the Virunga volcanoes next door, the 1.25-mile long Musanze caves are located just outside of the town they share a name with, and are only a 90-minute drive from Kigali. With an enormous opening (and an equally huge number of bats resident inside), the greenery outside spilling over into the twilight within makes for a fantastic photo op. Though today they’re a tourist attraction, the caves were used as a shelter during wartime for many centuries leading right up into the modern era, and as such, it’s an important site to local people. Thus, out of respect for the area’s residents, access is limited to guided visits. Expert guides lead every tour, and they explain the history of the caves from their formation to present day. The tours make an excellent add-on activity for the afternoon after you’ve seen the gorillas. The tours take about 2.5 hours and can be done at any time throughout the year.

7. Hotel des Milles Colline

This is a hotel in Kigali that is attracting people’s attention of recent due to the “Hotel Rwanda” movie and its contribution to Rwanda. The Hotel is known to have housed and protected over 1,268 people under the management of Paul Rusesabagina. Paul took over management of this hotel a few days after the start of the genocide and this was as after the European managers had been flown out. Paul and his wife used to bribe the Hutu Interahamwe Militia with money and alcohol to keep them from killing the refugees.

8. Rusumo Falls

The falls is located at the Eastern part of Rwanda at the border with Tanzania. It is an amazing and spectacular falls that is a part of the distant headwaters of the river Nile. It’s not worth missing while crossing the border of Rwanda with Tanzania.

9. National Museum

This is located in Butare city in Huye and it is known to be the most tourists’ attraction in Butare. The museum is known to have probably the finest ethnographic collection in the whole of East Africa. It has spacious rooms that allow the exhibitions to be appreciated and enjoyed. Exhibitions provide information not only on pre-colonial history but also on the process of development of the country (Rwanda) to her modernity today. At the museum you can organise for the Ntore dancers to entertain you with the traditional dances of Rwanda.

10. Lake Kivu

Located in the Albertine rift and a part of the Great Rift Valley, Kivu  is a large fresh water deposit that marks the western border with DR Congo. This lake is a tourist’s centre with fresh waters safe to swim. It has nice beaches with splendid landscapes and the sunset is usually astounding. You can spend a weekend on one of the beaches. 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 some more adventure. Rubavu is also known for its agro tourism experiences, with many tea and coffee plantations nearby. 

11. Congo Nile Trail

The Congo Nile Trail is a trail along Lake Kivu that extends from Rubavu and continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi, Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi District, a

227 km stretch of beautiful rolling hills and clear water. The entire trek can be completed in a 10- day hike. However, the trip can be done in sections if travelers do not have the time to complete the entire trail. Trails give stunning views of the Lake Kivu coastline and offer adventurous travelers an exciting way to discover Rwanda. Biking the Congo Nile Trail can be completed in 5 days, with rich views and immersive cultural experiences along the way. This trail appeals to adventure travelers and is a great way to experience Rwanda. The trail can also be split up if visitors do not have the time to commit to the 5 day journey. However, it is an experience worth selling to those who crave an off the beaten path adventure.

12. The Source of River Nile

Over the years, many countries and locations have laid claim to having the ‘source of the Nile’! In 2005 – 2006 a team called ‘Ascend The Nile’ set off from Egypt to trace the entire length of the Nile and eventually they found their goal at the head of the Rukarara River in Rwanda, which is a tributary of the Akagera which flows into Lake Victoria. It is now possible to walk to the Source of the Nile, which is actually located in the northern section of Nyungwe Forest National Park. Treks can be booked from Gisovu Tea Factory in advance and a guide will take you there. The trail takes around 45-60 minutes in each direction and is an easy walk.

13. Nyange High School

3 years after the genocide in Rwanda, groups of rebels kept infiltrating into Rwanda from Congo to destabilize the new government, and carried out massacres, mostly against Tutsis. On the night of 18th March 1997 they raided Nyange Secondary school in the North West of the country. The rebels surrounded the school dining hall and classes when all students were doing their night studies. Students in class 6 were made to lie down and asked to separate themselves into two groups: Hutu and Tutsi. They refused. This is the story of those students – whose refusal to separate cost many of them their lives, among them, a girl named Marie Chantal who was the first to say those magic words, have later honoured as national heroes.

14. Kigali City

Kigali is the dynamic capital at the heart of Rwanda. Peacefully nestled along picturesque hilltops, Kigali is a thriving African city immediately notable for its cleanliness, orderliness, and hospitality. Kigali is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda journey as it is 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.

15.  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, they were deployed to guard the house of Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. When the genocide began, 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.

Rwanda Gorilla Trekking

Rwanda is one of only three countries in the world where the critically endangered mountain gorillas live. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is often described as “life changing” and with good reason. With only an estimated 880 Gorillas left in the world, seeing these gentle creatures in their natural habitat is a truly unique moment.
Gorillas make their homes in and amongst the bamboo-covered slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda. Trek to see them and you’ll be introduced by your expert trackers and guides to one of the fully-habituated families of mountain gorillas and you can stay with them for an awe-inspiring hour, often crouching just a few feet away, whilst the gorillas go about their daily lives.

Hikes in the mountains can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours + depending on the family allocated to your group and their location. The journey back can take just as long, but you are often carried along by the euphoria you feel at seeing the gorillas!

Expert guides give a pre-trek briefing on specific protocols and rules for visiting the gorillas that live within an altitude of 2500 and 4000m. Porters are available to help carry backpacks and cameras, as well as helping you with your footing along your hike which can be hard work, but well worth it.

Rwanda Gorilla Permits

Gorilla permits can be booked at the RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office in person, by telephone (252 57 65 14) or via email: reservation@rwandatourism.com. Gorilla permits cost as follows:

  • Current Rwanda Gorilla Permit costs USD $1,500 per person for non-nationals

Kigali, 6 May 2017 – The Rwanda Development Board today announced an increase in the price of Gorilla Permits from US$ 750 to US $1,500 for all visitors effective immediately. A new exclusive package for tourists who wish to book an entire family of gorillas was also introduced at US$ 15,000, and will receive exclusive personalized tour guide services.

The price increase will not affect tourists who had already purchased their tickets at the time of this announcement.

Tourists who visit other national parks (Nyungwe and Akagera) for a minimum of three days, in addition to gorilla trekking will receive a discount of 30%. Similarly, conference tourists, who stay pre or post conference dates to see gorillas will be eligible for a 15% discount. – Read more

The fees are inclusive of park entry fees.

Rwanda Primates Trekking

Beyond the gorillas that made Rwanda famous, wildlife junkies will be thrilled to know that they can trek three more species of primates on their Rwandan holiday: Chimpanzees, Black-and-white colobus monkeys, and the endangered Golden monkey. Chimpanzee groups live high in the canopy of Nyungwe National Park, and catching your first glimpse of one crashing through the forest after hiking into their territory is astonishing. The black-and-white colobus live in Nyungwe as well, and these resplendent, long-haired creatures are every wildlife photographer’s dream.

Finally, like their neighbours the gorillas, the Golden monkey can be found in very few places outside of Volcanoes National Park, and their rich colors, energetic demeanour, and sizeable troupes of up to 30 individuals are truly a sight to behold. The gorillas may be what brought you to Rwanda, but it would be an unforgivable omission to leave without seeing one of the wonderful creatures they share a home with, the chimpanzees.

These cousins to humans can be found and tracked in Nyungwe National Forest. A beautiful guided hike through the forest will lead you to these fascinating creatures where you can watch them play and interact up close. Chimpanzee tracking can be done year-round in Nyungwe Forest, rain or shine, and while it is never guaranteed that you will see them, sightings are very common and guides are skillful in tracking them. The experience differs from gorilla tracking as the chimps are running around, so the sightings are a bit more sporadic and rushed, but worthwhile nonetheless.

Golden Monkey Trekking

These striking primates are a treat for the eyes. With their bright orange fur contrasting the green rainforests of the Virunga Mountains – it’s a photographers dream! Visitors meet with their guides at Volcanoes National Park’s Kinigi Headquarters and the visit is done once per day. Time for trekking is allocated after booking.

Cultural Experiences

While it might have been the gorillas that entice you to Rwanda, it’s the people of Rwanda who will keep you coming back. Ancient traditions of honour and hospitality run strong here, and anybody who takes the time to discover Rwandan culture for oneself will find a proud and unique people, happy to welcome you into their lives and introduce you to their traditions.

Music and dance play an indispensable role in everyday life here, and performances range from dashing demonstrations of bravery and prowess to humorous songs, light-hearted dances, and rural artistry with roots in traditional agriculture. Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lulunga—a harp-like instrument with eight strings—while more celebratory dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.

The finest displays of Rwanda’s dynamic traditional musical and dance styles are performed by the Intore Dance Troupes. Performed wearing grass wigs and clutching spears this dance is a true spectacle of Rwanda. Live dance performances can be seen at cultural villages, museums and as entertainment at many lodges and hotels across Rwanda. The Iby’ Iwacu cultural village in Musanze, and the National Museum of Rwanda have regular performances and daily dances occur at the RDB office at Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park.

The genocide memorial in Kigali is included on every city tour and is a must-see. Rwanda’s painful past has haunted the country for years; however, their impressive recovery story has turned them into an inspiration. The genocide memorial acts as a humbling reminder to those present and honors those lost. This is a worthwhile visit for travelers who want to gain insight into the history of genocide in Rwanda. It will also help travelers appreciate how far Rwanda has come. The memorial Center is open every day from 8am to 5pm, but the last entrance is at 4pm. It opens at 2pm on Umuganda Saturdays (the last Saturday of every month when Rwandans get together for community clean up). There is no fee to enter; however, guides are available at a small fee. The Center is located in Gisozi.

While the largest memorial is in Kigali, the genocide touched all corners of Rwanda, and as such there are many emotionally charged memorials located throughout the country. Some are as simple as a quiet garden space for contemplation, while others are larger and hold relics, remains, and exhibits on the genocide itself. Beyond the main memorial centre in Kigali, a few of the memorials that belong on any Rwandan itinerary include:

Nyanza Genocide Memorial

This site, in the grounds of Kigali’s Ecole Technique Officielle, holds the graves of more than 10,000 Tutsis who were massacred here during the genocide. Today several concrete memorials mark the spot, and it’s been used as a main site for genocide anniversary commemorations.

Ntarama Genocide Memorial

Set in a village south of Kigali where more than 5,000 people were killed in the grounds of a church, the site today has been turned into a memorial garden, and the interior of the church holds the personal belongings and skeletons of hundreds of the victims, including everything from clothing, to toys, to identification. Guided visits are available.

Nyamata Genocide Memorial

Along the main road south of Kigali, this is another church where people sought protection but were ultimately slaughtered. 10,000 people were killed here in 1994, and today their personal effects fill the church. Two crypts underneath the grounds hold tens of thousands of bodies, and guided visits are available.

Murambi Genocide Memorial

Set in a former technical school just north of Nyamagabe in Rwanda’s southwest, the Murambi memorial is perhaps the most significant, and most wrenching of all of Rwanda’s genocide memorials. Up to 50,000 people were murdered here, and the mass graves so large, that the heat of the surrounding decomposition preserved many of the bodies, which now populate the bare dormitories of the school. To better explain the events leading up to the massacre, an interpretive centre was opened here in 2011.

Helicopter Tours

One of the most spectacular ways to see Rwanda is from the air! Indulge in a helicopter ride above the land of a thousand hills to get a bird’s eye view of the endless rolling green hills and pristine water banks. Helicopter is also a rapid way to get from one attraction to another. Heli-safaris and transportation are offered by Akagera Aviation. To book, contact us

 

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