Best Tourist Attractions in Rwanda :: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

The 10 Best Tourist Attractions in Rwanda

Tourist attraction
1 Volcanoes National Park Spread over around 160 sq. km. the Volcanoes National Park is situated in a village named Musanze. Surrounded by the Virunga Mountains, the park offers breathtaking scenery and boasts of a wide variety of flora and fauna. The major attraction for visitors to the park is gorilla tracking and it houses around 300 of them! Though this trekking expedition might be on the expensive side for some, the park is worth visiting to witness the nature’s beauty at its best.

In addition to the gorillas, the park harbors golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, elephants, black-fronted duiker and bushbuck among several other animals in its lush greenery. There are about 178 species of birds to be found in the park, 29 of which are endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.

Apart from gorilla tracking, one may choose to hike on the Karisimbi volcano situated at a height of 3800m, or the Mount Bidoke volcano. The tomb of Dian Fossey and the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera are also some of the places you could visit around this place. There is an annual “gorilla naming ceremony”, Kwita Izina, which is held on 1st of every September and is also worth witnessing.
2 Kibuye Kibuye is a city situated on the eastern banks of the Lake Kivuand and is one of the most beautiful townships in Rwanda. Located at a distance of 135km from the capital city Kigali, one can reach there by taking a bus from nearby cities like Gisenyi, Cyangugu or Kibuye itself (3 hours). The roads are well-maintained and resemble a rollercoaster.

Popularly known for its beach resorts, it is surrounded by hills on all sides and is covered in mist during the morning hours. Kibuye offers a scenic hike and swimming experience, and has plenty of places to stay, for pockets of all sizes. While travelling to this place, one can also visit the Les Chutes de Ndaba, which is a 100m high waterfall, at a distance of around 25 km from the city.

The Lake Kivu and its blue-brown waters, coupled with a boat ride, provide an exotic experience. You can spot the Malachite kingfishers, crowned cranes and pelicans during your boat ride. The freshwater lake forms lagoons and is counted among the largest inland water bodies. Lake Kivu itself stretches to the entire western border of the country. It was rumored to be the source of the River Nile, but this was proved to be untrue.
3 Akagera National Park Akagera is another National Park situated on the East African Rift. It borders Tanzania and is spread over a whopping area of around 1,200 sq. km. Named after the River Kagera, the park was established in 1934 with an aim to preserve the flora, fauna, the eco-regions of savannah, mountains and the swamps. A great multitude of water bodies make for a mesmerizing scenery and compliment the entire ecosystem of the park.

One may choose to go on a safari and spot a variety of animals including giraffes, antelopes and jackals. In the recent times, several game drives and game walks have also been introduced. Leopards, civets, savannah birds, antelopes are a common sight during these activities.

Nocturnal, which is a night game drive, has also been introduced. With the assistance of guides you can see several wildlife animals during the night time using a spot-light. The Nocturnal lasts for about two hours, and can prove to be one of the most distinctive experiences of your life.

Bird sighting is yet another activity one can engage in. The park is home to birds of around 520 kinds, a few of which are extremely rare such as the papyrus gonolex. During certain times of the year migratory birds also visit the park. Boat safaris on Lake Ihema and fishing in Lake Shakani are some of the other activities that might interest you.
4 Gisenyi Gisenyi is a small town in the hills of the Albertine Rift Valley and located on the north of the Lake Kivu. It is a three hour drive from Kigali and is ideal for weekend trips. The peculiarity of the place is the seamless cascading of the African forest into the savannah grasses, alongside the Lake Kivu. The northern shore of the Lake Kivu is basically the cooled down lava formed from the eruption of the Nyirangongo Volcano situated in the vicinity.

One of the popular destinations in Rwanda, it offers adventures like water sports and bike touring. The town is known for the only brewery in Rwanda – Bralirwa. The brewery is open once every week for tourists and you could try their Primus, Guiness, Amstel or even their in-house Coca-Cola.

Some of the other places worth visiting in and around this town include Rubona Peninsula, Gisenyi Public Beach, African Art Gallery and the main market. Guided tours are also available for the Pfunda Tea Estate. The estate produces up to 90 tonnes of tea during the peak times in the rainy season. Finding a place to stay would not be much of an issue here as there are several hotels in the town, offering rooms at reasonable rates.
5 Nyungwe Forest National Park This protected forest is the largest “montane forest” enclave present in the Eastern/ Central part of the Africa and is spread over a vast area of more than 940 You could visit this forest at a very affordable price and there are very few forests that match up to the beauty of the Nyungwe Forest National Park.

It is believed that this forest is in fact one of the oldest forests on Earth and was present even during the Ice Age. Home to many wildlife species, one might find the grey-cheeked mangabeys, big baboons, colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, etc. while visiting this place. It is known for its primate population and around 13 recorded species of the chimpanzees alone!

If adventure is your cup of tea, you can choose to go on a hike. There are about 13 hiking trails on offer covering almost 130km of the forest. The Canopy Walkway is a must-try experience during your trek. It is a suspending bridge, high above the ground right in the forest valley. Chimpanzee trekking or monkey trekking is another adventure which you could complement with gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes Park.

Birding is also one of the attractions. There are about 300 species of birds found in the Park and about 27 found in the albertine rift are endemics. The park is a paradise for bird enthusiasts and you can find extremely rare birds like Kamiranzovou here.
6 Lake Kivu Counted among the African Great Lakes, Lake Kivu is situated between the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It forms a part of the East African Rift on its western boundaries and finally empties into the Ruzizi River. The lake also contains Idjwi, which is the world’s tenth largest lake island.

Though the lake expands into an area spanning over 2,700 sq. km. it is not a single destination in itself and can be visited alongside some other destinations on the western border. However, it is still worth a visit because of the variety of activities on offer. If you plan to visit the Volcanoes National Park, a drive to Lake Kivu would hardly cost you an extra hour. You can also go on hiking and cycling trails and enjoy the beautiful lakeside.

En-route you may find rustic villages on stilts, people engaged in fishing, beautiful tropical islands sprinkled over the lake, and groups of traditional boats in the lake water. The lake is known for the volcanic substance present in it and is known to explode once in every thousand years. It is also methane-rich and visitors can witness traces of the upcoming industrialization in the areas nearby.
7 Gisuma Known as the coffee king of Rwanda, Gisuma is situated in between the southern end of Lake Kivu and the Nyungwe Forest National Park. It is a name well known to the baristas and coffee lovers around the world. One can visit the coffee plantations and have a first hand-experience of the cultivation process.

The coffee business is run by the Gisuma cooperative which was started by just 56 women in the year 2009! Though they started it as a means to elevate their lifestyle, little did they know that it would turn out be such a huge success. The cooperative also sells other produces like melons, citrus fruits, herbs, chocolate, etc. It is a paradigm of collective action.

The ideal time to visit Gisuma is between December and February, and from June to September when the climate is slightly warm and pleasant. However, if you want to witness the beauty of the forest in the rains, months from March to May, and October to November are the best time to visit. There are airports in the neighboring cities of Gisenyi, Bujumbura and Kigali. Another advantage of visiting Gisuma is that you can also visit the UNESCO’s world heritage sites in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, in Congo.
8 Ruhengeri Located in the Northern Rwanda region, Ruhengeri offers a serene view of the mist-covered Virunga mountains. A great multitude of gorillas have made this area their natural habitat. The hills form a part of the Volcanoes National Park, and a variety of safari options are available for viewing the gorillas.

There are many lodges in the town providing a mesmerizing view of the greens. The town, being the capital of the Musanze district houses a number of beer bars. One can take a bus from Kigali to Musanze, which ply twice every hour. Travelling within the city is also an easy task, considering the wide range of options available for rented vehicles.

There are some souvenir shops where you can take home locally sourced and manufactured goods. The clothes market is another place you should definitely visit to purchase some authentic Rwandan fabrics. You can place orders for your own shirt-sizes which are usually delivered within 1-2 days.

La Paillotte is a famous eatery among the foreign tourists where one can get a variety of food options such as pasta, steak, and breads like baguette samosa and croissants. For experiencing traditional food, you might need to head to the Happiness Restaurant, which is well-known for the Rwandan cuisine it offers.
9 Lake Muhazi Lake Muhazi is ideal for a relaxed and rejuvenating outing. Most of the visitors to the town are locals who come to spend their weekends. The lake is thin and long (snake-like) and has shallow waters. It is located in the east of Rwanda and can be accessed easily via Kigali which is at a mere 40km distance. The place has a typical temperate tropical highland climate, and has 2-2 months of alternating rainy and dry seasons.

The lake is famous for the spotted-necked otters and has an estimated population of 200-400 of them. Recently, several fish species have also been introduced to the lake. There are some resorts near the lake such as the Seeds of Peace Center and the Jambo Beach where you can stopover en route to your visit to the Akagera National Park and enjoy the lake tourism on offer. In the evenings, you can halt at one of the lakeside bars and listen to some live music.

A large number of birds can also be found in the vicinity of the lake. These include openbill and yellow-billed storks, cattle egrets, speckled mousebirds, black-lored and arrow-marked babblers and African paradise-flycatchers. The Gahini Angilican Cathedral is another attraction of the place because of its brick-built structure. Started in 1975, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
10 Gishwati Forest National Park The protected reserve sits on the north-western side of Rwanda and is close to Lake Kivu and was opened in 2015. Formed by joining the Mukura and Gishwati forests, the park is vital for conservation of not just the local biodiversity but the entire ecosystem. Though there very few places where visitors can stay, you can find lodges in the nearby towns.

Tourists can experience primate and chimpanzee tracking and watch several birds too. The wildlife population includes monkeys of different kinds such as the Blue Monkeys, Black and White colobus monkeys, Golden Monkeys and the L’Hoest Monkeys. With an excellent landscape, the park offers great hiking and nature walks as well. Recently, a number of NGOs have started coordinating with the locals to offer activities like handicraft making, traditional dancing and traditional healing.

The park works as an economic engine for the local community. The native residents are very friendly and are eager to interact with the tourists. Some of the exciting activities you can indulge in here include guided safaris and self-driven trips.

Rwanda, also known as the “Land of thousand hills” is one of the most scenic places a person can visit in their lifetime. Located in Eastern Africa, the place stays true to its name and is surrounded by a plethora of mountains and lush green forests. Even in today’s era of the globalized and commercial world, the country’s natural beauty and environment remain undiluted.

The tourism in the country has flourished immensely in the recent years, so much so that it pumps in loads of foreign exchange into Rwanda. Big hotel chains like the Marriott and Radisson have opened their estates for people visiting the country. Moreover, the government is constantly making efforts to attract foreigners. The Kigali International Airport in the capital is well connected and has eased travel to the country by manifolds. In addition to this, there are four domestic airports and an additional international airport too. The new policy of visa on arrival has reduced the visa cost to only $30, and one cam pay an additional $70 and obtain visas to Kenya and Uganda as well.

Most of the tourist attractions in Rwanda are connected by smooth roads and have regular bus services. The scenic beauty of the country and the well-maintained tourist destinations truly make Rwanda remarkable.

Driving on the roads, the beautiful sights of banana groves, mist-covered mountains, elephants flapping their ears and the lush greenery can rejuvenate anyone’s mind as well as soul. The overall experience is further enhanced by the hospitable locals who welcome foreigners with their traditional songs and big smiles on their faces.

Rwanda has a sub-tropical climate, with alternating dry and rainy seasons. The best time to visit the country is from late December to February, and from June to September. The place stays dry during these months which allows for treks and tours without any hassles.

Following are some broadly categorized tourist attractions and activities in Rwanda that are worth experiencing.

Gorilla Tracking

The primate population of Rwanda is considered one of its important natural assets as well as a major tourist attraction. Rwanda is among the only three countries to house critically endangered mountain gorillas. Gorilla tracking can be a “life-changing” experience and perhaps in no other tourist excursion can one see the nature so closely. Rwanda forests house about 800 gorillas that have been divided into 7 families, headed by mostly Silverback gorillas.

Usually, the gorilla tracking hikes go on from anywhere between half an hour to four hours, but may even be extended beyond that timeframe. The timelines would vary depending on the family you’d be visiting and their location in the forests. All the tours are guided by experts who make sure to brief you about the protocols prior to meeting the gorillas in the mountains. One can choose from the multiple packages available and can also request for filming and photography permissions.

Apart from gorillas, several other primates such as monkeys and the chimpanzees can be seen in different forests of the country. The Gishwati Forest National Park is known for its diverse species of monkeys including the Blue Monkeys, Black and White colobus monkeys, Golden Monkeys and the L’Hoest Monkeys. The colobus monkeys can also be found in the Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Other wildlife

Though gorillas have become the national icon of Rwanda, there are several other animals that one can find in Rwanda. Spotted hyenas, African clawless otter, Burchell’s zebra, hippopotamus, hero shrew and Impala are a few that can be named. The tropical forests provide a conducive environment to the great diversity of animals, most of which can be seen in the National Parks.

Rwanda also has around 670 species of birds. The Nyungwe forest has been termed as an Important Bird Area by the BirdLife International. Some of the prominent species you can locate here include grey-crowned cranes, collared sunbird, and strange weaver. During the winter season, certain migratory birds also visit the country. Hence, if you are someone who likes wildlife, Rwanda can never disappoint you.

National Parks

National Parks form one of the major highlights of Rwanda’s tourism and you’ll inevitably end up visiting one or more of them when in the country. They house diverse species of birds and animals and one can take guided tours of the forests. Some of these forests allow tourists to go on hikes and cycle tours too, allowing them to experience nature first hand, at leisure.

The Volcanoes National Park, officially called the “Parc National de Volcans” or just PNV, is one of the finest national parks in Rwanda. It lies along the Virunga Mountains and gets its name from the series of eight volcanoes in the region of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Spread over an area of 160 sq. km., the park provides an excellent opportunity to the adventure enthusiasts who can go on trekking and safari. Nature lovers would appreciate the natural flora and fauna of the place apart from its scenic beauty.

Only two hours away from the capital city of Kigali, it is the epicenter of the conservation efforts of Rwanda. During the visit, one can also see the caves of Musanze, one of the latest additions to Rwanda’s tourism. Dian Fossey, a legendary scientist spent a great deal of her lifetime in the national park researching and studying the habitat of the gorillas. She has been buried in this park only, right next to her favorite gorilla “Digit”.

Akagera National Park is another wildlife habitat located on the East African Rift. Named after the river Kagera, the park is spread over a humongous area of 1,200 sq. km. and protects not just the flora and fauna of the region but also its ecosystems such as the savannah, mountain, and swamps.

The Nyungwe Forest National Park is the largest “montane forest” present in the Eastern/ Central Africa and offers forest excursions at reasonable prices. Considered to be one of the oldest forests on Earth, it is said that it existed even during the Ice Age! Wildlife is one of the highlights and one can spot about 13 species of chimpanzees in the park. A high suspended bridge, called the Canopy Walkway is a common tourist point and the guides make sure you don’t forget its experience.

Rwanda’s largest park, the Gishwati Forest National Park is the latest addition to the wildlife sanctuaries. It was made by joining the Mukura and the Gishwati forests and is slowly developing with the help of the local community. In recent times, some NGOs have taken up the charge for uplifting the local community of the place. These NGOs work alongside travel businesses and help expose tourists to local handicrafts, traditional dances and traditional healing.

Lakes in Rwanda

Lake Kivu is a popular tourist spot and famous for its boat rides. The blue-brown waters of the lake are visited by pelicans, Malachite kingfishers and crowned cranes adding to its beauty. Earlier it was believed that the Lake Kivu was the source of the Nile River, however, this was proved otherwise. Idjwi, the tenth largest island on a lake, is also situated in Kivu. The sights of the small tropical islands, traditional boats, and fishermen are all very captivating. As the area is highly rich in methane, it has also led to the development of some pertinent industries in the nearby area.

Nearby Lake Kivu is Gisuma, best known for its coffee cultivation. Gisuma coffee is exported to most countries around the world and is a name quite familiar among the coffee enthusiasts. Majority of the coffee plantations are run by women-led co-operatives and they allow visitors to take a tour of their plantations. Tourists can learn how the coffee is procured and processed and can even enjoy some of the freshly brewed coffee!

Another popular lake in Rwanda is the Lake Muhazi, which is snake-like in its structure. Situated at around 40 km distance from Kigali, it is a natural habitat of the spotted-necked otters and several species of fish. Many resorts are located right at the shore of the lake where one can enjoy dinner and live music in the evening. The Gahini Anglican Cathedral is also located in the vicinity and is a pilgrimage to many.

Other important attractions

Rwanda has some small townships where one can go on weekends and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle. Kibuye, for example, is a beautiful little town situated about 135 km from the capital Kigali. A number of resorts in Kibuye provide a very comfortable stay. The 100m high Les Chutes de Ndaba waterfall is also at a close distance of about 25km from Kibuye.

Another town located in the Albertine Rift Valley is Gisenyi which too is ideal for short trips. An hour’s drive away from Kigali, one can see the African forest and the savannah cascading into each other here. The place offers water sports and several operators that rent out bicycles for touring the countryside. The Bralirwa brewery in the town is the only brewery in entire Rwanda and one can taste some of the locally produced beers there. Their factory is also open once a week for visitors. The Rubona Peninsula, Gisenyi Public Beach, and the African Art Gallery are some of the other interesting places in Gisenyi.

When in Volcanoes National Park, you must also visit Ruhengeri which is well-known for local Rwandan products such as fabrics and souvenirs. It is the capital of Musanze district and you’d find a good number of eateries offering international cuisines here.