10 REASONS TO VISIT RWANDA
If you are looking for top unique reasons to visit Rwanda, look no further. We have come up with the 10 reasons to visit Rwanda an ultimate guide, with attractions and activities that you can enjoy when you decide to take a trip to Rwanda.
Although Rwanda is one of the smaller countries in Africa, about 26,338 square kilometers, there is a lot of activities and attraction to attract all types of travelers. The country is landlocked, it is located in the region of the Great Lakes. Its topography was forged by the tectonic activities that created the Western Arm of the Great Rift Valley. Thus the landscape consists of highly elevated scenic rolling hills in the West and Central. This is where the slogan of “Land of a Thousand Hills” is coined. The East and South are covered with sprawling savanna vegetation, ideal for the big grazers and carnivores of the wild. The land is also covered with numerous craters and lava-dammed lakes. With such a varied landscape, there are surely unique things to do in Rwanda when you visit.
1. Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda
Arguably the most unforgettable and exciting of the top reasons to visit not only Rwanda but East Africa in general. Hiking in the African rainforests through the thick vegetation and mountainous gradient may seem overwhelming when you are first introduced to the idea of Gorilla tracking, but the effort is well worth it. Nothing can match that amazing moment of coming across a family of gorillas, going through their usual daily activities, just meters from you.
Mountain gorillas are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. With less than 1000 species remaining in the whole world, these gentle giants are endangered mainly because of conflict in the region and habitat loss. However, with Gorilla conservation efforts and the rise in gorilla tourism, their numbers are steadily growing.
A complex mosaic of montane ecosystems, including evergreen and bamboo forests, open grassland, marsh, and hearth, may be found in Volcanoes National Park, which is located in Rwanda’s far northwest. This spectacular mountain range is home to the endangered mountain gorilla. The sequence of dormant volcanoes that make up the Virunga Massif—Karisimbi, the highest at 4,507 meters, Bisoke with its lush crater lake, Sabinyo, Gahinga, and Muhabura—are the inspiration for Volcanoes National Park.
The Park is home to twelve completely habituated gorilla groups and a few more families that have been habituated purely for scientific purposes. At least one silverback is present in each family troop, along with a number of juveniles and females. Although the troops’ structure is relatively irregular, they frequently occupy the same general location. Each group is strictly limited to one hour of daily contact with tourists and is closely watched and safeguarded by park officials. The monument of famous gorilla researcher, Dian Fossey can be reached after a 30-minute drive from the park’s administrative building and a two- to three-hour climb through the forest to an elevation of more than 3,000 meters.
Gorilla Tracking is the top unique reason to take a trip to Rwanda.
2. Chimps and other Primates
Apart from the famous mountain gorillas, primate watching is another unique activity and a good reason to visit Rwanda.
The most popular places to see chimps are the Nyungwe National Park and the Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Chimpanzees are social animals that live in large groups and move about constantly in search of food. They also occasionally hunt smaller mammals. Each night, they create brand-new nests in the trees.
Chimpanzee vocalizations echo through the forest as they call to each other in a form of bonding rite making it typical to hear them before seeing them. They live in large communities of up to 100 individuals but can break into smaller groups as they forage for food. Chancing upon a family of chimps as they go through their typical day in the jungle of Africa is quite a thrill. The excitement is heightened by the fact that they are no barriers between you and them! You don’t have to worry as these chimps have also been habituated to human contact and generally ignore us while they forage for food.
Both Gishwati Forest and Volcanoes National Park host golden monkeys. In the former, there are two groups that can be pursued- one on Mount Karisimbi’s slopes and the other in Mount Sabyinyo’s bamboo forest. The Kinigi headquarters is the starting point for this single excursion, which leaves once daily.
With their distinctive black-and-white coloring and long hair, colobus monkeys make up a special supergroup in Nyungwe and are an absolute paradise for wildlife photographers. Vervets, blue monkeys, Dent’s monkeys, and owl-faced monkeys with beak-like noses can all be found in Nyungwe.
Located in Nyungwe and Gishwati Forest, L’Hoest’s monkeys are indigenous to the Albertine Rift.
3. Cultural Heritage and Attractions in Rwanda
The amazing cultural heritage and attractions are another unique reason to take a trip to Rwanda. Rwanda is a country that gives a high attribute to its cultural heritage and history. Like most of Africa, the past is not well documented in writing or film. However, the traditions, architecture, practices, music, art, storytelling, and gastronomy of the past are still maintained and practiced all over the country. Rwanda attaches great importance to the preservation and promotion of its culture as a cornerstone for sustainable development.
Starting at the Heritage Capital of Rwanda, Nyanza. Pre-colonization, Nyanza was the capital of the Rwandan Kingdom. Today the government has injected resources to steadily transform Nyanza into the cultural hub of the country. Here we find amazing architectural structures maintained as they were pre-colonization. The most significant is the King’s palace where you can step back in time and marvel at the architecture and craftsmanship used while constructing this grass-thatched structure. Learn more about the past kings and the culture and traditions that were carried out around the King’s palace.
The royalty of the Rwandan kingdom were mainly pastoralists who treasured their amazing long-horned Ankole cattle. It’s no surprise they had to innovate and ensure that their cattle were well catered for. This saw the construction of the Icyuzi cya Nyamagama, a man-made lake built during King Mutara III Rudahigwa after a hard famine that hit the region. This was to cater for both the people and livestock. There were also some amazing salt wells, Amariba ya Mutende. They were so popular because the milk that the cows produced after taking this salty water was so delicious and became famous around the region. Other cultural attractions in Nyanza include the Ku Bigega, Christ Roi Church, Mu Gakenyeri Kwa Musinga palace, and one of the oldest and best entertainers the Isonga Cultural troupe.
Around Rwanda other places where you can enjoy the rich cultural heritage include the Kigali Cultural Village. This is a hub where local artisans come together to trade in their local merchandise and food. It’s also an amazing place where creative workshops, events, performances, and festivals are held so you can have a taste of the fusion of modern culture with traditional Rwandan culture and hospitality.
Other areas of interest also include the Ikerenga Cultural Centre in the North, various rocks, and caves that are of significant cultural importance. These include the Rocks of Ngarama, Rock of Ndaba, Rock of Kamegeri, and Rock of Mashyiga among others. Everywhere you go around Rwanda, you will indulge in the amazing culture and traditions of the Rwandese people as culture is a pillar in their lives to date.
4. Adventure and Sports
Known for its 1000 hills, Rwanda’s landscape makes it a perfect destination for adventure and sports- another unique reason to take a trip to Rwanda. One of Africa’s most celebrated cycling events is the Tour Du Rwanda annual event. Covering 6 cities, and 6 provinces from North, South, East, and West, this 8-day International cycling event draws people from all over the world to compete and enjoy the beauty of the Rwandan landscape. With this amazing cycling event happening annually, cycling is also popular in other areas of the country with trails developed for those who would just like a leisurely cycling safari to the beautiful attractions in the country. Cycling is so popular and the country is making it more popular in Kigali with the amazing Kigali Car Free Days, promoting healthy living and combating climate change!
The Kigali Car Free days are also a perfect time to partake in hiking, another popular adventure sport in Kigali and Rwanda. You can hike the hills around the capital for wonderful viewpoints of this sprawling, rapidly expanding metropolitan city.
Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa which have Certified Hiking Trails all over the country. With amazing different landscapes, hospitable people, diverse cultural attractions, delectable cuisine, traditions, customs, and attractions to see in each region. Amazing trails have been mapped out with lots of activities that can be combined with hiking and accommodation to suit every pocket.
The trails too are designed to suit every level of hiking challenge you prefer. The more challenging trails are found on the majestic Virunga Volcanoes which range from 2,400 – 4,507 meters above sea level. You can enjoy immersing yourself purely into nature with the amazing Albertine rainforest species of flora and fauna to marvel at. Birdwatchers, butterfly lovers, primate lovers, and nature lovers will love the healing effects of hiking in these elevated jungles. Other trails include the Nyanza trails for cultural immersion, the Akagera trails to explore the Rwandan Savana diversity, and the Nyugwe Forest trails with the famous picturesque and breathtaking Canopy Walk Suspension bridge. This is an adventure you don’t want to miss when you take a trip to Rwanda.
Other sports to enjoy include football, golfing, horse riding, sport fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming in the refreshing pools and crater lakes around the country.
With 29 Albertine Rift Endemics, 703 species, a range of diverse habitats, and the greatest highland birding in Africa, Rwanda is surely a birder’s paradise.
The greatest African montane birding is undoubtedly found in Rwanda. One of the top ecotourism locations in Africa may be found when you combine that with a good road system, security, and a variety of ecosystems. Due to the country’s small size, a number of birding locations may be reached in a short amount of time, providing access to some of Africa’s most sought-after species.
As of November 2018, Rwanda is home to a total of 703 bird species, however more species have been added to the country’s list since 2010. 29 Albertine Rift Endemics and a number of Lake Victoria Basin Endemics are among the resident species. Most birders would prefer to visit Nyungwe National Park in the west of Rwanda and Akagera National Park in the east. However, wonderful birding can be found across the nation, even close to Kigali, so no matter the length of stay, there will be enjoyable birding.
Nyungwe National Park is a tropical highland rainforest with 322 bird species, 13 primate species, and several indigenous plant species. So far, 29 bird species have been discovered here. The Red-collared Babbler is unquestionably the major attraction, and Rwanda is the only safe spot to observe this magnificent bird. Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Regal, Blue-headed, and Purple sunbirds are among the other specialties.
Akagera National Park is a savannah park that includes undulating hills, lakes, wetlands, and woods. It provides a more conventional African Big 5 safari experience, but because of the diversity of ecosystems, it also boasts outstanding birding. To present, 490 bird species have been recorded in Akagera National Park. The park provides a comparable experience to others in the region, but its compact size allows you to quickly reach the various ecosystems and collect a decent bird list.
Volcanoes National Park, which features Rwanda’s highest peak, Mount Karisimbi, is located in a zone of primarily inactive, highly wooded volcanoes. The park is famed for its mountain gorillas, but it also has considerable birding potential, with 200 bird species identified from this area, including 17 Albertine Rift Endemics. The species here are comparable to those seen in Nyungwe, but the Scarlet-Tufted Sunbird can only be found in Rwanda, and a walk to the peak of Mt Bisoke is your best hope for seeing it. There are also a number of lakes around VNP that are worth a little trip. Buhanga Eco-Park is also close, and African Pitta has been spotted here during their migration.
6. Visit a Genocide Memorial
The Rwandan genocide was a horrific event that took place in 1994 and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsi and moderate Hutus. In the aftermath of the genocide, a number of memorials were established throughout Rwanda to honour the victims and serve as a reminder of the atrocities that occurred during this time.
One of the most well-known genocide memorials in Rwanda is the Kigali Genocide Memorial, located in the capital city of Kigali. The memorial is a sombre and moving tribute to the victims of the genocide and includes exhibits on the history of the genocide, as well as personal stories and artefacts from survivors. The memorial also serves as a centre for education and reconciliation, with programs and workshops focused on promoting understanding and preventing future tragedies.
The Kigali Genocide Memorial was established by the Aegis Trust, a UK-based organization that works to prevent genocide and mass atrocities around the world. The memorial serves as a centre for education and reconciliation, with exhibits and programs focused on promoting understanding and preventing future tragedies. It also features a number of educational programs and workshops focused on promoting understanding and preventing future tragedies.
In addition to serving as a memorial and museum, the Kigali Genocide Memorial also serves as a burial site for many of the victims of the genocide. It is a sombre and moving tribute to the victims of the tragedy and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of remembering and honouring those who lost their lives during this terrible time.
Other notable genocide memorials in Rwanda include the Memorial Museum in Ntarama, the Memorial Centre at Murambi, and the Memorial Centre at Nyamata. These memorials offer similar exhibits and educational programs and serve as powerful reminders of the importance of remembering and honouring the victims of the Rwandan genocide.
7. Gastronomy Tours in Rwanda
Gastronomy tours in Rwanda can be a great way to experience the local culture and cuisine of the country. Rwanda is known for its delicious and diverse food, which is influenced by a variety of cultures, including African, French, and Indian.
Some popular traditional dishes in Rwanda include:
Ishaka: This is a traditional Rwandan dish made with cornmeal and beans. It is often served with a side of vegetables, such as greens or onions, and can be accompanied by a variety of meats, such as chicken, beef, or goat. Ishaka is a popular dish in Rwanda and is often served at special occasions or during traditional ceremonies.
Isombe: This is a traditional Rwandan dish made with cassava leaves, which are a type of leafy green vegetable. The leaves are cooked and pounded into a smooth paste and are often mixed with ground peanuts or other ingredients to add flavour and texture. Isombe is typically served with a side of beans or meat and is often accompanied by a variety of vegetables, such as onions, tomatoes, and peppers.
To prepare Isombe, the cassava leaves are boiled until they are soft and tender. They are then pounded using a mortar and pestle until they form a smooth paste. Ground peanuts or other ingredients are then added to the paste to give it flavour and texture. The mixture is then shaped into small balls or patties and fried until they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Matoke: This is a traditional dish in Uganda and Rwanda that is made with plantains, which are a type of starchy fruit that is similar to bananas. The plantains are boiled and mashed until they form a soft, dough-like consistency, and are often served with a side of beans or meat. Matooke is a staple food in many parts of East Africa and is an important part of the traditional diet in Uganda and Rwanda.
Urwagwa: A traditional Rwandan drink made from fermented banana or sorghum.
Ibirayi: A traditional Rwandan dish made with cassava leaves, often served with a side of beans or meat.
Ugali: A type of cornmeal porridge that is a staple food in many parts of Africa, including Rwanda.
Coffee tours in Rwanda can be a great way for visitors to learn about the local coffee industry and the process of producing high-quality coffee. Rwanda is known for its delicious coffee, which is grown in the country’s highland regions and is an important part of the local economy. The country is home to a number of coffee plantations and processing facilities, many of which offer tours and tastings for visitors.
Coffee tours in Rwanda typically include a visit to a local coffee plantation, where visitors can learn about the history and culture of the coffee industry in the country. They may also have the opportunity to see the coffee plants up close and learn about the different types of coffee grown in Rwanda. In addition to the plantation visit, coffee tours may also include a visit to a local processing facility, where visitors can see how the coffee beans are sorted, roasted, and packaged.
Coffee tours in Rwanda can be a great way for visitors to learn about the local culture and history of the country, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the process of producing high-quality coffee. They can also be a fun and educational experience for anyone interested in learning more about the world of coffee.
For a change, if above 18 years of age, you can visit a distillery. Distillery tours in Rwanda can be a great way to learn about the local spirits and liquors produced in the country.
There are several distilleries in Rwanda that offer tours and tastings for visitors. These tours typically include a tour of the distillery facilities, where visitors can learn about the process of producing spirits and liquors, as well as the history and culture of Rwanda’s distilling industry. Visitors may also have the opportunity to try a variety of local spirits and liquors during the tour, as well as learn about the different flavours and aromas of the different products. Distillery tours in Rwanda can be a fun and educational experience for visitors interested in learning more about the local culture and history of the country. They can also be a great way to try a variety of local spirits and liquors and discover new flavours and aromas.
8. Visit a Museum
There are several museums in Rwanda that showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage and history. Some of the notable museums in Rwanda include:
The National Museum of Rwanda is the country’s premier museum and is located in the capital city of Kigali. It features exhibits on the natural history, archaeology, and cultural traditions of Rwanda. The museum has a collection of over 15,000 artefacts, including traditional Rwandan crafts, musical instruments, and cultural artefacts.
The National Museum of Rwanda also has exhibits on the Rwandan monarchy and the history of the country. It has a section dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which includes exhibits on the events of the genocide and the aftermath.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the National Museum of Rwanda also hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year. The museum is a popular tourist attraction and a great place to learn about the history and culture of Rwanda.
The Rwesero Art Museum is a contemporary art museum located in the city of Huye in Rwanda. It was founded in 2007 by the Rwandan Ministry of Sports and Culture and is dedicated to showcasing the work of Rwandan artists. The museum has a collection of over 500 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and installations.
In addition to the contemporary art exhibits, the Rwesero Art Museum also has a section dedicated to traditional Rwandan crafts and artefacts. This section features traditional Rwandan baskets, pottery, and other crafts, as well as exhibits on the cultural traditions of Rwanda.
The Rwesero Art Museum is a popular tourist attraction and a great place to learn about the contemporary art scene in Rwanda. It hosts regular exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year and is a great place to appreciate the creativity and talent of Rwandan artists.
The Museum of King Kigeli V is a museum located in the city of Nyanza in Rwanda. It is dedicated to the last King of Rwanda, Kigeli V, who ruled the country from 1959 to 1961. The museum has a collection of artefacts and memorabilia related to the life and reign of King Kigeli V, including royal robes, crowns, and other royal regalia.
The Museum of King Kigeli V also has exhibits on the history of the Rwandan monarchy and the role of the monarchy in Rwandan society. It provides a unique perspective on the history of Rwanda and the cultural traditions of the Rwandan monarchy.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Museum of King Kigeli V also hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year. The museum is a popular tourist attraction and a great place to learn about the history and culture of Rwanda.
9. Shopping in both Modern and Traditional Markets
Modern shopping in Rwanda is similar to shopping in other countries, with a variety of stores and shopping centres offering a range of products and services.
One popular shopping destination in Rwanda is the Kigali City Tower, which is a modern shopping mall located in the capital city of Kigali. The Kigali City Tower features a variety of stores, including clothing stores, electronics stores, and home goods stores, as well as restaurants and a food court.
Other modern shopping centres in Rwanda include the Kigali Heights Mall, which has a mix of local and international brands, and the Sky Centre, which is a smaller shopping centre with a variety of stores and services.
In addition to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, online shopping is also becoming more popular in Rwanda. Many international online retailers now ship to Rwanda, and there are also a number of local online stores that sell a variety of products.
Overall, modern shopping in Rwanda offers a variety of options for consumers, with a mix of traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers.
Traditional shopping in Rwanda typically refers to shopping at open-air markets or smaller speciality stores, as opposed to modern shopping centres or department stores.
One popular traditional shopping destination in Rwanda is the Kigali City Market, which is a large open-air market located in the capital city of Kigali. The Kigali City Market sells a variety of items, including fresh produce, clothing, household goods, and crafts. It is a popular destination for both tourists and locals and is a good place to find traditional Rwandan products and souvenirs.
In addition to the Kigali City Market, there are also many smaller speciality stores and markets throughout Rwanda that sell traditional products such as crafts, clothing, and food. These stores are often run by local artisans or small business owners and offer a unique shopping experience.
Overall, traditional shopping in Rwanda offers a glimpse into the country’s culture and history and allows visitors to support local businesses and artisans.
10. Festivals and events
Rwanda is a country in East Africa with a rich cultural heritage and a number of traditional festivals and events throughout the year. Some of the most popular festivals and events in Rwanda include
Kwita Izina is an annual event in Rwanda that takes place in June and is dedicated to the naming of newborn gorillas. The event is organized by the Rwanda Development Board and the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks and has become a major tourist attraction in Rwanda.
During Kwita Izina, a ceremony is held in which baby gorillas are given names by local and international dignitaries, celebrities, and other special guests. The names are chosen to reflect the characteristics of the individual gorillas and to celebrate their unique personalities.
Kwita Izina is more than just a naming ceremony, however. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of conservation and to highlight the efforts of the Rwandan government and local communities to protect the country’s endangered mountain gorillas.
The event features traditional music and dance performances, as well as speeches and presentations by conservationists and other experts. It is a major celebration of Rwandan culture and a chance for people from all over the world to learn more about the country’s rich natural heritage.
Umuganura is a national cultural festival that takes place every year in August in Rwanda. The festival is a celebration of Rwandan culture, history, and traditions, and is an important event in the country’s cultural calendar.
During the festival, traditional dance and music performances are held, and there are also displays of Rwandan handicrafts and other traditional arts and crafts. There are also storytelling sessions and other cultural activities that give attendees a chance to learn more about Rwandan history and culture.
The festival is organized by the Rwandan Ministry of Culture and Sports and is held in a different location each year. It is open to the public and attracts a large number of visitors from all over the country and beyond.
Umuganura is an important event in Rwanda, as it provides a platform for people to celebrate and preserve their cultural heritage. It is also an opportunity for people to learn more about Rwandan culture and appreciate the rich history and traditions of the country.
The Kigali International Peace Marathon is an annual marathon that takes place in May in the capital city of Kigali, Rwanda. The marathon is organized to promote peace and unity in Rwanda and to highlight the country’s efforts to rebuild and recover from its troubled past.
The marathon attracts runners from all over the world, and the course takes runners through some of the most beautiful parts of Kigali and the surrounding countryside. The marathon is held in support of various charitable causes and is organized by a team of volunteers.
In addition to the marathon, the event also features a number of other activities, including a half marathon, a 10K race, and a 5K race. There are also activities for children and families, including a kids’ race and a fun run.
The Kigali International Peace Marathon is a major event in Rwanda and is an opportunity for people from all over the world to come together to celebrate peace and unity. It is also a chance for people to learn more about Rwanda and experience the country’s rich culture and natural beauty.
Rwanda Day is a national holiday in Rwanda that is celebrated on July 4th each year. The holiday marks the day that Juvénal Habyarimana, Rwanda’s first president, came to power in 1973.
Rwanda Day is a time for Rwandans to celebrate their country’s history and cultural heritage, and to honour the country’s leaders and its people. The holiday is marked with parades, music, and traditional dance performances, and is an opportunity for Rwandans to come together with family and friends to celebrate.
In addition to the traditional celebrations, Rwanda Day is also an opportunity for the government and other organizations to promote national unity and to encourage citizens to work together towards the common goal of building a strong and prosperous nation.
Rwanda Day is an important national holiday in Rwanda and is a time for people to reflect on the country’s past and to look to the future with hope and optimism. It is a time for celebration and for coming together as a community to honour the country’s history and its people.
Overall, Rwanda is a great destination for travellers who are interested in nature, culture, and adventure. There is something for everyone in Rwanda, and the country’s friendly and welcoming people make it an enjoyable and memorable place to visit.