The Best Places to Visit In Rwanda

Rwanda, often known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” is a tiny nation nestled in East-Central Africa. Despite its compact size, Rwanda’s alluring biodiversity, dramatic landscapes, and rich culture make it a hidden gem. This dynamic country offers travelers an exquisite experience filled with wildlife encounters, historical insights, and cultural interactions. Here are the top 10 places to visit in Rwanda.


Kigali is often referred to as one of the cleanest and safest cities in Africa, boasting a well-structured urban planning system. The city is a leading advocate of sustainability, banning non-biodegradable plastics countrywide and introducing car-free days.

Kigali hosts the poignant Kigali Genocide Memorial, one of several sites throughout the country remembering the victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. This moving museum provides an in-depth insight into the causes, reality, and aftermath of this tragic period in Rwanda’s history.

Despite its rapid urbanization, Kigali retains numerous green spaces. The car-free Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco-Tourism Park is perfect for bird-watching and nature walks. Mount Kigali, the highest point in the city, offers hiking trails with panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Volcanoes National Park

olcanoes National Park, known locally as Parc National des Volcans, is a unique and vital conservation area located in the northwest corner of Rwanda. Covering approximately 160 square kilometers, the park forms part of the larger Virunga Conservation Area, which also includes Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

The highlight of many visitors’ experiences at Volcanoes National Park is the opportunity to trek and observe the mountain gorillas. Groups of eight people maximum are guided through the forest to spend one hour observing a gorilla family in their natural habitat, an encounter often described as a profoundly moving and life-changing experience.

Trekking permits are required, and the funds from these permits contribute significantly to gorilla conservation efforts and community development projects in the area.

Besides gorilla trekking, Volcanoes National Park offers various other activities. The peaks of the Virunga volcanoes provide opportunities for mountaineering and hiking. Mount Karisimbi, the highest of the five volcanoes, provides a challenging two-day hike, while the climb up Mount Bisoke includes a visit to the beautiful crater lake at the summit.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is a biodiversity hotspot, hosting around 1,000 different plant species, more than 300 bird species, and over 80 mammal species. The park’s most famous residents are the 13 different primate species, including chimpanzees and endangered species such as the L’Hoest’s monkey and the black-and-white colobus monkeys. The park is a critically important area for conservation and research in this biodiversity-rich country.

One of the main attractions at Nyungwe is chimpanzee trekking. Guided tours take visitors deep into the forest to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat. Sightings are most frequent in the early morning hours when the chimpanzees are most active. It’s a remarkable experience that offers up-close encounters and opportunities to learn about their behaviors and social structures.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is also home to East Africa’s highest canopy walkway. The walkway is 160 meters long and suspended 60 meters above the ground, providing a stunning bird’s-eye view of the lush, green forest below and the wildlife that calls it home. The canopy walk is both a thrilling adventure and a unique way to appreciate the forest’s vast biodiversity.

Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park, located in eastern Rwanda, is the country’s largest national park and an essential conservation area. Named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary, the park borders Tanzania and covers an area of about 1,122 square kilometers.

Akagera National Park is characterized by a diverse geographical landscape that includes savannah, montane and swamp ecosystems, and a complex series of lakes linked by papyrus swamps. This diversity creates an astonishing array of habitats that host a broad spectrum of flora and fauna.

Akagera offers classic African safari experiences. Daytime and nighttime game drives provide close encounters with wildlife. The guides are knowledgeable and committed to providing a rich understanding of this complex ecosystem.

For those seeking a hands-on wilderness experience, Akagera offers catch-and-release fishing trips on Lake Shakani. There are also several campsites and lodges within the park for visitors who wish to spend the night. The park’s management places a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism, ensuring these activities have minimal impact on the natural ecosystem.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu’s shimmering blue waters are encircled by green terraced hills, providing a stunningly picturesque backdrop. It is a perfect place for relaxation after gorilla trekking in the nearby Volcanoes National Park. The lake’s calm waters offer opportunities for various water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and motorboat rides.

Lake Kivu is speckled with numerous islands, each with its unique characteristics. Napoleon Island, named for its shape resembling Napoleon’s hat, hosts a large colony of fruit bats. Peace Island, also known as Munezero Island, offers beautiful beaches and warm waters perfect for swimming. Boat tours are readily available for island exploration.

Interestingly, Lake Kivu is one of the three known “exploding lakes,” together with Cameroon’s Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun. The lake’s depths contain enormous amounts of trapped methane and carbon dioxide, which, if released suddenly, can cause a limnic eruption. However, rather than just posing a risk, this methane is also seen as an energy source. Rwanda has begun to use this methane for a power generation project named “KivuWatt,” contributing to the country’s energy mix.

Musanze Caves

The Musanze Caves were formed as a result of volcanic activity from the Virunga Mountains, a volcanic mountain range that stretches across Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lava flow from eruptions created extensive underground tunnels, which over time became the caves we see today.

Historically, these caves served multiple purposes for the local people. They provided shelter during periods of war and upheaval and were used for storage due to their consistently cool temperatures.

Visitors can explore a 2-kilometer stretch of the Musanze Caves with a guided tour. The well-lit paths meander through the caverns, showcasing fascinating geological features, including stalactites and stalagmites. The caves are home to a large bat colony, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the visit.

Tours are usually conducted by guides who share insights into the formation, history, and local folklore associated with the caves. These tours provide an opportunity for visitors to appreciate the caves’ geological significance and learn about the role they have played in local culture and history.

Ethnographic Museum

The Ethnographic Museum houses one of Africa’s finest ethnographic collections. It showcases a variety of artifacts spread across seven spacious galleries, each dedicated to a different aspect of Rwandan life and culture. Exhibits cover various topics, including traditional social structures, music and dance, art, weaponry, and tools.

Visitors will find a wide range of traditional objects, including woven baskets, pottery, clothing, and farming tools. There is also a significant focus on the intangible cultural heritage, such as oral traditions, music, and dance. One of the museum’s highlights is the replica of a traditional royal residence, which offers insights into pre-colonial Rwandan social structures.

In addition to the exhibitions, the museum frequently hosts cultural performances featuring traditional Rwandan music, dance, and drumming. These performances provide visitors with a vibrant, living expression of the culture encapsulated within the museum’s walls.

King’s Palace Museum

The King’s Palace, located in Nyanza, about 88 kilometers south of Kigali, offers a fascinating glimpse into Rwanda’s royal history. It is a reconstruction of the traditional royal residence that serves as an impressive museum, showcasing Rwandan culture and history before the arrival of European colonial powers.

The centerpiece of the King’s Palace is the traditional royal residence, a large, dome-shaped structure made of thatch. This dwelling, known as the “Rukari,” has been rebuilt to match the original 19th-century royal palace. The interior of the Rukari provides insight into royal life and the hierarchical setup of the time, with separate sections for the king, queen, and their attendants.

Just a short walk from the traditional Rukari stands a contrasting sight – a modern palace built for King Mutara III Rudahigwa in the 1930s during the Belgian colonial rule. It offers a stark contrast to the traditional royal dwelling and speaks to the profound changes Rwandan society underwent during this period. This palace is also converted into a museum, showcasing a blend of Rwandan and European lifestyles.


One of Gisenyi’s main attractions is its sandy beaches lining the shores of Lake Kivu. These offer a place to relax and enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake and the distant hills. The calm waters of Lake Kivu are ideal for swimming, kayaking, and boat rides. Visitors can rent a boat for a peaceful trip around the lake, which offers a great chance to see local fishermen in their traditional boats.

Beyond the beach, Gisenyi itself is a vibrant city. The town has a lively market where visitors can explore local produce, crafts, and textiles. Several high-quality restaurants and hotels provide a range of dining options and accommodations, many with scenic views over the lake.

Near Gisenyi, visitors can find natural hot springs, a product of the region’s volcanic activity. Locals believe that these thermal waters have healing properties. Visitors can dip their feet or take a full plunge in these hot springs for a unique and rejuvenating experience.

Gisenyi’s location near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo provides an opportunity for cross-border trips. Just across the border is the city of Goma and Virunga National Park, renowned for mountain gorilla trekking. Closer to Gisenyi, the Volcanoes National Park, another important habitat for mountain gorillas, is within a couple of hours’ drive.

Rwanda Art Museum

The Rwanda Art Museum, located in the capital city of Kigali, is a testament to the vibrant and diverse artistic traditions of Rwanda. Opened in 2018, it is housed in the former Presidential Palace, a location rich in history and symbolism.

The museum boasts an impressive collection of contemporary art, with a specific emphasis on African artists. The exhibits range from paintings and sculptures to mixed-media installations, covering a broad array of themes including identity, history, and the environment. Many of the works showcase the unique cultural heritage of Rwanda, while others offer a broader perspective on African and global artistic trends.

The museum’s primary mission is to promote and preserve Rwandan artistic expression in all its forms, fostering a sense of national identity and pride. It serves as a platform for Rwandan artists to display their work and engage with local and international audiences.

Each of these locations offers a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of Rwanda, offering visitors a mix of historical and cultural experiences, alongside exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities. Rwanda’s commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism shines through in its national parks and community interactions. Whether you’re a history buff, wildlife enthusiast, or culture lover, Rwanda is a destination that will intrigue, inspire, and leave you longing for more.

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