Rwanda map & highlights

This landlocked East African, country is not much bigger than Wales, yet it has one of the largest rainforest national parks in Africa, one of its Great Lakes and one of the world’s most prolific populations of mountain gorillas. Despite also having one of the world’s most pioneering and progressive wildlife conservation management systems for gorilla safaris, infrastructure is still lagging behind some other East African tourist favourites, but this is part of its beauty. Be sure to get off the tourist trail from time to time, and see what the city and nearby mountains have to offer. The coffee, chat and great local cuisine are all accompanied by the Rwandans’ infectious charm and charisma.
Akagera National Park

1. Akagera National Park

On the border with Tanzania, this is game drive central although without the crowds of other East African parks. With open savanna on one side, mountains on the other and wetlands in between, the park is habitat heaven for giraffe, zebra, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and impala, with a few shy lions and elephants. The lakes and marshes make for superb bird watching too.
Dian Fossey grave

2. Dian Fossey grave

It’s a morning’s hike up to this poignant site, where seminary primatologist and conservationist Dian Fossey was buried after her 1985 murder. She lies alongside her beloved gorillas. Nearby is her mountain hut with views of Mounts Karisimbi and Bisoke, her Karisoke Research Camp, now in ruins, being a combination of these names. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International remained here for many years before moving to Musanze.
Genocide Memorials

3. Genocide Memorials

The first or last stop for many visitors is Kigali Genocide Museum and Memorial, en route to or from the airport. Best not make it your first stop though, but take time to absorb the country’s beauty and rebirth first. The Nyamata and Ntarama Genocide Memorials, both under an hour from Kigali, are also must visits, once churches where thousands were massacred during the 1994 genocide when over a million Rwandans were killed.
Gorilla safaris

4. Gorilla safaris

Volcanoes National Park is part of a magnificent massif that minds mountain gorillas. Always book through a specialist tour operator, as you need to get a permit (up to US$1,500) to grant a visit with a chosen ‘family’. Supervised by highly trained guides, you can stay in their presence for one hour. Gorillas are like godfathers: elusive and alluring, protection money don’t come cheap. And family always comes first.

5. Kigali

A busy metropolis set among lush valleys, Kigali, often left off travel itineraries, is kickin’. Visit Kimironko market at dawn, opt for the famous Panorama Ten to Two shack for lunch, go for a walking tour in the Nyamirambo Muslim quarter in the afternoon, and enjoy the music at one of the city’s various music spots, be it Rwandan rap or Congolese Rhumba, throughout the night.
Lake Kivu

6. Lake Kivu

Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes straddling the border with DRC. Take a day trip out on the water and bask in the views of the enveloping Virunga massif. Even better, ask your tour operator to organise a nighttime fishing trip with the Lake Kivu fishermen in Kibuye. They light up the lake with lanterns hanging off their handmade elegant wooden boats to attract the small sambaza fish – a Rwandan fried specialty.
Musanze (aka Ruhengeri)

7. Musanze (aka Ruhengeri)

There has been a movement to change some of Rwanda’s city names during peace time, as a way to put the past behind them. Musanze is the new name given to Ruhengeri, and gateway to Volcanoes National Park and the Twin Lakes. If you are going gorilla trekking you will most likely stay here, so that you can get to the nearby Kinigi park entrance for a 7am start.
Nyungwe National Park

8. Nyungwe National Park

The largest swathe of tropical rainforest in East Africa, this is over 1,000km² of primate paradise, with a colossal collection of chimpanzees, plus Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys. It also has 130km of hiking trails of varying lengths. The shortest one, the Igishigishigi Trail, takes in East Africa’s highest canopy walk, and the longer Bigugu Trail leads you to the park’s eponymous highest mountain at 2,950m.
Overland tours

9. Overland tours

Many East Africa overland odysseys, where you spend at least a month exploring Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and sometimes even as far as Zanzibar, include Rwanda on the itinerary. Or opt for a Northern experience and explore the Nile on a Nairobi to Cairo overland trip, with time to explore the Nile Basin region of Rwanda. You can also combine several countries such as Kenya and Tanzania on a Rwanda tailor made holiday.
Twin Lakes

10. Twin Lakes

The twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo are located at the base of Mount Muhabura, on the outskirts of Volcanoes National Park. Take a boat ride out on one or both, especially if you are a keen bird watcher, as this rich wetland is home to herons, kingfishers, cormorants, darters, hammerkops, stalks, cranes and more. You can also stop on some of the islands to meet their small and wonderfully welcoming communities.
Volcanoes National Park

11. Volcanoes National Park

Dramatically beautiful, with six active and three extinct volcanoes, and home to the far from extinct mountain gorilla. The latter is the park’s biggest pull, however this Rwandan section of the Virunga Massif that straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, has many other hiking trails to explore, without going in search of gorillas. Seek them out and you might spot endemic golden monkeys, forest elephants or buffalo.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Rwanda or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Sample Rwanda itineraries

Gorilla trekking holiday in Rwanda (6 days):
Kigali > Volcanoes National Park > Virunga Volcanoes > Dian Fossey’s grave and remains of Karisoke Research Centre > Lakes Ruhondo and Burera > Kigali
Rwanda highlights tour (8 days):
Kigali > Nyungwe Forest > Lake Kivu > Volcanoes National Park > Kigali Genocide Memorial and Education Centre
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ryan M. Bolton] [Antelope: Hjalmar Gislason] [Akagera National Park: Mugisha Don de Dieu] [Dian Fossey grave: Nickolayvladim] [Kigali Genocide Memorial: Adam Jones] [Gorilla safaris: Hjalmar Gislason] [Kigali: Katie Taylor] [Lake Kivu: Martijn.Munneke] [Musanze: Renamed user: ixgysjijel] [Nyungwe National Park: lucianf] [Nile river: zolakoma] [Twin Lakes: François Terrier] [Volcanoes National Park: John Cooke] [Van: Rwanda Government]