Rightly nicknamed the Little Switzerland of Africa, Rwanda has environmental riches, such as the famous Volcanoes National Park, where great apes can be observed in their natural habitat. This explains why this small country is one of the most popular destinations in Africa. Hamaji Magazine shares ten reasons to discover the Land of a Thousand Hills
Rwanda is now looking towards a future of high-end tourism, which intends to reconcile ecology and development of its natural treasures. In less than ten years, the country has become one of the main holiday destinations for gorilla safaris in East Africa. With Kigali as its capital, which aims to position itself as an example in Africa for its cleanliness and “green” approach, with its National Parks, its history and its particularly rich culture, Rwanda is now considered one of the most iconic destinations in Africa for gorillas trekking tours and the promotion of sustainable tourism.
1 – A luxurious retreat at Bisate Lodge
The Land of a Thousand Hills is banking on the future and developing responsible luxury tourism. In this region now looking towards a future of upmarket tourism, which intends to reconcile ecology and the enhancement of its natural treasures, Bisate, an ecolodge located in the Volcanoes National Park, is a base camp for exceptional hikes, situated in the heart of a volcano theatre, where six thatched and papyrus “nests” welcome travellers. The project responds to a holistic and responsible approach. Perched at an altitude of 2800 metres, the conical-roofed “nests” are hidden in a lush forest setting. Their spacious verandas open onto the surrounding peaks, the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes. The houses are inspired by traditional architecture and Rwandan culture. Signed by the very chic South African label Artichoke and Teta Isibo, talented artistic director of Inzuki Designs in Kigali. A dedicated team will work in collaboration with your travel agency to design a trip according to your budget and desires.
2- Coffee made in Rwanda
In addition to its history, music and culture, Rwanda is rich in agriculture. Introduced into the country by the Germans in the 19th century, coffee has a major role in the country’s economy and is currently its first export. Some of Africa’s best coffees are grown and processed in Rwanda. While most Rwandans are tea-lovers, more and more Kigalese are frequenting local cafés. The NGO Sustainable Growers is trying to reverse this trend and create a truly local coffee culture with the help of 72 cooperatives run by hand-picked women coffee farmers. The team opened Question Coffee in Kigali and trained baristas to boost the local market. Filter, Italian or French press coffee, there is something for everyone.
3 – The famous Congo Nile Trail
227km on foot from North to South or South to North of the country, how does that sound? The Congo Nile Trail takes you from one end of Lake Kivu to the other, from Gisenyi to Cyangugu on foot or by bike. The trail is well laid out to allow the more adventurous to discover the lake and the villages along its shores. You will be able to pitch your tent in the camping areas all along the trail. Our little tip: start from the north to finish in apotheosis on the Nyungwe forest, the “green lung” of Rwanda!
4- National parks
The mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park located in the Northern Province of Rwanda have become famous. But you will have plenty of options for your nature hikes such as the Virunga & Kahuzi Biega National Park on the border with Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa”, Mount Nyiragongo, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the impenetrable Bwindi National Park and wildlife sanctuary (primates, birds…) and the undulating landscapes of Lake Bunyonyi – an absolute must. If tourism is accessible to all budgets, Rwanda also offers luxury lodges such as Sabyinyo Silver Back & Virunga Safari Lodge, the Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, or the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge. Hikers discovering gorillas and volcanoes will find perfectly adapted lodges such as Bamboo, Laplame, Da Vinci or Muhabura Hotel.
5- A hike in the Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is located in the north, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The Virunga range, one of the most beautiful sites in all Africa, is a succession of seven volcanoes, the highest of which is 4,500 m high. The very first African park, created in 1925, is famous for its inhabitants, the famous mountain gorillas. It is one of the great curiosities of the contemporary world. The Beringei gorilla is one of the last families of gorillas that are now rare on our planet. The “silverbacks” live in the virgin forest of the volcanoes near Ruhengeri. You can get up to two or three meters away to observe the family intimacy of these well-guarded and preserved specimens. An unforgettable visit. Don’t forget to contemplate, from the top of the volcanoes, the picturesque and varied landscapes spread across thousands of hills.
6- Reach the sky in Nyungwe National Park
Located on the border with Burundi, this park, protected since 2004, shows the unsuspected richness of Rwanda’s biodiversity. In the humid atmosphere of the Amazonian-looking high altitude primary forest, more than a hundred species of orchids and multiple forest species find an ideal biotope for flora and fauna. But the great attraction of the forest is the Canopy Walkway. This 200-metre-long metal suspension bridge, built over the canopy more than seventy metres above the ground, offers breathtaking views of this green lung. The experience is exhilarating and allows you to see monkeys and birds from a different perspective. Subjects with vertigo should refrain!
7 – Sailing on Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu is among the largest lakes in Africa, it is the eighth largest lake on the continent. It is also among the deepest lakes in the world. Located between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, it flows into the Uzizi River. Nestled in Lake Kivu is an island called Idjwi where one of the best coffees in the region is grown.
8 – A city trip to Kigali
Nicknamed the “Singapore of Africa”, Kigali is the capital. The contrast it offers with other African capitals is striking at first glance. An exemplary student of sustainable development, Rwanda has banned plastic bags since 2008. It has undergone a spectacular development in the last ten years. Groomed like an English garden, no paper is left lying around, green spaces are drawn in line, road traffic is organised, motorcyclists are protected by helmets, and skyscrapers are skillfully lined up. Effervescent and creative, this city of a million inhabitants is teeming with artists’ galleries, fashion workshops and boutiques of young designers, passionate about promoting African identity with a touch of modernity.
Radisson Blue Kigali
AMATA’N’UBUKI Boutique Hotel
9- Kigali’s new school of architecture
Young Rwandan architects are trained in buildings designed by Patrick Schweitzer, an architect from Strasbourg. The Alsatian, who was inspired by nearby volcanoes, used lava stone in his buildings. Patrice Schweitzer wanted to enhance the wealth of Rwandan materials and know-how. In particular for casting concrete structures, working with wood or metal. 350 people worked on this site. “The idea was that the building itself should be educational. We used raw materials, local resources, to encourage future students to use the resources of their country. “ The Institute of Architecture in Kigali welcomes nearly 400 students every year.
10 – The Kigali Genocide Memorial
The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide. A place of memory and communion, the Memorial welcomes visitors from all over the world.
RWANDA TRAVEL DIARY
The rainy season is in full swing in April and November. Therefore, it is best to choose the other months when travelling to Rwanda.
Kinyarwanda, English, French, Swahili
Telephone and internet
The area code is +250. Wifi is very widespread in Rwanda and mainly in Internet cafes. Outside the big cities, connections are slower and rarer.
The plugs are the same in Rwanda and in Europe, so you will not need an adapter.
The currency of Rwanda is the Rwandan franc (RWF).
Means of payment
International credit cards: Visa, Eurocard, MasterCard. Credit cards are becoming more and more common in hotels, petrol stations, some restaurants, supermarkets, and near national parks. Cash withdrawals of up to €2,500 can be made in cities. Remember to bring foreign currency in cash, euros or dollars. Dollars are more easily exchanged across the country. Although expensive, Western Union is represented in the major cities of Rwanda.
As of January 2018, all foreign travellers are granted a 30-day visa upon arrival.
Rwanda is at UTC +2 hours.
It is advisable to be up to date with your vaccinations, yellow fever and meningitis are recommended. Malaria is a risk in Rwanda, thus a preventive treatment during and after your stay is recommended. Mosquito nets are widespread.