Bordered by well-known Tanzania and Uganda, Rwanda is a small country in East Africa with big potential and much to offer budget and luxury travelers alike. With opportunities to see wildlife and culture as well as hike and relax, read on to find nine reasons to visit Rwanda.
Rwanda is mountainous, diverse, and just all around gorgeous. Jungles, savannas, volcanoes, lakes, and forests are just a few hours apart, and this little country packs in the beauty. Rwanda is called the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ for a reason, and in between activities, don’t forget to take in all the breathtaking views and sunsets.
Rwanda is a conservation and wildlife success story, and options for wildlife encounters and national park visits are plentiful. The Virunga Mountains, a range that spans Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are home to over half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Tourists and travelers visiting the country can visit gorilla families in the wild and aid their conservation. Other than gorillas, Nyungwe National Park is home to chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and more than 300 different bird species. Since lions and rhinos were reintroduced to Rwanda in 2015 and 2017 respectively, Akagera National Park once again has Africa’s ‘Big Five.’
Unlike neighboring Uganda or Tanzania, Rwanda’s bus system runs on time and the roads are generally well maintained. Traveling in Rwanda, a country slightly smaller than Switzerland, also means it is possible to traverse the country in fewer than 10 days.
Handmade baskets, colorful fabric (called gitenge), and rich coffee beans are available all over the country. In recent years, creative jewelry options, fashion designers, and unique fashion shows have put Kigali on the map as an undeniable shopping capital.
Don’t leave Rwanda without eating brochettes (grilled meat or fish on a stick), enjoying potatoes and plantains, or hitting a classic Rwandan lunch-buffet counter. Additionally, the past few years have seen a massive uptake in the Kigali restaurant scene, and the city now offers high-quality sushi, excellent bibimbap, cheesy pizzas, and homemade ice cream.
For such a small country, there is so much to do. In addition to all the wildlife encounters, kayak or canoe through northwest Rwanda, explore art galleries in Kigali, hike around volcanoes, and more.
Consider Rwanda a jumping-off point for the rest of East Africa. Quick buses and planes to Uganda are fairly inexpensive, and getting to Nairobi, Zanzibar, Addis Ababa, and the Serengeti Plain is easy. Feeling adventurous? Cross the Rwandan border into the Democratic Republic of Congo to hike the Nyiragongo Volcano, home to the largest active lava lake on Earth.
Rwanda’s weather is forever moderate. Not too hot and not too cold, Rwanda easily has some of the best weather compared with its surrounding East African neighbors. Rainy season comes twice a year (from approximately October to November and February to May), and though getting around can become more difficult, it’s an easy trade-off for the lush green views and all the flowers.
Rwandans are notoriously kind and friendly individuals. From making sure visitors do not get lost in the city center of Kigali and going out of their way to help fix broken-down vehicles to sharing some laughs over a good meal or cold beer, these are just some of the reasons why hanging with Rwandans is always a lovely experience.