10 Top Outdoor Activities in Rwanda

Leah Feiger / © Culture Trip
Photo of Leah Feiger
11 April 2018

Although Rwanda is known internationally for gorilla trekking and burgeoning luxury travel, there are many activities here that will please even the hardiest of outdoor enthusiasts. Get those hiking boots ready, and read on for ten of Rwanda’s best outdoor activities.

Hiking, biking, or kayaking the Congo Nile Trail

The Congo Nile Trail runs the full length of Lake Kivu for 141 miles. Intrepid travelers have the chance to hike, bike, and kayak the entire trail, or choose bits and pieces for an exciting weekend escape. The Congo Nile journeys through lush green tea fields and small Rwandan towns, staying almost permanently in sight of the stupendous Lake Kivu. Good views and ‘gram-worthy pictures are virtually guaranteed.

Leah Feiger / | © Culture Trip

Trekking with mountain gorillas

You can’t make a list about Rwanda’s best outdoor activities and not include trekking with the country’s famous mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park, home to the gorillas in addition to golden monkeys and several impressive volcanoes, is located just outside of Musanze. Though the hikes are often arduous and the permits expensive, it’s an experience few travelers ever forget.

Mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park | © Henrik Palm / Flickr

Camping on Lake Burera

Though this excursion is entirely outside, it’s also entirely relaxing. Cyuza’s Island, a small piece of land smack in the middle of Lake Burera, is reachable only by boat and a 30-minute driving journey outside of Musanze. Campers have the chance to enjoy spectacular views of Mount Muhabura, swim and kayak around the lake, and enjoy some good time around the crackling campfire.

Camping on Lake Burera | © Leah Feiger

Big Five game drive

Akagera National Park, Rwanda’s only traditional safari park, is home to lions, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, elephants, hippos, and more. Opt of a luxurious trip through the park with Rusizi’s permanent glamping tents by Lake Ihema, or spend a night or two camping under some of the brightest stars in the country. Regardless of where you stay, a safari drive through Akagera is a great way to spend a few days.

Zebras in Akagera National Park | © Leah Feiger

Hiking in Nyungwe National Park

As Central Africa’s largest montane rainforest, Nyungwe National Park is one of Rwanda’s crown jewels. Misty mountain tops and dark green forests provide the backdrop for some of the country’s best hikes, and the forest offers canopy walks, waterfall treks, and tea plantation adventures. Located in the southwestern corner of the country, the park is only a five-hour drive from Kigali.

Waterfall in Nyungwe National Park | © Rwanda Development Board

Hiking Rwanda’s tallest volcano

On the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Karisimbi stands tall as the country’s highest summit. It takes two days to trek this impressive volcano known as one of Rwanda’s greatest adventures, and at the peak, successful climbers enjoy views into both Rwanda and Congo. This hike is for truly outdoorsy types only, as your one night on the mountain will be spent in rustic cabins halfway through the climb.

Base camp at Mt. Karisimbi | © François Terrier / Flickr

Kayaking Lake Kivu

Though views of Rwanda from land are always spectacular, views from the water are even better. Rwanda’s largest lake, the sparkling Lake Kivu, is a great vacation spot chock full of water-related activities. Several idyllic towns dot the shore, including the weekend-trip worthy Gisenyi and Kibuye, and kayaking is one of the best ways to explore the area. Different kayak trips along the coast can be arranged by Kingfisher Journeys, and several hotels also provide kayaks for rent.

Kayaking in Gisenyi | Leah Feiger / © Culture Trip

Searching for chimpanzees in a rainforest

Though a lot of tourists come to Rwanda to trek with mountain gorillas, large and playful chimpanzee troops in Nyungwe National Park are worthy of a visit as well. With hikes starting at 6:00 am, trekkers are in for a long journey through the dense forest, though the opportunity to watch chimpanzees interact and swing through the canopy is unforgettable.

The canopy walk over the rainforest is one of the park's highlights | Courtesy of Rwanda Development Board

Climbing Mount Bisoke

With a crater lake at the summit and the chance to see wild mountain gorillas along the way, hiking up Mount Bisoke is a cheaper alternative to many of the other hikes in the area. It takes only a few hours, and quick trekkers will make it down the mountain by early afternoon after leaving the park ranger’s office at approximately 8:00 am. The hike can be challenging, especially in the muddy rainy season, but the view-filled payoff is worth it.

Crater Lake at Mt. Bisoke | © Shiraz Chakera / Flickr

Touring the Sorwathe Tea Plantation

Bright green tea fields, cloudless blue skies, and bumpy dirt roads characterize Sorwathe Tea Plantation tours best. Guests are shown the fields, as well as the inside of the factory, so travelers have the chance to learn all about the tea making process and enjoy the plantation’s lovely views and easy sloping walks.

Bright green tea fields near Cyangugu | Leah Feiger / © Culture Trip