Rwanda, known as the land of a thousand hills, is currently one of the world’s hottest vacation destinations. Though many tourists pop in for a day of gorilla trekking, Rwanda has plenty of hidden gems worthy of further exploration. Stretching the full length of Rwanda’s Lake Kivu for 141 miles, the Congo Nile Trail is one of the country’s most impressive adventures where travelers can hike, bike, and kayak, enjoying all the gorgeous views Rwanda has to offer.
The Congo Nile Trail, located entirely on the coast of Lake Kivu, extends all the way from the northern Rubavu district down to the southern Rusizi district, passing through Rutsiro, Karongi, and Nyamasheke. Gisenyi, the capital of the Rubavu District, is generally the starting point for the Congo Nile Trail, though trekkers can begin at any point.
It takes approximately 10 days to hike, five days to bike, and eight days to Kayak the trail. Many travelers, instead of completing the entire Congo Nile in one go, choose instead to attempt small sections and make fun weekend or day trips out of it. Regardless of where hikers, bikers, and kayakers join the trail, they can be assured of panoramic views of the Lake Kivu coastline, bright green tea fields, and insight into daily Rwandan life.
Planning the trip
Rwanda is incredibly safe, and this trail can easily be completed independently by experienced and confident hikers, kayakers, and bikers. For those less interested in a solo experience, the Rwanda Development Board recommends a variety of tour agencies that can customize a hiking or biking Congo Nile Trail trip with porters, guides, and cooks. Most tourism information centers around the country are fully stocked with a detailed map of the entire Congo Nile.
Travelers interested in kayaking the trail should be sure to check out Kingfisher Journeys, the country’s only official kayaking operation. They currently only offer half of the Congo Nile trail through a four-day kayaking trip between Gisenyi and Kibuye, but are very open to private and customizable trips.
Places to stay and eat
There are eight official Congo Nile campsites in addition to several guesthouses along the way. For those on a budget, save a few bucks and camp in the midst of banana plantations under thousands of stars on a clear night. Campgrounds are clearly marked on the trail map, and are generally well known in the surrounding area.
For those interested in a warm shower and a bit of respite from the trail, Emeraude Kivu Resort, Cormoran Lodge, Rushel Kivu Lodge, Kinunu Guesthouse, and Paradis Malahide all offer some cozy upmarket options for the weary hiker, biker, or kayaker. Plus, the food at all the lodges along the way is generally quite good and filling.
Things to see and do
In addition to attempting the trail itself, there are plenty of activities for travelers along the way interested in getting off the Congo Nile. Various tea and coffee excursions—such as with Huye Mountain Coffee and Pfunda tea plantation—can be booked in advance, and general market visits, beachside naps, nature walks, and quiet afternoons are also recommended. For those interested in getting even further off the trail, Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe National Park are located one hour from Gisenyi and Cyangugu respectively. Take some extra time to go gorilla or chimpanzee trekking, hike a volcano or two, and enjoy the misty green and blue mountains of Nyungwe—Central Africa’s largest montane rainforest.
Best time of year
Rwanda is one of the most temperate countries around, with temperatures rarely rising above 90 °F or lowering below 50 °F. However, Rwanda’s infamous rainy seasons are nothing to be scoffed at. From the months of March to May and October to November, tourists should be wary of attempting the Congo Nile Trail due to the season’s impressive downpours. While there will definitely be some nice and dry days during the rainy season, the weather is just not reliable enough that time of year to plan an extended (and outdoor) adventure.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.