Things to Do in Rwanda, 12 Must-Have Attractions & Activities in Rwanda

Things to Do in Rwanda, 12 Must-Have Attractions & Activities in Rwanda. Among the many activities in Rwanda, gorilla trekking is at the top of practically every traveler’s list. Tourists from all over the world flock to Rwanda for the unique opportunity to get close to animals that share 99 percent of human DNA. The country’s conservation efforts have allowed for significant progress toward protecting the animals.

The opportunity to witness these peaceful giants is only the beginning of what Rwanda has to offer, though. Despite being devastated by the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the country has made remarkable development in the decades thereafter, becoming a safe, welcoming destination with a plethora of attractions.

Akagera National Park offers safaris, and the Nyungwe Forest Canopy Walk provides visitors with breathtaking views of the forest below. Visit the Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda to learn about the intriguing traditional habits and beliefs of the Rwandan people. Visit the King’s Palace Museum to see the royal cows and listen to the singers who perform for them.

Make the most of your experience with our list of the top tourist activities in Rwanda.

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12 Must-Have Attractions & Activities in Rwanda

You want to know what to do in Rwanda. Stop right there! If you find yourself in the Land of a Thousand Hills, consider these 14 things to do.

Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is unquestionably the best thing to do in Rwanda. This Rwandan national park, which borders Uganda and the DRC, is home to an increasing population of critically endangered mountain gorillas. There are probably around 600 gorillas in the park now, up significantly from the 240–250 that were there in 1981, according to experts.

You’ll need one of the few available daily hiking permits, which cost $1,500 each, to visit one of the 18 habituated families of mountain gorillas. Working with a trusted tour operator is the simplest option because they will take care of all the logistics, including getting you from Kigali to the park headquarters.

The majority of the four-to-eight-hour trip is spent among magical bamboo groves, open grasslands, and murky wetlands. National park service guides will bring you to a gorilla family that has become accustomed to visitors. You’ll have an hour to watch the animals as they eat, raise their young, and socialize.

It is generally agreed that gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a risk-free experience. When it comes to humans, the gorillas couldn’t care less. The experience is one that won’t soon be forgotten, and visitors are kept safe by armed guides who utilize a variety of clicking sounds to communicate with the gorillas.

In Volcanoes National Park, porters can be found at the trailheads. It’s a good idea to hire one for the day so that they can help you carry your luggage and keep you from falling in the mud.

Do you wish to increase your knowledge of mountain gorillas? Stop at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Karisoke Research Center in Musanze after your trip to learn more about these fascinating primates. There’s a modest but informative museum there dedicated to mountain gorillas and the efforts of conservationist Dian Fossey, whose struggle to safeguard the species gained widespread attention thanks to the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist.

Kigali Genocide Memorial

It’s hard to believe that less than two decades have passed since Rwanda was gripped by a genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 people in less than a month. The country has made great strides since the massacre, but the tragedy has left a lasting stain on the lives of ordinary citizens and future generations.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial is where visitors may find out more information about this terrible tragedy. Through displays of images, objects, and information, the eerie museum delves into the events leading up to the 1994 massacre. Stained-glass windows give off an upbeat glow in the main display hall, which is surrounded by moving sculptures.

Another permanent display in the museum details the occurrence of genocide in many parts of the world and the efforts of various groups to intervene, putting the Rwandan genocide into perspective.

The museum also features a Children’s Room, which focuses on the victims of the genocide who were children. Oversized images of the children, some of whom were infants when they were killed, and other personal details about the victims, such as their nicknames and favorite books, help to keep their memory alive.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a somber but essential stop for every responsible traveler in Rwanda. In the memorial’s Gardens of Reflection, take some time to reflect on your visit and observe a moment of silence in honor of the more than 250,000 people who are buried here.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to an impressive 1,068 plant species, 322 bird species, and 75 mammal species, making it one of the most important forest conservation zones in all of Africa.

Chimpanzee tracking is the main attraction in this rainforest since the chimps there have been trained to interact with humans. This animal experience is much more affordable than visiting the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

There is more to do in Nyungwe than just monkey around. Approximately 90 minutes of hiking from the Uwinka Visitor Center will bring you to the park’s canopy walk, the only one of its kind in East Africa. You’ll cross a suspension bridge that’s 91 meters long and hangs more than 50 meters over the lush jungle below, giving you a breathtaking view of the surrounding trees and distant mountains.

Suffer from vertigo? If you want an exciting experience without having to defy gravity, skip the canopy tour and hike along one of the park’s 15 trails instead.

King’s Palace Museum

If you still need convincing that Rwandans have a deep respect for wildlife, a trip to the King’s Palace Museum will do the trick. The enormous horns of the inyambo (holy cows) are the main draw at this museum, one of Rwanda’s eight national museums. In a custom practiced only in Rwanda, traditional singers shout out lyrics throughout the day to put the cows at ease.

The exhibits inside the museum are just as fascinating as the animals in the backyard. A 15th-century king’s palace is recreated there, complete with a thatched roof, royal hut, and fresh milk hut, the latter of which was typically managed by a single woman.

The colonial-style mansion where King Mutara III Rudahigwa lived in the middle of the twentieth century is also open to visitors. Rwandan designs are mixed with European-style furniture (some of which belonged to the king) to create a distinctive interior design.

Akagera National Park

Game drives are an essential part of any trip to Africa. Akagera National Park, about 2.5 hours from Kigali, satisfies the safari cravings of visitors.

The African Parks Association has done an excellent job of restoring Akagera and its biodiversity after they were nearly wiped out during the Rwandan genocide. In addition to a variety of birds and antelope, the 1,140-square-kilometer area (one of Central Africa’s largest protected wetlands) is currently home to all of the Big Five.

Seeing a lion or rhinoceros at Akagera will require a lot of luck, as conservationists are still working to increase their numbers. But on a self-drive safari, you’ll have no trouble seeing zebras, hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants, or giraffes.

Both the native creatures and the landscape itself are stunning. It’s a beautiful transition from dry grasslands to swamps and lakes.

The park’s visitor center offers guides for hire. They know all the secret spots where the animals hang out.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is the best place in Rwanda to unwind and take it easy after a day of seeing the great outdoors. Rwanda’s largest lake is an emerald green oasis that spans over 2,700 square kilometers and is framed by hazy mountains.

Rubavu is a tourist town on the northernmost edge of Lake Kivu where you can get some much-needed R&R. The Lake Kivu Serena Hotel is just one of many beautiful resorts that line the city’s bustling shoreline. Spending some time in this tranquil community is sure to help you recharge.

Kingfisher Journeys brings you even closer to the landscape. The tour operator can set you up with multi-day paddling expeditions that will leave you in amazement, as well as sunset kayak trips on Lake Kivu with singing fisherman.

Ethnographic Museum

Located around 130 kilometers south of Kigali in the area of Huye, Rwanda’s Ethnographic Museum houses one of the best collections of ethnological and archeological objects in all of Africa. In 1989, on the occasion of Rwanda’s 25th anniversary of independence, Belgium presented the city with the museum as a gift.

The seven exhibit halls of the Ethnographic Museum transport visitors to pre-colonial Rwanda. You can view an astounding array of woven baskets, traditional clothing fashioned from animal hides and woven grass, spears and arrows, ancient musical drums, and antique farming implements.

Visitors can explore a real palace and find out more about its history and design. The museum also regularly features live demonstrations of various crafts.

Gorilla Guardians Village

Gorilla Guardians Village in Volcanoes National Park is not only a great destination to watch gorillas, but also to learn about Rwandan culture. The cultural village, which is run by ex-poachers, is a non-profit organization where visitors can try their hand at some of Rwanda’s most well-known arts and crafts and activities.

You will learn to weave your own baskets, shoot an arrow, and crush grains with a large stone, much like the ladies of Rwanda. The guides’ infectious energy turns the trip into one big celebration.

Attending one of Gorilla Guardians Village’s intore dance performances is a must. The drummers provided an exciting backdrop for the traditional dancers, who performed in elaborate costumes that included long straw wigs and skirts. You’ll soon be joining them on the dance floor.

Explore Kigali

Many visitors to Rwanda only have one night in Kigali before heading off to view the mountain gorillas, missing out on the city’s rich history, delicious cuisine, and fascinating attractions. Whether you’re starting or ending your vacation here, you should prepare to spend a few days here.

Kimironko Market is the main marketplace in Kigali, and it is a great place to stock up on unique clothing made from vibrantly printed fabrics. The warehouse area is like a maze; around every corner is something new.

Then, head over to Inema Arts Center, a gallery that features the work of up to ten Kigali-based artists. The Presidential Palace of Rwanda is now home to the Rwanda Art Museum. Among the best modern art from Rwanda and the surrounding area is on show here. The wreckage of the presidential plane that went down in 1994 is also on display.

Recharge at Question Coffee Cafe with a cup of coffee in the traditional way in Rwanda. To see what kind of novel caffeinated creations the baristas have come up with, peruse the cafe’s specials menu. Some of their coffee drinks have been known to include unusual regional ingredients like tree tomato.

Get some leisure and relaxation with a delicious supper at a top Kigali eatery. The panoramic views of the city from the hotel’s restaurant, Le Panorama, are worth the price of admission alone.

Visit The Retreat’s Fusion Restaurant’s outdoor patio for a more intimate meal. It has a beautiful view of the sparkling pool and provides fresh seafood, as well as homemade pastas and tasty appetizers.

Explore Gishwati Mukura National Park

Towards the end of 2020, Rwanda unveiled Gishwati Mukura, its fourth national park and an additional natural attraction for tourists. One of the last remaining patches of montane rainforest in Central Africa is protected within the park’s 34 square kilometers of land.

Gishwati is the larger forest in the park and is open to visitors. Approximately 20 eastern chimpanzees and other primates, such as golden monkeys, blue monkeys, and L’Hoest’s, call this place home. The best way to see these feisty animals is on a guided chimpanzee or monkey tracking tour. There are three pathways through the woods that can be explored as part of a guided nature walk. Bring your binoculars so you can get a better look at the over 230 kinds of birds that call this woodland home.

Nyamata Genocide Memorial

Visit the Nyamata Genocide Memorial to learn more about the atrocities committed in Rwanda. More than 40,000 people are buried there; around 10,000 of them tried to hide in the chapel but were slaughtered as Hutu warriors broke down the doors.

Items of clothing and identification cards belonging to the victims have been placed on the church pews. Tonia Locatelli’s grave, an Italian missionary who tried to draw attention to the systematic murder of the Tutsis, is located right outside the church’s main entrance.

Visiting the memorial is not for the weak of heart, but it can be a profoundly affecting experience and a reminder of the vital need of working to prevent future genocides.