Best tourist destinations in Rwanda : Rwanda is the smallest East African country in the mall but very progressive country in Africa. Ever since the end of the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has seen remarkable development in all sectors of the economy. Known as “a land of a thousand hills”, Rwanda has seen remarkable transformation in infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. Kigali city, the capital on Rwanda is one of the most beautiful places in Africa as the one of the cleanest and most organized cities in Africa. The tourism industry is modernized and infrastructure revamped to keep up with the growing number of travelers. This is possible because of the country’s rich flora and fauna as well as a motivated/united country. Because of the massive economic transformation, stability, peace and good governance structure, Rwanda is a good example that other African countries can follow if they want to get the best out of their resources.

Through the Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda has aggressively marketed her tourism destinations and national parks. The Board recently teamed up with Arsenal Football Club to market her tourism destinations using the club’s official Kit. This has resulted in Rwanda being known by many people and thereby increasing the number of tourists coming into the country.  Promotion has gone hand in hand with improvements in the tourism infrastructure like the airport, roads, hotels, lodges and hospitals, Best tourist destinations in Rwanda

National Parks in Rwanda

Although a country with incredibly biodiversity, Rwanda has identified only four sites, which were large enough to be national game parks. The country also ensured that all the four national parks offered something different in terms of wildlife, terrain and natural setting. For example, the Volcanoes National Park is composed of mainly bamboo and montane forests with mountain gorillas the star attraction. Akagera National park also offers a different experience because it is the only destination where tourists can spot the big five mammals (lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and rhino). It is only Nyungwe national park and Gishwati-Mukura, which could be said to offer similar environments and wildlife (chimpanzee and smaller primates). However, you will find that Nyungwe National Park has special activities like the forest canopy walk and a higher concentration of primates than Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

Best tourist destinations in Rwanda
Nyungwe Chimps

Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National park is part of the wider Virunga conservation area. This amazing park is situated in the northwestern part of the country – next to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is found in Musanze district which is about 107 kilometers away from the capital Kigali. The Volcanoes National Park has a hilly terrain covered with largely montane and bamboo forest making it an excellent habitat for mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas and golden monkeys enjoy and thrive in areas with very cool temperatures, mountainous and covered in dense forests. The Volcanoes National Park is a home to over 320 mountain gorillas (a third of the overall population in the world). 10 gorilla groups are habituated and open to tourism. Mountain gorillas are critically endangered and only about 1000 remain in the wild. They could easily become extinct if not protected. The Volcanoes National Park is one of the three natural habitats for mountain gorillas. The rest are found in Bwindi, Mgahinga and Virunga National Parks.

The Volcanoes National Park first gained world prominence when Dian Fossey opened up a gorilla research Centre there in the 1960’s. Though mountain gorillas are the main attractions in the Volcanoes national park, there are also other wildlife species to look out for. The Volcanoes national park also has bushbucks, buffalos, hyenas, black fronted duikers and different species of primates (Red tailed monkeys, Colobus monkeys and golden monkeys). The park also has 176 species of bird recorded to its name of which some are endemic to the Virunga conservation area and the Rwenzori region. The Volcanoes National Park is home to five volcanoes including Sabinyo, Karisimbi, Gahinga, Bisoke and Muhabura. The main activities in the Volcanoes national park are gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, visiting the grave of Dian Fossey and hiking one of the 5 Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, Best tourist destinations in Rwanda

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe is the second most popular national park in Rwanda after the Volcanoes National Park. The park covers a large part of southwestern Rwanda. It is close to the border with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nyungwe forest was established in 2004 and is covered by equatorial and one of the last afro-montane forests. The afro-montane forest in Nyungwe is the largest in Africa. Nyungwe National Park is home to 13 species of primates, 75 of mammals and over 300 of birds. The most popular tourism activities are chimpanzee trekking, small primate tracking, birding, forest canopy and nature walks. Visitors who choose to go for primates tracking can expect to spot the common chimpanzee, Mona monkeys, Silver monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Angola Colobus monkeys, Grey cheeked Mangabeys, golden monkeys, black and white Colobus. Chimpanzees are the most interesting due to their level of intelligence and close relationship with man. Nyungwe forest is one of the best destinations for birding in Rwanda. Birders can expect to spot Regal sunbirds, Chaplin’s flycatchers, Rwenzori turaco, Ruwenzori nightjar, Rockefeller’s sunbird and Rwenzori batis. The forest canopy walk in Nyungwe is one of the best in Africa allowing visitors get an aerial view of the vast forest and its creatures.

Akagera National Park

Akagera national park is different from the other national parks in terms of landscape and wildlife species. The park is located in the eastern part of the country and extends up to the border with Tanzania. Akagaera national park is covered by Lakes, Savanna grassland, Woodland and Swamps. The park was established in 1934 making it the second oldest park in Rwanda. It is a big 5 destinations were tourists can spot lions, rhinos, leopards, buffaloes and elephants. Akagera also has other mammals like warthogs, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, crocodiles, hippos, antelopes and kobs.

Apart from wildlife, Akagera National Park is also home to water bodies like Lake Ihema, Lake Shikani and river Kagera. The key activities in Akagera national park are game drives, birding and boat cruises in Lake Ihema. A boat cruise along Lake Ihema offers travelers an opportunity to spot aquatic animals like hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks and a variety of bird species including the intriguing Shoebill stork.

Best tourist destinations in Rwanda
Akagera national park  Game drives

Gishwati-Mukura National Park

This is an amalgamation of the two forests of Gishwati and Mukura. For long, these two forests were separate wildlife conservation sites but in 2015 the government of Rwanda combined and elevated them to a full national park. Gishwati-Mukura is now the newest national park in Rwanda and because the park is not well known by tourists. The park has chimpanzees, golden monkeys, L’hoest monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys and other smaller primates but the government also wants to position it as the leading birding destination in the country. As I write this, the government is building one of the best nature trails in the park. Tourists will not only spot primates but can go for amazing nature walks to spot birds, flowers, butterflies, reptiles and birds. The government has a lot of work to do in order to turn it into a leading tourist destination. The current challenge is to regrow trees in areas that had been degraded due to human activities. To that end, international partners like the World Bank are funding reforestation programs, Best tourist destinations in Rwanda

Other Attractions in Rwanda

Apart from the four national parks, Rwanda has other interesting tourism spots and activities that are worth mentioning;

Kigali city

Kigali is Rwanda’s capital and the most populated city in the country. Having survived the devastating genocide of 1994, Kigali has grown to become one of the most organized and clean metropolitan areas in Africa. While on a tour of the city, one can take part in several activities or visit places like the architectural structures, historical sites, restaurants, the conference oval, Amahoro stadium, night clubs, city markets, the genocide memorial center, the former presidential palace and the famous Hotel des Mille Collines of the Hotel Rwanda movie. There are also numerous modern buildings being set up in Kigali that are quiet eye catching.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is found in the western part of the country. It is shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lake is famous because of the boiling methane gas that lies under the shores. There are countless activities and things to see while on a tour of Lake Kivu. The lake rewards visitors with beautiful scenery, beaches and resorts. The main activities while at the lake include swimming, sun bathing, boat rides, picnics, sightseeing, photography and island hopping.  If you are wondering where to spend a night while visiting the lake, then you do not need to worry because you will have many facilities to choose from. The Lake Kivu Serena Hotel is arguably the best of the lot and offers world-class services, Best tourist destinations in Rwanda

Museums, Genocide memorials Sites and Cultural Centers

Rwandans take pride in their culture and history. Although the 1994 genocide left a dark mark in the country’s history, it has helped unite people in a special way.  Instead of having separate cultural centers for the Tutsi, Hutu and the minority Batwa, the country now has what is known as the Kinyarwanda culture. The Kinyarwanda Culture has helped forge unity and helped avoid petty tribal sentiments that helped fuel the genocide. This new unity is demonstrated when you visit establishments like the Iby’iwacu Cultural village located in Musanze district. Now known as the Gorilla Guardians Village, the Centre showcases all that is great about the Kinyarwanda culture. Tourists love the Centre because of the amazing traditional dance and musical performances. While on a tour of the Centre, tourists also get a chance to visit the traditional medicine man, women craft projects, local brick layering factories, local beer makers and much more.

Best tourist destinations in Rwanda
iby’wachu cultural village

Away from the culture, Rwanda has various historical sites and museums located in Kigali and in other areas. Most of them are related to events during the Rwanda genocide but there are also museums showing things from the country’s past and present. The main genocide memorial centers are the Gisozi genocide memorial Centre, Murambi genocide memorial, the Nyamata church and Bisesero genocide memorial site. If you are interested in museums, then you can visit the ethnographic museum of Rwanda, Kandt house museum and the King’s palace museum just to mention a few.

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