Top Things To Do In Rwanda 2024-2025 : Rwanda, a landlocked country in the center of Africa, is quickly rising to the top of the list of places savvy travelers must see. The majority of people to this East African safari destination have a single activity that is at the top of their list: hiking to Volcanoes National Park, home to the mountain gorillas that Jane Fossey studied extensively.
However, for those who are willing to stay a few additional days before or after their mountain experience, this captivating nation has so much more to offer. Whether you want to learn more about the 1990s genocide or are looking for a lakeside getaway, we’ll cover some of the best things to do in Rwanda in this post. Here is the list of best things to do in Rwanda after or before your mountain gorilla trekking safari:
EXPLORE THE NATIONAL PARKS
Akagera National Park: The largest national park in the nation is called Akagera National Park, and it is situated near the Tanzanian and Rwandan borders. Numerous species of wildlife can be found there, with the ideal times to see them being in the dry months of June, July, August, September, December, January, and February. A huge blow to the park during the 1994 genocide was caused by locals encroaching on parks; as a result, most animals fled the park, while others were killed for food. But with the reintroduction of creatures like black rhinos in 2017 and lions in 2015, together with the previously abundant fauna like buffalos, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, elephants, and leopards, among others, the park has been brought back to its former splendor.
Gishwati Mukura National Park: Situated near Lake Kivu, Gishwati Mukura National Park is situated on the crest dividing the Congo and Nile water catchment basins. In contrast to other parks, the National Park was established in 2015 to save the Montane rainforests, which had been largely destroyed during the genocide when people in the area felled trees to raise livestock. Gishwati is the finest national park for travelers who want to escape big crowds because it is less well-known than other parks.
Numerous primates, including 20 chimpanzees, blue monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, and more than 60 species of trees, can be found in the National Park. Numerous bird species, some of which are endemic to the Albertine region, can also be found in Gishwati. In addition to providing you with an understanding of the park’s preserved natural environment, a visit to Gishwati Mukura National Park allows you to visit nearby communities and gain insight into their customs, culture, and way of life, including beekeeping, handcrafting, and interactions with traditional healers.
VISIT THE GENOCIDE MEMORIAL CENTERS
Kigali Genocide Memorial Center: The Kigali Genocide Memorial Center is ten minutes from Kigali’s city center and is situated in Gisozi. About 250,000 Rwandan citizens who perished in the 1994 genocide now reside in the center, which is run by the non-governmental organization AEGIS, which has made it its mission to end genocides worldwide. The building is divided into several sections. In one area, skulls, personal items, and photos of the dead are displayed. In another, images depicting the brutality of the genocide are displayed. Finally, there is a mass grave outside the building where survivors of the genocide and those who lost loved ones gather to remember and share their experiences.
Nyamata Genocide Memorial Center: Nyamata, which is in Bugesera, was formerly a church where Tutsis gathered to seek safety from the conflict. The church doors were broken open with grenades, and there are still bloodstained garments, such as the Alter cloth, national identification cards for all the dead lining the church pews, and mass graves outside the church housing 25,000 bodies.
The Ntarama Genocide Memorial: It is located one hour’s drive from the heart of Kigali, the site of the 5,000 fatalities. The Tutsis sought sanctuary in a little Catholic village parish church from the militias that had stormed and massacred everyone inside.
Murambi Genocide Memorial: The Tutsis were instructed to hide at this technical school in the hopes that the French soldiers would defend them. There are a number of mass graves, and the memorial site is the hardest to visit due to the skeleton display, which makes it easy to identify someone if they are connected to you. Currently, a few of the classrooms serve as tourist exhibition spaces.
Nyarubuye memorial site: In this Catholic church, two thousand Tutsis were slain, maimed, and raped. It is thought that Gacumbitsi Sylvestre, the district mayor, armed the militia and encouraged them to murder the civilians who had taken sanctuary in the church. Though there is a memorial center next to it, the church has subsequently been repaired and is used by the community.
The memorial site of Bisesero: this place is where 40,000 people died. Here, the Tutsis, with virtually nothing to fight with, resisted the Hutus by hiding in the hills and using sticks and stones to subdue their adversaries.
Other genocide sites that are well worth a visit before or after your mountain gorilla trekking Safari are the Gisozi Memorial site, where at least 30,000 Hutus and Tutsis were slain, and the Nyanza Genocide Memorial site, where commemorations of the genocide anniversary are held every April and over 10,000 victims’ graves are marked.
EXPLORE THE MUSEUMS
The history and culture of Rwanda are conserved at a number of the nation’s museums. These are a few of the museums you can visit while on a safari in Rwanda; quick trips to the museums either before or after a gorilla hike are well worth it.
The King’s Palace Museum: The palace built in the fifteenth century is reconstructed in Nyanza’s King’s Palace Museum. You can stroll around the outdoor palace, which is decorated with some of the king’s personal belongings and is styled in a European and Rwandan manner. Long-horned cattle, or inyambos, are utilized in royal ceremonies and are considered sacred animals. You can spend your entire day listening to singers who attempt to soothe the cows with poetry (a known and sacred tradition among the people of Rwanda). The palace features a fully grass-thatched fresh milk house run by single ladies. You may discover more about Rwandan culture there.
The Ethnographic Museum: One of the greatest museums in Africa, the Ethnographic Museum is situated in Butare town and has an extensive collection of cultural relics. The museum, which houses weaved baskets, animal costumes, traditional spears, and other handicrafts dating back more than a century, was given to Rwanda as a present for the country’s 25th anniversary of independence. Taking a stroll around the museum will transport you to a pre-colonial era.
The National History Museum: The National History Museum, formerly the Kandt House Museum, is a significant cultural landmark in Rwanda. It bears the name of Dr. Richard Kandt, the first German colonial governor of Rwanda. The museum is split into three sections. The first section is an exhibition that depicts Rwandan culture prior to colonialism. The second half of the exhibition depicts Rwanda during the colonial era, while the museum’s last section displays Rwanda following its independence. The museum also features photographs of the German and Rwanda World Cup teams, as well as unusual and distinctive species, the nation’s scenery, and plants. Visit the museum to learn more about Rwanda’s history and culture.
The Presidential Palace Museum: To find out more about the causes of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, visit the Presidential Palace Museum in Rwanda. This was once the state residence of Juvenal Habyarimana, the former president of Rwanda, whose plane was shot down on April 6, 1994. The wreckage is still visible today, where the aircraft touched down. The genocide began when the Hutus assaulted the Tutsis after learning of the shooting. The weapons used in the conflict between the government and the RPF are still visible to tourists.
EXPLORE THE CULTURAL TOURS IN RWANDA
It is worthwhile to understand more about Rwanda’s distinctive culture, and the best way to do so is by visiting the local communities. An amazing option for a safari before or after a gorilla walk in Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda, a country renowned for its rich culture and history.
Visit the Ibyiwacu cultural village: One of Rwanda’s most popular cultural villages is Ibyiwacu, also called the Gorilla Guardians Village. Ibyiwacu’s charm stems from its proximity to Volcanoes National Park, the site of gorilla trekking. In addition to teaching visitors how to build a traditional Rwandan home, the village has contributed to the gorillas’ conservation efforts. The villagers also set traps to catch antelopes, birds, and other wildlife. Along with learning how to make regional cuisine, you may also partake in the Intore dance and drink locally made beer.
It should be noted that the hamlet was established to provide employment for the former poachers and to highlight the distinctive culture of Rwanda.
The Banda cultural village: it is located at Uwinka, close to the park headquarters, in Nyungwe National Park. The Intore dancers greet you as you enter the village, and a knowledgeable guide will show you around. Here, you can watch people making regional cuisine, take in music and dance, and discover how the people use the tools in the area to go about their daily lives—weaving baskets, grinding maize, gathering medicinal herbs, and, if you’re lucky, attending a traditional wedding.
Enjoy the cultural festivals: Rwanda hosts a number of festivals that unite residents and visitors to experience the nation’s distinctive culture. The festivals are scheduled at various times, but they’re all worthwhile. Attend the annual Volcanoes National Park Kwita Izina ceremony in October, where baby gorillas are given names. Numerous luminaries, including politicians, celebrities, and the president of Rwanda, attend the event. You can also go to the Umuganda festival, which is held in Kigali on the final Saturday of each month. Everyone in the city is expected to clean the streets during this event. All citizens are required to attend this event, which runs from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Offices must remain closed until the Umuganda event is over, and cars are not permitted on this day. While cleaning is not required of visitors, you are welcome to participate alongside the locals. The Ukwibuka festival is one final event you can take part in, honoring and remembering those who perished in the genocide in Rwanda. You can visit the Rwandan Embassy to find out how you can join in this annual event, which takes place in April.
RELAX ON THE SHORES OF LAKE KIVU.
Perhaps all you want to do after a demanding (but worthwhile) hike to view the mountain gorillas is unwind, and Lake Kivu provides plenty of opportunities for that. This shimmering oasis, which covers 2,700 square kilometers, is best viewed from one of the lakefront villages. Its emerald-green waters are encircled by mountains covered in mist.
Only one hour from Volcanoes National Park lies Rubavu, a sandy beach with appealing waves near the northern edge of Lake Kivu. Originally a colonial seaside resort, Rubavu is dotted with stunning ancient mansions, many of which are now bars where you can end the day with sundowners.
The Congo-Nile Trail passes through terraced slopes covered in fields of crops as it travels 227 kilometers south from Rubavu to Rusizi. This famous path, which is best explored on foot or by bicycle and passes through small communities and banana fields, is a fantastic opportunity to get a sense of the “real Rwanda.”
If you would rather take in the alluring surroundings from the water, you can charter a boat and sail to Idjwi, the largest island in Lake Kivu. Another wonderful method to leisurely explore this magnificent region of Rwanda is through multi-day kayaking expeditions.