Rwanda is undoubtedly best known for its mountain gorilla trekking, an experience that has often been described as one of the most profound wildlife experiences on Earth. However, after meeting these gentle giants, most travelers tend to head to Kenya or Tanzania to continue their safari holiday.

This is a pity because as a leading ecotourism destination, Rwanda can offer travelers an incredible all-around African experience. The country has three national parks, a thriving capital city, spectacular mountain scenery and some surprisingly diverse wildlife.

A safe and very welcoming place, Rwanda is an ideal family destination with numerous opportunities to interact and engage with the locals. The Reconciliation Village in the Bugesera District, for example, introduces travelers to the development challenges of the country. In this model village, guests engage in different activities ranging from agricultural experiences, interaction with ever-smiling Rwandan children and cooking and weaving lessons from women's associations in the village. The experience concludes event called Ubusabane Get Together Party.

Iby' Iwachu Cultural Village is located near Parc National des Volcans in Kinigi and also showcases the Rwandan ways of living and traditional lifestyles to travelers. At the village, travelers can partake in a great number of activities. They can visit traditional healers to learn about the different medicinal trees, shrubs and grasses. They can attend the banana brewery, see how the local beer is made and have a taste. Travelers can join food gatherers in harvesting and preparation of food like ubugari, umutsima, ibirayi and igikoma, and guests can also participate in millet grinding with stones and see whether they have enough balance to carry baskets of potatoes and jugs of water on their heads. A three-hour walk through Nyabigoma village offers travelers a chance to visit homes and farms and get a glimpse of the rural Rwandan ways of living.

Kids are bound to be fascinated by Rwanda's unique forms of art, which can be explored on an Imigongo Tour in Kibungo. Cow dung from calves is used to make different designs on local houses and on craft items; dominated by black, brown and white whorls and other geometric abstractions, these unique and earthy works can be bought in Kigali, but it's worth diverting to the source to see how the paintings are reflected in local house decorations.

The coffee and tea plantations are also an interesting day trip for the entire family. The coffee tours in Rubavu shows visitors over 20 coffee-growing and -production processes right from the nursery beds, coffee gardens/plantations, picking coffee, washing, selection, drying and fermenting. Tea plantation tours take 
place in a variety of locations 
across Rwanda, with the major
 ones being around Nyungwe 
National park: Gisovu and 
Gisakura. This is also a great family 
trip and travelers of all ages are

A male mountain gorilla.
A male mountain gorilla. Photo Credit:

Besides its rich cultural offering, Rwanda is also a unique wildlife destination. Volcanoes National Park in the northwest of the country is the most famous of Rwanda's three parks, as it is home to the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking safaris, however, are only available to adults and children older than 15.  

The lesser-known Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast, untouched tropical rainforest with a high, dense canopy. To get a real sense of Nyungwe, try East Africa's highest canopy walk with a metal bridge suspended more than 150 feet above the forest, offering breathtaking views. The park also offers primate trekkings and is home to 13 primate species, including chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus. Starting very early in the morning, chimps are tracked in groups of eight, and guests will have just one hour in their company once they've been located.

A popular accommodation choice near Nyungwe Forest National Park is the luxurious Nyungwe Forest Lodge. The lodge is situated in Gisakura, a working tea plantation, on the edge of the Nyungwe National Park. It was developed on deep-reaching environmental and social principles, and all rooms and suites at the lodge face toward the forest. Wake up with the forest view on your doorstep and the sounds of its resident chimpanzees. The lodge offers luxury facilities that include a relaxation center, spa, restaurant, bistro, boma, gift boutique and personal guided forest walks.

After an action-packed vacation, Lake Kivu will offer visitors a few days of well-deserved peace and relaxation. Lake Kivu is a perfect place to practice a variety of water sports, such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing and boat rides. The seaside-like atmosphere and temperate climates provide fun for the entire family.

Need to know:

When to go: Rwanda is an all-year holiday destination, but the most popular times are the long dry season from June to September and the shorter dry season around December to February.

Currency: Rwandan Franc (Rwf) also abbreviated as Frw. f not traveling with the Rwandan Franc, the currencies commonly used are the U.S. dollar followed by the euro. Regional and other foreign currencies are also accepted at Forex bureaus in Rwanda. There are ATMs throughout Kigali. Credit cards are accepted in some upper-market restaurants and hotels, but it is best to confirm prior to ordering.

How to get there: Kigali Airport (KIA) is only about six miles from Kigali's city center. Carriers operating to KIA include RwandAir, SN Brussels, Qatar Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airways and AirUganda. Domestic flights are also available through Akagera Aviation and Rwandair.

Health issues: Malaria is common to Rwanda. Yellow fever is a risk in Rwanda. It is recommended that all travelers over the age of 9 months receive this vaccine. It is recommended but not required that visitors to Rwanda be vaccinated for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Hepatitis B and Rabies. Only limited medical facilities are available in Rwanda. In the event of serious accident or illness, evacuation by air ambulance to Kenya or South Africa may be required.

Hydration: Unfortunately, it is not recommended to drink the tap water during your time in Rwanda. It is important to stick with bottled water, even when brushing teeth.

Gorilla and tea plantation images courtesy of Shutterstock


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