Perfect for tech buffs, digital nomads, wildlife lovers, caffeine fiends and outdoors-y types!
For me, Rwanda is perfect for every visitor to Africa, whether first-timers or seasoned travelers. My 2012 trip to the Central African country rates extremely high on my ‘Top Holidays’ list and from what I hear, things have only gotten better since!
Here’s why you should visit this beautiful, innovative country!
Rwanda is one of the safest and most economically prosperous countries in East and Central Africa. Forget about its history, the streets of Kigali are much, much safer than Nairobi or Kampala. I don’t want to get into the political reasons why (lets just say President Kagame runs a tight ship) or the implications of this, but for visitors, there’s no doubting Rwanda is ridiculously safe.
Kigali is an efficient, well serviced city with a good road network. Even the motos (motorbike taxis) are incredibly regulated, registered with the proper authorities and always carrying helmets for passengers.
It has a Vibrant Capital
The capital Kigali is a beautiful city, with picture perfect red tiled roofs densely spread over rolling green hills. Many visitors skip over this chilled out city in their rush to get to the mountain gorillas but that’s a mistake. A series of valleys ringed with stunning mountain scenes, you should take at least two days to explore Kigali.
I don’t use the term ‘vibrant’ loosely. Rwanda envisions itself as a growing technology and start-up hub, a Singapore- like knowledge based economy. And it’s put serious work into this, laying 4,500 km of firbe optic brandband cables meaning the country is seriously well connected. This has attracted innovative spaces such as Impact Hub Kigali and means Kigali is a seriously cool, truly vibrant capital city.
The Genocide: There’s no escaping the grim legacy of the 1994 genocide and its aftermath- nor should you try. Make sure to visit the very impressive and sobering Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre run by Aegis Trust. To learn more about the Genocide, I recommend reading We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow we will be Killed with our Families by Philip Gourevitch. It’s important to acknowledge and remember the past, while admiring the way Rwandans embrace their future.
I’d also recommend staying at Discover Rwanda Hostel which is also run by Aegis Trust, with profits being used to fund education and social support programmes for genocide survivors. It’s a great hostel, clean and well organised with great chill out spaces and a welcoming vibe. Good place to meet fellow travelers.
It has Stunning Scenery
Lake Kivu, in the far west of the country, is an otherworldly sunken mountain valley. The steeply ridged islands are actually the tops of sunken mountains. It’s a beautiful chill out spot, with great lakeside hikes and white sand beaches on the lakes shore. It’s a four or five hour drive from Kigali, with good, paved roads the whole way. The drive itself is an attraction, with beautiful scenes the whole way through coffee growing country.
There’s Volcanoes, Rainforests, Safaris AND Mountain Gorillas!
Nature and wildlife lovers rejoice!
Mountain gorillas are Rwandas big tourist draw – it’s one of only three countries in the world where they can be found. An estimated one third of the only 780 mountain gorillas left in the world are found here.
But the country also boasts a whole host of other wildlife and natural attractions. There are traditional safaris in Akagera National Park, though not on the same scale as Kenya and Tanzania and Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast untouched expanse of rainforest
Volcanoes National Park, home of the mountain gorillas, borders DRC’s famous Virunga National Park and contains six extinct and three active volcanoes. There are a number of day treks on offer in the park, as well as overnight camping options beside the beautiful crater lake.
And in case you’re wondering:
Is it East or Central?
Rwanda is geographically located in Central Africa but is a member of the free trade zone, East African Community (possible precursor to a political federation and loosely modeled on the EU). Commonly described as part of East Africa, the geography nerd in me just can’t accept this so I tend to go for East Central Africa!
French or English?
Rwanda is a traditionally Francophone country but English is increasingly gaining ground. I found it generally easy to get around Kigali with a hybrid of English and (poor) French but outside the capital, a few words of French really are necessary.