6 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Rwanda

Jul 22, 2021

Africa's newest nation is a pristine place of natural beauty, with dramatic landscapes of extinct volcanoes, snowcapped mountains, lush rainforests, and beautiful lakes. Its rich and diverse wildlife is one of the main draws, and with the country's pristine forestland and gentle people, Rwanda is also one of the most comfortable places in the world to visit.

A visit to Rwanda is a fulfilling cultural experience: you'll delve into local communities, take part in traditions, experience all sorts of cultures, and learn about the nation's history.

Rwanda's top attractions will show off its beauty, but they also include its history, traditions, and culture. Some great choices include the Kigali Memorial Centre, the National Museum, and the Shwerama Forest, where you can experience "Kingdom of the Elephants" animal show. Discover more on our top 10 best things to do in Rwanda.

Kigali

Photo of Kigali
Kigali: en.wikipedia.org

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is a comparatively young city, having been destroyed by the 1994 genocide and rebuilt. The Tutsi were the targets of the genocide and because of this have a presence in the city. There are a number of historical and beautiful buildings, but most notable is the university building, which is a beautiful example of modernist architecture. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, opened in 1997, commemorates the events of the 1994 genocide. It is a personal account of the experience, the impact on the survivors, the mass killings, and the personal struggle to live as a survivor in the aftermath. The Centre is housed in an imposing five-story building containing a cinema, several auditoria, and a rooftop that gives views across the city. Other popular things to do in Kigali include visiting the Grand Palace and the Genocide Memorial Museum. Here, one can learn about the country's genocide by using original interviews with survivors, and the permanent exhibition is one of the best in the world. The museum shows the efforts of the Canadian Holocaust Memorial Foundation to establish the memorial and of James Baker, the U.S. special envoy to the African Great Lakes region.

Gisenyi

Photo of Gisenyi
Gisenyi: en.wikipedia.org

A small number of tourists, mostly from South Africa, visit Gisenyi, a country town at the foothills of the Virunga Mountains. Gisenyi and its neighboring villages are located near the Lac Tumba National Park and offer a refuge from the crowd. The mountains offer both views of the plains below and the picturesque, darkly colored Rwandan trees. Many consider the region of Rwanda to be the "Switzerland of Africa". The main town, Gisenyi, is a crossroads for the surrounding area, a fast-growing town populated by real estate agents and development agents. A daily bus from Kigali stops in Gisenyi and allows visitors the opportunity to spend a day or two exploring the surrounding area. The Lac Tumba National Park is one of the best places to see the Rwandan forests. It's home to more than 200 species of flora and fauna, including mountain gorillas. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. In addition to enjoying the luxury of viewing these animals in their natural habitat, visitors can also see them up close as these two baby gorillas travel in the back of a covered truck to and from a study facility. This town offers mountain trekking tours and elephant safaris. The park also offers visitors the chance to see the rare golden monkey as well as chimpanzees and antelopes. For additional information on the park and its tourist attractions, you may want to book one of the popular gorilla tours.

Musanze

Photo of Musanze District
Musanze District: en.wikipedia.org

Musanze is one of the most beautiful towns in Rwanda, nestled in a deep canyon where it forms a series of linked villages. Villagers enjoy a traditional lifestyle with an interesting assortment of traditional architectural styles. In the town center you can find artisan shops, a theater, a hotel, and a book store. Musanze is known for its red beads, some of which you can buy and see local artists make. Also in Musanze you can visit the village of Eshizunguru, which has a fascinating traditional display of African handicrafts.

Ruhengeri

Photo of Ruhengeri
Ruhengeri: en.wikipedia.org

Central to much of the economic and political life of Rwanda, Ruhengeri is an important center for both national and international trade and education. It is also a place of spiritual significance, as the church stands on the site where Simon Mukama Rweumehe, a local minister, proclaimed the independence of the new Republic of Rwanda on January 1, 1961. Ruhengeri has two parts to its name: its name in Kinyarwanda, Ru-engeri, is "place of the batons," and in French, Ruhengeri means "where the land meets the sea." You can easily visit the nearby Kigali International Convention Center on a half-day trip, but the town's best sites are the restored fourteenth century Church of Notre Dame de Sion, and the tomb of Hélézige Ndayisabambule, a local historian and man of letters, as well as a small museum in his memory.

Nyungwe Forest

Photo of Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe Forest: en.wikipedia.org

Rwanda's oldest national park (about 160,000-year-old fossils found at a site here suggest human habitation of the region goes back that far) has been called "one of the most important sites for dinosaur fossils in the world". Situated on the plateau of the Virunga Mountains, Nyungwe Forest is home to some of Africa's largest mammals, including several primate species, elephants, buffalo, and the rare snow leopard. The park is easily accessed by road and reached after a spectacular 10-minute helicopter ride from Kigali. A national park ranger will take visitors up the mountainside for a close look at the mama apes (determined by their size and shape) and in turn receive a reward of fruit, while the animals themselves are sometimes spotted, though not always. To reach the park in the first place, it's best to plan to arrive early, as flights from Kigali are often full, and day trips are permitted only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more information, see "Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda" on this site.

Volcanoes National Park

Photo of Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Rwanda has perhaps the most beautiful national parks in Africa. Volcanoes National Park is one of the most unspoiled, with a park that borders on the famed volcanoes of the rest of the country, such as Nyiragongo, the "fire of the lake." There are 5 trekking trails, which follow the course of a number of rivers, as well as the steep flanks of Nyiragongo. The volcano is often best viewed on a day-hike, with the opportunity to climb down to the bottom and look for evidence of the numerous eruptions. There are several lodges in the park, most of them private game lodges, which have sprung up in recent years. Volcanoes National Park is a must for anyone who wants to escape the touristy tourist in Rwanda.