what are the 11-top rated tourist attractions and things to do in Rwanda?
When it comes to tourist activities to do in Rwanda, almost every tourist has an activity at the top of their travel itinerary, such as gorilla trekking. The charisma of getting closer to the gentle creatures who share up to 99 percent of the human DNA enchants travelers across the globe, and there's no better place offering mountain gorilla trekking than Rwanda does. Rwanda has put a lot of effort into conserving and protecting animals.
Rwanda’s chance of spotting mountain gorillas is just the beginning of what Rwanda has to offer. Left devastated by the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has made an impressive amount of progress in recent years, which has made the country so peaceful, making Rwanda a welcoming place to visit with plenty of tourist attractions to offer.
Nature lovers can participate in a safari adventure in Akagera National Park, get a bird's-eye view of the Rwanda Nyungwe Forest, which is the home of chimpanzees, or take part in a canopy walk. Travelers interested in culture should check out Rwanda’s fascinating exhibits on the local customs and beliefs at the Ethnographic Museum. Check out the royal cows and the singers and dancers who croon to them at the King's Palace Museum.
Make the most of your Rwandan experience with our list of the top tourist attractions in Rwanda.
1. Volcanoes National Park
Mountain gorilla trekking at Volcanoes National Park
Without any doubt, mountain gorilla trekking is Rwanda’s number one tourist attraction. The best place to do it in Rwanda is Volcanoes National Park. Sharing its border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, Volcanoes National Park protects an increasing number of critically endangered giant apes. Gorilla experts estimate that there are over 600 mountain gorillas surviving at Volcanoes National Park.
To visit one of the 18 gorilla families that are habituated to humans, a traveler is required to obtain one mountain gorilla trekking permit, which is limited in number daily. Rwanda’s mountain gorilla trekking permits go for $1,500. The easiest way to book your gorilla trekking permit is through a reputable tour operator, or you can also purchase it directly yourself.
The mountain gorilla trekking experience normally lasts between four and eight hours, depending on the location of these giant apes. Most of the gorillas spent more time hiking through mystical bamboo forests, swampy areas, and wild meadows. Park ranger guides from the Volcanoes National Park Service will lead you to the habituated gorilla family you were assigned to. Travelers are allowed to spend an hour observing mountain gorillas as they eat, care for their young ones, and interact with each other.
Rwanda’s mountain gorilla trekking is considered a safe activity. Mountain gorillas are mostly apathetic toward their human visitors. Volcanoes National Park has armed park ranger guides who communicate with the mountain gorillas and are responsible for keeping all guests safe from potential dangers, making the gorilla trekking experience unforgettable in Rwanda.
Porters are always available at the base of all the head trails in Volcanoes National Park. It's worth hiring someone for the day who will carry your bags and help you throughout the day on the muddy paths.
Travelers who would wish to learn more about gorillas After your gorilla trekking adventure, you can head to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Karisoke Research Center, which is located in the nearby town of Musanze. It has a small yet robust gorilla museum with all the information about mountain gorillas, which was established by the conservationist Dian Fossey, who aimed at protecting gorillas and was made famous by the 1988 drama Gorillas in the Mist.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
It's hard to imagine that just a few years ago, Rwanda was in the midst of a horrific genocide that left more than 800,000 people dead in a period of just 100 days. Rwanda has come a long way from the ravaged massacre.
Tourists have a chance to learn about this horrific genocide event at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This haunting genocide museum dives into what led to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, bringing the horrors to life through walls of photographs, information, and artifacts.
The Kigali genocide museum offers another permanent exhibit on the history of Rwanda's genocide around the globe and intervention efforts by the international community that have helped to put the genocide that took place in Rwanda into context.
The Kigali genocide museum offers an emotionally charged Children's Room that was dedicated to the youngest victims who died due to genocide. The children’s room keeps their memory alive through oversize portraits of the children who were killed, and personal details about the victims are all provided, such as their nicknames and favorite books.
While visiting Rwanda’s Kigali Genocide Memorial, it is also important to take part in responsible tourism in Rwanda. Get some time to contemplate the experience by observing a moment of silence for the 250,000 victims who were innocently murdered and are laid to rest at this site in the memorial's Gardens of Reflection.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is among the most important forest conservation areas in Africa because it has a spectacular array of endless biodiversity, such as over 1,068 plant species, 75 animal species, and over 322 bird species.
Most tourists to Nyungwe Forest National Park come to track chimpanzees, which are habituated to humans by park rangers. Chimpanzee encounters are a fraction of the cost of mountain gorilla trekking, yet no less memorable.
Hanging out with Rwanda’s primates is not the only tourist attraction in Nyungwe. Nyungwe Forest National Park is the only home of the canopy walk in East Africa. The Nyungwe canopy walk takes roughly a 90-minute hike from the Uwinka Visitor Center. Travelers walk across a 91-meter-long suspended bridge hanging more than 50 meters above sea level within a verdant rainforest, offering a dizzying view of the treetops, other primates, and mountains in the distance.
Travelers who fear heights can Skip the canopy tour and instead walk along one of Nyungwe Forest National Park's 15 hiking trails for an adventure that doesn't fight gravity.
King's Palace Museum
Don’t miss the fresh milk hut at the King's Palace Museum. Rwanda has impassioned conservation and reverence for animals, and a visit to the King's Palace Museum will never leave you the same. The star attraction at the King’s Palace Museum is the inyambo, the sacred cows, and their staggeringly large, pretty horns. The King Palace Museum's traditional singers pause the cows into a sweet-sounding state by belting poems—a ritual that makes Rwanda unique.
The King Palace Museum is interesting as it offers four-legged creatures out back. It also showcases a replica of a king's palace that dates from the 15th century with a thatched roof, a royal hut, and a traditional fresh milk hut that was run by an unmarried woman.
Tourists are also allowed to explore the colonial-style palace that used to be the royal residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa in the 20th century. The interior design of the royal residence of King Mutara is particularly striking, blending Rwandan patterns with European-style furniture (some of which was owned by the king).
Akagera National Park
No trip to Rwanda is complete without an unlimited game drive at Akagera National Park. Tourists can always scratch the itch to go on an adventure safari, which takes two and a-half hours away from Kigali city.
Akagera National Park is managed by the African Parks Organization. Akagera National Park is biodiverse and has made an incredible recovery from the decimation after the genocide of 1994. Akagera National Park covers an expanse of over 1,140 square kilometers, making it one of Central Africa's largest protected wetlands. It is now protecting all of the Big Five animals in Rwanda, along with an abundance of bird life and antelope.
Travelers are always lucky to spot lions or rhinos while the government of Rwanda is working on boosting their populations. However, tourists have no trouble spotting zebras, Nile crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, and elephants on a game drive.
Palm-lined shores of Lake Kivu for all your outdoor adventures, get ready to kick up your feet—and there's no better destination to visit for relaxation in Rwanda than the beautiful Lake Kivu, covering 2,700 square kilometers and surrounded by misty mountains and an emerald-green oasis.
Soak everything up from Rubavu, a resort town that is situated at the northern tip of Lake Kivu. It offers a waterfront, stunning resorts, and a sandy beach. Such as the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel. A few days in the peaceful town of Rubavu will leave you fully restored.
Kigali Ethnographic Museum is among Africa’s best assemblages of ethnological and archeological artifacts that can be seen in Rwanda's Ethnographic Museum, which is situated about 130 kilometers south of Kigali in Huye district. Ethnographic was gifted to the Rwandan government by the Belgian government in 1989 in honor of their 25th anniversary.
The Ethnographic Museum offers seven galleries that take tourists back in time to precolonial Rwanda. The ethnographic museum contains ready-made woven baskets, musical drums kept from years ago, farming tools, Rwanda’s traditional garments made from animal hides, woven grass, spears, and bows.
Travelers can enter an authentic royal home and learn how to construct traditional houses. The ethnographic museum always hosts live handicraft makers.
Gorilla Guardians Village
Basket weaving in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is not just a place to see mountain gorillas—it’s a prime hub to immerse yourself in the culture of Rwanda at Gorilla Guardians Village. Gorilla Guardians Village is Run by former poachers. The non-profit cultural village offers tourists the chance to try weaving baskets by using their hands at Rwanda's most famous crafts center, Gorilla Guardians.
Tourists are free to learn how to carry a basket on their heads (like Rwandan women do), weave their own baskets, shoot an arrow, and grind grains using a heavy stone. Rwanda's enthusiastic guide makes the entire experience a big party for all travelers to Gorilla Guardian Village.
It's worth your time sticking around for the intore dance recitals, which take place at Gorilla Guardians Village. The Rwandan traditional dancers, decked out with their usual long straw wigs and skirts, just put on an exciting show to the beat of rhythmic drumming.
Most travelers stay only a night in Kigali before going for mountain gorilla trekking, missing out on Kigali's vibrant culture, cuisine, and sightseeing in this beautiful city. If you are planning a safari to Rwanda, at least add a few days here at the beginning or end of your trip.
Stop at the swirling patterned Rwandan textiles and experience the energetic, authentic atmosphere at Kimironko Market, which is Kigali's largest marketplace. The warehouse space is also huge, with surprises around every corner.
Check out Kigali's creative scene at Inema Arts Center for an unforgettable experience, a gallery that presents the works of up to 10 Rwandan local artists in residence. Take a trip to the Rwanda Art Museum, which is located at the former Presidential Palace. Rwanda's art museum displays the finest contemporary pieces from Rwanda.
When you're ready for coffee, which is an authentic Rwandan cup of joe at Question Coffee Cafe, look out the cafe’s specials menu to see what experimental caffeinated concoctions the baristas have come up with recently. Rwandan baristas are known to infuse some coffee beverages with unexpected local ingredients, such as tree tomatoes.
Finally, wind down your day with a succulent meal at one of Kigali's greatest restaurants, such as Le Panorama Restaurant at Hôtel des Mille Collines, which offers breathtaking views of the city along with a diverse menu of local and international favorites.
For a romantic setting, head out to Fusion Restaurant's al fresco dining room at The Retreat hotel. That overlooks their twinkling pool and serves homemade pastas, fresh seafood, and flavorful starters.
Gishwati Mukura National Park
Gishwati Mukura National Park was established in late 2020, when Rwanda opened its fourth national park called Gishwati Mukura, giving tourists another yet natural attraction to visit. Gishwati-Mukua National Park covers 34 square kilometers and aims to preserve the few remaining Central African montane tropical rainforests.
Tourists can visit Gishwati-Mukura, the larger of the two forests located in the park. Giswati-Mukura National Park protects a variety of primates such as blue monkeys, golden monkeys, L'Hoest's monkeys, and around 20 eastern chimpanzees. Gishwati-Mukura's guided chimp and monkey tracking tours give travelers the best opportunity to see the feisty creatures. Travelers can join the guided nature hike at three marked trail heads in the forest. Pack binoculars to take a closer look at the numerous bird species—about 230 species—that can be seen within the forest.
Nyamata Genocide Memorial
The Nyamata Genocide Memorial is worth your time if you want a deeper understanding of the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. The Nyamata genocide memorial is the final resting place of more than 40,000 victims of the Rwanda genocide of 1994, around 10,000 of whom locked themselves in the sanctuary site of the church but were later killed when the Hutu militias forced them to open the doors.
The Rwandan genocide victims' clothing and ID cards can now be spotted on the display in the church pews. You can also view the grave of Tonia Locatelli, who was an Italian missionary who tried to get media attention on the systematic innocent killing of the Tutsis, just near the exit of the Nyamata church.