A local Guide to Rwanda The Land of A thousand Hills

Rwanda popularly known as the land of a thousand hills is located in East Africa. Its one of the East African countries that were affected by civil war in the 1980’s. Many innocent local Rwandan people lost their lives in the famous Rwandan genocide and many were resettled.

A few decades after the deadly civil war, the country has greatly recovered and economically developed. This great transformation is attributed to hard work, forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of that Rwanda, has over the years become among East Africa’s best tourist destination.

Below is a local guide to this beautiful land of a thousand hills featuring what you Must not miss.

Kigali City-Land of A thousand Hills
Kigali City. Courtesy Photo

Kigali is Rwanda’s largest and capital city strategically located in the rolling thousand hills. Kigali is a center for economic and vibrant city life one place you Must explore while in Rwanda.

The City’s main attractions include the Kigali genocide memorial where you get to know about the Rwandan genocide. About 250,000 victims of the genocide were buried here and there is a wall of names of genocide victims. A tour to this memorial makes one appreciate the journey Rwanda has been through.

You can visit the Kandt House Museum the best place to learn about Rwandan history before and after colonial era. Kandt House was a home for Rwanda’s first colonial governor Richard Kandt who founded Kigali city in 1908.

While in Kigali you can also visit the local markets and get to interact with local Rwandan People. You can easily connect to places and can even have a Kigali walking tour as the city is very safe.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda; Virunga Volcanoes
Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Photo by Eric Manzi

Volcanoes National park is a true definition of the land of a thousand hills. The park is located in the northwestern part of the country just a 3 hours drive from Kigali. Volcanoes national park has 5 of the Virunga massif mountains that are Mount Karisimbi, Muhabura, Bisoke, Sabyinyo & Gahinga.

These Volcanic mountains are covered with montane vegetation a combination of which is a haven for the rare mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park is home to half of the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga massif. It is their an ultimate gorilla trekking destination for interested in meeting these primates.

With Mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, birds and other wildlife, volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s prime wildlife destination. The park can be accessed by road and can be visited anytime of the year.

3. Gisenyi

Gisenyi Beach. Visit East Africa
Gisenyi Beach along Lake Kivu. Photo by Jule Lumma

This beautiful town is situated in western Rwanda along the shores of Lake Kivu. Gisenyi neighbors Goma, DRC’s eastern town and its a gateway for those interested in wildlife adventures in Eastern Congo.

Given that Gisenyi is along Lake Kivu, its has beautiful beaches where one can relax sunbathing and enjoying Rwanda’s weather. While here you can engage in water sport activities like snorkeling, boat cruise with singing fishermen and Kayaking.

There are various tea & plantations here and one can visit one to learn about tea and coffee growing. From the plantations you can also visit the hot springs as you interact with the Rwandan people.

Nyungwe National Park Rwanda. Land of A thousand Hills
Tropical Rain-forest in Nyungwe. Courtesy Photo

A visit to the land of a thousand hills is usually incomplete without Nyungwe forest. The vast forest is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda covering a land area of 970 square kilometres.

Nyungwe forest is among East Africa’s oldest forests with rain-forests, grassland, swamp, bog and bamboo vegetation. These are homes to wildlife species including 13 primate species, 85 mammals, 275 birds, 38 reptile and 32 amphibian species.

The forest was gazetted into a national park and has Rwanda’s highest chimpanzee population. Chimpanzee tracking is therefore the leading wildlife activity in the park plus other primate treks, nature walks and canopy walk.

Adjacent to Nyungwe forest are vast tea plantations that you can visit as you enjoy the breeze from the forest. Here you interact with the local people as you to know more about their ways of life.
Rwanda is among the regions tourist destinations and when you Visit East Africa don’t miss out on the above.

Kigali International Airport Rwanda Opens Up for Commercial Flights

RwandAir Cabin Crew. Kigali International Airport
RwandAir cabin crew wearing Personal Protective Equipment

Rwanda has finally opened Kigali international Airport for commercial flights after over 4 months of lock-down. Rwanda closed all its borders on 20th March 2019 due to on going Corona virus disease pandemic. The Virus was spreading worldwide prompting all governments to shut down all the economies.

Individuals allowed to fly into the country have been Rwandan citizens and residents repatriated from countries they had been stranded. Cargo has also been allowed into the country as this involves transportation of essential goods and supplies needed in the country.

As Corona Virus cases kept on increasing, government became more strict to prevent spread of the deadly disease.  The Ministry of Health in Rwanda came up with safety guidelines to ensure protection of everyone in Rwanda. After these guidelines were proved to guarantee safety, Rwanda started opening up tourism slowly starting with a few tourist activities.

Safety Guidelines to be followed

Tourism activities were opened in June and at that time international travelers were allowed if they came by charter flights. Since few people travel by charter, the Ministry of Health developed more guidelines to allow commercial international flights to resume.  It was then decided that Kigali International Airport would take in commercial flights from 1st August 2020.

Guidelines to follow by travelers include showing negative COVID-19 test results taken within 72 hours of arrival in Rwanda.  Ensure to fill a  passenger Location form prior arrival to Kigali International Airport. On arrival one is required to take another test and stay 24 hours in designated hotels waiting for the results.

Accommodation at designated hotels is at own cost and you will be allowed on tour if you test Negative. 

Note that there are measures to be followed including curfew between 21:00 to 05:00 hours Rwanda Local time. These measures change depending on the situation at hand therefore travelers to Rwanda should bear that in mind.  These measures could be adjusted at a short notice especially for those travelers coming from countries highly affected by COVID19.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

You will still observe the Standard Operation Procedures of social distancing, use of masks, hand sanitizers, and avoiding crowds. This is to ensure the safety of tourists and local Rwandan people in the country who have been enduring lockdown.

Always remember to wash your hands with soap and clean water or use a hand sanitizer to keep clean. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue right away. Report or call emergency services in case you experience symptoms like difficulty in breathing, high fevers, coughs, or any respiratory diseases.

Rwanda is home to wildlife species including mountain gorillas and one of the best places to meet these primates. You can do a Rwanda gorilla tour starting from a 1 Day Gorilla Tour and More. There are Savanna wildlife species in Akagera national park where you can enjoy game drives and scenic views. Stay safe if you want to enjoy your visit to this beautiful country during these coronavirus disease times. Other countries including Uganda issued New COVID-19 Guidelines. Slowly Tourism will pick up again.