Rwanda, a small yet diverse country in the heart of Africa, boasts a remarkable blend of culture, flora, and fauna.
Most people will know Rwanda because of the Mountain Gorillas, and that might even be your main reason for traveling here.
But there is so much more to this African oasis than trekking with gorillas, although, of course, that is one of the top things to do in Rwanda.
So if you’re planning a trip to the beating heart of Africa, we’ve got you covered with our list of the top 13 things to do in Rwanda.
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13 Things To Do in Rwanda: A Unique Adventure Awaits
From exploring the history and culture of Kigali, the nation’s capital, to tackling the Congo Nile Trail on a mountain bike; here are the best things to do in Rwanda.
1. Explore Kigali’s History and Culture
Begin your journey in the nation’s capital city of Kigali.
Take a walking tour of the old city, Nyamirambo, visiting the local women’s center, milk bars, and fresh produce markets.
Make sure to set aside some time for the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which is a poignant reminder of Rwanda’s past. It’s a saddening, but moving place to visit, but it’s a must-see if you want to understand Rwanda’s recent history.
2. Visit the King’s Palace in Nyanza
Step back in time at the King’s Palace, where you can tour the King’s reconstructed living quarters and marvel at the beautifully crafted straw huts.
As you wander through the King’s Palace, one can’t help but feel transported to another era, where the whispers of ancient Rwandan royalty echo through the thatched huts.
This is also where you can find the Royal Inyambo Cows. More on these gentle creatures below.
3. Meet the Royal Inyambo Cows
Get up close and personal with Rwanda’s royal and sacred cows, the Inyambo.
Known for their long horns and unique personalities, you can groom and pet these incredible animals.
There’s something inherently majestic about the Inyambo cows, with their regal horns proudly reaching towards the sky, as they calmly graze and accept your gentle touch.
4. Immerse Yourself in Nyungwe Forest
Experience the tranquility of one of Africa’s oldest forests.
The Nyungwe Canopy Walk offers a bird’s-eye view of the lush landscape, where you might spot colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, or even chimpanzees.
Amid the ancient trees of Nyungwe Forest, you’ll find yourself enveloped in a lush, green world where time seems to stand still, and nature’s wonders unfold before your very eyes.
5. Help Harvest Tea Leaves
Surrounding Nyungwe Forest are local tea plantations.
Don an apron and basket and lend a hand to the tea pickers, learning the art of tea harvesting in Rwanda.
As you pluck tea leaves alongside the locals, you’ll find yourself immersed in Rwanda’s agricultural heritage, feeling a profound connection to both the land and its people.
And at the end of the day, you can share a cup of tea with your fellow tea pickers!
6. Tackle the Congo Nile Trail by Mountain Bike
For the adrenaline junkies out there, the challenging Congo Nile Trail offers an unforgettable mountain biking experience.
As your bike tires crunch along the Congo Nile Trail, you’ll be graced with stunning panoramas that will leave you breathless, and exhilarated by the rugged, untamed beauty of Rwanda.
The Congo Nile Trail is a long-distance, off-road backpacking trail that covers some 160 miles of dirt roads in Nyungwe Forest National Park. It’s not only one of the best things to in Rwanda, but one of the best bike trails in East Africa!
You can also stop by a local coffee cooperative for a caffeine boost and learn about Rwandan coffee production on your way!
7. Experience Rubavu’s Unique Landscape
Discover the rolling green hills of Rubavu, reminiscent of the Irish countryside.
Amid the emerald hills of Bigogwe, Rubavu, the landscape’s serenity invites you to pause and soak in the idyllic scenery, where cows graze peacefully and the gentle breeze carries whispers of distant lands.
Join local dairy farmer Ngabo Karegeya to learn about Rwanda’s thriving milk culture and try your hand at milking cows (yes; this is a hands-on trip to Rwanda!).
8. Participate in Traditional Rwandan High Jump
While in Rubavu, join the locals in a friendly game of high jump, a popular pastime among the farmers who stay with their cows around the clock.
With the thrill of the high jump, laughter fills the air as you join the locals in this playful pastime, forging connections that transcend language and culture.
If you’re lucky, you can also join in with Ngabo’s ‘sword’ fights!
9. Encounter Mountain Gorillas at Volcanoes National Park
The ultimate highlight of any Rwandan trip is meeting the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.
As you lock eyes with a mountain gorilla, an overwhelming sense of awe washes over you, realizing the profound connection that bridges our two worlds, offering a rare glimpse into nature’s unbridled beauty.
Embark on a guided mountain gorilla trek, accompanied by armed trackers, to visit one of ten habituated families in the park.
10. Visit the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Complete your gorilla experience with a stop at The Ellen DeGeneres Campus, where you can learn about Dian Fossey’s work and the gorillas of Rwanda.
As you stroll through the Ellen DeGeneres Campus, the fascinating stories of Dian Fossey and her beloved gorillas will ignite a newfound appreciation for the untamed wilderness that lies within the heart of Rwanda.
11. Akagera National Park
In the eastern reaches of Rwanda, you’ll find Akagera National Park, a place where the wild spirit of Africa unfurls before your very eyes.
As you traverse the park’s untamed savannah, you’ll encounter a symphony of wildlife, from the thunderous roars of lions to the gentle murmur of grazing impalas.
With the sun casting a golden glow upon the landscape, Akagera National Park offers an enchanting experience that will leave you captivated and yearning for more of its untamed beauty.
12. Try The Traditional Rwandan Food
Embarking on a culinary journey through Rwanda’s delectable cuisine is an adventure in and of itself.
With each bite of sumptuous dishes such as brochettes, tender morsels of grilled meat on skewers, or the warming comfort of isombe, a nourishing concoction of mashed cassava leaves, you’ll find yourself immersed in the rich tapestry of local flavors.
As you sample your way through the delectable offerings, you’ll come to appreciate the harmony of Rwandan cuisine as it weaves together a vibrant narrative of culture and tradition on the plate.
13. Explore Kigali’s New Look Coffee Shops
As you meander back towards Kigali’s airport, be sure to stop by some of the city’s up-and-coming coffee shops.
You’ll discover a delightful fusion of tradition and modernity, with the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed Rwandan coffee luring you in.
It’s the perfect opportunity to savor a final taste of this charming country while contemplating the extraordinary memories you’ll carry home with you.
There’s More To Rwanda Than Gorillas
From exploring breathtaking landscapes to immersing yourself in local culture, these must-do activities in Rwanda promise a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Rwanda offers a diverse range of experiences that extend far beyond the renowned mountain gorillas.
Start off by exploring the vibrant capital of Kigali and delving into the country’s rich history, then immersing yourself in the stunning landscapes of Rubavu and Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda provides an array of unforgettable adventures.
Engaging with local culture, sampling regional cuisine, and participating in traditional activities further enriches your Rwandan experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Rwandan Franc (RWF) is the local currency, but USD is widely accepted in tourist areas.
Most nationalities can obtain a visa upon arrival or apply for an East African Tourist Visa, which covers Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda.
Yes, Rwanda is considered one of the safest countries in Africa for tourists, but exercise common-sense precautions.
The best time to visit is during the dry seasons (June-September and December-February), especially for gorilla trekking.
Kinyarwanda, French, and English are the official languages, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
It’s recommended to drink bottled or filtered water, as tap water may not be safe for consumption.
Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory; a 5-10% tip is generally acceptable in restaurants and for tour guides.
Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or rural areas. Casual, comfortable clothing is suitable for most activities.