To many, the idea of tourism and Rwanda does not immediately seem synonymous. But, there exists numerous tourism treasures across the country (outside of the gorillas) which can keep one occupied over long weekends and through short vacations.
The beauty of travelling within Rwanda is that the road network is more than commendable, one does not worry about personal safety and the landscape and winding roads provide opportunities for photography or just viewing pleasure.
For those with the desire for long distance hikes or cycling there is the Congo-Nile Trail which spreads from the northern end of Lake Kivu (think Gisenyi) to the southern end in Cyangugu. This network of roads, trails and paths covers over 200km. There is the option to do parts or the entire journey. If the Congo-Nile Trail is too much but an extensive car ride through beautiful scenery works then head to Rusizi. With an approximately five hour drive from Kigali, this town offers an opportunity to visit Nyungwe forest as well as to see chimpanzees at a fraction of the cost to visit the gorillas. As with most places in Rwanda, accommodations vary from the expensive to the affordable.
Rusizi and Gisenyi (a four hour drive from Kigali) may not work well for a relaxing short weekend but closer to Kigali are other places worth visiting. There is Lake Muhazi, which is approximately an hour’s drive from the capital. Birds galore and the calm steadiness of the lake provide a tranquil place which can be enjoyed at properties such as AGS Country Club. A child friendly property with ducks for petting and hammocks for relaxation (be sure someone has been assigned to wake you up). Take a boat ride along the lake while waiting on your meal.
Nearly everyone visits Akagera National Park while in Rwanda. The lure of the safari is too much to ignore. En route to Akagera is the town of Kayonza. If one is looking for a day trip or an easy weekend, staying at the Discover Rwanda Kayonza Eco Lodge, located within the Women’s Opportunity Centre, is a good option. Not only is the property well kept but proceeds support local women. The views of the hills and valleys are breathtaking and the farm allows for visitors to help with planting and harvesting as well as other community projects.
Musanze is another area which allows for short trips. Leave Kigali and head there making sure to stop at Volcano Lounge for what is probably the best pizza in Rwanda. The pizza stop by itself is worth the trip but why not also visit the Musanze Caves which were formed from lava flows and house bats?
There is also the National Art Gallery at Nyanza-Rwesero and the King’s Palace Museum at Nyanza-Rukari. You can do the gallery, museum, pizza and caves in two separate day trips.
A hidden gem, which is a must do while in Rwanda, is night fishing on Lake Kivu in Kibuye. Located less than three hours from Kigali, Kibuye is easy enough to reach. An overnight trip may be best to allow for night fishing. You are picked up from your hotel at around 6p.m and join the fishermen as they go through the intricate process of keeping their lamps lit and retrieving the catch for the night. The process is not just technical but also a joy to behold.
Indeed, there is much to do in this Land of a Thousand Hills. Day trips and short stays are possible, so pack a bag and head for one of the fantastic locations outside the city. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
The writer is the owner and operator of Forrest Jackson Relocation ServicesFollow https://twitter.com/NatsCR