Top 10 Things To Do in Rwanda on Holiday

Discover the extraordinary in Rwanda with majestic gorillas, ancient canopies, and rich traditions. Hike, volunteer, and delve into history.

Top 10 must-have experiences in Rwanda

Forget the usual tourist fare. In Rwanda, gorillas lock eyes with you in emerald forests, chimpanzees swing through ancient canopies, and tea leaves whisper stories of generations past. 

Imagine trekking through mist-shrouded mountains, the anticipation building as you encounter a majestic silverback. Picture yourself learning the secrets of tea picking alongside warm Rwandans, laughter filling the air. Envision swaying to the rhythm of ancient chants as royal cows graze nearby. These are some of the best things to do when you visit Rwanda. You can hike alongside volcanoes, volunteer hand-in-hand with locals, and delve into the depths of history. It’s a land where encounters spark curiosity, laughter ignites joy, and traditions bridge the gap between past and present.

Rwanda will make you trade the ordinary for the extraordinary. These are the top things you must do in Rwanda, where every experience unfolds like a captivating story waiting to be discovered.

1. Go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.

Deep in the emerald embrace of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, await experiences beyond the ordinary. Imagine sunlight filtering through bamboo forests, mist hanging heavy on the slopes, and then, your breath catches as a majestic silverback gorilla meets your gaze. Gorilla trekking isn’t just “things to do in Rwanda”; it’s a soul-stirring immersion into the gentle majesty of these critically endangered primates.

Your adventure starts at Kinigi headquarters, where expert guides equip you with responsible gorilla etiquette. Then, amidst verdant scenery, the trek unfolds. Hike through bamboo forests, navigate gentle slopes, or conquer steeper climbs – the reward is worth every step. Witness playful youngsters, attentive mothers, and the quiet power of silverbacks. An hour unfolds, filled with unforgettable intimacy and a humbling reminder of our connection to nature.

This strictly regulated activity is more than just an experience; it’s a contribution to gorilla conservation. Permits are essential and sell out fast, so plan ahead. Join a guided tour for seamless planning and expert insights. Remember, December-February and June-September offer ideal conditions for your Rwandan gorilla encounter. Let this be your gateway to countless other thrilling experiences in Rwanda.

2. Walk with chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest

Imagine the thrill of venturing into verdant rainforests, sunlight dappling the canopy, and then, a playful chimpanzee swings past, its laughter echoing through the trees. 

Your journey begins at Uwinka reception, where experienced guides brief you on responsible chimpanzee interaction. Then, step into the emerald embrace of Nyungwe, Africa’s oldest mountain rainforest. Lush trails wind through bamboo groves and ancient trees, teeming with vibrant birdlife and colorful butterflies. Follow the calls of the chimps, their chatter leading you deeper into the forest’s heart. Finally, a clearing reveals a mesmerizing sight: a chimpanzee family swings, climbs, and grooms, their behavior mirroring our own in fascinating ways. Observe their playful interactions, the mothers nurturing their young, and the males asserting their dominance. It’s an hour of unforgettable connection, a glimpse into the fascinating world of chimpanzees that will leave you awestruck.

Best Time to Go: March to May and September to November offer dry conditions and comfortable temperatures, perfect for exploring the diverse landscapes of Nyungwe Forest.

Accessibility: Permits are required and sell out fast, so plan your Rwandan experience well in advance. Consider joining a guided tour for seamless planning and valuable insights from local experts. 

3. Walk above the rainforest on the only canopy walkway in East Africa.

Imagine the exhilaration of soaring through the rainforest canopy, sunlight filtering through emerald leaves, and the world stretching out beneath you like a verdant tapestry. Walking above the rainforest on this canopy is one of the best things to do in Nyungwe Forest besides trekking chimpanzees.

The 160-meter walkway winds through the tropical forest, offering unparalleled views and insights into this diverse ecosystem. Observe birds soaring through the canopy, listen to the symphony of insects, and feel the cool mist brush your face. Keep your eyes peeled for playful monkeys swinging through the canopy, their chatter filling the air.

Best Time to Go: March to May and September to November offer dry conditions and comfortable temperatures, perfect for enjoying the canopy views without hindrance.

Accessibility: The canopy walk is accessible to most fitness levels, but be prepared for some gentle inclines. Guided tours are available for added safety and insights. Remember, “experiences in Rwanda” go beyond the typical; they offer opportunities to push your limits and create memories that will last a lifetime. Soar above the ordinary and embark on this thrilling canopy walk adventure in Nyungwe Forest.

4. Go on a safari in Akagera National Park.

Witnessing Africa’s iconic wildlife in their natural habitat is an unparalleled experience. Akagera goes beyond just game drives, offering boat safaris on Lake Ihema, bush walks for a closer look at the flora and fauna, and even community visits to connect with the local people and their culture. This strictly regulated activity contributes to wildlife conservation and community development, making your Rwandan adventure truly impactful.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Big Five – lions basking in the sun, elephants trumpeting their presence, and rhinos grazing on the savanna. Don’t forget the graceful giraffes, playful zebras, and a kaleidoscope of birds soaring overhead.

Best Time to Go: The dry season from June to September offers clear skies and comfortable temperatures, while the green season (December to May) brings lush landscapes and vibrant birdlife.

Accessibility: Opt for a guided tour for seamless planning, expert insights, and a safe and enriching safari experience. Permits are required and can sell out fast, so plan your Rwandan adventure well in advance. 

5. Hike the Congo-Nile Trail along Lake Kivu

Emerald hills draped in mist, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Kivu sparkling beside you, and each step revealing stunning vistas. One of the best adventurous things you will do in Rwanda is hiking the Congo-Nile Trail. The trail takes you through diverse landscapes and vibrant communities, offering unmatched immersion in Rwandan beauty.

Starting from Rubavu in the north or Rusizi in the south, the 227km trail unfolds alongside Lake Kivu. Choose single-day hikes or embark on a multi-day adventure, immersing yourself in the rhythm of Rwandan life. Traverse rolling hills carpeted with tea plantations, navigate lush rainforests echoing with bird calls and relax on hidden beaches lapped by the gentle waves of the lake.

Best Time to Go: The dry season (June to September) offers clear skies and comfortable temperatures, while the green season (December to May) brings lush landscapes and vibrant birdlife.

Accessibility: The trail caters to various fitness levels, with shorter sections and longer challenges. Choose guided tours for support and local knowledge, or navigate independently with maps and planning. Remember, “things to do in Rwanda” go beyond the usual; they offer opportunities to challenge yourself, connect with nature, and discover hidden gems. 

6. Volunteer with the community during Umuganda.

Forget the typical tourist checklist of best things to do in Rwanda – delve into the heart of Rwandan culture with Umuganda, the monthly nationwide community work day. This isn’t just volunteering; it’s a vibrant culture of shared purpose, a chance to connect with locals and experience Rwanda’s spirit firsthand.

Imagine yourself alongside Rwandans from all walks of life – farmers, entrepreneurs, government officials – united in a symphony of action. On the last Saturday of every month, the nation pulsates with energy as communities tackle projects like cleaning streets, planting trees, or repairing infrastructure. It’s not just about getting things done; it’s a joyful expression of unity, collaboration, and a shared responsibility for building a better Rwanda.

Accessibility: Visitors participate voluntarily, so feel free to join on any last Saturday in Rwanda. Local authorities and tour operators can help you connect with your nearest Umuganda activity. No prior experience is needed, just a willingness to lend a hand and embrace the spirit of togetherness.

7. Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial

Rwanda’s vibrant spirit thrives alongside a poignant past. To truly understand its journey, a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial is not just one of those activities in Rwanda but a profound experience that reminds you how humanity can be gruesome. Nestled amidst rolling hills, this serene memorial honors the victims of the 1994 genocide and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of peace and unity.

Kigali Genocide Memorial transcends mere remembrance. It’s a space for learning, healing, and fostering hope. Interactive exhibits explore the roots of the genocide, its devastating impact on individuals and communities, and the resilience of the Rwandan people. Engage with survivor testimonies, participate in workshops, or simply ponder the thought-provoking quotes adorning the walls.

Accessibility: Open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (last entrance 4:00 PM), the memorial is free to enter, though donations are welcome. Guided tours offer deeper insights, and audio guides in multiple languages are available. Consider joining a remembrance ceremony held on significant dates for a truly moving experience.

8. Learn how to pick tea leaves.

Imagine the lush green slopes of Rwanda, the air fragrant with the subtle aroma of tea leaves. Forget the souvenir shops; immerse yourself in a truly unique experience – learning the art of tea picking alongside Rwandan experts. This is one of the things you will do that is a hands-on immersion into Rwanda’s rich tea culture, connecting you to the land and its people.

Friendly Rwandan tea pluckers welcome you with warm smiles and infectious laughter. They’ll patiently guide you through the intricacies of selecting the perfect tea leaves – the young, tender buds and top two leaves that yield the finest brews. You’ll learn the delicate art of plucking with nimble fingers, feeling the cool leaves slip between them, and understanding the meticulous care that goes into crafting each cup of Rwandan tea.

Beyond the practical skills, discover the fascinating stories behind the tea. Hear about the history of tea cultivation in Rwanda, the generations of families who have nurtured these fertile lands, and the sustainable practices that ensure the highest quality tea. As you work alongside the pluckers, laughter and conversation flow, offering a glimpse into their daily lives and traditions.

Accessibility: Many tea plantations, like Pfunda Tea Estate in the Kibu Belt or Sorwathe Tea Ltd. in Cyohoha, offer tea-picking experiences to visitors. Contact them directly or arrange through tour operators. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for light physical activity.

9. See the royal cow singers at the King’s Palace Museum.

Imagine yourself amidst the ancient thatched structures of the King’s Palace, its tranquil courtyard echoing with the melodious chants of the Intore dancers. These skilled performers, adorned in traditional garb, use a blend of rhythmic singing and whistles to coax the majestic Inyambo cows, revered for their long horns and dignified presence. Witness the graceful sway of the dancers, their voices harmonizing with the gentle clanging of cowbells, creating a mesmerizing symphony that resonates with centuries of tradition.

The experience transcends mere entertainment. Each song and movement tells a story, conveying tales of royal history, cultural values, and the deep connection between the Rwandan people and their cattle. Observe the Inyambo, their serene expressions belying their regal status, as they respond to the singers’ calls, adding another layer to this captivating performance.

Accessibility: The King’s Palace Museum, located in Nyanza district, is open daily from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Cow singing ceremonies typically take place in the mornings, but schedules can vary, so check in advance. Consider joining a guided tour for deeper insights into the cultural significance of this unique tradition.

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