Rwanda

Dubbed ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, Rwanda is a small, lush central African country of misty hills dotted with tea plantations, rugged peaks, gorilla families and towering volcanoes.

The first thing that springs to most people’s minds when thinking of Rwanda is its turbulent political history. But today’s Rwanda is a far cry from the nation it was in the mid-90s: the country has emerged from the shadows and has much to offer visitors, most notably the tracking of endangered mountain gorillas in the lush Virunga National Park, which extends across the peaks and jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains.

Other major attractions include expansive Lake Kivu, ancient Nyungwe Forest with its rich population of primate species, and the game-rich savannah lands of Akagera National Park. Rwanda is often called Le Pays des Mille Collines, or Land of a Thousand Hills, because of its extensive mountain ranges spread through this small but scenic landlocked country.

Perhaps the most magnificent of these are the Virunga volcanoes in the north west of the country. Here, living amongst bamboo forests are well-protected groups of some of the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas. Taking a trek to see these magnificent animals is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; many find this a hihgly moving one.

Nyungwe Forest National Park has huge areas of prime rainforest well populated by a number of primate species as well as plentiful and varied birdlife. By way of contrast, you’ll find some of the most amazing in-shore beaches in Africa on the shores of Lake Kivu.

Rwanda’s capital and biggest city, Kigali, stretches across undulating lush hills surrounded by towering mountains, the largest of which is Mount Kigali, rising 1850 metres above sea level. Kigali is the country’s financial, commercial and cultural hub, served by an international airport and featuring a wide range of accommodation options, restaurants and points of interest, including the Kigali Genocide Centre, an atmospheric market and numerous craft shops.

With its interesting architecture, busy streets, meandering boulevards, and green hillsides, Kigali is said to be one of the most attractive, and safest, cities in Africa. Its friendly and enthusiastic inhabitants, along with the rest of their countrymen, spend one morning a month cleaning up the streets and doing other worthwhile community-focused acts, a ritual called ‘Umuganda’.

Rugged peaks and towering volcanoes. Despite being landlocked, Rwanda has several ‘beaches’ along Lake Kivu to the west, one of Africa’s largest bodies of water.

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