Trip to Rwanda: What to Do and Where to Stay

Rwanda Travel Guide, Things To Do & Where To Stay

Located in the heart of East Africa, Rwanda is nicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Hills” because of its landscapes dotted with green hills and lush valleys. Rwanda may be a small country, but it’s big on beauty, culture, warmth and resilience.

The country has risen from the dark pages of its history to become an example not only of national unity and security, but also of innovation and sustainable development on the continent. Its well-preserved natural parks and wildlife conservation initiatives make Rwanda a destination for green tourism.

Rwanda is known as the home of the majestic mountain gorillas, offering travellers the exceptional opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat. But the magic of this country goes far beyond this privileged encounter…

Table of Contents

Discover this jewel of Africa through this Lartisien guide on things to do in Rwanda and which hotels to stay in.

Things To Do In Rwanda

Kigali: Rwanda’s Capital and Historic Heart

The city of Kigali is the historical and cultural heart of the country, with an emerging art scene, contemporary art galleries, cultural centres with many trendy cafés and restaurants. A harmonious blend of modernity and tradition, the capital is a must-see when visiting Rwanda.

 The Genocide Memorial

The genocide memorial commemorates and explains the tragic story of the Tutsi genocide from April to July 1994. 250,000 people are buried here. In the exhibition rooms, objects, photos and testimonies support the story. A particularly poignant and moving room is the children’s memorial, featuring life-size photos of the children, as well as toys and personal objects, which tell the story of their short lives. By visiting the memorial, travellers can bear witness to the process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Rwanda, today marked by peace and tolerance.

The Kimironko Market

Located in the heart of the capital, the Kimironko market is a lively place that offers visitors an immersion in Rwandan culture. Along its aisles, you’ll discover local handicrafts and colourful traditional fabrics. Interaction and negotiation immerse travellers in the typical atmosphere of local daily life. It’s best to allow one to two hours to visit the Kimironko market, depending on interest in the various sections, as it’s the ideal place in Rwanda to buy souvenirs and handicrafts.

Rwanda’s Parks and Nature Reserves

Akagera Park Rwanda

Nestling along the border with Tanzania, Akagera Park is an 1100km2 wildlife reserve stretching from the north to the south of Rwanda. It is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland and Rwanda’s last refuge for savannah species.

In the heart of this typically African landscape, with its vast plains, hills, lakes and savannah dotted with acacia trees, you’ll find buffalo, elephant, giraffe and zebra, as well as lion, rhinoceros, hyena and leopard.

Volcanoes National Park

Nestled in the mountains of northern Rwanda, around two hours drive from Kigali, Volcanoes National Park is home to the Karisimbi, Visoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo volcanoes – five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains. The fauna and flora are lush, with some 300 species of birds, but above all, the park is the last sanctuary of the mountain gorilla, which lives among the eucalyptus trees! Located in the park, the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest hotel offers the chance to meet these large, majestic primates on a guided hike led by an expert. A rare and magical experience that will leave a lasting impression!

Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park, in the south-west of the country, is home to one of Africa’s oldest forests and is Rwanda’s top destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

Hikers can admire spectacular waterfalls and winding streams as they traverse the hiking trails and suspension bridges through the canopy. They also discover the biodiversity of this tropical forest, home to over 13 species of primate, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, as well as a multitude of birds, butterflies and rare plants.

Lake Kivu And Its Surroundings

Located in western Rwanda, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Kivu is one of the largest on the African continent and one of the country’s natural gems. It’s also one of the most densely populated lakes in Africa, with over 2 million inhabitants having made its shores their home to exploit its riches and fertile volcanic soil, ideal for growing mangoes and other crops.

Lake Kivu is renowned for its mountainous landscapes, picturesque islands and the towns and villages along its shores.

The Town Of Gisenyi

Located in north-western Rwanda, Gisenyi is a lively, cosmopolitan seaside town nestling on the shores of Lake Kivu at the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano. The town boasts a tropical atmosphere, with beaches, water sports and a lakeside promenade dotted with stores, cafés, bars and restaurants.

To soak up the local culture, you can sample specialties concocted from sambaza, a fish caught in the lake. Boat trips on Lake Kivu allow travellers to fully appreciate the beauty of the landscapes surrounding the city.

The Gisenyi region is ideal for growing coffee and tea. Travellers can discover plantations in the districts of Rubavu, just a few minutes from Gisenyi, and Rutsiro, just over an hour’s drive away.

The Town Of Cyangugu

Located south of Lake Kivu, Cyangugu offers a more tranquil seaside atmosphere, ideal for travellers seeking serenity and authentic experiences, with its peaceful beaches and verdant mountains as a backdrop.

Busy streets, local markets and charming restaurants give Cyangugu its picturesque atmosphere. Travellers can sample typical Rwandan dishes such as isombe (cassava leaves), umutsima (a corn and bean dish) and ikivuguto (a traditional yogurt).

Huye: The Town Of Butare And Rwandan Coffee

Huye is one of Rwanda’s districts making up the Southern Province. The town of Butare, also known as Huye, is a destination worth considering on a visit to Rwanda, as are the surrounding areas, rich in farmland and ideal for growing coffee.

The Town Of Butare

Compared to the capital Kigali, Butare offers a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere, with traditional Rwandan architecture and dirt roads contributing to its picturesque, authentic charm.

The city is considered the country’s cultural and intellectual centre, home to numerous academic institutions such as the National University of Rwanda, and regularly hosts artistic events and cultural festivals.

Travellers can visit the Ethnographic Museum, laid out in the shape of traditional Rwandan huts, to discover an exhibition on the history and traditions of Rwanda. Butare is also home to the country’s largest cathedral, which occupies an important place in Central Africa.

Discover Rwandan Coffee In The Heights Of Huye

Rwanda is world-renowned for the cultivation and production of top-quality coffee, appreciated for its rich aromas and delicate taste. The country abounds in coffee plantations, including one in the Huye district, inviting travellers to an immersive experience, from planting to tasting.

Just ten minutes from downtown Butare, Huye Mountain Coffee offers guided tours of its terraced coffee plantations and processing facilities. Visitors can learn more about Rwanda’s coffee-growing techniques and taste the different varieties produced.

Address: Huye – Ngoma KH 338 ST 21

Contact: + 250788303678 | +250787630689 | [email protected]

Where To Stay On A Trip To Rwanda

Within the Lartisien collection, the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest and Nyungwe House hotels occupy a place of choice. Both located in Rwanda’s must-see places, they each have their own unique characteristics and offer an exceptional travel experience for travellers wishing to discover “the land of a thousand hills”.

Lartisien presents these two hotels from its collection, inviting you to immerse yourself in unique places, in contact with nature and local communities. You can make your choice or decide to combine the two for an immersive and unforgettable stay in the heart of Rwanda’s most beautiful sites.

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest

Located in the Parc National des Volcans, at the foot of the Virunga massif made famous by primatologist Dian Fossey, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest tells the story of Rwanda and its mountain gorillas. With a front-row seat to the sanctuary of these great primates, the hotel offers travellers an exceptional opportunity to meet them in their natural habitat through a guided hike. This unique and moving experience is certainly the main attraction of this hotel, but it’s far from the only one.

Rooms and Suites

The hotel’s layout offers a true connection with nature and a complete change of scenery. The bar, restaurant, spa, rooms and main lodge are distributed on either side of a winding path that crosses the estate, bordered by a lush garden with many flowers, plants and eucalyptus.

Perched on stilts, the 21 rooms and suites at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest are private lodges in the trees. They are spread across the hotel’s extensive grounds and offer travellers a sense of exclusivity.

These spacious rooms are luxuriously decorated with a harmonious blend of African inspirations and wood, creating a singular mountain universe. They are designed to offer a sense of connection with the surrounding beauty, with their wooden deck overlooking the eucalyptus forest and large windows letting in natural light. With an outdoor bath or shower on the terrace, they offer total immersion in nature.

Within each space, interior designer Hubertus Feit has sought to bring the essence of Africa and the singular beauty of Volcanoes National Park, while saluting the richness of Rwandan culture. The interior decor is characterized by a refined African universe, with a palette of warm browns, a combination of natural raw materials from the surrounding forest and volcanoes, clean lines and modern furnishings, enhanced by traditional Rwandan prints called imigongo.

Restaurants and Dining 

This ode to nature is also reflected in Nest, the hotel’s restaurant. Its large terrace offers an exceptional view of the eucalyptus forest, while the interior spaces are warmly decorated with wood panelling, stone walls and modern suspended lighting.

Using produce from the garden or the local farming community, the menu changes according to production, allowing travellers to sample the authentic flavours of Rwandan cuisine offered by Chef Djafari and Chef Jonas.

At the bar, you can enjoy signature cocktails, lemonades and teas infused with rose petals from the estate, in the heart of a large, welcoming space embellished with a fireplace and African decorative objects on either side.

Rwanda Excursions From This Hotel 

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest offers travellers the opportunity to visit a traditional Rwandan village nearby. This excursion is a perfect example of the hotel’s close ties with the local community, allowing visitors to understand the community’s history and traditions.

Travellers can witness the bond with the local population when village dancers and drummers come to perform at the hotel. These encounters represent emotional moments and unforgettable memories for those who stay at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest.

One&Only Nyungwe House

Just a short helicopter ride from its sister hotel, One&Only Nyungwe House stands in the heart of a tea plantation, offering an extraordinary immersion in Nyungwe National Park and Rwandan culture.

Beyond the serenity and beauty of the landscape, the natural environment is the hotel’s centerpiece, offering travellers a whole universe of experiences and connections with the land. Travellers come face-to-face with the shy monkeys that roam the property and can meet the local communities who come to cultivate tea in the heart of the estate’s plantations. Allowing them to benefit from the fruits of the plantations’ harvest, One&Only Nyungwe House demonstrates its commitment to the local communities in the surrounding villages.

Unique Activities 

The hotel invites travellers to discover the tea production process, learning how tea leaves are picked and how tea is processed in the nearby local factory. Guests are also invited to enjoy a tea tasting accompanied by artisanal pastries and local sweets, comfortably seated in the tea room.

There’s a strong bond with the local population. Travellers can enjoy traditional songs and dances performed by the locals, immersing them in Rwandan culture. In the hotel gardens, facing the breathtaking landscape, they can also try their hand at javelin or archery – activities that are part of the country’s history, since javelin is almost a challenge between families, and archery is a hunting practice.

Guided hikes in the heart of Nyungwe National Park promise great moments of emotion, whether it’s an exclusive encounter with chimpanzees or crossing a long suspension bridge through the forest’s majestic trees.

Rooms and Suites

Rwanda’s natural beauty is celebrated in every corner of One&Only Nyungwe House. With its low-slung roofs, the hotel blends into the scenery, letting travelers’ gaze wander into the vast rainforest. Divided into five groups of villas, the 22 luxury rooms and suites frame the landscape and give the sensation of being cut off from the rest of the world.

Rooms feature chic African design, with contemporary furnishings contrasting with local textiles and artwork. Dark bamboo floors, beamed ceilings and crackling fireplaces give each room a warm, rustic feel.

Restaurants And Dining 

In the restaurant and communal areas, stone walls and dark wood beams sit alongside geometrically shaped tapestries and decorative African masks. Extending onto an open terrace, the outdoor lounges are arranged around a campfire, creating a typically African ambiance appreciated by visitors, especially at the end of the day.

The kitchen at One&Only Nyungwe House offers daily menus inspired by Africa’s diverse culinary culture and featuring local produce. The hotel has its own kitchen garden, where edible herbs, vegetables and flowers are grown to add color and character to every dish.

Wellness Facilities 

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest and Nyungwe House both offer a holistic approach to wellness, including traditional treatments, sensory experiences and guided meditation and yoga sessions. Each immersive treatment with powerful restorative properties is designed exclusively for One&Only spas in partnership with Africology and Terres d’Afrique. They combine the wisdom of traditional therapies with the benefits of local plants for an authentic experience rooted in the local culture.

Book Your Trip To Rwanda With Lartisien

Lartisien partner with a hand-picked selection of luxury hotels in Rwanda that are focused around delivering an exceptional guest experience. Contact our team for further information or to make a booking.

Advices for a trip to Rwanda

What Is The Best Time To Visit Rwanda? 

The best time to visit Rwanda is from June to August, during the dry season. Due to the tropical mountain climate, it’s advisable to pack light clothing for the day and warmer clothes for the evening. It’s a good idea to bring suitable clothing in case of rain, and it’s essential to bring comfortable walking shoes and mosquito repellent for hikes.

What is the official language in Rwanda?

The official language is Kinyarwanda, but English and French are widely spoken in Rwanda. Travellers will have no trouble making themselves understood, especially in the country’s tourist areas. 

Do I Need a Visa To Enter Rwanda? 

Most travellers need a visa to enter Rwanda. This can be done online before departure or on arrival at the airport. Visitors are advised to enquire about the duration and cost of a tourist visa, depending on their nationality.

What Vaccinations Do I Need To Enter Rwanda? 

Yellow fever vaccination is required for all travellers to Rwanda, whatever their nationality. The vaccine must be effective for at least 10 days before travelling, and travellers must carry a yellow fever vaccination certificate with them throughout their stay.

What is the official currency in Rwanda? 

Rwanda’s official currency is the Rwandan franc (RWF). Credit cards are accepted in many establishments, but it is advisable to carry cash for small expenses, for markets and for the more isolated parts of Rwanda.

How Can I Approach Historical Topics?

Finally, although the country has recovered from its dark period and become an example of peace and security, the subject of the 1994 genocide remains sensitive and painful for many Rwandans. Some people may be willing to talk about it, but it’s important to approach the subject with respect and delicacy, avoiding intrusive questions.

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