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The Best Attractions in Rwanda – Its not just about Gorillas

Author: Mishka Ramdas, Digital Copywriter

If you had to go through your bucket-list, would you say that Rwanda was in your top 5? Well, it certainly should be. Rwanda offers is truly a life-changing experience, and allows one to view it with a different lens. But maybe it’s time to try something different. It was Tony Robbins who said, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” And Rwanda is as different as they come.

Rwanda is a tiny country, approximately 26,338 square kilometres, but there is so much to do and see that you may feel that you are in an entirely different planet!

We have compiled a list of our favourite experiences within Rwanda. But really, take it from the Travel Specialists, you really want to be in Rwanda for your next adventure!

The Kigali Genocide Memorial

The Genocide Memorial is one of the most impactful places you will see while Rwanda. The genocide took place in 1994 when more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed in just 100 days. Rwanda has come a long way since this devastating massacre, but the impact of this unjust war has left its mark on the lives of everyday people and the generations to come.

While this seems like a heart-breaking experience, visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial is an important part illustrating responsible tourism in Rwanda. The museum runs a permanent exhibit on the history of genocide around the world as well as the intervention efforts from international communities, helping to put the Rwandan genocide into context. There is also a Children’s Room, which is sure to bring you to tears. Here, each child who lost their life is portrayed through oversized portraits with personal details about them such as their nicknames or favourite books.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, and is situated in the west of Rwanda, surrounded by magnificent mountains and has deep emerald green waters covering a surface area of 2,700 km2. It is also a great spot for bird watching, swimming or relaxing. This is one of the less-adventurous things to do in Rwanda. Perfect for kicking back after a full day of gorilla trekking or just taking a break from exploring. You can also take a boat ride to some of the small islands, including “Bat Island.”

Once a colonial beach resort of note, Rubavu’s waterfront is lined with fading old mansions, hotels and trendy bars on the lakeshore, ideal for sundowner cocktails.

Karongi, is situated halfway along the lake. At dawn and dusk, the sound of local fisherman singing carries across the water as they paddle in unison. From Rubavu in the north, the Congo Nile Trail boasts breathtaking landscapes all the way to Ruzizi in the south of Lake Kivu. The trail gently curves back and forth as it weaves through hills and mountains beside the lake with eucalyptus trees lining the road and every inch of the hills seemingly terraced with bananas.

The Kings Palace Museum

The Kings Palace Museum represents Rwanda’s extensive conservation efforts as well as their reverence for animals. This is one of Rwanda’s eight national museums and the star attraction are the inyambo (sacred cows) and the staggeringly large horns. Throughout the day, traditional singers lull the cows into a mellow state by belting poems, a truly unique ritual from Rwandan culture.

The museum is quite interesting too as it showcases a replica of a King’s Palace from the 15th century with a thatched roof, royal hut and fresh milk hut traditionally run by an unmarried woman. Travellers can also explore the colonial-style home that was once the royal residence of King Mutata III Rudahigwa in the mid-20th century. Inside, you will find a few striking design elements, which perfectly blend Rwandan patterns and European-style furniture, some of which were owned by the King.

Akagera National Park

Safaris in Rwanda? No problem at all! Situated 2-hours and 30-minutes from Kigali, you will find the Akagera National Park, Central Africa’s largest protected wetland. Managed by the African Parks organization, Akagera and its biodiversity have made an incredible recovery from near decimation after the Rwandan genocide. The 1,140-square-kilometer expanse now boasts all of the Big Five animals, along with an abundance of birds and antelope.

You are less likely to spot the Big 5 as you would in the Sabi Sands but it is still a great way to get an all rounded experience in Rwanda. You will need to have a lot of luck to spot a lion or rhino, as conservation specialists are still working on boosting their populations and for now, there aren’t that many at Akagera. The landscape itself is just as spectacular as the animals that live here. You’ll see the environment make a glorious shift from savannah plains to wetlands and lakes.

Explore Kigali

Many travellers use Kigali as their first stop before heading to the Rwanda reserves for Gorilla and Golden Monkey trekking, but there is plenty to do in this culturally rich town. Enjoy the vibrant culture, cuisine and sightseeing in Rwanda’s capital city. This would be best for the beginning or the end of your trip.

The Kimironko Market is perfect for picking up bespoke clothing with swirling patterned textiles and experience the energetic atmosphere at one of Kigali’s largest markets. This warehouse space is like a maze with fantastic surprised around each corner. Kigali is known for creative arts, so a visit to the Inema Arts Center. This art gallery showcases the works of up to 10 local artists in residence and displays some of the finest contemporary pieces in Rwandan Art. You can also see debris from the presidential aircraft that crashed in 1994. When you’re ready to refuel, savor an authentic Rwandan cup of joe at Question Coffee Cafe. Check out the cafe’s specials menu to see what experimental caffeinated concoctions the baristas have recently come up with.

Gorilla Guardians Village

The Volcanoes National Park is not just for Gorilla Trekking but it is also home to the Gorilla Guardians Village. Here, reformed poachers and the local community, teach tourists how to create some of Rwanda’s most famous crafts and activities. Travellers will learn how to carry a basket on their head the authentic way, weave their own baskets, shoot an arrow, and grind grains with a heavy stone. The enthusiastic guides ensure that they make the entire experience like a grand affair.

We suggest sticking around for the intore dance recitals where traditional dancers, decked out with long straw wigs and skirts, put on an exciting show to the beat of rhythmic drumming. You will fight it, but the urge to get up and dance with them will eventually take control!

So, there you have it, if you thought that Rwanda shouldn’t be on your bucket list, we have just given you 6 compelling reasons to explore this wonderous land.

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