Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa, but it packs a punch in terms of things to do. While most people know about its troubled past, the country has turned around, and is now one of the safest places to visit on the continent. Here are 10 reasons you should add Rwanda to your bucket list.
You can see some of the last mountain gorillas
One of the main reasons people head to Rwanda is the fantastic opportunity to interact with some of the last mountain gorillas in the world. Most of the gorillas are concentrated in Volcanoes National Park, and tourists come from all over the world to trek through the mountainous terrain and observe them.
Up your coffee game by learning about it at the source
It’s no surprise that Rwanda has some of the best coffee in the world. And you can impress your friends back home by visiting one of the many communities that offer tours and information on the coffee growing processes. You can even spend the night at some of the places, though you might not be able to sleep after sampling coffee all day.
The food is delicious
From brochettes to ugali to mandazi, Rwanda has an incredible array of foods to get your mouth salivating. While the country incorporates cooking styles from other east African countries, it manages to create fantastic combinations that are uniquely Rwandan.
You can explore the busy streets of Kigali
Kigali has something for everyone and is one of the cleanest and safest cities in Africa. There is plenty to do here to occupy your time, from exploring museums and arts collectives, to eating tasty cuisine at international restaurants and mingling with the locals at cozy bars.
You can learn about the history of the Rwandan genocide
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda is one of the most tragic events to ever occur on the African continent. But visiting and learning about it will help to ensure that something like that never happens again. You can go to the memorial and museum in Kigali to learn and pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
You can discover a new culture
The culture in Rwanda is varied, vibrant and accessible, with several organizations offering interaction with locals through homestays and art collectives. It’s guaranteed to be a life changing experience for you.
You can stay at the real Hotel Rwanda
Stay at the infamous hotel where hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina (portrayed by Don Cheadle) saved 1,300 people from certain death. Although it has a murky past, today the hotel has been revamped as the Hotel des Milles Collines and offers quite the luxury experience.
You can visit where former royalty lived
If you head south to Nyanza, you’ll find the former royal palace and grounds of the ancient Mwamis (kings) of Rwanda. Visitors can go on a tour of the palace and learn about Rwanda’s history. At Nyanza, even the cows are royal and have horns which reach six feet across.
You can get lost in a rainforest
Well, not literally lost…you know what we mean. Nyungwe National Park in southwestern Rwanda features a rain forest that is thousands of years old. The whole area is well-preserved and it’s wide variety of biomes allows for hundreds of species to thrive. Plan for several days to explore this wondrous natural area.
You can get your safari kicks
While many head to Rwanda exclusively to see mountain gorillas as mentioned, you can double up your trip and see hippos, elephants and zebras too. Just two hours from Kigali, Akagera National Park has numerous animals to see including one of the largest populations of hippos in east Africa.
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This article was originally published July 17, 2015.